Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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English (Indian) – Sambandh

September 30th, 2011 · No Comments · Bilateral ties, English (Indian)

by Nishank Motwani



Relates to bilateral ties; relations

New Delhi uses the term sambandh (ties) to describe its bilateral relations with other countries. However the way the term is employed distinguishes whether ties with other states are family-like, warm, moderate, competitive or antagonistic. In general usage sambandh signifies relations by blood, marriage, and/or adoption between families. Consequently, if a close sambandh is not forged with New Delhi, the language used by it could reflect cautiousness, coldness, a latent warning and/or the limits of aggression – traversing which might invoke a lethal military response. The degrees of sambandh demonstrate New Delhi’s appreciation of its security environment and the means it deploys to shield itself from external aggression. For instance, New Delhi’s actions with respect to all its national borders are its employment of border security personnel, which include the army, paramilitary and/or border security forces.

The distinct types of sambandh New Delhi shares with other states and the actions it takes thereafter is particularly visible in its relations with states in its immediate neighbourhood. India’s contiguous neighbourhood as defined by its land borders with other states in South Asia consists of: Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. While India shares cordial relations with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh and is in the process of developing a security-centric dialogue with Myanmar, the primary concerns for New Delhi are its adversarial and competitive relations with Pakistan and China respectively. Neither China nor Pakistan are described as having a close sambandh with India, rather the Indian security discourse employs the terms raksha (in defence of) and seema (border) to designate these borders as necessitating constant vigil and protection to sustain suraksha (security).

The Indo-Pakistani border in the disputed territory of Kashmir is of specific concern since it is characterized by the presence of aatankvadi shiviro (terrorist camps) along the seema (border) and their sustained attempts at infiltrating and smuggling golabarud (guns and ammunition) and nishidh vastuo (contraband) into India. The Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) 2010 annual report bluntly states that although India has never eschewed dialogue with Pakistan, meaningful dialogue could only occur if Islamabad aatankvadiyo ke dhanche ko nasht kardein (destroyed the terrorists’ infrastructure) on its own zameen (soil).[1] The strong language used by New Delhi against Islamabad indicates that a fraternal sambandh simply does not exist. Rather, the references made to aatankvadis (terrorists) and seemas (borders) demonstrates New Delhi’s memory of previous conflicts and the ongoing infiltration attempts from across the border.

India’s defeat in the brief Sino-Indian border war during October-November 1962 considerably cooled relations between New Delhi and Beijing. China’s surprise attack on India led to a serious setback in bilateral relations – breaking India’s trust in China and subsequently putting in place a dense trust deficit that still lingers in the sambandh between the two countries. In fact, following the war, the sambandh between New Delhi and Beijing snapped and Ambassadorial relations were restored after a hiatus of fourteen years in August 1976. It is notable that prior to the 1962 war, India personified its relationship with China and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself used the term Hindi Chini bhai-bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers) to promote a tighter sambandh between the two countries. Memories of China’s surprise attack on India still linger today and this is perhaps best captured through the term vishwas todna (breaking of trust) when used with sambandh. Both these terms along with Hindi Chini bhai-bhai illustrate India’s perception of China as a brother and a friend before the war and how New Delhi’s trust in Beijing shattered following it. These terms are used by the Indian MoD and Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) 2010 annual reports.[2]

In contrast to Pakistan and China, sambandh is used in a familial sense to describe a special and in-depth relationship with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The terms bhaichar (brotherhood) and rishtedari (familial relations) are used in the MoD’s 2010 annual report to signal the unique ties between Kathmandu and New Delhi. In fact, according to the aforementioned report, the two countries share a khuli seema or open non-militarized border to facilitate the free flow of sanskriti (culture) and to deepen vyaktish sambandh or people to people ties. The report also uses the terms mitra (friend) and parampara (inter-generational ties) to personify the sambandh between the two countries. Similarly, the same report describes India’s relations with Bhutan as ghanisht (warm) and sauhardipurna (cordial) and expresses its vachanbhadh (commitment) to assist the Royal Government of Bhutan in its socio-economic development endeavours. Finally, the report expresses its sambandh with Bangladesh as one that embodies a saksha etihaas (a rich history), a saji viraasat (a common legacy), and a sanskriti ka mel (unity of culture), all of which demonstrate the benefits of a profound padosi (neighbourly) like ties.

New Delhi’s characterization of bilateral relations with states shifts to a human form and signals how the Indian polity perceives their sambandh to embody life, blood, feelings, trust and memories. Each country on India’s periphery shares a distinct relationship with New Delhi which is portrayed by the type of sambandh they share with it. The term padosi, which is used to represent neighbouring states actually denotes “neighbours” in a communal sense; hence New Delhi’s desire to have friendly and familial ties with all its padosis. However, reference to terms such as seema (borders) and aatankvadis (terrorists) in the Indian security discourse forms a potent narrative about the type of sambandh she holds with its padosis. The memory of previous conflicts with China and Pakistan and the ongoing infiltration attempts from across the border of aatankvadis (terrorists) from Pakistan have heightened India’s security concerns. Similarly, China’s growing comprehensive national power, military modernization and infrastructure developments along the Sino-Indian border have renewed fears in India of a second Chinese surprise attack, especially as a mutually acceptable Sino-Indian border remains undefined.



[1] See, “2009-2010 Annual Report”, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, pp. 1-221.

[2] See, “2010-2011 Annual Report”, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1-222; See, “India-China Relations”, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, January 2011, pp. 1-9.


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