This portion of Abu-Lughod’s writing focuses mainly upon the disconnect between what was expected of India, and the reality of history. Due to India’s location, as the hinge dividing the Indian Ocean, and thus controlling all trade that traveled through it, it was expected for India to be a dominant force of global trade in the world system. However, India instead had a passive role, and did not grow into any kind of economic or political superpower.
India was not a maritime power, although it was host to the maritime powers of the day, as a trade destination. India was host to a slew of sea ports along its coast, where a plethora of traders and merchants gathered to engage in the trade of goods. Even so, India was not any kind of sea power, nor it seems, did it aspire to become one. Over the time of India’s history there was a long standing tradition of India export much more than it imported, which could have been the reason behind India’s disinterest in the kind of trade that might have shifted the balance to more importation based commerce. This kind of trading method made India an economically stable and self sufficient nation; so in fact, it may have been beneficial for India to remain self sufficient. Perhaps a more risky venture in to global trade would have left India more vulnerable to naval violence or aggressive trading tactics that would have stripped India of its economic power. India’s geographic position made it as vulnerable as it was powerful. For example, India was jeopardized when Muslim merchants expanded their trade shipping on the east in the early fourteen century, as well as when the Chinese expanded west. This resulted in a decline of trade in south India, between the two. This unequal sharing of powers would lead to the vacuum of powers in the absence of the Chinese in the second half of the fourteenth century, which would be exploited by the Portuguese.
Particularly interesting is the trade items that the Indian merchants were in fact interested in. Although the majority of the trade goods were ignored there were certain items, such as those from south East Asia that were marketable. I am interested in what made those specific items interesting to a nation as self sufficient as India.
I am curious as to what the world would have looked like, if India had reached its true potential, and become the economic and naval power it was capable of.