THE MUCH maligned Jaswant Singh of the BJP, in his book Defending India (1999) with sadness warned the nation that New Delhi’s management of Sino-Indian relations has been a dismal failure and the nation continues to pay the price for it. In 1950 India fought with all its strength to seat China in the Security Council thus putting it in a position to veto even legitimate protection India may need for its security and survival. China is today a nuclear power and has proliferated nuclear technology and weapons to India’s traditional foes. It has swallowed vast stretches of Indian territory and is feverishly trying to grab more. Our response is the silence of lambs being led to slaughter.
Ten more years have passed since the warning was published by a responsible minister of the Government of India. As of today China has assembled massive military forces on the de facto border. Its army has indulged in arrogant incursions into Indian territory almost every month. They deliberately leave, only to insult and annoy us, tell-tale evidence of their visits. Cigarette packets, empty cartons of food and even cases of bullets fired are left strewn all over. They have left signs in Chinese on boulders proclaiming – ‘This is China’. For some time it was the foot soldiers of the Chinese infantry that indulged in these provocative actions. Now mounted troops have joined them.
In May last year at a meeting of officers, the Chinese openly laid claim to a part of Sikkim. They have often laid claims to Arunachal. Vast infrastructure projects are in operation in the region and roads are being constructed right into the state. China has rudely objected to President Prathiba Patil’s visit to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in April. And now, China is protesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh on October 3.
Chinese soldiers deliberately leave tell-tale evidence of their incursions to insult and annoy us
But our government is busy downplaying all these provocative activities. Just a couple of days ago journalist Manu Pubby asked our home minister about the Chinese acts of trespass. In his answer the minister spoke instead of the poor reporting by the Indian press which had claimed, perhaps mistakenly, that some of our soldiers had been killed in the skirmishes. The minister’s answer was plainly evasive. Fortunately the protocol of the interview did not seem to permit any supplementary questions. I mean, fortunate for the minister.
Our armed forces, in contrast, are concerned at the smugness of the civilian authorities. The Air Force chief complains that we have less than a third of the Chinese air strike power. The naval chief announces that the naval power of the Chinese is vastly superior to ours. The figures of the two armies should remind us of the humiliating defeat that we suffered in 1962. Some perceptive citizens are rightfully panicked and recall the disaster, that the credulity and criminal negligence of the Nehru government inflicted upon India. It is not the purpose of this article to advocate war with the Chinese Dragon. What I advocate is that a repetition of the Chinese aggression of 1962 is highly probable. We are lucky if it is not imminent. We must get ready to counter the threat and summon to our help all the soft power we can commandeer.
Mao Zedong, the creator of Communist China has left a will and testament for succeeding communist administrations. “Tibet,” he said “is the palm of the hand which has five fingers – Ladhakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and NEFA, [present day Arunachal]. These areas must all be liberated and absorbed into China.” It is foolish to imagine that Chinese leaders have abandoned this dream or rejected the will of their supreme leader. The way China is building up its military power far beyond the needs of legitimate defense is almost conclusive proof of its hostile designs on Indian territory and our national integrity.
China is a nation on the move. It is estimated that about 200 million have left their villages in search of work in cities around China. It is the largest migration in human history. Pushed by the timeless poverty of the countryside, this army of migrants is now fuelling the economic boom that is putting cheap toys, clothes, television sets, computers and consumables of all kinds on the shelves of the world stores. After Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, his successors have discarded the Marxist economic model and have adopted a unique brand of man-eat-man capitalism, officially misdescribed as socialism with Chinese characteristics. Today the Chinese GDP is three times bigger than ours, its foreign exchange reserves are six times bigger and its annual growth is 15 percent against our measly 5 percent. This newfound wealth produces arrogance and aggression far more vicious than in 1962. If you don’t believe it ask the Uighurs of Xinjiang, the survivors of Tiananmen or the harmless Falungong. As China’s wealth grows, and so does it’s firepower. The five finger hand becomes easier to grab. We have done nothing to make them even wonder if we are less unprepared and stupid than we were five decades ago.
We have done nothing to make the Chinese wonder if we are less stupid than we were five decades ago
Soon after Pandit Nehru became the prime minister of India, he called a conference of Asian political leaders. It was a grand affair. India-China friendship was its conspicuous feature, but significantly the flag of independent Tibet proudly flew alongside that of China. In less than four years, Tibet lost its independence and was forcibly annexed by the Chinese. Its conquest and forcible occupation were completed in 1959, when the Dalai Lama and his small band of followers escaped and sought safety and refuge on Indian territory. While we did grant asylum to the refugees from Tibet, we shamelessly acquiesced in its unlawful annexation, an unintended effect perhaps of Panchsheel and Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai slogans.
The palm has been taken but the fingers yet remained to be twisted and mastered at some more propitious time. The nibbling at our borders continued. The aggressive Chinese actions were not even clandestine. The whole world could see it, so did Pandit Nehru’s government. But he was too embarrassed to share the dangerous truth with the people of India.
The Chinese put across their claims to Indian territory in written communications to our great leader. Whether the whole cabinet knew of them is debatable. But what is indisputable is the fact that we did not make any serious effort to halt the march of Chinese show of force. Time came when we could not just put up a benign smile on our faces. When concealment became impossible, a confused Prime minister pretending to have power which he did not possess, insanely declared, “I have asked the Indian Army to throw out the Chinese.” This thoughtless command was issued from Madras airport while the great leader was in transit to Colombo, his destination on that occasion.
We suffered disastrous defeat. Never has India suffered such humiliation. The Parliament passed a resolution accusing the Chinese of immoral ingratitude and wanton aggression. “The flames of liberty and sacrifice have been kindled anew and this House affirms the firm resolve of the Indian people to drive out the aggressor from the sacred soil of India.” Pandit Nehru knew that this was just plain rhetoric. No wonder he died a broken man, his credulity badly exposed, his Chinese policy and Panchsheel in shambles and his life’s work ending in smoke.
None of his successors have ever dared publicly to recall the promises made to the people or take some sensible steps to fulfill them. Smt Indira Gandhi without quid pro quo, restored full diplomatic relations in 1976. The youthful Rajiv Gandhi in December 1988 only managed to set up a working committee of officials of both countries to discuss issues relating to the boundary dispute and to prepare the ground for resolving them, another semantic fraud. In the 1990s, Prime Minister Narsimha Rao chloroformed the nation with a Treaty of Peace and Tranquility which suited only the Chinese. Even a ferocious tiger that has filled its belly retires to a corner of the forest to have a peaceful snooze to digest its prey.
Mr Vajpayee returned from China only to tell the nation that both sides had realised that the issue was intractable. It would naturally take long to resolve. It was best to put it on the backburner and instead concentrate on other matters, of course of no relevance to the pledges of 1962. The NDA and the UPA governments have since seen how the Chinese wealth and military force are growing and our influence in the power centres of the world fast dwindling. It is not just panic that makes sensible people apprehensive of possible Chinese attacks on our border. Our trusting Pandit Nehru proved a disaster, can we trust Dr Manmohan Singh now?
We must loudly proclaim our peaceful intentions and desire for an honourable and urgent settlement
THIS WEEK I attended, for a while, a seminar in Delhi organised on this issue by the Dr Shyama Prasad Research Foundation. A brilliant galaxy of scholars, writers and experts in the field of foreign affairs had been brought together. The concern and anxiety on the faces of all were evident, so was the search of some credible solution. I could not be at the seminar for long. What I write here are in brief my thoughts which I wanted to express but could not for lack of time and opportunity.
First, let me repeat, I do not suggest a war with China. Our membership of United Nations and adherence to its Charter puts it out of the list of available alternatives. Secondly, we are bound by a constitutional commitment under the 51st Article of our basic law to eschew war as an instrument of foreign policy. Thirdly, the same Article mandates that all international disputes should be resolved by the pacific method of arbitration.
We must, therefore, loudly proclaim our peaceful intentions and desire for an honourable and urgent settlement. Arbitration is the best method of resolution. International tribunals are available for this purpose. In 1947 we determined the boundaries of Bengal, Punjab and Assam by appointing a commission of three judges who did a remarkable job. We graciously accepted its awards and no difficulty of any kind has arisen since then.
Let us be clear that our weaker economic and military position in any event should put armed conflict out of our thoughts. The Charter however permits defensive arrangements between nations. We must endeavour to have such defense treaties with friendly democracies of the world. The US, the European Union, the Commonwealth countries, Russia and Japan are candidates for forging with them bilateral or multilateral alliances. This is nothing but practice of the old doctrine of the Balance of Power, a dominant principle of successful diplomacy for more than 200 years. When a powerful state poses threat of aggression and war, the only solution is a coalition of other powers who individually are not strong enough to stand up to the aggressor. We had a treaty of the same kind with the Soviet Union once. Let us then offer arbitration to the Chinese. If they reject it, India will have strengthened its moral case and created reliable friends to fight on our side.
Will Foreign Minister SM Krishna care to ponder these suggestions?