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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weapons of Hate Destruction

Published on :-8 May 2008,

(This is the concluding piece of a two-part series on India's China policy. The first part appeared last week)

A nation is as strong as its people. Bombs and other military hardware help to keep the morale high and give a wining-edge feeling, but ultimately it's the human material that wins or loses. The weak make a huge list of complaints and the powerful act at a cool pace. Machines and nuclear buttons do not operate on their own, but need human instructions and remain captive in the hands of those who man their safety. And the brave would hardly feel the need to re-do a Hiroshima while the compromising variety would never have the courage to enter the nuclear war room. So how should India, shining so brightly on the global scene because of the brilliance and knowledge of her children, look at China, a powerful neighbour whose trustworthiness has always been suspect in Indian minds?

We and China were unshackled some time. They were known the world over as opium eaters and lazy. Today they are the best in sports, world champions in more than 32 disciplines and a globally recognised military and economic superpower. Almost every Indian, African, European and American home has something that's made in China. A strong sense of nationalism and an uncompromising patriotism is reigning over their national resurgence. This, they still chose to call as Communism, post-Mao.

Today they are among the highest consumers of green vegetables and run professional universities and science institutions, have established close ties with Pakistan, encircled India quite deftly and have left Indian intellectuals and defence experts to write books on how powerfully China has become. Who is to be blamed for this situation? Of late the Chinese have started respecting Indians because of our steady economic growth rate touching 8-9 per cent annually and growing military strength. Agni-III's successful launch has reinforced this. Like any other country, China too will listen to us only when we are seen as a strong, nationalist power, which unfortunately has been a low priority since the government on Communist crutches took over at South Block.

There are two sweet looking traps on our China path. Leftists and their blood brothers Islamo-fascists would like Delhi to be blindly anti-America and align with ideological comrades in Beijing. The second is going into the American camp to denounce China on every count and let Indian soil be used for a US game of isolating China in a region that's legitimately ours. Both should be avoided and India must look at China from an Indian perspective. India must look at China on its own terms, not as a hedge against America or as an ideological tool for attacking America. Similarly, India needs to see the Islamic supremacists for what they are – a danger to India and not a friend just because of their hatred for America.

As far as the follies of the Indian leaders in understanding and evaluating Chinese intentions properly, the less said the better.

Since the 1950s, the Jan Sangh cautioned Nehru's government that China is eyeing India territory, it has gobbled up Tibet, Tibet's autonomy is crucial to India's security (read Vajpayee's speeches and Sardar Patel's letter to Nehru), China is making roads on Indian borders, beware of the Communists, etc. All of this fell on deaf ears and we have been left with no choice but to hang certificates from western countries singing paeans to our great entrepreneurship, Laxmi Mittal and Tata's worldwide empire and the growing knowledge surge that we use to hide the ever-increasing number of poor, the farmers and un-attended rural sector. Our entire world view of sports and glory on the field has shrunk to cricket and cheerleaders, that too imported from the Gora Lands to shake their hips. We are surrounded by failed states and hardly any neighbour respects us. An outfit like the Bangladesh Rifles brings our dead soldiers tied upside down on a bamboo pole and we turn our face away.

A government that survives on the support of the Communists can hardly be expected to face an expansionist neighbour which refuses to issue visas to our Arunachali residents.

Indian Communists – China's assets
China's biggest asset threatening India is not its nuclear arsenal or economic superiority, but Indian Communists. Beijing doesn't need to do anything else in India but ensure that Indian Communists remain important players in Indian politics. They have been the biggest supporters of China's presence in India – just a few months ago they demanded that Chinese companies be allowed to invest in Indian ports and bring in hundreds of Chinese workers and engineers which the government refused on security grounds. If this is so in 2008, the other side of the same coin is that the same Communists had sided with China during the 1962 war. While the entire nation stood united against the aggressors, the only exception was the Communist Party of India (CPI,-then unified) which refused to condemn Chinese aggression. Finally Pandit Nehru had to arrest hundreds of CPI leaders and workers under charges of sedition. And see the parallel too.

1962 – Communists arrested, RSS honoured
The same Nehru government invited Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) workers to join the 1963 Republic Day parade in full RSS uniform in honour of their patriotic work during the war. There are two very interesting episodes that describe Communist attitude during the Sixties. Blitz under Karanjia was a darling of the Indian left and it published the following news item in its August 31, 1960 issue: “In upper Garhwal, there are two villages - Chanyee and Thanyee. The Communists have gone round to tell people that the area belongs to China because the names of the villages sound like Chinese” (Quoted by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lok Sabha, Four Decades in Parliament, Shipra, vol 3, pp 23). They also staged plays showing the Chinese army as 'liberators'.

With Chinese aggression on the Garhwal-Kumaon border on the rise, the then Uttar Pradesh government issued an advertisement to boost the morale of people living in border areas. The CPI mouthpiece Janyug also carried it, perhaps mistakenly or got tempted by the ad revenue, but immediately afterwards apologised for carrying it thus: “We committed a blunder by publishing this advertisement; we have committed a sin, and we should not have called China aggressor and we have hurt the sentiments of our people, we shall never repeat such an act. This time we should be forgiven..." (Quoted from the same book of Vajpayee's parliamentary speeches).

Sardar Patel had an inkling about things to come. In a letter to Nehru on November 7, 1950 he warned not only about China’s real intentions but also said that China's entry into Tibet would help fifth columnists (he put Indian Communists at par with them) and the Indian Communist Party.

The letter is so prophetic and important that I can't resist the temptation to quote it at length. Patel said: “We have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it, and the expansion of China almost up to our gates... Recent and bitter history also tells us that Communism is no shield against imperialism and that the Communists are as good or as bad imperialists as any other. Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include the important part of Assam... Let us also consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our northern and northeastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam. From the point of view of communication, there are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration... European missionaries and other visitors had been in touch with them, but their influence was in no way friendly to India or Indians... Side by side with these external dangers, we shall now have to face serious internal problems as well. I have already asked Lengar to send to the External Affairs Ministry a copy of the Intelligence Bureau's appreciation of these matters. Hitherto, the Communist Party of India has found some difficulty in contacting Communists abroad, or in getting supplies of arms, literature, etc., from them. They had to contend with the difficult Burmese and Pakistan frontiers on the east or with the long seaboard. They shall now have a comparatively easy means of access to Chinese Communists and through them to other foreign Communists. Infiltration of spies, fifth columnists and Communists would now be easier. Instead of having to deal with isolated Communist pockets in Telengana and Warrangal we may have to deal with Communist threats to our security along our northern and north-eastern frontiers, where, for supplies of arms and ammunition, they can safely depend on Communist arsenals in China.” (Vallabhbhai Patel, November 7, 1950)

Is it not ironical that the Congress, which claims to have inherited the legacy of Nehru, is enjoying governance with the same Communists and has treated the patriotic force RSS as its sworn enemy?

Under these circumstances would it be wrong to ask: Who has the nation in his eyes today? For power and perks, anything is accepted and those who would say no to temptation for saving the interests of motherland are on the periphery and are hardly seen directing the destiny of the nation.

China's Red Army consists of 2.5 million soldiers. It spends more than two per cent (modestly 2.3 per cent, though officially 1.7 per cent) of its GDP on defence. The policies are concentrating more on eradicating rural poverty in a big way and the farm sector is seeing unprecedented reforms and privatization. China is way ahead of us in manufacturing sector and gross trade index. The number of universities and professional colleges they have created is simply astounding. These are heady times for China and the most worrisome ones too. China has emerged unquestionably as a major power and strong player not only in the region but also on the global platform. Its economic and military power is quite impressive and once Olympics are completed successfully, China would surge ahead with greater gusto and confidence. But its worries are also rapidly increasing.

Its two largest provinces – Xinjiang and Tibet – are seething with anger against Beijing. Moreover there is an excitement in the air – the will to surge ahead of everyone else and emerge as the unquestioned superpower. Every nation has a right to dream big, and if China dreams too big, none should object.

The question is: If Beijing is taking care of her dreams, what have we done with ours?

We hardly know China and neither have we wished to know her well. The largest neighbour and the proclaimed “biggest threat” to us remain engulfed in an enigma though our bilateral trade is increasing. All of China is being reported to us by westerners and we barely have one or two journalists reporting first hand, from an Indian perspective. What the Americans have fed us about China is all that they wanted us to know and react. What did our mighty media moguls do on this front? And the freshly sent correspondents will naturally take their time to adjust and send back the real stuff, though to be fair to them, so far their reporting has been excellent and without any blinkers – carrying the stuff Indian eyes should be seeing.

A friend too – the people
As usual there are two sides of the same coin. China is a threat, but China is also a great friend. There is a common saying in China that if you do good deeds in this birth, you may get to be born the next time around in India – the land of Buddha. But it's a pity not many would know about the immense respect for India that we see even today amongst the commoners. It’s just absent for any other foreign country.

I sometimes wonder – we have fought four major wars with Pakistan and Islamabad has been singularly biggest factor responsible for the terrorism which has taken thousands of lives in our towns and metropolitan cities. Though Pakistan hasn't changed, we are continuing our much hyped track two diplomacy with them and even the six-decade old ban on showing their films has been lifted with the opening of Khuda Kay Liye.

But China, with whom we have had just one war, it's a different story.

Perhaps we “know” Pakistan and China is a stranger. People to people exchanges with China have been minimal comparatively and except publishing bad news about Beijing's behaviour, hardly anything about Chinese life and contemporary changes in their social milieu is reported. The truth is that the people are experiencing an altogether new, fresh breeze of little freedoms. And India remains a highly respected and deeply revered land for the common Chinese – be it a practising Buddhist or a Confucian. Should India ignore this aspect and keep on creating an image of ugly, bad, untrustworthy Chinese? Good or bad, friend or foe, China needs to be understood by Indians more deeply. China is just not Beijing or the Communist Party. The billion strong population often thinks differently and that has to be addressed.

Firmness – with love and solidarity
So is the case with India’s outlook towards China. Till we are able to match the military and the economic prowess of our neighbour we will never have the guts to stand tall and as equal.

So, first build solidarity on China policy cutting across party lines. Be firm, firmer than their demand to annex our land, demand autonomy for Tibet in the real sense.

If they choose to refuse visa to our citizens, respond by saying no visas are required for any Tibetan wanting to visit India. It would be a good gesture if our Prime Minister addresses the nation on 15th August from Tawang.

Enhance military might and strengthen border defence by building all-weather roads covering the entire Himalayan range facing alien lands. A majority of Himalayan border sectors are in urgent need of metalled roads from Ladakh to Uttarakhand to Arunachal. Our political masters don't have time to look into the demands of our highly devoted soldiers who are facing the enemy.

Resist US tactics that are aimed to make us play their game against China. If we have to play, we will play our own game.

Democracy is India's biggest strength over the long term even as it creates weak governments and other problems in the short run. Democracy is China's biggest threat over the long term. India should not try to restrict the application of democracy in its own country to please a non-democratic neighbour. The restrictions placed on protesters and on Tibetans when the Olympic torch was passing through Delhi were obscene. Would the Indian government have placed such restrictions on other demonstrators protesting against another country like the US, Sri Lanka, Israel or Britain?

And hold the hands of Chinese people with undiluted love and confidence. They have positive feelings for us, courtesy the Buddha. We must teach the life and works of great Buddhist monks to every Indian; these monks went to China from India more than a thousand years ago on foot, crossing the mountainous rages of Karakoram and Himalayas, learnt the difficult language, influenced the aliens with their message of compassion, and brotherhood and left a permanent imprint on their mind and soul.

They were our ancestors.

We must prove ourselves inheritors of all that goodness and their unimaginable invincible commitment to values they loved.

Learn Chinese, visit China and find that the people are different.

Almost everywhere in China, India lives a vibrant life. Songs, music, movies and yoga are the new marks of Indiaphiles. The IT schools and software companies are new avatars of friendship and compassion. Above all, we have a vibrant democracy and the Buddha. Matchless Weapons of Hate Destruction. Why not give it a try!

It's a long road testing patience and perseverance to better the other. We have all the required ingredients to stand tall. Only the will is lacking. Walk this road with patriotism; Indians will regain Himalayan heights again.

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