By Dr D. K. Giri
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Kargil anniversary day burst out at Pakistan. He said, “Pakistan is dusht (wicked) and our Army can make it bite dust in 7 to 10 days”. His imprecations on Pakistan bespeak BJP government’s obsession with the neighbour.
No doubt, Pakistan has been a ‘thorn in the flesh’ desperately trying to claim Kashmir, and perhaps, to avenge its vivisection in creation of Bangladesh at the behest of India. But, the historical mistake made by India in 1947 in annexing Kashmir to the Union of India, has been hurting our foreign policy ever since. It is now a common knowledge how Nehru bungled it, by halting the advancing Indian army, and letting Pakistan take part of Kashmir, and worse, taking it to the United Nations. It was like “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. The creation of Bangladesh was Pakistan’s doing, for India it was a happen-stance, not engineered by her.
At any rate, India’s foreign policy has been a hostage to the question of Kashmir. In the past, we relied on Soviet Union to veto any debate in the Security Council, and the economic, military and trade quid pro quo went heavily against India. Since Bangladesh war, India formally switched to the ‘Soviet camp’ by signing a Treaty, sounding the death-knell to our much vaunted policy of non-alignment.
New Delhi has been defensive on Kashmir, not pro-active. Instead of claiming the part of Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan, New Delhi has focussed on retaining the Kashmir region which is already a part of India. From 1997, successive governments have made our foreign policy largely Pakistan-centric, which has stunted our growth both as an economic as well as a military power.
It is incredibly odd that New Delhi, under Congress regimes has misplaced the emphasis by ignoring the real enemy, the Communist China. Worse, starting from Nehru, Congress leadership has been taken by the Chinese on a garden path. Only for a brief period of two-and-half years, under the Janata rule from 1977 to 1979, New Delhi undertook a shift away from anti-Pakistan, pro-Soviet stance and introduced ‘genuine non-alignment’.
Then Prime Minister Morarji Desai did a historic gesture by telephoning General Zia-ul-Haq. He said, “General, if your country’s security is ever threatened by any aggressor, my Army will be at your disposal”. That call touched the heart of a hard-nosed military man like General Zia. No wonder, Morarji was honoured with the highest civilian award of Pakistan, Shan-e-Pakistan. Such diplomatic bonhomie is hard to find between India and Pakistan at present, as the climate of confidence and mutual trust has been vitiated by respective leaderships, as well as vested interest.
It is expected that BJP will harp on anti-Pakistani rhetoric since it fetches electoral dividends. But it beggars any explanation how Modi’s government is following Nehruvian approach to China. Nehru’s blunders vis-a-vis China are well known by now, his giving away Tibet without reciprocal concessions from China, delaying the nuclear test, advocating for China’s permanent membership in the Security Council, failing to anticipate aggression by China. It is even more inexplicable, how Nehru fell for Krishna Menon’s ill-advised assurances, and did not heed saner and sounder advice from a pragmatist like Sardar Patel.
Let us recall two instances to illustrate these charges. Krishna Menon was informally told by the Chinese Foreign Minister Cheng Li in Geneva that, ‘China would never attack India’. In each strategy meetings with Army chief and others, Menon used to throw this personal assurance to lull others into non-action. On the other hand, Sardar Patel wrote a longish letter to Nehru (published by Durga Das, privy to such correspondence and interactions by Nehru, Patel and others, in his book India From Curzon to Nehru And After) warning him of the aggressive attitude of the Chinese. He wrote, “China does not sound like a friend, the language used is more of an enemy”. Nehru ignored such advice, as he often did with Sardar Patel.
The other mistake Nehru did was to ignore the advice of the Army which was urging him to prepare for a possible war with China as the enemy had a formidable Army. Nehru dismissed their concerns with the assurance that there was not going to be war. The strategic discussion was taking place against the backdrop of Chinese incursion across the LAC. Nehru and Menon sought to push Chinese back through diplomatic negotiations. As these efforts were made, Nehru surprised everyone by asking the Army in a press conference at Madras airport en route to Sri Lanka, “Throw them out”. The Army was not prepared, so the shocked Army Chief rushed to Defence Minister Krishna Menon, and sought his advice. Menon dismissed Nehru’s press statement, “wars are not launched through political statements made in press conference”. But the Chinese took it seriously or as an excuse to invade India in 1962 and the rest is painful history.
Modi, leading the BJP-government was expected to undo the mistakes made by Nehru. Strange but true, he continued with New Delhi’s irrational and unfounded deference to China. At the behest of Soviet Union, he joined forums floated by the Chinese, BRICS, SCO, RCI and so on. He deepened business and trade links with China, so much that Indian business seems to collapse without Chinese material. One is cut to the quick to comprehend Modi’s China policy and throwback to the non-alignment, an obsolete, imprudent and impractical policy.
Admittedly, our weakness towards China is hampering our relations with neighbours. We seem to have lost Nepal to the Chinese tent, at least for now; Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives all, are prone to Chinese allurement. A few days ago, Beijing gathered three of our neighbours Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and suggested a four-country alliance on Covid, BRI and CPEC. The meeting was called in the wake of the pandemic. But China’s strategy could not be lost on any observer that it is meant to separate them from India. China’s clear and loud advice to Nepal and Afghanistan is to ‘be like Pakistan’. Whatever it means, it is an open secret that Pakistan is a vassal state of China.
Why is New Delhi so reticent in its utterances against China? Modi did not name China in his address to the Army in Nimu, Ladakh on 2nd July, although he denounced expansionism. Again on the Kargil Vijay Diwas on 26 July, he did not mention China, which is occupying our territories since 1962. Why? If India was occupying or doing projects in China-claimed area, will China be quiet, wanting to talk to India? China is doing projects on UN-designated disputed region, India wants to talk and take no action. China encroached India’s territory in Depsang–y junction in 2013, rolled back in ‘two steps forward, one step backward’, strategy, and has encroached again 18 km into Indian territory. Why was it not mentioned in any of the four meetings held so far?
How can we expect New Delhi to push Chinese back from our territory when the PM is not even taking China’s name? The foreign Minister says we will not be a part of any alliance. Obviously the present government is building up our defence arsenals in a non-aligned way to match China’s and then talk of war. How many years we will have to wait to retrieve our territories? Is it a practical approach? Certainly not!
The author is Prof. International Politics, JMI
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