Politicians are perjurers of prophesy. They pull out distortion spells from the grimoire of their ambitions and manipulate facts to project a magical future for themselves, their ideological partners and business allies. However, there are exceptions such as India’s first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel.
As Communist China flexes its muscles after a short diplomatic truce, India must recall his prophecy made 67 years ago in 1950. In a long letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, he wrote, “The Chinese, in spite of your direct approaches to them indicates that even though we regard ourselves as the friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as their friends. With the Communist mentality of ‘whoever is not with them being against them’, this is a significant pointer, of which we have to take due note.”
In the decades that followed, China has acquired superpower status with a stratospheric growth rate. India herself is on the cusp of becoming a global economic giant—the third largest economy with an impressive nuclear arsenal. But there is a difference. While India is a democracy exclusively by the ballot, China is committed to the nouveau-communist ideology of Democracy by Determination.
It sees India as a threat to its expansionist designs and a competitor in international savoir faire and on global marketplace. It has betrayed and misled the Indian leadership with devious diplomacy. It has unrolled red carpets for visiting Indian PMs from Rajiv Gandhi to Narendra Modi. Simultaneously, it has been using road rollers along the border to pave asphalt within our territory and dismantling our defence posts.
Yet, India hasn’t changed the way it deals with its pugnacious neighbour.
Its foreign policy infirmity is perhaps derived from the persisting Nehruvian stranglehold on Indian diplomacy and its promoters. Looking back in time, Patel was the first Indian leader to spot Chinese influence on South Block. In the letter to Nehru, he mentioned: “My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instill into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means.” He further added: “Our Ambassador (K N Panikkar) has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese government on our behalf.”
Patel also advised Nehru against the idea of supporting China’s entry into the UN. He opined: “In view of the rebuff which China has given us and the method which it has followed in dealing with Tibet, I am doubtful whether we can advocate its claim any longer. There would probably be a threat in the UN virtually to outlaw China, in view of its active participation in the Korean war. We must determine our attitude on this question also.” Now China as one of the permanent members of the Security Council has opposed the UN’s intention to declare many Pakistan-based enemies of India as international terrorists. However, there is no dearth of China apologists in Delhi.
They shine more powerful and influential than ever before, having captured key positions in the establishment across politics and business. It’s puzzling that not one of them has deigned to notice the sinister political designs behind China’s move to prevent the Mansarover Yatra through Nathu La Pass in Sikkim. Their blatant justification is that Indian troops have constructed defence posts on what China considers its territory. Incidentally, the dragon’s churlishness was followed by an attack by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists on Amarnath Yatris from Gujarat.
Its regional adventurism was apparent in its offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve pending issues—a first in Sino-Indian relations. Sabotaging the Mansarover Yatra and the massacre of pilgrims from PM Narendra Modi’s own state could be safely perceived as the enemy’s calculated attempts to sow distrust among BJP’s core constituents. The unfortunate events have provided enough ammunition to Modi’s detractors to suggest that he cannot protect Hindus and their traditions from China and Pakistan.
While both Pakistan and China are working in unison to destabilise India, the NDA government is unable to purge the establishment of its Nehruvian colours. Barring Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Indian prime ministers have not been able to dictate and define foreign policy in toto. P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee made significant policy shifts on Israel. But both inexplicably stuck to the Nehruvian model of sleeping with the enemy.
Modi has introduced an element of strategic surprise and diplomatic disruption in international relations; however, he has refrained from dismantling the Nehruvian edifice and mind set in foreign policy. Indian diplomats continue to be trained in the ethos of engagement, which doesn’t disrupt their global junkets and secret banquets—ostensibly for dialogue, but yielding nothing. Numerous senior diplomats are known for their sympathetic attitude towards China and America.
Fresh IFS officers are taught and trained by those who flourish by sticking to the Nehruvian doctrine of continuity. A substantial majority of the 800-odd IFS officers are from the urban elite, lacking significant exposure to domestic compulsions. The Indian diplomatic service strives to dissuade the political leadership from allowing domestic imperatives to dictate diplomacy.
On the other hand, the diplomatic architecture of both China and the US design is based on the principle of ‘Nation First, World Later’. Even most think tanks, financed by the government and now occupied by a cabal of newly discovered Right-wing foreign affairs experts, are working overtime to ensure that China and India keep talking to each other.
Nehruvian institutions have new residents with nationalist tags, who however, only uphold the culture and norms of the eponymous edifices they occupy. For example, never once have they followed up on Modi’s newly-opened front against China and Pakistan by raising issues such as Balochistan and Tibet vociferously. Last year, Modi had delivered a diplomatically unthinkable Independence Day speech highlighting Pakistan’s human rights violations in Balochistan.
demand for recognition of Balochistan as an independent nation, if
pursued internationally, would have created a massive problem for
Pakistan. Similarly, numerous organisations are seeking recognition for
an independent Tibet. But the Nehruvian guards of pusillanimous policy
wielding disproportionate power in South Block have suppressed such
demands and possibilities.
Modi’s disruptive, innovative and exciting diplomatic exercises against the Sino-Pak Axis are just aperitifs in supping with the devil.
The time has come for him to use the short spoon with Provocative Diplomacy, thereby, sending his opponents, covert and overt, on the run. Encouraging the idea of Balochistan and Tibet becoming sovereign states will yield fruit to bolster Indian foreign policy. So far, the PM has been taking two steps forward and one step backward. With his firmly-established status of a global leader today, Modi can afford an undiplomatic adventure of taking two steps backward from China and Pakistan, and let the forces of the markets and military permanently draw a historically correct international border.