|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | GUEST COLUMN|
January 11, 2001
Colonel Anil Athale (retd)
The first step towards a realistic China policy can only be taken when the people of India discover the truth about the 1962 Chinese disaster, says Colonel Anil Athale (retd), co-author of the official history of that October war.
Karl Marx had once said that history is like a millstone around the neck of living generations. For history is not made in isolation from the past. There can be no better example of this truth than the tortuous course of Sino-Indian relations for the last 30 years. The memories of Indian humiliation in the brief border war may be distant for the young but for those who lived through those years, the wounds are as fresh as if inflicted yesterday. India has not been able to overcome distrust of the Chinese ever since.
China has reciprocated that distrust in kind. As the principal arms and nuclear/missile technology supplier to the rabidly anti-Indian Pakistan, she has missed no opportunity to do harm to India.
The historic agreement signed by P V Narasimha Rao and Li Peng nearly six years ago has been quite effective in maintaining peace along the Sino-Indian border. A limited trade by land route has also been going on for some time. While this has helped India to reduce its deployment on the border to some extent, the main beneficiary has been China since it retains the all important Aksai Chin area.
Even border trade is essentially in their interest given the fact that communications between China and Tibet are over difficult terrain and it is cheaper to get Indian goods.
There are obvious limits to the improvement of Sino-Indian relations.
The first is Chinese insensitivity to Indian concerns vis a vis Pakistan. The second is the presence of the Dalai Lama in India and the resolution of the Indian Parliament of November 14, 1962 that pledges to recover every inch of Indian soil from the Chinese possession, 'howsoever long it may take or howsoever difficult the struggle.'
Importance of Li Peng's visit
It is against this backdrop that Li Peng is visiting India from January 9 to 18, 2001. While his official position as speaker of the Chinese national assembly is not terribly important, it is believed he is the power behind the throne. He could well be compared with the late Deng Xiaoping, architect of Chinese modernisation. It is an opportunity that India must not miss if it wants to bury the hatchet and begin a new era in Sino-Indian relations.
The Public Opinion
By far the biggest obstacle in the path of improvement in relations is the public perception of the Chinese 'betrayal' of 1962. As the co-author of the official history of that conflict and having had access to the Top Secret Henderson Brooks inquiry report, this analyst can state without fear that this perception is wrong. It was India that foolishly provoked China and landed itself in a military disaster.
It is over 30 years since the ill-fated border war of 1962 and under the law there is no bar to publish this account. Yet it is being kept under wraps on frivolous grounds. A former foreign secretary opposed publication on the grounds that it may spoil relations with China. On this logic the history of the Second World War should never have been made public as that would spoil the relations between Germany and the rest!
The Chinese on their part have already published their account. The truth is that this move to make public our failures in 1962 is being opposed as that would expose the image of bureaucratic infallibility. Nehru, the then prime minister, was primarily responsible for this disaster and protecting his reputation was necessary for the dynastic Congress party all these years (or even now).
But it has been over three years that we have had a non-Congress government and yet the truth remains hidden from the public gaze. Political inertia and the stranglehold of vested interests may well be still at work. Whatever the reason, the first step towards a realistic China policy can only be taken when the people of India come to know the truth about the 1962 disaster.
The Tibet issue
This has been a major irritant for the Chinese and there are some similarities with Kashmir. There is obviously no question of abandoning the just cause of the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama as that would go against the 5,000-year-old Indian tradition. But today the differences between the Tibetans and the Chinese have narrowed down considerably.
Three years ago in conversation with the foreign secretary of the Tibetan government in exile, it came to light that most Tibetans will be satisfied with autonomy. The issue now is that while the Chinese are prepared to grant it to 'Inner Tibet,' the Tibetans in India insist on the autonomy for even those parts of Tibet that are now merged with other Chinese provinces. The issue is not insurmountable and on the lines of Inner and Outer Mongolia, a solution can be found.
Once the Tibetan issue is resolved and the truth about 1962 is known, the border dispute between India and China can be resolved to mutual advantage.
Design: Dominic Xavier
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | SEARCH
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK