India’s China Approach – Now and Then

Nehru was all the time inclined to emotionally attach himself to the socialist policy, which inevitably resulted in developing soft corner in his mind towards China and Russia, which were communist countries at that time.

by N.S.Venkataraman 

When India attained independence from the British rule,  Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister and remained in the job  for  around fourteen years till his  end.  Jawaharlal Nehru was, no doubt , a historian ,a scholar and had    firm commitment to India’s cause . He had  deep faith in socialist philosophy. The problem  arose when Nehru confused  socialist philosophy with communist philosophy and  convinced himself that   the world was passing through  a conflict between  communism  (  socialism  in Nehru’s view )  and capitalism, which could lead to war like situation.

With his abiding desire to  ensure peace in the world, ,  Nehru  promoted  the philosophy of non alignment and said that the non aligned nations would not join  the communist bloc (largely represented by China and Russia) and capitalist bloc ( largely represented by USA). 

However, Nehru was all the time inclined to emotionally attach himself to the socialist policy, which inevitably resulted in developing soft corner in his mind towards China and Russia, which were communist countries at that time.

With his historical knowledge of  India  -  China cultural relationship,  Nehru went out of the way to keep China in good humour and he dreamt  that his friendly policy would ensure that China and India would be eternal friends and partners .He  could  not visualize about  China’s ambitions  and greed under communist regime.

It was a shock for Nehru when China occupied Tibet  and  in the process massacred  thousands of  innocent Tibetans. Nehru knew that Tibet was wronged but he did not want  to  undo his friendly relation with  China and also did not  have the courage to confront  China.  This was particularly so, since confronting China would mean aligning with capitalist country USA, which he did not like.  Nehru remained virtually quiet  even when China  continued it’s atrocities in Tibet. To satisfy his conscience, Nehru allowed His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetans to enter  India as refugees and accommodated them, taking an “element of risk”  in dealing with China.

It was a  second shock for Nehru  in 1962, when China entered India and successfully occupied thousands of kilometer of Indian territory. The weak Indian army  and not strongly  equipped by Nehru ,  since he  assumed that China would not  go to the extent of waging  a war against India  , lost thousands of soldiers. India lost the war and was humiliated.

Nehru passed away around two years later with deep disappointment after  clearly realizing that his appeasement policy towards China was wrong and his view about China’s  objectives  was not  correct  ,  even as the historian  Nehru  continued to admire the past culture and civilization of  China.  Nehru died as a sad   person.

The next decisive approach towards China happened when Vajpayee, who was the Prime Minister later on , recognized Tibet as part of China. Vajpayee knew that Tibet was wronged  but he did not have  the courage to confront China as he was afraid of China’s superior military and technological  power. In essence, Vajpayee’s approach towards China was not much different from that of Nehru.

When Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, he  too  adopted what looked like similar policy  towards China like that of Nehru and  Modi too went out of the way to appease China  to keep it in good humour.

With China creating a war like situation with India in recent times once again ,Narendra Modi has  now  realized that his policy towards China  is wrong . Unlike Nehru, Narendra  Modi now has the time to revise his China policy  and it appears that he has finally  decided to confront China.  Compared to the year 1962, when India - China war took place, China has become much more stronger now economically, militarily and technologically.  Confronting China is even more difficult ,now compared to the period  when Nehru  was the Prime Minister.

 Nevertheless, the approach and policy of Modi clearly give an impression that Modi has decided to stand upto  China.  This was in sharp contrast to the period when Nehru and later on when Vajpayee were  the Prime Ministers ,when both of them developed cold feet  and did not want to  take confrontation with China to logical   end.

Today, the uppermost   priority for Modi  is to ensure that China would not indulge in misadventure once again.

Modi is taking many steps to strengthen the army and unlike Nehru  , has no prejudice  in aligning with USA to fight against China in a border war , if it would become necessary.

Still , some well meaning critics think  that Modi is initiating only half steps and does not want to recognize  Tibet  as an independent country, which would be the ultimate proof for Modi’s determination to stand upto China.

In recent times, China has become more aggressive and has already successfully converted Pakistan  to the status of  what looks like a client state , particularly since Pakistan has openly declared itself as sworn enemy of India.  A joint military war by Pakistan and China on one side and India on the other side is a distinct possibility now. 

Modi clearly knows this and has to device his counter plans accordingly . Such plans has to necessarily include  forging strong alliance  with Taiwan , Japan, Australia and United States, since all these countries share the concern about China’s increasing military power and expansionist policy.   

In any case, it is now becoming absolutely clear that Modi  approach towards China  is  not any more based on  appeasement of China , as seen in Nehru’s time and Vajpayee’s time.

Certainly, China would do it’s utmost to weaken Modi government internally and externally  and  create problems for India in variety of ways and try to unsettle India.

 Modi  now has a challenge  as well as opportunity in   the China front, to  show that he is different from the earlier Prime Ministers of India.

The world  watchers  are looking at the unfolding scenario with great interest.

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