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June 11, 2020

India: a prisoner of history - Part I


June 11, 2020

The writer is a freelance contributor.

The term ‘Machiavellian’ comes from Niccolo Machiavelli's ‘The Prince’, his 1532 treatise on political power.

With many infamous quotes propagating the benefits of manipulative actions like "A prince never lacks good reasons to break his promises’’, the term Machiavellian became synonymous with double-dealing, treachery and deceit.

Born Vishnu Gupta, Chanakya Kautilya was a Brahmin alumnus of the 700 BC 'Takshashila' (university) at Taxila. He went on to become the teacher, advisor and chief minister of Chandragupta Maurya. The latter was known as 'chakravartin' – world conqueror and his kingdom stretched from the Indian Ocean up to the Himalayas and from Iran in the West to the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan.

Chanakya is also known for his epic Sanskrit exposition 'Arthashastra’, a ruthless empire-running guidebook. Noted German philosopher and jurist Max Weber said in his famous 'Politics as a Vocation': "Truly radical Machiavellianism in the popular sense of that word is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthashastra of Kautilya; compared to it, Machiavelli’s 'The Prince' is harmless".

Written 1800 years before Machiavelli was even born, Chanakya's Arthashastra propagated the 'Raj Mandala', a model upon which the king could choose from and decide. The model was based on collusion, acquisition, alliance or destruction through misinformation, spies, poisoning and assassinations in dealing with individuals and nations; also advocated was the necessity of murdering family members to gain or retain power. One of Chanakya’s favorite maxims was: “Your neighbour is your natural enemy and the neighbour’s neighbor is your friend”.

Indian foreign policy, grounded in Chanakya's philosophy, has always resonated and been practised, more-so in the RSS led India of today. Delhi's diplomatic enclave is named 'Chanakyapuri' and its surrounding roads are named after policies from Arthashastra. No wonder, a bellicose India is overtly hostile towards its immediate neighbors and tries to cosy up to its neighbour's neighbour; Afghanistan (as a conduit to terrorize Pakistan), Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam; targeting China and encouraging / supporting Vietnam's efforts to occupy Spratly Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.

India is a polyglot of, to name a few, Assamese, Bengali, Marathi, Naxalite, Punjabi, Tamil and Kashmiri nations; it is also a prisoner of history; its extreme detestation for Muslims stemming from the fact that India was repeatedly invaded by Mahmud Ghazni and ruled by the Mughuls. It frantically tries to re-construct its past by wrestling back the likes of the bygone era of the Mauryan Empire. To achieve this utopia, India has annexed Sikkim (one of its neighbors), actively participated in the 1971 dismemberment of Pakistan when Indira Gandhi was hailed as 'durga' (goddess of war) and annexed Indian Occupied Kashmir earlier this year.

India has engaged in recent active military hostilities inside Pakistan, with Amit Shah's recent bluster of ‘Modiji’ (the only Indian PM with a narcissist 'ji' as a permanent appendage to his name) making the world realize India will punish anyone intruding into its borders’, despite the humiliation of two downed jets and the capture of one Indian pilot.

India coerces all its neighbours, constantly threatens Pakistan with war and pesters China like a stubborn errant child. It also earned infamy by shamelessly blockading land-locked Nepal and Bhutan, exercising Gramsci’s classic hegemony formula 'manufactured consent by coercion' penned by him in his 'Prison Notebooks' as Mussolini's prisoner.

A dismal failure as a student of history, India forgets its humiliating 1962 walk-over by China as it ramps up its forward-policy again. Much that India plays the perpetual victim card; it was squarely blamed for starting the 1962 war. In his book 'India's China War', Australian journalist Neville Maxwell brands Nehru "an imperialist who adopted a forward-policy and of trying to evict China from any territory west and south of these (Tibet) borders through the use of force”. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official, writes in his book 'JFK's Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War', "India's implementation of the forward-policy served as a major provocation to China in September 1962''.

India shares a 3488-km border with China. After a provocative 73-day Doklam standoff with China in 2017, India has recently encroached upon and constructed illegal defence facilities in China’s Galwan Valley, igniting tensions again despite China's repeated overtures of peace and reconciliation. President Xi Jinping declared after his meeting with former Indian PM Manmohan Singh at the 2013 Durban BRICS summit that 'he wanted to settle the Himalayan border dispute as early as possible'. He also communicated to Singh that India would be the first country that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang would visit on his May 2014 Asian tour.

In 2014, President Xi held one-on-one talks with India’s newly appointed ambassador Ashok Kantha as 13 other ambassadors presented their credentials. The same year, India’s Republic Day reception in Beijing was attended by Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao who, in a speech, extolled the historic ties between China and India.

These and many other peace overtures were, as were those of Prime Minister Imran Khan, consigned arrogantly to the dustbin by India. Just weeks after Kantha's meeting with the Chinese President and Vice President, India refused permission to Chinese ships to enter the Andaman Island in search of the wreckage of Malaysia's crashed flight MH 370; majority of whose 240 passengers were Chinese. A military official is reported to have told the South China Morning Post: “We don’t want Chinese warships sniffing around in the area on the pretext of hunting for the missing jetliner”.

This was seen as an extreme affront by China – tantamount to loss of face, considered to be the vilest of viles in China. The famous Chinese writer Lin Yutang said that “face cannot be translated or defined, however it is the most delicate standard by which Chinese social intercourse is regulated.” The present turnaround in China-India relations epitomizes India's habitual arrogance and totally misplaced macho-bravado in the face of Chinese patience and accommodation, moderated by centuries of Confucianism, only to ensure peace in the region.

Conversely, a perpetually insecure India sees CPEC and China's growing influence in its neighbourhood with fear and derision. The paranoia has led to Gen Bipin Rawat, a RSS/BJP mouthpiece, threatening India's 'readiness' and resolve towards a ‘two-and-a-half’ front war against a coordinated aggression by Pakistan, China and its own numerous internal insurgencies. The Chinese government, true to its traditions of official and civil discourse, avoids snubbing individuals publicly.

However, the Global Times, China's State newspaper, rebuked the general in its editorial stating: “Rawat has such a big mouth that he could ignite the hostile atmosphere between Beijing and Delhi. He made us see the arrogance prevailing in the Indian Army by advocating a two-front war but where does the confidence come from? Generals in India need to form some basic knowledge about the current situation. Can India bear the consequences when it has both China and Pakistan as its adversaries at the same time? Should not the Indian Army simulate a military rivalry with its Chinese counterpart before letting Rawat speak?”

To be concluded

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