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Thursday November 14, 2019

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Editor's November blog post

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Trying to source a declassified copy of the Henderson-Brooks report on the 1962 Indo-China war is the spot on way of unravelling official India's mind-set towards its large eastern neighbour. Official histories of wars prior to and those since 1962 have been declassified. But not 1962, for it is the war that continues to haunt India, plague its psychology and colour its decision making. Official India will say that releasing the report will affect our relationship with China. Preposterous as it may seem in the 21st century, but that is how the Government of India believes that a limited war of the early 1960s continues to wield disproportionate influence on the country thinking. How an essentially after-action report of a restricted military campaign continues to impact on political relations between two neighbours is an idea that has long done its time.

But then that lies at the core of India relations with China, for they are driven by an attitude that has ceased to reflect the dynamism of the country today. India of 2010 is not in the least bit the same as what it was in 1962. That official India refuses to learn and budge, from its reticence is the essence of its policies towards China.

China remains a bugbear in India’s foreign and defence policy planning. The country must first admit to that failing before it can address the more mundane issues of why and what now. Every initiative India seems to take has this shadow of the dragon hanging over it, an unfortunate and an entirely unnecessary phenomenon. Dragons didn't exist in Indian philosophical tracts, but they seriously seem to feature in the policy makers minds whilst dealing with China. How New Delhi bends backward in accommodating an imagined wrath of Beijing is the epitome of this fear.

Only when the country admits to this failing, alas, will it come to overcoming the ‘why’ of this phenomenon.

India and China are the last civilisational States in the world, where the ethos of the State is still deeply rooted in its past. But that is where the similarity ends, for the ethos of the two neighbouring civilisations has always been dramatically different. One has always been globalised in thought, while the other borders on the xenophobic. India maybe insular in many ways, but in ideas assimilated it has always been global. Whereas the emperor and the plebian in China have always had the middle kingdom way of believing and behaving. But for China, the rest is a murky world of the uncivilised. Not unlike the goyim of Hebrew and Yiddish. And so the rest of the world is treated in that manner, dismissingly. Global rules and regulations on non-proliferation are precisely that, for the world and not for China. So violations are acceptable, for they serve a purpose when it comes to India.

There is a special place in China for India, if only the Indians knew it. Despite being neighbours, it is only India that has had an impact on China, in terms of philosophy and beliefs. At a security seminar in Beijing, in the last decade, a serving officer of People’s Liberation Army remarked that India had occupied China for a thousand years without sending a soldier. In the mind, he added. Well now it seems that the reverse has happened, long after the guns of 1962 have fallen silent.

Understanding China, warts and all, is essential to India becoming a responsible global nation, with much to offer to all. Sans an attitude.


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