Jawaharlal Nehru - “It is not true that we covet Goa. That small bit of territory does not make any difference to this great country India. We do not desire to impose ourselves on the people of Goa against their wishes. It is definitely their responsibility to choose for themselves. We have assured Goans that it is for them to establish their own future and I further assure them on matters such as Religion, Languages and Customs”. - 21st August 1955.
Monday, February 8, 2016
EXPANSIONIST INDIA BY Jonathan Chu, Singapore
I think most have a fundamental misunderstanding of India. Yes I know, India is a democracy and all that. But this is a rather superficial understanding of the country. You might not have heard of India's territorial disputes in the news, but this doesn't mean India does not have them. In fact India (with the possible exception of Bangladesh, since I read that India and Bangladesh have reached an agreement to settle their borders this January) has not settled its borders with any of its neighbors. And worst, India has the dubious distinction of annexing every single of its neighbors land since it was created by the British in 1947. I know this may come as a shock to you, but here are the links you may want to check out:
If you talk to India's neighbors, the words 'bullying', 'hegemonic', 'meddling', 'intrusive'...are probably some of the adjective its neighbors will use to describe India. A recent example is India rejection of Bhutan's plan to build a highway in the southern part of Bhutan. An earlier example is India's creation of the Tamil Tigers which plunged Sri Lanka into many years of civil war. You might not have aware of it, but India has a rather testy relations with almost all of its neighbors.
As to why India is such a misunderstood country, I pondered it for a long time and here are the reason I think may have something to do with it.
1) India was created under British auspices and hence British India relations have a sort of mentor protégé element to it. As such Britain is naturally protective of India and hence tacitly approved or at least tolerate India's aggression. Britain, as one the key member of the West, set the tone of how India should be treated.
2) In the early years after India's creation in 1947, Britain saw India as a kind of proxy that represents Britain's interest in South Asia. As such India's aggression was not viewed to be detrimental to the world's order. In fact not many people know, after 1947 a lot of the British Raj officials stayed and served in the new government especially in the foreign policy department. Hence the expansionary instinct (in order words land grabbing) of the British Raj continues in the new country.
3) The subcontinent was colonized for two hundred years, when it gained independence, there were a lot of goodwill towards India all over the world, not less from Britain itself. The situation is not dissimilar to South Africa. Nehru was basically the Nelson Mandela of his time. India skillfully exploits this sentiment and assume a role of moral superiority in dealing with international affairs. Nehru is famous for his self-righteousness internationally. This makes it hard to criticize India.
4) India is a democracy. The notion that democracies are intrinsically peaceful is seldom challenged. In fact the belief is so strong that whatever India says are usually accepted as fact with no question asked. Take Sikkim as an example, fifteen years before Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait, India annexed Sikkim. But how do India explain its act? According to India's explanation, 97% of Sikkimese voted to join India, so India just spread its democracy to Sikkim by 'incorporating' Sikkim into the India. I remembered when before the first gulf war when Saddam Hussein said he conducted an election and 99% of Iraqi voted for him, it was immediately dismissed as ridiculous (which it is). But when India says the same thing, it was accepted as fact.
5) Gandhi is a well-known icon of India. And Gandhi's non-violence struggle against the British are well-known. This non-violence stereotype stick and people just assume that India is non-violence against its neighbors also. But of course nothing is further from the truth. Over seventy thousands Kashmiris disappeared without a trace in India occupied Kashmir with many show up in mass graves. A few years ago there was an uprising in Kashmir and in one demonstration Indian troops gunned down hundreds of Kashmiris. But the press seems not to be too bother about it. India gets away with murder, literally.