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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Hindi-Chini, hai-hai

September 11, 2008

The Times of India
10 Sep 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Jug Suraiya


The Indian elephant has a deep-seated and chronic inferiority complex 
vis-a-vis the Chinese dragon. Way back in 1950, after the Chinese 
communist revolution, the US offered China's UN Security Council seat 
to India. Jawaharlal Nehru turned down the offer, apparently on Soviet 
advice, for fear that accepting the American invitation would offend 
China.

China has always been grateful to India for this generous gesture, 
though it might have displayed its gratitude with an inscrutability 
that is truly oriental. In 1962 China invaded India, an exercise 
facilitated by the then defence minister, Krishna Menon (a Nehru 
protege), under whose stewardship India's ordnance factories had 
stopped making arms and ammunition (which might have offended the 
sensibilities of our big neighbour in the east) in favour of coffee 
percolators, among other widgets.

Nehru ordered the Indian army to 'throw out' the Chinese; instead the 
invaders threw out our valiant but tragically ill-equipped soldiers. 
The Chinese withdrew, but to this day Beijing lays claim to the whole 
of Arunachal Pradesh (though it has, graciously, allowed India to keep 
Sikkim).

To foster cordial relations in South Asia, China helped Pakistan 
achieve full nuclear status in the early 1990s, a favour which 
Islamabad has returned by acknowledging Chinese suzerainty over Aksai 
Chin, the high-altitude desert which India claims as its own. Among 
other tokens of its friendship, Beijing has stoutly and steadfastly 
resisted India's inclusion in the same Security Council which Nehru's 
'pehle aap' politesse ushered China into.

And of course in the recent nail-biting Vienna meet of the NSG, 
Beijing did its best to play last-minute spoiler for India's hopes 
(now realised) of ending 34 years of nuclear apartheid.

That seems to have been the dragon-sized straw that finally broke the 
Indian elephant's back. During Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi's 
visit to India, New Delhi voiced "strong" disapproval of Beijing's 
obstructionism in Vienna. It was pointed out that India had bent over 
backwards - with a nimbleness that might have won it a gold if 
performed in the gymnastic rather than the political arena - in 
ensuring that the passage of the Beijing Olympics torch through New 
Delhi wasn't compromised by Free Tibet protesters.

Despite this, China had done its damnedest to shaft India in Vienna, 
helped not a little by the customarily submissive posture adopted by 
New Delhi in its relations with Beijing. Unfazed by such accusations, 
Yang urbanely replied that on the contrary Beijing had in fact played 
a very "constructive" role in Vienna on behalf of New Delhi. However, 
Yang's meeting with his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, was 
reportedly "interrupted by Tibetan protesters who were taken into 
custody", as reported in the TOI. In Indo-Chinese relations, the more 
things change, the more they remain the same.

Why is it that New Delhi is so sensitive about stepping on Beijing's 
toes, when China has no compunction about stomping on Indian toes, and 
with hobnailed boots at that? Is it because China demonstrably has far 
more nukes, foreign investment inflows, exports, Olympic golds, mobile 
phones, millionaires, skyscrapers than India does, not to mention a 
civilisational pedigree at least as old as that of our own Indus Valley?

All true. But is that reason enough for New Delhi's doormat attitude 
when confronted by Beijing: please come and wipe your feet on us, 
helped by Comrades Karat and Yechury?

The real reason, the real threat we face from China, is far more 
insidious than that represented by nuclear weapons, or FDI figures, or 
global market shares. It is that - with its monolithic, single-minded 
pursuit of success at all costs, human or material - China makes us 
apologetic and ashamed of what is, and ought to be, our most prized 
advantage over the Middle Kingdom: our democracy. Ragged, half-
starved, flood-battered, riot-scarred but nonetheless democracy, not 
the jackboot of dictatorship. Our democracy ought to be our biggest 
pride. China threatens to make it our shame. That - and not nuclear 
deals or Security Council seats - is the real challenge of the Chinese 
dragon. How ready are we to face it?
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