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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 32, New Delhi, July 25, 2020

Why 2020 is not 1962 | Praveen Davar

Friday 24 July 2020

by Praveen Davar

India may be the only country in the world where the politicians keep returning to the past whenever faced with a crisis at home. When it comes to an India-China standoff the BJP’s propaganda machinery, backed especially by an obliging electronic media, moves to the top gear to take us back to 1962 and remind us of the military debacle suffered at the hands of China. This has been happening every year for the last three or four decades. This year, with the situation at LAC the worst since 1967, when during the first year of Indira Gandhi’s premiership, the Chinese were given a ’bloody nose,’ the BJP has spared no effort to hark back to 1962 with the sole aim of diverting attention from the complex situation the country is facing in the Ladakh border that climaxed with the killing of 20 unarmed Indian soldiers, including a Colonel and three JCOs.

Many nations across the world - Russia, USA, UK , France, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Japan, China to name only a few - have won and lost many wars and battles in their long history. But nowhere are the people reminded of their defeats even though victories are celebrated on a grand scale. Here in India, the BJP must each time remind us of India’s sole defeat after 1947 as it suits its political agenda of denigrating India’s first and greatest Prime Minister whose matchless stature is something BJP can never come to terms with because of its RSS indoctrination.

Let us go back to 1962 and see for the benefit of those who have been fed with
a distorted version of history how India’s greatest democratic Prime Minister kept the nation informed of the border situation regularly and frequently. On Oct 22, the day after China launched a massive aggression in NEFA (Northeastern Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh), Nehru broadcast to the nation: ’ I feel that I must speak to you about the grave situation which has arisen on our frontiers because of continuing and unabashed aggression by the Chinese forces . . . We explored avenues for an honourable settlement by peaceful methods.....but all our efforts have been in vain in so far our frontier is concerned, where a powerful and unscrupulous opponent, not caring for peace or peaceful methods, has continuously threatened us and even carried threats into action...’ After explaining the situation in both NEFA and Ladakh sectors,
the Prime Minister firmly concluded: ’ At the same time it is obvious that no country worth its grain, and certainly not India, can submit to bullying tactics and to force being used to take its territory and to show that it can be treated casually by any other country. It is impossible whatever the consequences might be. We have to face this difficult situation with courage and strength....strength ultimately depends on the unity and effort in the country.’

Now compare the above with what Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke when the border incursions by China were reported. The Prime Minister could not muster up the courage to admit that the enemy had intruded. This is what he exactly said on June 19, three days after the Galwan valley clash: ’ No intruder is present inside India’s borders nor is any post under anyone’s custody .’ This statement was far from truth, and was used by the Chinese media to justify its presence not only in Galwan but three other places where they had intruded - Pangong Tso,

Hot Springs and Depsang. Subsequent clarification by the PMO served no purpose as the damage was already done. That is why former PM, Dr Manmohan Singh rightly warned: ’A Prime Minister must be mindful of the implications of his words on a nation’s strategic interests,’ adding that ’ disinformation was no substitute for diplomacy or decisive leadership.’ Even this sage advice by his illustrious predecessor was not palatable to PM Modi who asked his party president to condemn the statement and question his record of dealing with the Chinese incursions from 2010 to 2013, in an attempt to divert attention from the present situation.

In his monthly Mann ki Baat on June 28 and address to the troops in Nimu ( Leh) on July
3, PM Modi again did not divulge details of the standoff and, for some strange reason, did not mention the name of China even once simply declaring at the top of his voice in Ladakh: ’ Era of Expansionism is over ’ Is it diplomacy or timidity ? We are too near the event to pass a judgement and let that be debated by the media and military historians in times to come.

In 1962 Jawaharlal Nehru not only spoke to the nation within a day of aggression, and,
as seen above, condemned China in strongest possible terms. This gave India a position of advantage as we will see later. Nehru also called the Parliament to session where not only he kept the country informed through its representatives in both Houses, but also encouraged a free debate with many eminent members asking him uncomfortable questions which were answered without a trace of rancour or ill feeling. To a question by the Anglo Indian member, Frank Anthony Nehru replied; ’ Mr Anthony said that our nation must be brutalized, that Jawaharlal Nehru must be brutalized. I hope that our nation, much less my humble self, will never be brutalized because it is a strange idea that one can only be strong by being brutal.... there is a definite distinction being strong and being brutalized.’

On November 8 a resolution was passed by the Parliament on the proclamation
of emergency resulting from the invasion by China and, on 14th November ( by coincidence Nehru’s 73rd birthday) , another resolution was passed in an unprecedented manner with all members standing in the Lok Sabha pledging themselves " to drive out the aggressor from the sacred soil of India, however long and hard the struggle may be." On 21st November the Chinese government issued a statement, making a unilateral announcement of ceasefire from the midnight of 21/ 22 November and a withdrawal of their forces from December 1. The following day the government of Srilanka ( then Ceylon) announced they had called a conference of six nonaligned countries in Colombo to resolve the differences between India and China. While informing the House of both these developments on January 23, 1963, Pt Nehru reiterated that "we shall never submit to coercion and military pressures, and yet we cannot rule out peaceful methods of approach."

On March 1, 1963 the Ministry of National Defence of the government of China issued a statement that their troops had withdrawn along the entire India China border on China’s own initiative and the withdrawal had been completed by the end of Feburary 1963. The withdrawal was upto 20 kilometers beyond what the Chinese claimed as the line of actual control. The statement also added that the Chinese forces were now far behind their positions of September 8,1962. Why did China withdraw unilaterally and suddenly? Historian M.Chalapathi writes in his biography of Nehru: "Among the various motives ascribed were the persuasion of the Soviet Union ( now Russia and other republics ), the surprising surge of unity among the Indian people, the spontaneous offers of sympathy from several countries, and the promise of the necessary aid from the United States and Britain and Australia and others."

Yes, 2020 is not 1962. It can never be. Because India in1962 had a Prime Minister whose moral, national and international stature was, and remains till now, beyond compare. Praveen Davar

(The writer, an ex-Army officer and former member National Commission for Minorities, is a political analyst)

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