India, a land of missed opportunities

opinionIndia, a land of missed opportunities

Much of the history that has been taught in schools since 1947 is myth. What is needed is to replace that with truth, and that a start is being made in this direction during 2023 is welcome.

It would have been easy for President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 to have permitted the slaveholding states in the US to secede. The Democratic Party at the time as well as several in his own Republican Party were inclined towards partition. Lincoln went to war instead to keep his country united. A contrast to India, where in 1947 in India, this time not on the grounds of Black and White but on the issue of Hindu and Muslim, the country was divided. Mahatma Gandhi had been right to oppose Partition, which he said would take place only “over my dead body”. For reasons that the lack of access to documents of that period that remain unseen by researchers in the UK and India make inevitable, we do not know why the Mahatma finally accepted the view of the top office-bearers of the Congress Party by the close of 1946 that a vivisection of India was not merely inevitable but desirable. The example set by Abraham Lincoln in what is now still the world’s most influential country was tossed aside in favour of agreeing to Partition. This even when such a division involved the separation of the two parts of Pakistan by 2200 kilometres of India. The emotional separation between West and East was even greater, which is why the two segments got separated from each other after the genocide of the Bengalis in East Pakistan led to military intervention by India. Interestingly, the genocide by the Pakistan military was not merely ignored but facilitated even by countries that repeatedly proclaim their adherence to the prevention of such horrors through the “right of rescue” doctrine. Throughout the 1940s, aware that independence for India was becoming inevitable as a consequence of growing disaffection within the ranks of the Indian military, the British colonial authorities systematically began to separate Burma, Ceylon and other territorial entities from India. All this took place without any visible protest from the leaders of the freedom movement in India, the same leaders who finally agreed to a third of the residual territory being made a separate country on the basis of the surreal claim that Hindus and Muslims represented two entirely separate nations. After 1947, authorities in Pakistan began to act in a manner consistent with this flawed assumption, systematically reducing the proportion of minorities in that country, much as took place in Afghanistan since the 1980s and is taking place in Bangladesh since the 1990s. Almost zero protest at such a bonfire of the rights of minorities in these countries was made by authorities in India. Clearly, the doctrine was embedded in the belief that to make sacrifices at the cost of the national interest of one’s own country was preferable to asserting such rights and being prepared to fight for them.
Forget those parts of what in the 1930s was acknowledged as the Indian subcontinent but were serially separated in the 1940s, there was no appetite to hold on to existing advantages, such as the privileged position of the formal successor to the British Empire, the Republic of India, in Tibet. That land, now divided and dominated by Beijing, contains the primary sources of water for South and Southeast Asia. Would it have been possible to recruit the US Air Force and the Indian army in a joint bid to prevent the PLA from conquering Tibet? All that we know is not only that such a thought never entered the minds of those tasked with securing the future of the Republic of India, but that the takeover of Tibet was in effect encouraged and cheered on by the Indian side, for reasons that are not obvious to serious students of geopolitics and strategy. The takeover of Tibet and consolidation of CCP rule there in the 1950s ensured that India and China shared a common border for the first time in their long history, a border that the CCP leadership refuses even after 75 years to accept as fact. The Ranas in Nepal sought to incorporate Nepal into India, an offer that was declined. Fast forward, and those who say that India has by far the greatest influence over the leadership of Nepal of any country may be guilty of wishful thinking. That Kashmir is part of India is a fact that has often been stated. Then why was a ceasefire agreed upon in 1948 when a third of that state was still under the occupation of Pakistan, a slice that includes the strategically essential territory of Gilgit Baltistan? Why were hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils forced to relocate in India under a pact agreed upon with Sirimavo Banadaranaike, the daughter of the Sinhala fanatic who sought to extinguish the Tamil language and Tamil participation in government, preparatory to throwing out the Tamils. It was Sirimavo who made a start in such a process, again to not just zero opposition but with the active facilitation of India. Events such as the liberation of Bangladesh or the absorption of Sikkim were exceptions to the rule that it was always India that needed to make a sacrifice, never the other side. A War Crimes trial in Bangladesh would have mainstreamed knowledge across the world of the atrocities caused by the Pakistan army on a hapless people. In Shimla in 1972, after winning the war the previous year, India lost the peace.
The list of such sacrifices is long and painful to recite. As we enter the new year, it is important for the people to remember that such a self-inflicted loss must never be permitted to happen again, no matter which government is in power. Given the vagaries of politics in any democracies, there is never permanence in the composition of the parties in governance and those in opposition. What is permanent are the interests of the people of India, and never again should these be sacrificed as a result of the syndrome of self-harm that has in the past wreaked such havoc on the interests of the country. Much of the history that has been taught in schools since 1947 is myth. What is needed is to replace that with truth, and that a start is being made in this direction during 2023 is welcome.

- Advertisement -

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles