The Asian region, including India, has an American problem. From Okinawa to Aceh and Assam to Abbottabad, Uncle Sam’s boot marks are discernable, reminding us of the wasteful wars that Asians have waged against each other at the behest of America - to be more precise, 1% of the American population. For the past six decades and more, the continent has been suffering from unsolicited advice and unnecessary interference by America.
Today, we stand at the cusp of change in international politics. The coming decade promises to offer Asia a window of opportunity to finally come out of the imperial yoke and chart its own destiny. The relative decline of America’s power and the concomitant increase in the Indian and Chinese potential gives an opportunity to shape the region based on Asian values and sensitivities - a willingness to pierce through the labyrinths of distrust and horror weaved by America to keep the neighbors fearful of each other’s growth.
The Korean brothers are baying for each other’s blood; Afghanistan dislikes Pakistan; Pakistan hates India, China maligns Japan and Japan continues to remain in a state of stupor, unable to distinguish friends from foe. Japan’s case militates against all reasoning and logic. Japan is Buddhist enough to forgive its colonizer, America for the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. However, it refuses to give up its Samurai instincts against China, its erstwhile Colony.
All the Asian hatred is now pouring into the South China Sea. And nobody is more delighted than America to fish in troubled waters through political, financial, and ideological interventions. Asia continues to suffer because regional relations remain mired in the ‘territorial trap’. To understand this trap let us see how America exploited the Indian elite’s fear of communism to create an India-China border dispute leading up to the 1962 war.
Just to have a convenient military base America played along with their British friends to divide the Indian sub-continent. In 1947, when millions were getting uprooted and killed in the partition of India, Uncle Sam was busy comprehending George Kennan’s telegram from Moscow on how to contain USSR by planting their former soldier in India, MO Mathai as a CIA agent in Jawaharlal Nehru’s office. That Mathai continued in the PM’s office till 1959, dutifully fulfilling his role as a mole tells us about the extent to which India can rely on America. If talking about Mathai is making a mountain out of a molehill, then imagine what America was extracting from others including Morarji Desai -our Finance minister in 1957 and the Prime Minister in the late 1970s - allegedly working for his masters in Washington.
The late forties was also the time when America was hobnobbing with Mao and Chiang Kai- Shek to form a national government in Beijing. When this plan did not succeed, Chiang Kai-Shek was pushed to a corner in Taiwan and Mao’s brand of Marxism was accorded a prime place in the US scheme of things to divide the communist world. Since Mao could not be left loose, therefore, Taiwan and Tibet wounds were allowed to fester.
Nehru understood this game and refused to play ball with the Americans on Tibet, though his colleagues like Patel was too eager to tow the American agenda in the 1950s. Nehru used the threat of Indian communism to make his deals with America. Both Churchill and Truman encouraged Nehru to play the role of an Asian leader to obviate communist China from assuming command. Referring to her meeting with Churchill on 22 March 1955, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit had written:
“He was very conscious of past mistakes but he said that since the commonwealth conference he was convinced that ‘Asia is with us’. He said, ‘it is Nehru who is bringing this about. He can and will interpret the best we have given him to the Asian people. Nehru is the light of Asia…yes, and a greater light than Buddha.”(Nayantara Sahgal, Jawaharlal Nehru: Civilizing the Savage World, Penguin, 2010)
However, the imperial benevolence, as Nehru knew it better, could be enjoyed only for a limited period. Two years after the Bandung Conference of 1955, the Americans were there to clip Nehru’s wings. In 1957, when the financial crisis hit India, America through the comprador bourgeois heading the financial and monetary policy institutions in India was able to ensure that enfeebled Nehru had to stop chanting Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai and go with a begging bowl to Fund - Bank managers. Nehru sent a team consisting of Finance Minister Krishnamachari, and RBI governor H.V.R. Iyengar to World Bank in September 1957, to ask for $600 million aid package and to reassure the Bank President Eugene Black that
"The 'socialism' contemplated in India does not, by any stretch of the imagination mean communism; it does not mean state capitalism......It is a system under which private competitive enterprise has and will continue to have a vital role to play; it is a system which respects private property and provides for the payment of compensation if such property is acquired by the State. I submit there is nothing in the system which should be repugnant to the social conscience of the USA".
Within ten days the US Aid started flowing in, thanks also to US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Since there are no free lunches, Nehru had no option but to change his stance on the Tibet issue in conformity with American wishes. Dalai Lama whom Nehru had sent back to China in 1956 was now welcomed with open arms, leaving the Panchsheel agreement in tatters. CIA was given much greater access to Indian territory to install nuclear devises and agents to keep constant pressure on China to break up with the Soviet Union and cause deep fissures in communist parties across the globe. This was best achieved through the events leading up to the 1962 war, where the Soviet Union was forced to choose between India and China. M.Y. Prozumenschikov, writing in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin, 251, says:
The fact that the USSR did not take a clear “class” position in a conflict between a socialist state and a bourgeois state provoked indignation in China. In a 13 September 1959 letter to the CC CPSU, the CC CCP accused the Soviet government (although in a veiled form) of “accommodation and compromise on important matters of principle” and noted that “the TASS statement showed to the whole world the different positions of China and the Soviet Union in regard to the incident on the Indian–Chinese border, which causes a virtual glee and jubilation among the Indian bourgeoisie and the American and English imperialists, who are in every way possible driving a wedge between China and the Soviet Union.”
Nehru came under the US thumb and changed tack in 1957 to become more aggressive towards China. Nehru and Chou En-Lai had fully appreciated the futility of war, yet the war happened. Who initiated the war is irrelevant, but why the two great nations got sucked into it is more important.
For Americans, India-China war was a part of their Soviet containment policy. America was hardly bothered or moved by Tibet. As Dalai Lama writing in his autobiography says,
America felt it was worthwhile to provide limited assistance to Tibetan freedom fighters, not because they cared about Tibetan independence but as a part of world-wide efforts to destabilize all communist governments.”
For Washington, Tibet was just a strategic tool to keep the Communist Party of China reminded of the reach of American power. In the American game plan Congress party, Swatantra party and the right-wing political outfit of the RSS, Jan Sangh saw an opportunity to decimate once and for all, both Krishna Menon a potential heir to Nehru and communism from India. They all achieved their purpose.
In the end to fulfill America’s ideological imperatives - the Indian army sacrificed 3000 soldiers and also its pride - Nehru lay crestfallen, seeing the failure of his non-alignment policy writ large on those two letters that he wrote to Kennedy on 19 November 1962 asking for F-104 fighters and B-57 bombers. They kept him waiting for the help and also fed him wrong intelligence inputs and military advice through their ambassador in India, John Kenneth Galbraith.
Nehru was betrayed by none other than his friends in America who led him into a dark alley and left him stranded. Once China had been distanced from Soviets, America too turned its back on India, knowing it fully well that Pakistan was enough to meet its strategic needs.
In 1971, India once again lost 10,000 of its brave men to help Bangladesh win independence. But the net result was that the Bangladesh government and its army under US tutelage banned India’s entry into their country. The strategists need to ask, after all, who did the war eventually benefit? And the clear answer is America. Pakistan too was used by America to fight frivolous battles with India only to keep the entire region in rotation.
If in the 1950s, communist China’s expansionist designs were used to scare India, now it is the threat posed by Capitalist China that is being projected to woo India into falling into another trap. But this time India should be wise and tell the Americans that we will not let any of our soldiers shed its blood for Tibet, heavens will not fall if "Tibetan government-in-exile into further exile outside India..” India needs to be attached to a cause but only with a sense of detachment, just as the Chinese were when in the 1960s they reiterated their independence to the Soviets by informing them,
“If the international Communist movement collapsed, this will not cause the sky to fall down.”
For too long America has been playing like a systems administrator, making others dance to its tune. India must resolve not to lose even a single life to defend the American empire. Empires have come and gone. India is better prepared to deal with the new empire. If India could enjoy Halloweens and Valentine, it will hardly be an effort to absorb a bit of Confucius for the sake of peace and development in Asia.