Ram Madhav dissects Nehru’s China folly (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT New Delhi | 26th Apr 2014
The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru interacts with soldiers in November 1962.
ndia has been afflicted with historians who are little more than publicists for leaders present and past. Reading the many tomes brought out by them on the main lights of the pre-1947 struggles, one could be excused for thinking that these were super-humans, incapable of human error. The many mistakes they made, errors which led to Partition and to the destruction of the potential of the Indian economy, as well as directly to the abysmal level of societal progress recorded in this country to this day, have largely been glossed over or excused as someone else's fault. Whether it be Sunil Khilnani, Amartya Sen or Shashi Tharoor, each has sought to outdo the other in showering encomiums, principally on Jawaharlal Nehru, who is claimed to be the "discoverer of India", or at the least, the "idea of India" by these authors.
Ram Madhav is very different from, say, Ram Guha, in that he has neither been the beneficiary of the care and attention lavished by trusts, institutions, academies and governmental bodies pre-fixed or suffixed with the Nehru name, or tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that Jawaharlal Nehru continue to remain embedded in public consciousness as the demigod who brought freedom and democracy to a grateful people. It is a tribute to the success of such propaganda — for there can be no more descriptive word than that to describe the outpourings of what may be termed the "Nehru industry" — that even today, hundreds of thousands of voters in Amethi and Rae Bareli overlook the fact that they remain as poor as they ever were, despite decades of being represented in Parliament by that branch of the Nehru clan that has appropriated the power and the perquisites of such a relationship, courtesy Prime Ministers from Narasimha Rao to Atal Behari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh.
In his Uneasy Neighbours (Har-Anand Publications), Ram Madhav describes in detail the leaps of faith by Jawaharlal Nehru, fantasies which ignored the reality of the hard-nosed Realpolitik practised by Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. He points out startling facts that durbari historians have sought to bury, such as that Nehru insisted on the UN seating the Peoples Republic of China not only as a Member but even as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council even during the weeks when the PLA was overrunning the pathetic defences cobbled together by Nehru favourite Lt Gen T.N. (Tikkoo) Kaul. Ram Madhav correctly assigns blame also to Vengalil Kumaran Krishna Menon, then the Defence Minister, although the fact is that Menon never dared to challenge a single one of Nehru's edicts, being wholly dependent for his political success on Nehru, whose Fabian socialism so infused the then Defence Minister's own policies that he (correctly) focused on indigenous production of weapons systems, but ensured that these remain the monopoly of the state sector, a ridiculous monopoly which persists to this day. Evidence, if such was needed, that India has been governed since 1947 by either the Nehrus or by a succession of quasi-Nehruvians, with only Narendra Modi emerging as a challenger to such a system of governance.
Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sits in a golf cart as he visits the Forbidden City in Beijing on 24 June 2003. REUTERS
Ram Madhav gives in detail the facts relating to the 1962 disaster, including the neglect of troops and the huge political concessions given by Nehru to Beijing in the matter of Tibet. However, being an admirer of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Madhav neglects to mention that on his 2003 visit to Beijing, it was Vajpayee who threw away any shred of any remaining card available to India in the matter of Tibet, by giving a formation that adopted the Chinese viewpoint in its totality. This was a Sharm el-Sheik moment in Vajpayee's era that has not been given the attention it deserves, presumably because not only historians such as Ram Madhav but also Nehruvians treat Vajpayee with almost the reverence they show towards the Nehru family.
Ram Madhav has done well in highlighting the importance to the trajectory of Sino-Indian ties of Nehru's 1959 decision to welcome the Dalai Lama as an honoured guest, as also any inhabitant who wished to leave Tibet. He has emphasised the contradiction between Nehru's chasing of the holy grail of peaceful co-existence with China and his embrace of the Dalai Lama, contradictions in Nehruvian policies that led Beijing to regard him as a leader bent on disrupting Communist China, even while claiming to be its best friend. Madhav has given a concise summary of the war, although he ought to have focused more on the refusal to use air power by Nehru and Menon, and the consequences of such an error of judgement. He has detailed the valour of the Indian jawan, who has stood by his or her country to the last, although hobbled by a clueless bureaucracy and sometimes by weak leadership in the higher echelons of the services. His sections on such valour are touching and effective. Overall, Ram Madhav follows what this reviewer describes as the "Sardar Patel-Subhash Bose" line in contrast to the "Gandhi-Nehru" line, in his descriptions and in his conclusions.
Clearly, China is a country with which India must deal, but this needs to be with clear vision and with a balanced appreciation of risks and possibilites. Ram Madhav has made a welcome and valuable contribution to the all-important issue of a China policy that will ensure that — for the first time since 1947 — it is New Delhi and not Beijing that secures the better deal.
Uneasy Neighbours: India and China after 50 years of the War, Har-Anand Publications