“Today’s Breakaway Bites Back Later” – Lessons for China and India from Russia’s Georgia War

We borrow this title from that of an excellent article on www.bloomberg.com  titled China’s Georgia War Lesson: Today’s Breakaway Bites Back Later”, written by Bloomberg’s Viola Gienger in Washington and Dune Lawrence in Beijing.

Events in Russia have always provided instructive lessons for China and China has learned them well. China watched in amazement as Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union with his ham-handed attempts to introduce democratic methods without economic progress. China learned from Gorbachev’s mistakes and took the opposite course. China introduced economic reforms and focused on first building a strong economy. It worked and China is an economic superpower today on its way to be a military power.

The article by Gienger and Lawrence describes how “the war in Georgia plays to China’s argument that it must keep ethnic regions firmly under control, lest they become autonomous enough to cause problems for the central government, as Georgia has done for Moscow since becoming a pro-Western democracy after protests in 2003 threw out a government friendlier to Russia.”

The article quotes Robert Ross, a professor at Boston College, saying “To the Chinese, the Georgia conflict is all the result of the inability of Russian leaders to control their country, and allowing ethnic divisions to dominate” after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Professor Ross concludes “So the lesson for China in this is that we must be all-the-more sure that we control our ethnic groups.”

The world saw how China practices this lesson when China suppressed the uprising in Tibet earlier this year.  The world also sees how India fails to learn this lesson and consequently suffers from several internal separatist and violent anti-Indian movements.

The Indian Government’s approach is derived from the philosophy articulated by Jawaharlal Nehru during the Partition of India in 1947. As Nehru reportedly put it – by “cutting off the head (the Pakistan problem) we will get rid of the headache”.*

Nehru allowed the head to be cut off, but the headache remains to this day. In fact, the headache has turned in to a migraine for India and an infection for the rest of the world.

Nehru was more of an English liberal than any English leader or politician. Like so many members of the English upper-class, Nehru was a firm believer in socialism. He also hailed from the Indian liberal tradition of appeasing the extreme elements in the hope of winning them over. He disapproved of American directness and American society considering America (like his upper-class English friends) to be philosophically less advanced. So he embarked on his anti-imperialist mission to befriend China as an ally. This is why Nehru suffered an emotionally and physical shock when China attacked India in 1962 and he had to seek help from America.

Nehru was a great leader for India in many ways. The success of Indian education and Science is primarily due to
his vision. So is the sustainability of Indian democracy. Unfortunately, Nehru was also an inherently weak person and he cloaked his weakness in leftist English liberalism.

Today’s Indian Government, the Indian intellectual establishment and the English language media in particular have inherited this weakness. Their definition of a modern outlook is to scoff at people who are proud of core Indian traditions. To them, being anti-India is high chic and appeasement as their core conviction.

The Indian Government learns no lessons from its past or the success of modern China. This is why India is beset today by several anti-Indian movements, the violent Maoist movement and Islamic Terror movements being the most prominent.

In our earlier article (“Differences Between China and India – Our Perspectives” – August 16), we argued that China is the rule of the majority and India is the rule of the minority. This difference allows China to have a strong core and India to suffer from a weak core.

This is why China today governs the largest land-mass in its 5,000 year history whereas India governs the smallest land-mass in its 5,000 year history.



Editor’s Note: *
The quote is from the book “The Man who Divided India” – An insight into Jinnah’s leadership and its aftermath – by Rafiq Zakaria – Page 158

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