We began writing about the potential for conflict between China and India in June 2008. The trigger for us was extraordinarily naive and frankly, ignorant, comments about China and India from the celebrated Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. We felt that the world, at least the investing world, was uneducated about the strategic and military competition between China and India (see “Dr. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale – Is his ignorance symptomatic of global investors?” – June 14, 2008 – www.cinemarasik.com/2008/06/13/dr-jeffrey-sonnenfeld-of-yale–is-his-ignorance-sympotomatic-of-global-investors-and-global-media.aspx
Since then, we have written several articles that cover the China-India relationship, the most detailed being our article – “Differences Between China and India – Our Perspectives” – August 16, 2008 – www.cinemarasik.com/2008/08/09/differences-between-chinese-and-indian-people-and-attitudes-and-governments.aspx
In this context, we are very happy to bring a new book to the attention of our readers – “Are we deceiving ourselves again?” by Arun Shourie. The noted strategic and political commentator, Brahma Chellaney has written a review of this book in the Hindustan Times. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=cecc03dd-2d15-417e-8817-16cb0ca4b7fa).
Mr. Chellaney writes “Shourie’s well-researched, powerfully written book relies on Nehru’s letters, speeches, notes and other correspondence to bring out the significance, in Nehru’s own words, of the events from the 1950-51 fall of Tibet to China’s 1962 invasion.”
Mr. Chellaney further points out that “The author then draws 31 lessons from those developments for today’s India. After all, there are important parallels, as Shourie points out, between the situation pre-1962 and the situation now. Border talks are regressing, Chinese claims on Indian territories are becoming publicly assertive, Chinese cross-border incursions are rising, and India’s China policy is becoming feckless.”What are some of these lessons? A separate article in the Hindustan Times lists these lessons, some of which are reproduced below:
- Do not take the burdens of the world on your shoulders. Attend foremost to what concerns your country directly.
- If you are not able to do anything at one turn, build up your capacity so that you are not helpless at the next one: that we could not do anything when the Chinese first invaded Tibet is no excuse for not having prepared ourselves in the years that followed.
- It is ruinous for a country when its leaders insist on being unilaterally friendly and trusting of those who control a potential adversary.
- Do not expect a China to be grateful because you have championed its cause.
- You must recognise the danger as long in advance as it would take to institute the measures that are required to meet it; it did little good to see in mid-1962 the danger that Chinese forces posed.
- Rushing troops around at the last minute, buying weapons at the last minute, learning how to counter new types of warfare at the last minute. All this has to be done when the avalanche descends, but by then it is of little use. Nor does the emotion and enthusiasm with which people respond to aggression save the country. The emotion and enthusiasm are indispensable. But they are no substitute for having prepared oneself in the years that precede the onslaught. As Clausewitz would say, “The best strategy is always to be very strong”. Both terms are equally important: “always” as well as “very strong”.
- What is lost can seldom be recovered. As we have seen, the Resolution that Panditji moved in Parliament and which the Parliament adopted unanimously said in conclusion: gWith hope and faith, this House affirms the firm resolve of the Indian people to drive out the aggressor from the sacred soil of India, however long and hard the struggle may be.Who will today insist that the Chinese be driven out from the area in Aksai Chin that they have usurped?
- Do not pose the question as “all or nothing”. The choice that the other fellow sees is not “war or peace”, but “limited war”, “proxy war”, “the violence of peace”.
- Never underplay what the adversary has done. This was the fatal flaw. Panditji had insisted China would not act aggressively. It did. Panditji kept minimising what China was doing. He started exculpating them. He, in fact, started justifying what they were doing in part because he had insisted it would not act that way, and in part because he still did not want to take the steps that the actions of China demanded.
- Be alert. Memorise the delusions of 1949-1962. Memorise the warnings that were ignored. That cannot be done by reading a bare “list of lessons” but by diligently ploughing through the record of the time.
You can read the full extract at http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=96941633-2f7f-4704-9125-79ecd96f13ff
Get this book and read it. This is a must for any student of India or of today’s global strategic environment.
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