Manmohan Singh, Atal Behari Vajpayee & Ronald Reagan

Editor’s Note: It grieves us to write articles such as these. But, we consider it our duty. The next decade is going to be critical for India and it’s destiny. What Indian society needs is to remember its real culture and traditions, the ones Indians remember everyday from MahaBharat and Ramayan. India was the world’s dominant society from 2000 BCE to about 800 CE. Then it slowly lapsed into its current appeasing posture. There are some encouraging signs that, with prosperity, Indian society is waking up from its deep slumber. Our attempts are to nudge along its awakening,  This was the legacy left to us by thinkers like Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

This week Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, gave a speech to India’s Parliament to explain why he signed the statement with Pakistan during the recent G-8 summit. During this speech, he referred to two other leaders, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the man who preceded Mr. Singh as India’s Prime Minister and the late Ronald Reagan, the President of America from 1980-1988.

Mr. Manmohan Singh has a dream, he reportedly said, of peace with Pakistan. He compares his vision of a peaceful sub-continent with that of his predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Mr. Singh argued that India cannot wish away Pakistan and said “We should be good neighbours. If we live in peace, as good neighbours do, both of us can focus our energies on the many problems – the abject poverty that confronts millions and millions of people in South Asia”.

This was a classically Indian speech, a speech that resonates in Indian hearts because today’s Indian society truly believes in this dream. This has been the dream of every Indian Prime Minister from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Atal Behari Vajpayee. This is a dream that transcends the bitter rivalry between Mr. Singh’s Congress Party and Mr. Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Then Mr. Manmohan Singh said “Let me say that in the affairs of two neighbours, we should recall what President Reagan once said – trust but verify. There is no other way unless we go to war.”

Here we must respectfully point out to Mr. Singh that he is totally wrong about President Reagan.

Today, Pakistan is to India what Iran was to America when Mr. Reagan became President.

It is Pakistan that had attacked Mumbai and killed hundreds of hostages in Mumbai hotels. It is Pakistan that has sworn to fund terrorist groups that want to attack India. It is Pakistan that is actively working to damage Indian security by making defense deals with China. In 1980, it was Iran that had held hundreds of Americans hostage. It was Iran that had sworn to fight America, the Great Satan, with all their determination. It was Iran that was actively working to undermine American security by making defense deals with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Reagan did not try to deal with Iran. He did not dream of a peaceful coexistence with Iran. Mr. Reagan did not go to war with Iran, either. He established a strong middle ground. He made it clear that there would be no dealings with Iran until and unless Iran changed its ways. He made the American military strong and established bases in the Persian Gulf. He made it clear that America does not wish to wage war on Iran but that America would not hesitate to wage war on Iran if Iranian behavior made it necessary. The Iranian regime was not foolish. They knew President Reagan. They did not behave badly with America.

Just look at Pakistan’s behavior and ask yourself whether Pakistan has the same respect for Prime Minister Singh that Iran had for President Reagan? They would not until Mr. Singh starts acting towards Pakistan the way Mr. Reagan acted towards Iran.

When Mr. Reagan used the words “Trust But Verify”, he was discussing the relationship with Soviet Union, the real military threat to America. But even there, Mr. Reagan did not give in to the American leftist peacenicks who wanted him to strike any deal he could with Mr. Gorbachev of Russia. They argued that such a deal would establish Ronald Reagan as a global statesman. Mr. Reagan did not care about being hailed as a global statesman. He knew what was right for America and he would not accept a bad deal. But President Reagan did not go to war with the Soviet Union either. He established a policy that escalated economic and strategic pressure on the Soviet Union. The rest is history. The Soviet  Union collapsed and President Reagan won the cold war.

China is to today’s India what the Soviet Union was to Reagan’s America. India is rapidly modernizing its military to meet China’s escalating military challenge. Mr. Singh needs to use the words of Mr. Reagan in his relationship with China – Trust But Verify. Mr. Singh and his colleagues need to learn the lessons of President Reagan and apply those to the Indian relationship with China. Unfortunately, Mr. Singh remained complacent about the Chinese military challenge for the past 5 years and India is paying the price for it. India’s problem is that Mr. Singh behaves like Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Hu Jintao behaves like Mr. Reagan.

Getting back to Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee – these two leaders think alike and behave alike. India’s real tragedy is that Indian Prime Ministers have always cared more about their personal legacy and their personal standing in the world than the good of India. This goes back to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister. He was so protective of his standing as “Shanti Doot”, the Messenger of Peace, that he refused to allow the Indian Army to throw out the Pakistani intruders from Kashmir in 1948. India is still coping with the consequences of this disastrous mistake.

Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee was a poet and dreamer. He wanted to go down in history as a peacemaker with Pakistan and China. So Mr. Vajpayee gave up India’s claims on Tibet without demanding any concessions from China, an act of utter folly. Mr. Vajpayee pursued his dreams of peace with Pakistan until Musharaaf  sprung his Kargil invasion in 1999. Fortunately for Mr. Vajpayee, the Indian Army defeated Musharaaf’s plans.

The toughest Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, suffered from this Indian disease as well. In 1971, after her victory in Bangladesh, Mrs. Gandhi held all the cards. Pakistan was totally defeated and demoralized. India held 93,000 Pakistani soldiers captive in Bangladesh sector. She had a golden opportunity to solidify India’s weak borders and win long lasting concessions. But she was advised by one of her Nehruite advisers to do the grand gesture and go down in history as a great statesman. So Indira Gandhi released the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners and demanded very little in exchange.

Today, Pakistan is much stronger and in a far better position that it was in 1971. Bangladesh is working closely with China to give China access to the Bay of Bengal. All of this because Indira Gandhi wanted to be recognized as a global statesman and secure her personal place in history. If the toughest ever Indian Prime Minister can succumb to such dreams of personal vanity, how can we blame Mr. Manmohan Singh who has dutifully served the Gandhi family for so long?

But we do ask Mr. Singh to not compare himself with Mr. Reagan. Ronald Reagan first thought of America, his country. He knew that dreams are different from reality. He focused on reality and he won.

As we have said before, a democratic society gets the government it deserves. Today’s Indian Society loves to see renunciation of power from its leaders, it believes deeply in “parivartan”, or the mental transformation of evil to good. It likes to believe that if you appease the bad guys and give them what they want, the bad guys will go away and leave you in peace. Today’s Indian society has forgotten its roots, its
tradition of destroying evil. It has forgotten that every single Indian festival celebrates the destruction of evil by the forces of good.

The fact that appeasement has not worked for past 1,000 years does not seem to matter to today’s Indian society, especially to North India. It should recall the story of Allah-ud-din Khilji in the 13th century. In today’s terminology, this man was a ruler from the Pashtun tribe of Ghilzai, an area between today’s Kandahar and Ghazni in Afghanistan. He attacked various Indian kingdoms in North India. He lost a few battles but kept coming back to attack again. The Indian kingdoms were tired of these battles and tried to appease Khilji. It sounds amazing today that these kingdoms never thought of uniting to finish off the Khilji threat militarily. Finally, Khilji’s determination succeeded. He became stronger and stronger. He eventually won over the entire North Indian region and then attacked South India, which inextricably remained complacent through out the turmoil in North India.

Khilji was the ancestor to today’s Taleban in every way. If you want to know how determined they are, read the New York Times article titled Iraq Veterans Find Afghan Enemy Even Bolder. They will keep attacking India because they remember Khilji, Ghori and Ghazni. If you doubt us, look up the names given to its nuclear missiles by Pakistan – the names of Afghan conquerors who murdered countless peace-loving North Indians. This is the Pakistan that Mr. Singh wishes to appease?

We think it is a good sign that Mr. Singh quoted Mr. Reagan. We hope and we respectfully request Mr. Manmohan Singh to understand and follow the real Ronald Reagan as he deals with Pakistan and China. He should remember that. like Mr. Reagan, his first duty is to win for his country and not care about his dreams or his legacy.

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