The current Indo-China crisis may generate an unprecedented domestic turbulence and which may adversely impact its democratic future. Internally, India is already heading on the path of cultural-unitarism with militant undertones. The effects may change the internal canvas with greater calls for exclusivity than inclusivity or diversity – and, the process has already set-in.
Our world fell to ideological unilateralism in two phases – the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan and what ensued after 9/11. Now it’s a world of competing interests but within same ideological discourse. This unilateralism has contributed to increased ideological insularity in states.
The inward looking dynamic fuelled by inequities produced by capitalism says whatever is foreign (internally, within a particular culture) has to be purged. Such definitions are highly subjective, emotional and selective. India fits in this particular case. Whereas Pakistan has demons of its own to exorcise, somehow, India is committing the same blunder as Pakistan for different reasons altogether. Now, it reads as the ‘One-Nation Theory’ in case of India.
British India, in practice, was essentially a type of garrison state – perpetual fears of insecurity, both internal and external were intrinsic to its rulers’ consciousness. Its institutions were calibrated to perform the service deemed fit by imperial interests, insecurity being an essential guiding principle. The leaders of new nation states carved out of British India had umpteen problems in running the nascent states, but they had one Herculean and paramount task at hand. To exorcise the ghost of this garrison state and transform the new countries into democratic polities. The situation was further compounded by the fact that the theatrical enactments of Cold War were played out in this region. Pakistan contracted the contagion of existential insecurity. India’s case was different as it overcame that due to the vision of its founding fathers.
Despite his many failings, it was the genius of Pandit Nehru and his aides who could perform this tremendous job of laying down the foundations of democracy in India, which had never been democratic, never indeed in the past. I wonder, if the progeny of Indians is building upon the spadework so assiduously laid by Pandit Nehru. It is increasingly doubtful now. The new crop of politicians and opinion makers seem oblivious to and thankless for all the groundwork done by Nehru and his associates.
Though not ideal, one needs to understand if India has relatively apolitical state institutions, it is to the credit of its initial political leadership. Field Marshal Carriappa, first Indian Commander in Chief had political views to the extent that he favoured controlled martial-law in parts of India that were rife with political dissent. General Thimayya, the most celebrated general had the audacity to bypass the command channel and rally other services’ chiefs (navy and air force) against the defence minster Krishna Menon. Once out of office, he spewed venom against the political leadership to the then British High Commissioner, which the latter conveyed to Britain.
In my view, the 1962 Indo-China debacle happened as some generals did not have a will to fight and had theoretical ideas about war. During the crisis, Nehru never wanted foreign military aid as he feared it would commit India to international partisanship. However, frantically, he did approach the US under immense pressure and produced the wish-list of Indian military leadership. On seeing the list of required armament, the Americans remarked, “Churchill with no weapon worth the name had won the war but you want all the weapons while retreating” and “you are defending your country. Not having a picnic. March your tanks through”.
No wonder the fine institutional balance in India is now changing. Ultra-national analysts are the new priests of this phenomena in India. A strange ‘quasi neo-imperial’ wish to revisit history is rampant in India, thanks to the reach of social media. Long before current Indo-China skirmishes, Nehru-Menon duo were already being blamed squarely for the 1962 Indo-China debacle.
The same is being done now where a lot of suave and articulate ex-generals are charging the atmosphere with salvos like ‘platan ki izzat’ and ‘namak ka qarz’. Thanks to this capitalist devour of India which it owes to American friendship, naked and peroration economic competition that suckles on international military-industrial complex is replacing the non-aligned Indian politics of the past.
All of this suggests that smaller states like Pakistan will have hard times ahead. We are living in paradoxical situation. Globalization has somehow muddled the water-tight ideological delineations of nation-states. Ironically, these states do not match the institutional strength to contain the tectonic shifts that are taking place globally and regionally. It’s like opening up yet closing in; a paradox of manners. Whereas Pakistan is amidst different demons of new times, India has propped up a tale of ideological insularity within. How far the reality is far – it’s a far cry to say.