Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly questioned the Modi government over its ‘China Policy’. As one hears him or reads his tweets and the statements critiquing India’s current China policy, one is reminded of an old idiom: “A pot calling the kettle black.”
Before Rahul Gandhi and his party raise this issue next time, it would be appropriate if they come out with an explanation on their own party’s China policy that laid the foundation of a disaster in 1962. Also, as Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly mentioning his family’s legacy in serving the country, it would be pertinent to note that it was Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who implemented a disastrous China policy resulting in grave damage to the country’s interests for which the nation is still paying the price.
Nehru’s China policy ruined India’s standing globally. This happened despite reminders to Nehru from his Cabinet colleagues that he was compromising India’s national interests and betraying the trust put by Tibetans in India. Nehru’s Sinophilia resulted in India’s humiliating defeat in the 1962 war and since then subsequent governments have been loaded with the burden of this ‘legacy’ of Rahul Gandhi’s family!
Nehru, who in addition to being the prime minister, also held the portfolio of external affairs from 1947 to 1964 was warned by none other than Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the home minister, about glaring gaps in his ‘China policy’. In fact, it was by a stroke of purely bad luck that Sardar Patel couldn’t participate in an important Cabinet meeting where Nehru was going to be most likely challenged by his Cabinet colleagues led by Patel over China policy. This meeting was to take place on 21 November 1950. Patel got too sick and couldn’t participate. He passed away a few days later (15 December 1950) and that averted any possible shift in the disastrous China policy followed by Nehru. In Patel’s absence, the other cabinet colleagues of Nehru couldn’t muster enough courage to challenge him on his China policy, though they disagreed with him too.
How the Congress government led by Nehru put India’s national interests at stake vis-à-vis ‘China policy’ is evident from the letters exchanged between Nehru and Patel and a cabinet note prepared on 18 November 1950.
In wake of communist China’s invasion of Tibet, Patel wrote to Nehru on 7 November 1950 (Nehru: The debates that defined India, Pp163-166), “The final action of the Chinese, in my judgement, is little short of perfidy. The tragedy of it is that Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of the Chinese diplomacy of malevolence.” He also cautioned Nehru about his tilt towards communism on the ideological front resulting in a soft corner towards China. Patel told him that the communist mentality is, “Whoever is not with them being against them… Recent and bitter history tells us that communism is no shield against imperialism and the communists are as good or as bad imperialists as any other… Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism are different from the expansion or imperialism of the western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national or historical claims. The danger from north and north-east, therefore becomes both communist and imperialist.”
The note prepared by Nehru which was discussed in the Cabinet meeting of 21 November 1950, in absence of Patel, reveals how India was made to meekly surrender to Chinese expansionism. The note said (Nehru: The Debates that Defined India, Pp171-178), “We have recognised Tibet being an integral part of China’s territory and therefore a domestic problem… I think it may be taken for granted that China will take possession, in a political sense at least, of the whole of Tibet. There is no likelihood of Tibet being able to resist or stop it. It is equally unlikely that any foreign power can prevent it. We cannot do so.”
Showing an absolute lack of any foresight on the China policy, Nehru asserted in this note, “I think that it is exceedingly unlikely that we may have to face any real military invasion from the Chinese side, whether in peace or in war, in the foreseeable future. I rule out any major attack on India by China. I think these considerations should be borne in mind, because there is far too much loose talk about China attacking and overrunning India. If we lose our sense of perspective and world strategy and give way to unreasoning fears, then any policy we might have is likely to fail.”
Nehru didn’t stop at that. Even when communist China was targeting India and occupying Tibet, the Indian Prime Minister was still defending Chinese communism as he wrote in the cabinet note, “The idea that communism inevitably means expansion and war, or to put, it more precisely, that Chinese communism means inevitably an expansion towards India is rather naïve.”
Unfortunately, Nehru completely shrugged off Tibet’s cause in what might be termed as an absolute surrender to China as he said, “We cannot save Tibet as we should have liked to do and our very attempts to save it might well bring greater trouble to it. It would be unfair to Tibet for us to bring this trouble upon her without having the capacity to help her effectively.”
When the issue of illegal occupation of Tibet was to come up in the UN Security Council, Nehru categorically said that India would not sponsor Tibet’s appeal. “We have said that (we) are not going to sponsor this appeal, but if it comes up we shall state our viewpoint. This viewpoint cannot be one of full support of the Tibetan appeal, because that goes far and claims full independence.”
Nehru didn’t stop at that. Going a step further he said, “I think that in no event should we sponsor Tibet’s appeal. I would personally think that it would be a good thing if that appeal is not heard in the Security Council or the General Assembly.”
While all these developments were taking place with China invading Tibet in May 1950, Nehru was going all out to support communist China’s case for a seat in the Security Council, rejecting a seat for India there. “When the Truman administration (in US) suggested in August 1950 that Nationalist China (Farmosa) be unseated from the Security Council and India put in its place rather than People’s Republic (communist China), Nehru rejected the suggestion with great vehemence and declared: (We) are not going in at the cost of China… we are not going to countenance it… We shall go on pressing for China’s admission to the UN and the Security Council” (Nehru: The debates that defined India, Pp138-139). Today China is a member of the Security Council and has done everything that it can do to corner India internationally using this very position in the Security Council. Nehru sacrificed India’s golden chance to become a permanent member of the Security Council and the country has been paying a price for it ever since.
Tripurdaman Singh and Adeel Hussain rightly conclude in Nehru: The Debates that Defined India (Pp145), “With Patel gone, the challenge to Nehruvianism evaporated. Tibet was abandoned at the altar of friendship with China and… ineffectual slogans of anti-imperialism and world peace. India’s inherited rights — trade agencies at Yatung and Gyantse, a permanent representative in Lhasa, military escorts, telegraph lines, rest houses on the roads from Sikkim — a legacy of the British empire, were surrendered for the dubious benefit of proving Nehru’s (and India’s) anti-colonial credentials to China and the world. The people’s Republic was assiduously courted. The journey to 1962 began.”
In light of the above facts, the question is that next time before Rahul Gandhi and his party colleagues talk about India’s ‘China policy’, will they start with apologising for what their party did to the national interest or will they publicly endorse that Nehru’s Sinophilia continues to inspire them?
The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books on the RSS. Views expressed are personal.