Apparently, from S. Jaishankar’s induction as Indian Minister for External Affairs into the Narendra Modi Cabinet, the flight of India foreign policy is likely to take off, bound to Washington. The policy is rapidly nearing to a crucial point—probably a crossroads of choice between staying with Asian norms and values and consummating a love marriage with the Western hegemony. Similar was the situation in the 1950s. In 1947, the Nehru-led government helplessly witnessed the grotesque bloodshed begotten by the colonial rule. It was an eventual outcome of the coercive and humiliating colonialism that lasted over two centuries. Nehru soon forgot all this, but never did the 1962 war with China. He smartly turned his failure, caused by the lack of foresight in diplomacy, into perpetual enmity with China. Today, Modi’s situation is hardly different.
Anglicised worldview Nehru was the author of the India’s post-independence foreign policy, a product of the unrealistic Anglicised worldview. His confusion had triggered bewilderment in his outlook on the position of Indian independence. He was unresolved on a question: Was the independence a gift of the British liberal thinking or an achievement of the relentless struggle of the Indian people? His autobiographical book Toward Freedom suggests that he was temperamentally a Western liberal. His views had stood as imprints of his highly Anglicised mindset and love for the British political life stemming from the imperial pride. He endlessly enamored to the glamour of the British liberal elitism, evidently an instance of the historical amnesia. Consequently, he was happy with the present without any remorse to the colonial past. Nehru had articulated this mindset in a meeting with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing in 1954. In that meeting, he urged Zhou to concede to his proposal allowing India’s special influence and privilege over Nepal, as a de facto suzerainty. He claimed the same influence over Nepal that the British had enjoyed, writes David Malone. Yet, India had no noticeable position in the international community in that time. Both the Soviet Union and the USA had little interests in it. Nevertheless, China’s revolution and consistent rise stirred up the Western strategy in Asia. Now, India suddenly became worthy to the USA, especially after China’s liberation of Tibet in 1949, followed by the 1962 war. Nepal’s geopolitical crisis began to critically unfold at this point. Even after 60 years, Nepal’s situation is still unchanged. And, apparently India’s willingness to join the proxy membership of NATO is grappling to hatch out new situations. Without minimum moral restraints, the Indian media is busy portraying that China is a dangerous enemy to India’s security. But the true reason is not China’s alleged threat; it is rather Indian elites’ growing willingness and deception to gain private gains from the Western alliance - it is India’s fate. India is facing a formidable problem of inequality among people at home - one per cent rich people holding 73 per cent of the national wealth, thus forcing the vast majority of population to live in poverty and deprivation. With this background, Indian elites’ charm to become a regional power on strength of the U.S. weapons is ballooning. The colonial fallouts are not the matter of concern for the Indian politics, which is obsessively engaged in meddling with domestic affairs of smaller neighbours and beset by increasing criminalisation. Democracy is marked both by class-division and caste-division. Against these bitter perspectives, the Indian power elites are dreaming to hug Western alliance, though PM Modi’s Hindutva nationalism is facing an overarching hatred from the West. He probably knows that it would not pay off well. Modi’s situation is not different from that of Nehru. The border disputes between China and India stem from the McMahon line principle that was negotiated between Tibet and the British colonial government in October 1913 and July 1914, at the end of Simla Conference. Henry McMahon, the Foreign Secretary of British government in India, was the chief negotiator in this conference on behalf of the British colonial government, which India until 1947 considered as a plunderous regime. But Nehru’s love for the Anglicised values cleaned the regime’s crimes instantly, whereas the 1962 event has never been forgotten. The Chinese delegates had categorically refused to accept the legitimacy of the McMahon line and had declined to sign the agreement. They held that Tibet, for being their territory, could not sign the treaty against the will of China. But India, by sticking on the McMohan line, stood against the One-China policy. However, the pro-Western Indian elites are willing to underestimate the Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and they relentlessly voice pro-Dalai Lama Clichés. This is where the source of chilliness in the relations between the two countries is rooted. But the Indian media is bind to this reality. Giving overarching worth to the Simla agreement, a colonial instrument is India’s serious fault line in relations with China. This treaty accepts Tibet as an independent country, whereas it was a vassal state of China forever. Invoking the legitimacy of the treaty, India forgets its history of the merger of Kashmir and Sikkim. The Indian theory on Tibet’s sovereignty is a sheer product of the Western propaganda. The Nehruvian doctrine had chosen to follow the colonial footsteps wrongly and Modi seems not different either. The British colonial rulers, for their vested interests, recognised the sovereignty of Tibet. The independent India could free itself from this mistake committed by its illegitimate predecessors. It could understand that the McMmohan line theory was in fact responsible for the 1962 war that drove Sino-India relations to the lowest ebb.
Failure of diplomacy This mistake committed by Indian governments has yet to be endured by Nepal. After this war, India has persistently been bullying against Nepal, claiming that the Himalayan nation remains within its security umbrella against China. Doing that, India undermines Nepal’s independence and claims, implicitly, that Nepal ought to accept its theory of ‘de facto suzerainty.’ This cannot be acceptable to the people of a sovereign nation, and for that Nepal has to daringly stand now against such hegemonic attitudes. The unacceptable and uncivilised propaganda of the Indian media against Nepal-China relations is pathologically wrong and intimidating. This is another instance of India’s failure in its Nehruvian diplomacy. Western powers and India ought to understand that Nepal’s relations with China are older than 1,500 years.
(The author is a professor of Jurisprudence and International Law.)