In difficult times one good news that has emerged recently relates to some progress on de-escalation on India-China borders. As several knowledgeable observers have pointed out, we should not hasten to celebrate peace too soon as there are several uncertainties. Nevertheless any turn for the better in de-escalation is certainly welcome , and both the involved governments, their advisers and commanders deserve praise for this.

At this stage it is important that the opposition parties should not voice any unduly discordant notes which will disturb the process of de-escalation, or put undue pressure on the government regarding its ability to respond adequately to any proposals or negotiations for de-escalation or peace. We should be able to distinguish between very short-term considerations and the longer-term needs.

Let it be very clear that it is very much in the longer-term interests of India to live more or less in peace with China, and this peace between two very important neighboring countries is also in the wider interests of world  ( apart from being in the interests of China as well). Let us also recognize the rather bitter fact that China is not an easy neighbor to live with.

While it is true that there is a very strong case for very durable and many-sided friendship between India and China and this was symbolized best by the sacrifice of Dr. Kotnis, the great Indian doctor who died in China serving the people there in very difficult times, the attitudes of the Chinese leadership since then have not been such as to inspire trust and confidence in India.

The sincerity of Jawaharlal Nehru, at least in the initial phase, in having friendly relations based on civilizational as well as present day aspects cannot be doubted , and he was willing to make sacrifices to promote this friendship, but he was betrayed badly by the 1962 invasion and the trust once broken could never be fully established after this  betrayal.

Of course in any prolonged conflict both sides share blame, but in the case of the India-China conflict the balance of evidence is clearly that in the period 1950-2020 more blame is definitely on the side of the Chinese authorities, most clearly  manifested in the certainly avoidable 1962 invasion ( which incidentally also shattered Nehru in ways from which he could never fully recover) as well as in the shameful support for Pakistan even at the time of its genocide in yet-to-formed Bangladesh.

Despite this the cause of India-China peace remains very important. The hostility of the two countries has been harmful for both countries and has been very harmful also for world peace. The way forward is clearly towards peace. Resolving India-China  conflict is one of the most important issues on world peace agenda.

Coming now to the immediate issues of de-escalation, both sides have their own compulsions and desire for this, and both will benefit from de-escalation. This fact, understood by the Government of India, should also be understood by opposition leaders. This needs to be stated because some of them have been voicing criticism of the government regarding loss of territory etc. which is best avoided at least at this point of time when the focus should be on de-escalation and peace and the government efforts in this direction should get the support of opposition parties. On some issues of foreign policy, at certain stages of time at least, there should be broad national unity and the issue of de-escalation with China is one such issue.

The opposition should clearly distinguish between domestic issues ( where a strong criticism may be fully justified ) and very sensitive issues of foreign policy, particularly in times of critical negotiations, when the overall effort should be to strengthen the hands of government regarding de-escalation and peace efforts, or at least desist from making any provocative statements.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.


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