The Age of Impunity
And How to Fight It
August 1947 brought independence to India. In spite of the long-drawn-out struggle that preceded it, it came in peace and goodwill. Suddenly all bitterness of past conflict was forgotten and a new era of peace and friendship began. Our relations with Britain became friendly and we appeared to have no inherited problems and conflicts with any other country.
We had been conditioned for 30 years by Mahatma Gandhi and his gospel of peace which had left a powerful imprint not only on the minds of those actively interested in politics but also on the mass mind. Our success in attaining freedom through peaceful methods confirmed this way of thinking. Thus we entered the family of independent nations with a clean slate, without any inherited hatreds or enmities or territorial or other ambitions, determined to cultivate friendly and coöperative relations with all countries and to devote ourselves to the economic and social progress of India without getting entangled in national or international conflicts.
India had become free, but there were still some small parts of it under French and Portuguese control which were under colonial domination. Thus in our minds the freedom of India was not quite complete. We felt certain that France and Portugal would also follow the British example and that these enclaves of colonial territory would inevitably, and through peaceful methods, join independent India. We made the necessary approaches to the French and Portuguese Governments. The French enclaves became a part of the Union of India peacefully by agreement with France. Portugal proved much more intractable and gave a lot of trouble. There was serious trouble in 1955 involving the killing and wounding of many Indian and Goan passive resisters by Portuguese soldiers. There was also severe internal repression in Goa. Such incidents continued, and it was only after some show of military force, following further incidents in 1961, that this last remnant of colonial rule in India was ended. After that the independence of India was complete.
August 1947 brought long-cherished freedom to our country. But in the wake of it came the Partition of India and, immediately after, mass killing on both sides of the new frontier and vast migrations. We had hoped that the Partition of India, which was brought about by agreement, would lead to the creation of two states which would be friendly neighbors and would coöperate with each other. That was natural, as not only geography but a common history and culture and the same language and many other factors common to both would, we thought, inevitably lead to friendly coöperation.
But this was not to be. The events after the Partition left a trail of great bitterness. We were trying to get over the immediate results of the Partition when the State of Kashmir was suddenly invaded from Pakistan and a new conflict arose. To us, trained and conditioned as we had been by Mahatma Gandhi, this came as a shock, for we had hoped that there would be no military conflicts with any other nation. After 14 months, a cease-fire was agreed to and actual fighting stopped. Since then, although the Kashmir problem remained with us and gave a great deal of trouble, feelings in both countries gradually lost their bitterness and approached normality, in so far as the people were concerned.
We devoted ourselves to the major problem that confronted us—economic and social progress and the betterment of our people. Even before independence, we had given much thought to this matter and had come to the conclusion that we should proceed by the method of planning. Our resources were limited, and we wanted to utilize them to the best advantage to attain declared objectives. After independence, a Constituent Assembly was formed to draw up the new Constitution of India; this declared that India was to be a sovereign, democratic Republic which should secure for all its citizens: justice—social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity. And among them all it was to promote fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation.
On January 26, 1950, this new Republic came into existence and all our efforts were directed toward realizing the objectives laid down—political democracy and economic justice. We called the objective socialistic without adhering to any doctrinaire definition of the word. The system we evolved was consciously directed toward the welfare of the common man rather than to enrichment of the few; it is democratic because its processes are ultimately controlled by public discussion and by Parliament elected on the basis of universal adult franchise, and not by the secret purposes of a privileged minority.
While benefiting from foreign experiences—more especially, in the constitutional sense, from England and the United States—we did not wish to copy any foreign models. We believed that India had, by virtue of her long history and traditions, an individuality of her own and we should retain this without adhering to outworn ideas or traditions. We realized that the world was rapidly changing and we must keep pace with these changes without being swept away by them. We wanted to help, however modestly, in this developing pattern of international relations. We had no desire to interfere with other countries or impose our views on them. Thus, India started changes in her own life and institutions that are so decisive and far-reaching in their scope and intent that they may well be considered revolutionary, especially when viewed against the background of an ancient civilization and its ingrained conservatism. In foreign affairs, in a period when cataclysmic conflicts seem never too far below the horizon, she has invariably taken her stand with those who are striving for the maintenance of peace and for reconciliation and coöperation.
The twin policies which have guided us since independence are, broadly, democratic planning for development at home and, externally, a policy which has come to be named, rather inadequately, "non-alignment." Like the basic policies of most countries, these are not the product of any inspiration or arbitrary choice, but have their roots in our past history and way of thinking as well as in fundamental national exigencies. India's overriding and most urgent task is to raise the standard of living of her people, and in order to achieve this, to carry out structural and organizational reforms not only as speedily as possible but with maximum popular support and participation. In foreign affairs, we had no interest other than to cultivate friendly coöperation with all countries and to help to keep world peace, as the sine qua non of everything else. In our approach to these problems, our attitude and ideas had inevitably been shaped by our own recent struggle for freedom, as well as by the accumulated experience of centuries, and above all by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings.
It is no sign of complacency to recognize that these policies have met with an encouraging measure of success. India, with a population of 446,000,000 and an electorate of over 200,000,000, remains the largest functioning democracy in the world. Without deviating from democratic principles and procedures, she has launched upon extensive programs of modernization which are already bearing fruit. Far-reaching land reforms have taken place and our economy, still predominantly agricultural, is being steadily transformed by the spread of industrialization and the completion of vast new projects in the fields of power, transport and irrigation. Our Community Development schemes represent a rural reconstruction program which promises to transform the countryside and the vast population that live there. Recently, the Community Development movement has been extended to what is called Panchayati Raj; that is, there has been decentralization in favor of village-elected councils which have been given authority and resources to carry out schemes of development. Both industrial and agricultural production have increased substantially in volume as well as variety, and every effort is being made to ensure that the benefits of an expanding economy are shared equitably by all classes of the population. Education has spread remarkably at all stages and there are at present over 50,000,000 boys and girls in schools and colleges. Special attention has been paid to scientific and technical education. The health conditions of the people have also made substantial progress. In the 1940s the expectation of life in India was 32; now it is approaching 50. Our planning, designed to equip the country with the technical skills and the productive facilities of a modern society, is essentially welfare-oriented. Two Five Year Plans have been completed and the third is now in mid-course.
What is called "non-alignment" has also not fared badly. This, strictly speaking, represents only one aspect of our policy; we have other positive aims also, such as the promotion of freedom from colonial rule, racial equality, peace and international coöperation, but "non-alignment" has become a summary description of this policy of friendship toward all nations, uncompromised by adherence to any military pacts. This was not due to any indifference to issues that arose, but rather to a desire to judge them for ourselves, in full freedom and without any preconceived partisan bias. It implied, basically, a conviction that good and evil are mixed up in this world, that the nations cannot be divided into sheep and goats, to be condemned or approved accordingly, and that if we were to join one military group rather than the other it was liable to increase and not diminish the risk of a major clash between them. Essentially, "non- alignment" is freedom of action which is a part of independence. This attitude no doubt displeased some people to begin with, but it has been of service to the cause of world peace at some critical moments in recent history. A large number of countries, including most of the newly independent states of Asia and Africa, have adopted a similar outlook on international affairs. It is possible that India has influenced their thinking to some extent in this matter; but, however that may be, "non- alignment" is now an integral part of the international pattern and is widely conceded to be a comprehensible and legitimate policy, particularly for the emergent Afro-Asian states.
Consistent with our policy of promotion of peace and international coöperation, we welcomed the end of the civil war in our neighboring country China and the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in December 1949. We began developing friendly and coöperative relations with our northern neighbor.
The wanton and massive invasion of last autumn has, however, brought an incalculable, ominous and explosive new element into the situation. Peking's propagandists have tried to sow confusion in the public mind over this; but no amount of sophistry can conjure away the fact that the People's Republic of China is guilty of premeditated aggression. In 1954 India and China signed a general treaty on Tibet, in the preamble of which both parties pledged themselves to mutual nonaggression and respect for each other's territorial integrity. At that date, China knew precisely what the extent of India's territorial jurisdiction was; India, on the other hand, was not only not aware of the Chinese claims (they were not disclosed until five years later), but she had no reason even to suspect that there was any major question about the frontier.
All the fighting that has taken place, and the forcible seizure of territory by China, has been to the south and west—that is, on the Indian side—of the frontier as implicitly accepted by China herself in 1954. At no point have Indian troops ever gone beyond that line. The charge of aggression against the People's Republic of China thus holds, regardless of the controversy about the correct delineation of the border. This subject has been voluminously documented; what needs to be said here is that India's northern frontiers are not the result of any British imperialistic expansion, achieved in violation of China's rights or interests, but have their sanction in the facts of geography and history, and the generally accepted principles of international law.
It is difficult to forecast the further course of this dispute. Recently some non-aligned powers took the initiative in making certain proposals which, if accepted, could lead to talks between India and China on the merits of the question. We have accepted these proposals in their entirety. China has thus far not done so. We have suggested that we are prepared to refer these frontier disputes to the International Court of Justice at The Hague or to arbitration.
The initiative lies always with the aggressor, and the Chinese have been exceptionally devious and deceptive in their methods. What has happened so far serves to define, more clearly than before, certain considerations which must continue to govern our attitude and policy on this question.
First, it would be wrong and inexpedient, and also repugnant to every sentiment of national honor and self-respect, to acquiesce in aggression, as plainly established as it is in this case. We must, therefore, insist that the aggression be undone to our satisfaction before normal relations can be restored. Whether a peaceful settlement can eventually be reached, therefore, depends largely on China.
Secondly, despite our friendliness, China's behavior toward us has shown such utter disregard of the ordinary canons of international behavior that it has shaken severely our confidence in her good faith. We cannot, on the available evidence, look upon her as other than a country with profoundly inimical intentions toward our independence and institutions.
Thirdly, the Himalayan barrier has proved to be vulnerable. If it is breached, the way to the Indian plains and the ocean beyond would lie exposed; and the threat to India would then, likewise, be a threat to the other countries of South and Southeast Asia. India's determination to resist aggression and retain her territorial integrity is, therefore, a vital factor in the safeguarding of peace and stability throughout this whole area.
This is no doubt appreciated by all the friendly countries whom we have asked for military and other assistance in the present emergency; and the prompt response that the request evoked, particularly from the United States and Great Britain, has been warmly acknowledged by the Government of India and the leaders of Indian opinion. It is obvious, however, that the defense of India in any long-term view calls for a sustained effort by India herself—an effort, moreover, which cannot be conceived entirely or directly in narrow military terms. In the past, our preoccupation with the human problems of poverty and illiteracy was such that we were content to assign a relatively low priority to defense requirements in the conventional sense. We will now clearly have to give considerably more attention to strengthening our armed forces and to the production within the country, to the extent possible, of all weapons and equipment needed by them.
Measures to this end have already been taken in hand. But, over and above these, even for the specific purpose of defense, the prime requisite is a solid and broad-based economy and a population increasingly trained to make full use of the resources of modern science and technology. Our development plans and programs have had precisely these objectives; and with such modifications and minor changes in emphasis as may be necessary, it is, if anything, more essential than ever to press forward with them. We are aware that the additional burden on our resources, entailed by the larger defense expenditure, must in any event call for further sacrifices on our part. We are making these sacrifices and are determined to carry through the current Five Year Plan without any significant scaling down. We hope external aid in adequate measure will be available in support of this special effort.
I have mentioned earlier that Indo-Pakistan relations had been steadily improving in recent years. The Chinese attack on India has, however, caused a setback. Pakistan authorities tended to regard the crisis in Sino-Indian relations as an opportunity to press India to make all sorts of concessions to them.
A new series of talks has been started between the two countries, and we in India would be the first to rejoice if they helped to ease the tension. Without prejudging the outcome of these discussions, it may be said, however, that they have no direct bearing on the problems we face with regard to China. The boundary to be protected delimits the territories of the Indian state and their defense is the responsibility of the Indian Government. What India needs is not manpower but weapons and other military equipment, which in the short run she must get from other sources, and in the long run manufacture herself.
Pakistan, like other states, can help by refraining from giving aid and encouragement to China and thereby enabling her to multiply her pressures against us. Unfortunately, the attitude of Pakistan ever since the Chinese aggression on India has been the reverse of this, and this has undoubtedly added to our difficulties. We are eager to come to agreement with Pakistan in regard to Kashmir and other problems, but it must be remembered that the question of moving toward a possible change in Kashmir is so pregnant with explosive possibilities that any incautious step might have far-reaching effects involving the internal stability of the sub-continent, and thus weaken instead of strengthen our defenses. Also the settlement reached must be such that it makes for permanent improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations.
The conflict provoked by Chinese aggression raises wider issues than the simple demarcation of a remote border. It is difficult to understand why China chose to conceal her territorial claims for many years, pleading subsequently that "the time was not ripe" for revising her maps; or why she had to mount large-scale, concerted attacks from one end to the other of the two-thousand-mile-long frontier; or why she rejects any approach to settlement other than through bilateral negotiations in the context of military force; or why she has been conducting world-wide anti-Indian propaganda denouncing the whole range of India's policies and depicting India as a tool of reactionaries and imperialists.
The fact appears to be that China's anti-Indian policy flows from her general analysis of the international situation, and reflects the aims and assumptions underlying her foreign policy as a whole. This policy itself, while formally subscribing to such ideals as peace and coexistence—though in the special Chinese meaning of these terms—leaves no room for non-alignment. If the world is viewed as divided essentially between imperialists and Communists, between whom war not only is inevitable in the end, but between whom tension in some form must be kept alive and even intensified as opportunity occurs, then there is indeed no place in it for the non-aligned. The non-aligned nations must, in this context, seem to be occupying an unstable, anomalous position from which, if they could be dislodged, either by cajolery or coercion, the result would be to accentuate the polarization of world forces. It is logical to conclude that China's multiple campaign against India is an exercise in realpolitik on these lines. India is such an outstanding member of the non-aligned community that her defection, whether voluntary or enforced, cannot fail to bring grave and far-reaching consequences in its train.
If this analysis is well-founded, the challenge from China, as it has revealed itself, is not only to our foreign policy, but to our domestic policy as well. Both are rooted in our needs and interests, and spring from the same cultural outlook and the same scale of moral values. Tolerance, friendliness, the protection of the rights and dignity of the individual, peaceful settlement of disputes, the persistent effort to reach agreement through compromise and persuasion—these are the values we have been trying to uphold, imperfectly no doubt, in the conduct of our internal affairs. They represent a way of life, if I may so put it, a way of life that is anathema to the ruling ideologists in Peking, with their faith in power and violence as the instruments of benevolent change.
We are far from being averse to change, we have embarked upon far-reaching changes and we propose to persevere with our plans and programs; but we are convinced that the methods by which changes are brought about are at least as important as the changes themselves. Means are more important than ends—this was the basic policy on which Mr. Gandhi laid constant stress. We believe that any change should come about through our own volition, as a result of our own experience, and that it should not be foisted on us through any kind of force or pressure. In the pursuit of change, we should seek to carry the mass of the people with us and win their support. This way of dealing with our problems may not result in as swift or spectacular transformation as we might wish, but at least the progress achieved will have a solid basis in the nation's consent and avoid a degree of dislocation and disorganization that we can ill afford.
It is in this spirit that we have set our hands to the task of developing, in this ancient land, a system combining political democracy and economic justice.
Can this enterprise survive the new strains and tensions? The question goes to the heart of the issues involved in the present conflict, and the answer lies only in part, though perhaps in large part, with us in India. I am confident in my own mind that we cannot let ourselves be panicked into abandoning either the goal or the methods of our policy as I have stated it. The attack from across the Himalayas undoubtedly gave us a severe jolt; it aroused anger and disgust at what we felt to be a wanton betrayal of friendship. The immediate reaction was a spontaneous wave of national unity submerging all other disputes and dissensions. Even if some of them are revived, they are bound to be heavily colored by the implications of China's policy for our security as well as for other aspects of our life.
In India there are groups which may be called Right and others which may be called Left. But the antithesis between Right and Left is not so clear-cut as in some other parts of the world, or as widely permeating in its intellectual and political language. To the vast mass of our people, the reality is a deeply felt but undoctrinaire demand for better economic and social conditions, to which has now been added a troubled awareness of the Chinese threat and of the paramount need for safeguarding the nation's independence and integrity. This is the basic situation that our policies are designed to meet. Undoubtedly, grave new problems have arisen which we did not previously anticipate and which could conceivably disturb our internal equilibrium. The diversion of resources to military preparedness may slow down to some extent the improvement in living conditions, and we will have to adapt ourselves, psychologically also, to the presence of a powerful and hostile neighbor. These are highly unwelcome and distasteful necessities, and their emergence has prompted an earnest reappraisal of the course we have been following these last 15 years. That reappraisal, however, has convinced us that the basic policies we pursued in earlier years should not be changed, but should only be adjusted in order to meet the new dangers that face us.
The central fact is that the impact of China, whether it again takes an acute military form or makes itself felt more insidiously, is forcing the pace of growth in India. Both the Right and the Left have been affected, and the nation as a whole is growing up. It is learning that in the world today it is not enough to be devoted to peace, or to mind one's own affairs, but that it is also necessary to have adequate armed strength, to adjust our relations with friendly countries in the light of the changing actualities of the international situation and, above all, to preserve and consolidate national unity.
There is an interplay of domestic and external factors here which no one can ignore; our responses will inevitably be affected by the policies that others adopt toward us. While uncertainties are inherent in the situation, the political ferment that has been at work in India during the past few months has confirmed for us the essential and continuing validity of the principles on which we have hitherto taken our stand. The defense of our freedom and the social progress to which we aspire can best be assured in our view by the flexible democratic structure that we have evolved for ourselves. This is not only in conformity with our larger interests, but also with the larger interests of the world.
The Right in India has become more clamorous, basing itself on an extreme form of nationalism; the Left, though also nationalistic, is to some extent weakened. The Communist Party of India is in disarray, and the great majority of it has condemned Chinese aggression and declared itself in favor of the national stand. There is much heart-searching even in the Congress Party. But, on the whole, the picture that is emerging confirms the domestic and international policies that we have pursued, subject always to a general agreement about the necessity for increasing our armed strength for defense. If the frontier situation should deteriorate, we would naturally consider it desirable to take measures to tighten up the central authority. That is something that is likely to happen in a crisis under any system of government. But, even so, the basic democratic structure will, I think, continue.
It is pertinent to note that the Soviet Union and the Communist states of Europe allied to it have not considered it necessary to change their friendly attitude toward India in spite of open Chinese hostility toward us. Indeed, they have continued their aid to India in various ways. This implies a recognition on their part that India and other non-aligned countries have a vital role in the existing balance of forces.
I have endeavored to give, above, some explanation of the basic policy which China appears to be following in regard to India. It may be that this policy is partly affected by the growing rift between the Soviet Union and China. This may have led China to demonstrate, by her attack on India, that non-alignment has no reality and that the Soviet policy toward the non- aligned countries is wrong; the only right course is to work for a polarization of forces in the world. This might, according to Chinese thinking, justify their ideological difference with the Soviet Union.
Whatever temporary military success the Chinese may have gained by their aggression on India, I think it would be correct to say that they have failed thus far in their main endeavor. Not only have they converted a friendly country like India into one basically hostile to them and united and determined against them, but the policy of non-alignment has not broken down and stands confirmed. China has lost the goodwill of most of the non-aligned countries and even of many of her Communist allies. She stands isolated today.
Ever since the cease-fire and the Colombo proposals, the immediate excitement of day-to-day fighting on the border has naturally toned down. But it is generally recognized that the menace from China is a continuing one, and we must therefore prepare to meet it, whatever developments might take place in the near future.
The future is uncertain. But it may be said with some confidence that, while India continues to strengthen herself for defense, she is anxious that her economic development should not be impeded because of the increased expenditure on armaments. There is an increasing realization that this double burden must be borne by our people. There is also the hope that our friends abroad will help us by sharing this burden to some extent. But we realize that in any event the people of India will have to carry the main load.
Whatever happens in India or elsewhere will be governed to some extent by international developments. Happily, there have been indications recently that a new phase may well be opening in international relations. Cuba suddenly revealed to us the thermonuclear brink on which we are all poised; it also brought reassuring evidence of restraint and moderation in high places, without which we cannot be sure of surviving the dangerous days yet to come. It may be that the cold war and the East-West antagonism of the 1950s will be gradually softened and transformed by the new pressures that have emerged within each bloc, as well as by the insistent demand of the "uncommitted" countries for a systematic and world-wide assault on hunger, disease and ignorance. But war, and nuclear war at that, still remains the spectre which must be exorcized before mankind can breathe freely again. That is why disarmament, particularly the abolition of nuclear weapons, beginning with the cessation of all further tests, is of such supreme importance. The technology of the arms race is acquiring a fearful momentum of its own, and is rapidly reaching a point where, if it is not checked and reversed in time, it may well pose insuperable problems of organized, social control. The responsibility for this naturally rests, in the first place, with the principal nuclear powers, and we must hope that they will be equal to it.
Meanwhile, Indo-American relations have seldom been as close and cordial as they are now. The deep sympathy and practical support received from the United States in meeting the Chinese aggression has created a wealth of good feeling and, apart from that, there is much in common between us on essentials. President Kennedy's vision of a world of free and independent nations, freely coöperating so as to bring about a world-wide system of interdependence, is entirely in accord with our own ideas. It is in this spirit that we have endeavored to collaborate in peaceful and constructive work with the new Afro-Asian states, and with Britain and other Commonwealth countries with whom we have a long historical association. It is in this spirit also that we are doing our best to further the purposes of the United Nations as, most recently, in the Congo.
The United Nations admittedly has numerous shortcomings. The government of a country representing a large part of the world's population is still not subject to the discipline and the responsibilities that membership in the world organization would impose. Often, moreover, the judgment and activities of the United Nations have been swayed or inhibited by the passions and prejudices of the cold war. None the less, the United Nations is the chief repository of our hopes for ever closer and more effective international coöperation for security as well as welfare. It is dedicated to peace, freedom and justice—noble ideals which embody the aspirations of all mankind—and it may yet lead us out of this fear and strife-ridden age into a more settled future when the full potentialities of science and technology could be applied to the well-being of all peoples.