When Arun Shourie writes a book, there are three kinds of reactions. The Congress doesn’t speak, the communists denigrate the book and the nationalist becomes sad on reading the book. All three reactions are wholly justified as they are true. The fact of the matter is that the book, true to Shourie’s style, contains detailed analysis, in-depth and incisive evidences to back the analysis and then in the end, the way forward from the current situation.
And, as usual, the way forward is coolly forgotten by the country that continues to live in utopian dreams.
The subject of this book is also on similar lines – Indian nationalism, India’s foreign policy, how the leaders let the country down and what needs to be done to take it forward from the then current abyss. In this book, the leader that has let the country down is, hold your breath, Pandit Nehru. Yes, of all people, how Panditji screwed India’s foreign policy and the aftereffects of that carefully cultivated folly called ‘NAM – Non Aligned Movement’ and the case of mis-placed self-promotion that cost the country dear.
No, this is not an anti-Congress book from a BJP writer. For practical purposes, after Vajpayee started to recede from politics due to health reasons, Shourie has never played any role in the BJP. However, his forthrightness and fortitude are all the same.
It begins with Panditji’s lofty ‘ideals’ at the time of independence in 1947, goes on to explain the lies that he imagined to be true and the imaginary position that he commanded in world affairs and therefore chose to ignore the obvious evil, China and its communist upsurge.
Panditji is warned, with great foresight, by Rajendra Prasad, the then President of the Nation, Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister on China’s evil designs. He is repeatedly sent long lists of evidences from different officers of the Indian Government from Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tibet, Beijing ( then Peking ). Panditji chooses to ignore each and every one of these evidences and letters. In fact, he admonishes the writers of these letters.
It becomes a habit for Panditji to putdown the very officers of the government who choose to do their duties. Officer after officer presents Panditji with the situation on the ground in Tibet, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin and Lhasa. And every time each of these officers are admonished by Panditji. He puts them down either for their usage of the term ‘communist’ or for the term ‘McMahon Line’. Or otherwise he chides them for some language usage. With these he wishes his hand away from the main problem of China.
The officers repeatedly talk about the issue of China issuing maps that show large parts of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet as their territory. First he rubbishes them that those were old maps. Later he says the Chinese government doesn’t have time to issue new maps and hence ignore that. And these are exactly the lines spoken by Chou-en-lai, the then Premier of China. And what ever Chou-en-lai says, Panditji repeats.
When opportunity presents itself for Panditji to discuss these issues with Cho-en-lai, he prevaricates. Instead he speaks about Cuba, Algeris, Korean war, the US-Britain imperialism etc.
These, Shourie presents from Panditji’s own letters o his Ambssadors to China, Letters to the Chief Ministers and hid various press conferences. And what we see is that first Pandithi refutes and puts down the questioner, then after some years seems to slightly agree but hide under the garb of ‘socialist thought’ and later only when China attacks in 1962, does he acknowledge the Chinese threat.
And the issue of the Chinese communist threat to India has been there from 1950 onwards.
We also get to know the great debates and questions that happen in Lok Sabha when Panditji is questioned by Prof.N.G.Ranga, Acharya Kripalani and Atal Bijari Vajpayee. Yes, Vajpayee is relentless in his questioning of Panditji on China.
Towards the later part of the book, we get a glimpse of China’s growing hegemony in the world – oil diplomacy, funding diplomacy and later military diplomacy, the way countries in Latin America that are not eligible for IMF loans are provided loans in return for oil favours, the way deep water ports are constructed in Gwadar Pakistan, Sri Lanka almost free of cost with the only condition that China would have first rights for oil transport through these ports, the way oil pipelines have been laid from Burma deep into China, the way Tibetan rivers are diverted to provide water to Central China – all these are explained in great detail with evidence.
And the Chinese way of usurping territory – ignore complaints, silently encroach and set up base and later claim that they had never had any contention in the area under question. The other tactic is ‘murder with borrowed knife’ – arm the enemy’s enemy. And China excels in that.
And what is also explained is the complete policy paralysis in India right from the days of Panditji to the current regime when inaction is eulogized as policy and strategy, ignorance is camouflaged as wisdom and policy paralysis has become the norm.
And towards the end of the book, we get the complete but abysmal picture of the current state of affairs especially with respect to foreign policy ( better that we don’t discuss about the other fronts like Finance, Education etc ).
The book leaves you with a deep sense of shattered national pride.