Excerpts from “Art of War”
Excerpts from a review of Arun Shourie’s “Are we deceiving ourselves again?” by Brahma Chellaney:
…having forsaken the Kautilyan principles, has proven no match to China’s Sun Tzu-style statecraft. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet.
…it wasn’t geography but guns — the sudden occupation of the traditional buffer, Tibet, soon after the communists seized power in Beijing — that made China India’s neighbour.
…Shourie’s well-researched, powerfully written book relies on Nehru’s letters, speeches, notes and other correspondence to bring out the significance, in Nehru’s own words, of the events from the 1950-51 fall of Tibet to China’s 1962 invasion.
The author then draws 31 lessons from those developments for today’s India. After all, there are important parallels, as Shourie points out, between the situation pre-1962 and the situation now. Border talks are regressing, Chinese claims on Indian territories are becoming publicly assertive, Chinese cross-border incursions are rising, and India’s China policy is becoming feckless.
Indeed, what stands out in the history of Sino-Indian disputes is that India has always been on the defensive against a country that first moved its frontiers hundreds of miles south by annexing Tibet, then furtively nibbled at Indian territories before waging open war, and now lays claims to additional Indian territories.
Image: Inscribed bamboo slips of the treatise Art of War (Wikipedia)
…The defeat (of 1962) transformed Nehru from a world statesman to a beaten, shattered politician. A classic example of Nehru’s self-delusion cited by the author is the following note he wrote on July 9, 1949, to the country’s top career diplomat:
“Whatever may be the ultimate fate of Tibet in relation to China, I think there is practically no chance of any military danger to India arising from any change in Tibet.
Geographically, this is very difficult and practically it would be a foolish adventure. If India is to be influenced or an attempt made to bring pressure on her, Tibet is not the route for it. I do not think there is any necessity for our defence ministry, or any part of it, to consider possible military repercussions on the India-Tibetan frontier.The event is remote and may not arise at all.”
What Nehru naively saw as a “foolish adventure” was mounted within months by China. What Nehru asserted was geographically impracticable became a geopolitical reality that has impacted on Indian security like no other development since the 20th century.
…By 1954, through the infamous ‘Panchsheel Agreement’, Nehru had not only surrendered India’s extra-territorial rights in Tibet but also recognised ‘the Tibet region of China’ — without securing any quid pro quo, such as the Chinese acceptance of the McMahon Line. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet — and thereby allowed the aggressor state to shift the spotlight from its annexation of Tibet and Aksai Chin to its newly assertive claims on Arunachal Pradesh.
The irony is that by laying claims to additional Indian territories on the basis of their purported ties to Tibet, China blatantly plays the Tibet card against India, going to the extent of citing the birth in Tawang of one of the earlier Dalai Lamas, a politico-religious institution it has systematically sought to destroy. Yet India remains coy to play the Tibet card against China.
The sum effect of failing to use Tibet as a bargaining chip has been that India first lost Aksai Chin, then more territory in 1962 and now is seeking to fend off Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh. And as Shourie reminds us, India has still to grasp that the Chinese modus operandi of promising a peaceful settlement and then employing force to change facts on the ground is an old practice.
…just as India has been battered by growing terrorism because of its location next to the global epicentre of terror, it could bear the brunt from its geographical proximity to an increasingly assertive China.
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