The Prime Minister cemented relations with Israel, as much to signal a new vision of India’s global concerns as to secure defence technology. The old order favoured non-alignment, even a decade after the Cold War had ended. But there are echoes of a revival of the India-China conflict 55 years after its first occurrence. Few remember that at that time none of the members of the Non-Aligned movement came to India’s help. India rushed to America for help. Israel was the only near neighbour which assisted. Its reward was continued neglect by Congress governments, which went back to embrace their Non-Aligned friends.
A country cannot conduct its foreign policy on abstract principles and grandstand, lecturing other countries about morality. It has to first secure the borders and equip the nation against invasion or incursion by other countries. When it comes to Pakistan, India is over-committed. Even here there is just a long-run Cold War, with no end in sight.
But the real threat is China. It has not agreed to the borders which the British had determined a century and more ago. This was because China was weak in those days and the British strong. Jawaharlal Nehru took the view that the borders determined by the British were India’s historical borders. The Chinese had hoped that as a leading anti-Imperialist, he would see the justice in China’s complaints.
What happened then in the Fifties, and up to 1962 is well known. Despite the bravery of the Indian soldier who fought, though badly equipped, India was humiliated. Arun Jaitley warned China recently not to expect a repeat of those days. China’s rhetoric is worrying. India can defeat Pakistan any day any time, as it has shown in 1948,1965,1971 and 1999. But China is a different matter. A war with China will change the political situation fundamentally. This time around India has to succeed in repelling the Chinese incursion and do it convincingly.
What gives the matter urgency is North Korea’s recent launch of the ICBM. This is a provocative gesture. America has to respond. Here is another recent visit by the PM which will turn out to be crucial. Since Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s days, and even more during the UPA, the US-India relationship has been transformed. It is not only friendly but a strategic partnership, that means that in case of a generalised conflict breaking out with North Korea/China, the US will call on India for help. This will be a serious war if it ever happens.
China wishes to take its territory back, including Arunachal Pradesh. This is not something that can be wished away by talking of 5,000 years of cultural contact or Buddhism’s legacy. This is realpolitik. One can only hope it does not come to that. The North Korean problem is a tough one, but as far as possible a hot war has to be avoided. It is not clear as of now that this will be easy. China may help but it may find itself helpless against a Prince dictator whose survival depends on his militarism. Peace may be the desire of the world but not of Kim Jong-Un. The best bet is to hope for peace and be prepared for war.