One of my friends sent me an email which had compared the military prowess of China with that of India. The email tried to prove that India is not prepared to face a threat emanating from Beijing, and this is evident from India’s ‘soft pedaling’ every issue of strategic importance. There have been many instances in the past which are quoted to say that India is a ‘soft’ state which hesitates to take stern action even when its interests are at stake.
The exchange of terrorists for the hostages of the hijacked Indian plane in 1999, muted response towards Pakistan in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks where some prominent persons wanted India to go in for an all out war against Pakistan and ‘finish them off’, the recent LTTE episode when India did not take sides are shown as some examples of the ‘spinelessness’ of the Indian establishment.
However, in my opinion nothing can be farther from truth. India has shown exemplary bravery and heroism in the International affairs where it really mattered. The following arguments would prove the point.
India and NAM
During the cold war era, when country after country was aligning with either USA or USSR, it required a lot of guts from a third world country to stay away from any of these groups. Not only did India stay away from either of the camps, it was the founding member of the NAM (Non-aligned movement) where it sought to bring together a third non-aligned world.
India and the Bangladesh liberation war
India has not only protected her interests – such as during the kargil conflict, but has also protected the interests of her neighbours. It is a known fact that the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had been treated like second class citizens in their own country. For instance, When the Awami league (a major party in east pakistan) led by sheikh mujibur rahman won a landslide victory in the national elections of 1970, he was not allowed to form the government and the elections were cancelled. Not only this, the Pakistani army launched large scale genocide against its own people in East Pakistan (operation searchlite).
Despite the weighing international opinion against India to do anything ‘adventurous’, India did intervene and liberated her brothers in East Pakistan from the tyranny and thus was born the state of Bangladesh.
India and Afghanistan
After the ‘war against terror’ launched in 2001 by the United States, Afghanistan has turned into a hot bed for terrorism with most terrorist attacks around the world being planned there. Many developed countries such as Australia, Canada, and Germany to name a few, which had initially sent their armies to fight the Taliban have pulled out of Afghanistan because the situation is getting too dangerous for their armies!
India on the other hand, has sought to strengthen the nascent democracy that has replaced the Taliban by building crucial infrastructure facilities. For instance, India is building the parliamentary complex of Afghanistan, it has built many schools. The crucial delaram-zaranj highway (also known as the Garland highway) which will serve as the life line of Afghanistan has been built by India and dedicated to the people of Afghanistan. However, it is not without the loss of lives and property that India has accomplished this feat. Many of our engineers and workers were kidnapped by the Taliban and beheaded. There were attacks against the Indian embassy at Kabul which resulted in the killing of two Indian diplomats. These attacks were made to warn India not to proceed with these projects. However, India stood by its resolve to help the people of Afghanistan. India has always been decisive where it matters.
If India were really a ‘soft’ state, it would have accepted the dictates of the west and stayed away from testing nuclear bombs. India considered that testing the nukes was in the best interests of its national security, considering the stockpiling of nuclear bombs by her neighbouring china. This is why it went ahead, despite the whole world crying foul, and tested not once but twice during 1974 (Operation smiling budhdha) and in 1998 (Operation shakti). Is this an act of bravery or cowardice?
The NSG (Nuclear suppliers group) which was formed soon after India tested a nuclear bomb in 1974, sought to ‘contain’ India’s rise in the domain of nuclear self-sufficiency. The NPT (nuclear non proliferation treaty) was prepared exclusively to keep many developing countries in their ‘cage’. Although initially many countries resisted this attempt, they could not hold on for long. India is among the three countries of the entire world which has not signed the NPT.
India has recently got an exemption from the NSG which was largely facilitated by the 123 agreement it signed with USA. It must be remembered that India is the ONLY country in the world which has been given this full exemption. This means that India can get nuclear fuel without having to accept debilitating conditions which would come along with signing the NPT. Is this not a victory for our diplomacy? Isn’t this steadfast attitude to preserve our sovereignty an example of our courage?
G20 and WTO
Since the inception of WTO, the developed countries have been forcing the developing block to open up their agriculture market for imports. However, this would mean destruction of the livelihoods of many poor farmers in the developing block. India has led the G20 forum in the WTO and has successfully voiced the concerns of the developing nations, even if it meant rubbing the developed nations in the wrong way. In fact it is largely through India’s efforts in the Doha development round of 2001 that special and differential treatment (S&DT) was given to least developed nations (LDCs). This S&DT clause provides the LDCs with the allowance of exporting their produces to the rich nations without any upper limit. Also, their exports would be exempt from duties or would be nominal. This shows that India not only has the capacity to safeguard itself, but also provide leadership to other nations. India’s leadership to the poor nations proves that a hundred cows led by a lion is better than a hundred lions led by a cow.
India has successfully crossed many technology denials. USA stopped Russia from exporting cryogenic engine technology to India in 1993. USA expected India to fall in line and open up its markets. However India took the challenge and has successfully developed its own indigenous cryogenic engine. It took almost 10 years to develop the technology, but then nothing is as important as protecting our national interests.
India has successfully developed the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile along with Russia, which is the fastest missile in the world. Recently, India inducted the Arihant nuclear powered submarine and entered the elite list of nations possessing this technology. Creating a miniaturized nuclear reactor and running it in deep water were not easy, especially because the technology had to be developed indigenously.
Representation to the voiceless
Incidents such as the Tiennamen square incident of 1989 remind us how governments can turn against its own people. However, India has always sought to provide representation to its people. When the west was contemplating on providing voting rights to its women, India stunned the world in 1947 with the declaration of universal adult franchise. Democracy was considered a joke with a teeming population of poor and illiterate people. However till this day, our democracy is alive and vibrant. Do china and Pakistan have true democracy? Is the media free in these countries? Does it not require more guts to provide people with freedom than to take it away from them?
India’s very first constitutional amendment act was aimed at providing representation to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Compare this with other countries which have sought to eliminate their minorities and the oppressed.
India has been maintaining its true identity in the world. India does not openly flex muscles and try to show its prowess like china. However, our non-violence is not that of a coward, but of the strong. Despite the legacy of colonialism, burden of poverty, scar of partition, India will remain committed to non-violence and therein lays our strength.