The decade of 50s was characterized by romanticisation of communism in India. Such was the romance that many leaders of the post-Independence dispensation, most of who claimed to have made huge sacrifices for India’s Independence, hailed the Communist takeover of China. It may be underscored that India was the first non-communist country to accord diplomatic recognition in January 1950 to China consequent to the establishment of Mao’s rule.
Amongst the exceptions, who did not romanticize and saw the writing on the wall very clearly, was Sardar Patel. In his letter dated 7 November 1950 to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel wrote: “…outside the Russian Camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into the UNO… it (China) continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly of skepticism perhaps mixed with little hostility… it looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy…”
Further, Sardar Patel warned of a two-front situation after the disappearance of Tibet as a buffer country. He said: “Thus, for the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan. In our calculations, we shall now have to reckon with Communist China…”
Why did the dispensation ignore Sardar Patel’s warning? Why did the dispensation, which prided itself in having achieved independence only by Satyagraha, did not find it abominable that the Communism was foreign ideology and had travelled from Russia to China after murder of more than three million and two million people in the respective countries.
Finally, when it arrived in India, the same worshipers of non-violence were so indulgent with the Communism and the Communists!
The communist leadership in India were not ideologically and physically bred in underground manner. Nor did they go through the hardship of jungles. Most of them were privileged lot, who received their education in Oxford and Cambridge in UK. It is here that they were indoctrinated by the erstwhile British masters and returned to India as diehard Communists.
These so-called Communists were perfectly married to the British agenda in the pre-colonial period. Left-liberalism was the perfect tool to legitimize the colonial rule as it robbed Indians of any sense of pride in India’s past. This phenomenon was not confined to India alone.
Post Cold War the mantle of patronage to left wing extremisms has gradually shifted to European countries which are using it as leverage to pursue their economic and religious agenda.
Later, these very communists , who abused Indian history, religion and Indian social structure captured academic institutions and intellectual space in India. Educational institutions in Bengal, which at one time produced such brilliant scientists, began to churn out purposeless graduates steeped in denial and negativity.
Communism, in fact, robbed Bengal of its scientific and productive temper and intellectual capital. Such was the momentum of communists that hardly any university in India was left un-impacted by their diabolical onslaught.
Even a newly established university like the JNU, far from promoting pioneering research, sunk into leftist cynicism and sterile pseudo -intellectualism.
The 50s, therefore also witnessed massive inroads by Communists in all spheres of activity and governance in India. The then government had its share of Communists or Communist sympathizers. VK Krishna Menon was more than just left leaning. Some of the declassified documents of that period are not very charitable about his international linkages. This period was also characterized by great Soviet-China communist bonhomie, and bitter and fierce Cold War.
Concomitant with the communist (ideological as well as physical) and Pakistan threat was a concerted move by the Indian dispensation to humiliate and degrade the armed forces. There were defining geopolitical developments during the period. Pakistan had joined the CENTO and SEATO, whose architect was none other than the US. The ideological fissures in the subcontinent became deep and sharp.
It had military manifestations as well. The two-front situation – further exacerbated. But the left oriented leadership continued to treat the Indian Army as colonial instrument. It is another matter that they themselves had been nurtured as colonial instruments to serve British interests. The Soviet Union which spearheaded the international communist movement therefore did not find it difficult to subvert and recruit the Indian leadership. Indian Generals during this period were trifled with. An Army Chief was told that it was none of his business to bother about China.
A Prime Minister went to the extent of saying that he does not need the Army and could do without it. Discussions were held in parliament about employment of Army in agriculture. Those who supported these moves in the parliament include some unthinkable names. With little effort these names can be ascertained.
In the 50s the ruling party did not have any insecurity on account of political opposition. There were however unfounded rather purely imagined suspicions vis-à-vis the Indian Army. No geopolitical development and no threat were strong enough to outweigh these apprehensions of the ruling class.
During that period, Ayub Khan in Pakistan, Sukarno in Indonesia and King Mahendra in Nepal, abandoned Western pattern of multi-party democracy and opted for ‘grassroots democracy’. The victim of the insecurity of the Indian leadership was the Indian Army.
It was perceived as a potential villain, a perception no less fueled by the bureaucrats, who still basked in colonial hangover, wherein Oxford and Cambridge became the ultimate destination for their loved children, only to be replaced by the US later.
This sin perpetrated by the leaders on their own army, was bound to recoil, and it did in 1962.
The myopia of these thankless leaders did not extend beyond exigencies of office’. They undermined the role of INA and the Naval Mutiny in securing India’s Independence, a fact authenticated by Clement Atlee. They deliberately ignored that the India, they were presiding over, was put together by none other than the Indian Army – if 1947-48 war in J&K, if Operation Polo in September 1948 and if the Liberation of Goa in 1961, was of any consideration.
Pakistan, meanwhile, had bridged the Cold War fissures with China. Our leaders bereft of strategic sense failed to realize the significance of 1947 Indo-Pak war towards creating geographical contiguity between the PoK and China. By managing to retain a certain portion of occupied territory (PoK) in Kashmir after the ceasefire, Pakistan became a direct geographic interlocutor with China.
Pakistan without the PoK would have had little strategic value for China. It would not have been able to cede 5000 sq km territory of PoK to China and 1300 Km Karakoram Highway that connects Islamabad with Kashgar in Xinjiang. Without this territory the envisaged ‘Economic Corridor’ linking China with Gwadar port would have also not been possible.
The fact that border negotiations between Pakistan and China had begun in 1961 and the broad principals were agreed upon within months after Indo-China war in 1962 does raise suspicion about some sort of understanding between the leadership of Pakistan and China about the Indo-China War.
These geopolitical developments when seen through the Communist or left – liberal prism in India, was not a matter of concern and priority. The nexus between Pakistan and China meant nothing to them.
India therefore deserved the rude blow from China. But for this, let us consider what would have happened.
- The destruction of the Indian Armed Forces from within would have continued and by 1965 may have rendered a situation by which there would have been nothing to stop Pak forces to Delhi.
- The Communists, who had infiltrated every organ of the State, would have in all probability taken over major portion of India. The 1962 War did politically contain them but yet they managed to retain their influence in West Bengal and Kerala. The Indian communists remained a force despite some of them openly siding with China in the 1962 War.
These communists had no qualms about China even as it supported the Naxalites and the insurgents in India’s northeast. They had no qualms about the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. Their heart continued to bleed for both these countries.
- The Indian Armed Forces, despite 1965, 1971, 1999 and years of counterinsurgency, is still struggling to find its place of honour and dignity. But for 1962, its condition by now would have been pathetic, a condition that many left liberals and bureaucrats wanted it to be in.
• But for 1962, there would have been unbridled propensity to couch criminalization as political revolution. Even now, communists use all their leverages in India and abroad to dub their criminal and anti-national activities as ‘revolution’. The Indian romance about the ‘Red Flag’ at the cost of all other flags of productivity and progress though waning, is far from over.
• But for 1962, left-liberals would have promoted jihadi terrorism as ‘revolution’ with uninhibited fervor.
• But for 1962, China’s Cultural Revolution would have served as an exemplar for our expanding communists.
• But for 1962, ‘Binayak Sens’ would have been ubiquitous.
• But for 1962 communist takeover of India was a distinct possibility. The closest India came to that was by way of an extra-constitutional authority called the National Advisory Council (packed with communists)whose principal effort was to further the communist agenda of their benefactor. This benefactor had acquired communist ideology by upbringing. There were however opposing forces capable of extracting their own price. It seemed as if Cold War had re-invented itself within the Indian ruling establishment.
Despite 1962 there has been steady supply of elements within the Indian polity, policy-makers and academia whose agenda has been to allow China to steal the march and dwarf India in international stature and prowess. It is this lobby that sabotages indigenous defence production and ensures that our foreign policy becomes hostage to vicissitudes of arms imports.
It is this lobby that advocates talks with China’s client Pakistan continues at all costs. This lobby rather thrives on India’s adversarial relationship with China. This lobby is loathe to any equal cooperative mechanisms between the countries.
But for 1962, this lobby would have placed this country under “one party rule”. 1962 may as well have prevented communist takeover of India.
(Former R&AW officer)