'Sino-Indian Relations'
by Dom Moreas (The Afternoon, 5 Febrauary, 2001)

The Chinese think that a wise man I does not say much. Certainly a wise man should not say much: in the long run, it is the best way to convince other people that you are wise. But Indians, as a nation, have a habit of excessive speech. Perhaps they feel that if you talk incessantly, some of what you say. will turn out to be relevant to the issue on hand, or else they hope to drown verbal opposition in a flood of words. The Chinese may not talk much, but they do a lot. Indians are the other way round. So the Chinese come out on top; all over the world, they are admired, if not precisely liked. Other nations want to do business with them. The Chinese always choose their business partners with care, whereas Indians accept any partner who will accept them.

Admirable adaptability: After these generalisations, one should remember that the nature of the Chinese depends very much on the country they live in. They adapt to the place in which circumstances settled them: ‘they are Americans in America, Indians in India. Adaptability is admirable, when it is sincere, as the adaptability of the Chinese is.. when they do not have to adapt, when they inhabit their homeland, they become’ a special race, and manifest special characteristics. The Chinese anywhere are Chauvinist. However much the expatriate Chinese may owe to the country of their j adoption, in the end they will go to extreme lengths to ensure that not only the bones of their ancestors but their own will rest in the earth of the country from which they all came.

The Chinese, then, are an admirable race. They have one of the oldest and cleverest civilisations on the planet. Over the centuries they have been ruled, by warlords, emperors, tyrants of all sorts. They seem to prefer a touch of the totalitarian in their rulers. What they have gained from this is patience and caution, an ability to suffer and endure. The rulers at present may be totalitarian, but they have achieved the aims that they started out with. They have controlled the population; the majority of it is able to live with dignity. They do not embark upon large projects without sufficient consideration of the consequences. All along the line they have succeeded where their neighbhour, India, has failed, and not only failed but lost face.

Face is very important to the Chinese. It is an inherited trait; they do not wish to lose dignity, the appearance of poise, in action they perform. They are generally dignified, even at their most obdurate. Indians aren’t so particular. In 1947, when India became an independent country, it was thought by western nations that she would be a bulwark of democracy not only in Asia but the whole of the third world, a balance to the immense threat of China. When this did not immediately happen, the west at first said that this proved India was a democracy. A young democracy, like a child acquiring its first teeth, had to be borne with. But this attitude has changed. India has been given many chances and has invariably failed to take them.

The population has risen, more or less unchecked by government action, till it has become the greatest threat the country faces. Considering its stupendous and unmanageable size, it is remarkable that such a small percentage of it has been empowered to live as human beings should, with dignity; The Indian government has squandered valuable time and money on schemes that haven’t been properly thought out, particularly on massive, Soviet-style projects. If these were embarked upon to impress the world, they have failed. To put it very simply, everywhere that China has succeeded India has failed. In 1947 it appeared to the world that India and China had equal potential to become great powers. China has, but India hasn’t.

The economist Ashok Mitra once, in conversation with me, quoted a sentence supposedly uttered by Chairman Mao at the period when Nehru had taught the Indian masses to believe in, and blindly repeated, the slogan ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’. Mao is rumoured to have remarked to his colleagues, ‘India is only half rotten now. Give it a little time to become fully rotten, then it will fall of its own accord’. This is a contemptuous remark, and perhaps, even today, typical of the Chinese government’s attitude to India. When after the explosion at Pokhran, George Fernandes said that China was India’s main enemy, he was speaking more sense than usual. But India has never challenged China, either because of niistaken friendship, or fear.

Nehru could believe no will of the Chinese until they invaded India. For this reason, he did not oppose the rape of Tibet. Though he sheltered the Dalai Lama in 1958, he made it a condition of the Tibetan leader’s exile that he could not, make political statements from India. More recently, when Li Peng was here, the Indian police mistreated young Tibetans: who were trying to protest against the excesses of Chinese rule in Tibet. Similar protests have been made not only by Tibetans, but also by foreign observers of the situation there. They have been made all over the world, unimpeded by the authorities of the countries they were made in. So presumably India doesn’t want to annoy China, whatever the Indian defence minister may say.

Tibet Factor: It is primarily in its treatment of Tibetans that the Indian government appears most pusillanimous in its attitude towards China. The Tibetans have been coming here to escape persecution ever since 1949, when communist China first invaded Tibet. They came in much greater numbers after the flight of the Dalai Lama nearly a decade later. These are people without a nationality. But the registration cards that they have to carry identify them as coming from Tibet, which is ironic; since India doesn’t recognise Tibet as a country, only as a Chinese province. It was China that has perpetrated this injustice to a nation and its people. It is a desire not to, offend China that prompts the Indian government to suppress the protests made by Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama has no such fears. His deep voice is clearly heard in the councils of the world, where it is more respected and sympathised with than the Indian prime minister’s. While the Dalai Lama lives, Tibet will remain a nation, even if it is unrecognised as such in China and in India. The Chinese are aware of Tibet as a constant irritant, something that people bring up at discussions about their polity and oppose to their claims of success. This is .largely due to the Dalai Lama. Were he to die, the discussions on Tibet may flicker and die out. But until then, it is paradoxical that a nonexistent nation should cause the Chinese some Unquietness of mind, while India, with the largest population in the world, causes them absolutely none.


Dom Moreas, son of Frank Moreas (author of ‘Revolt In Tibet’) is a writer, columnist based in Bombay

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