A version of this appeared on rediff.com on Jun 2nd at http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/jun/02/rajeev-srinivasan-on-why-india-is-not-taken-seriously.htm

The fine art of punching below one’s weight

Rajeev Srinivasan on how India has managed to make itself much smaller and less important in the world’s eyes than it really is

Several events in the recent past have been emblematic of the problems that India faces: on the one hand, India gets no respect from anybody. On the other hand, it may well not deserve any – any Rodney Dangerfield fans out there?

Pakistan’s Supreme Court found Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and suspected chief instigator of the 11/26 attacks on Mumbai, innocent of all charges. Startlingly, a few days later, India released 25 jailed terrorists (members of the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohamed and Hizbul Mujahideen) and returned them to Pakistan.

Second, some low-level official in Canada’s embassy in India has been, it turns out, telling Indian armed forces members that they are violent terrorists and therefore ineligible for a visa – this has been going on for two years.

Pakistan’s behavior in exonerating Hafiz Saeed – the Supreme Court must be influenced by their government’s, and army’s wishes – suggests that they do not take India seriously. All the fine warlike words uttered by the GoI after 11/26 (and after the every blast in the past six or seven years), that there would be a stiff price to pay for any further mischief and so on, turn out to be total bluster. India has metaphorically thrown in the garbage-bin the 200 or so victims of 11/26. It is safe to kill Indians, and there are no consequences whatsoever. (Communist terrorists and their sponsors are taking note, which explains the 150 ordinary, apolitical, normal Indians massacred due to rail sabotage in Bengal).

Pakistan has called India’s bluff. They have observed that the Indian establishment is laboring under the illusion that there are only two things that can happen between the two countries – “peace talks” [sic] or war. Pakistanis like the so-called peace talks because that means India will continuously make unilateral concessions to keep the alleged dialog going – after all, this is exactly what India has done for 28 years with China, with China escalating its demands on Indian territory all the time and never giving an inch in the discussions.

Pakistanis also believe that Indians are too cowardly to actually go to war, and that anyway sugar daddy American can always be called upon to put pressure on India. Astonishingly, Indian planners do not comprehend that there are shades of gray – it is not a binary affair between war and talks. There are other ways of imposing costs on a recalcitrant foe – it is not for nothing that the aphorism goes “diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means”.

There are other means India has at its disposal, for instance monkeying with water supplies to the lower riparian Pakistan (once again, the clever Chinese have shown how to do with downstream states for rivers originating in occupied Tibet by building dams and even using river-bombs such as those in the Sutlej when they suddenly release massive floods). Trade sanctions are also possible – instead of which India gives generous Most Favored Nation status to Pakistan with no reciprocity. Covert operations, including judicious interference, are also used by all nations as part of their strategy.

But the bottom line is that the original end — peace and cooperation in exchange for stopping terrorism – has fallen by the wayside. The means – the so-called peace talks – have become the end, and the UPA cannot see beyond them. Pakistan has realized that the UPA will appease them and give peace, cooperation and all the trade they want, and there is no penalty to them for continuing their terrorist attacks on India.

In Afghanistan as well, Pakistan has got its way. The world at large sees India as superfluous in Afghanistan, despite the highly-lauded humanitarian and infrastructure-building activity that Indians have pursued there at significant cost in blood and treasure. India was conspicuously excluded from talks on Afghanistan. Pakistan has convinced the world that India is a liability and a hindrance to Obama’s plans to declare victory and run like mad from Afghanistan.

The release of the 25 captured terrorists, in the very wake of Hafiz Saeed’s exoneration, sends a startling message. Orders came from the Home Ministry (See the Daily Excelsior, May 27th: “Let, HM ultras among 25 Pakistanis freed from 8 jails”) apparently as a peace offering prior to the Home Minister’s and External Affairs Ministers’ visits to Pakistan. How come no Indians in Pakistani prisons are being released in return? What about Sarabjit Singh, falsely accused, on death row, and continually harassed in Pakistan?

Why does Pakistan not feel the need for “goodwill measures”? Because it is India that is desperate to continue the charade of the “peace talks”. That confuses the impartial observer – it is Pakistan which needs that fig-leaf. So whose interests are being protected here? Pertinently, who is pulling the strings?

Second, the Canadian mess is a metaphor for the fact that India has no credibility. After all, Canada (like Australia and Britain) are generally mere appendages for the US. They tend to have little individual clout, but follow the US’s policies. For instance, it is Australia that has been the loudest in threatening India with bloody murder if it didn’t sign the NPT. It is not for nothing that the word ‘poodle’ is sometimes used in this context.

Now comes Canada with a sterling act of friendly diplomacy. The fact that this insulting of serving and retired Indian army and police officers has been going on for two years is simply astonishing. Why wasn’t the low-level flunkey accused of doing this declared persona non grata and given 24 hours to leave, bag and baggage? Why wasn’t the Canadian ambassador summoned and given a demarche? These are the things real countries do – let us remember how the noxious Chinese, in a gratuitous insult, woke up Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao at 2am to deliver a complaint.

It is particularly ironic coming from Canada. I wrote a few years ago in the Pioneer (“Justice denied: the Kanishka bombing of 1985”, May 22nd, 2007) about how Canada had been criminally negligent in ignoring warnings about the events that led to the bombing of Air India’s Kanishka aircraft, with the loss of 329 lives. Furthermore, their investigation – still incomplete after 25 years – shows racism, incompetence, callousness, dilatory tactics and virtual State compliance in terrorism.

Indians are afraid – of what I do not know – to give uppity foreigners a dressing-down. In fact, this would be highly salutary. If India had immediately expelled the obnoxious Chinese diplomat who said that Arunachal Pradesh was part of China, the Canadians would have been more circumspect.

In that vein, it appears US president Obama is going to make another totally empty gesture, which will give goose-bumps to the usual suspects. It seems he is going to ‘drop in’ on the External Affairs Minister’s discussions with Hillary Clinton. And why, pray, is this significant, unless he is actually bringing David Coleman Headley along (thanks, B, for that insight)? It’s style over substance – let us remember how the Indian PM was not among the world leaders that Obama telephoned when he first took charge, but there was the nonsense of the First State Visit ™ over which the Indian media and officialdom went ga-ga. Nothing whatsoever came of that, other than that a good time, and biriyani, were had by all.

The world has taken its measure of India, and found it to be a second-tier nation. Hence they will continue to insult it subtly and openly. There is no consequence. India does not realize that it is, at least as an economic entity, a desirable partner, and that when the world is in the depths of a financial crisis, the threat of withholding access to the Indian market would immediately encourage snooty Canadas and Australias and Britains to fold. We have seen how the British absolutely groveled a few years ago when Malaysia’s prickly Mahathir Mohammed cancelled orders with British companies when the British said something rude. I have never seen such kowtowing and mea culpas and brown-nosing.

India is a heavyweight acting like a featherweight. There may be a Hanuman Syndrome in effect here: a country not knowing its true worth. On the other hand, I am afraid it’s worse – the rulers do not pursue India’s national interests to the best of their ability, despite their solemn oath to do so.

1400 words, 31st May, 2010


This was printed in the New Indian Express dated 10th Jun 08:


Here’s my original copy.

The fallout from the Olympic torch relay

By Rajeev Srinivasan

The Olympic torch relay was completed in China recently. and this was followed by the horrendous earthquake that leveled parts of Szechuan province. Apart from the human tragedies associated with both (including the protests that dogged the torch relay based on the genocide of Tibetans), the way the Chinese State has responded to both show some inklings of the way things work behind the Bamboo Curtain.

First, the Communists in charge of China pay enormous attention to symbols and pride, what East Asians call “face”. The Olympics are clearly their coming-out party, and they intend to impress the entire world with their new-found wealth and their march towards super-power-dom. Just as their neighbors in Japan and Korea announced their arrival on the world stage by staging the Olympics, China wants to host a perfect event, and they will stop at nothing to ensure this.

This is why the Chinese were so keen on ensuring that the torch relays went perfectly everywhere, and this explains their anger at disruptions in France and Britain. Interestingly, the only stop in the US, in San Francisco, was stage-managed through subterfuge: the torch took an unannounced path, so that protesters were fooled.

The Chinese State views the torch relay as the equivalent of an aswamedha yaga, wherein the emperor’s horse is free to wander as it pleases, and anyone who hinders it does so at the peril of facing his wrath. The vassal kings naturally pay obeisance. Thus, all the nations where the torch relay took place without incident are vassals of the Chinese King Emperor.

It is not surprising that the Indian government chose to bend over and kowtow to Chinese imperiousness. But the right thing for India to do once the violence in Tibet had commenced would have been to cancel the torch’s arrival in India altogether, citing security reasons. This would have been a painful snub to China, and quite appropriate to India’s role as the home of the Tibetan nation in exile. That would have got India respect.

Similarly, San Francisco was chosen – not New York, not Los Angeles – for the US appearance for good reason. It is because San Francisco was where the majority of Chinese coolies arrived. They built the railroads, and were discriminated against via the Asian Exclusion Act, which prevented them from owning property, marrying white women, or bringing Chinese brides. Thus the parading of China’s might where they were humiliated once upon a time.

Those who monitor the Chinese newsgroups on the net, or callers to talk shows, know how ultra-jingoistic Chinese people are. They are brought up on a steady diet of myths about great glory and great humiliation (by white imperialists) in the past. They cannot tolerate even the mildest criticism of their State or their country. The Communists are betting that by creating this new idol of nationalism they can stitch a large nation – well, actually an empire – together.

In this mythology, the Chinese State is remarkably similar to the German State between the two world wars. That too had memories of great Prussian glory, and the reality of great humiliation (by the victors in World War I). This led to a national psychosis, especially when mixed up with the idea of the Master Race. The same seems to be happening with China as well, with their vanity of being the Master Race (or Middle Kingdom) and their racist derision for all gwailo, foreign devils.

That brings up an interesting historical parallel: the Berlin Olympiad of 1936, which was intended to be the celebration of the ‘Aryan’ Master Race. Which it didn’t quite turn out to be, thanks to the black American runner Jesse Owens and others. Unless the Chinese win all the gold medals in Beijing, some ultra-nationalists will be upset.

But what is even more interesting is the parallels with both Berlin 1936 and Moscow 1980. Both were held when their respective empires were at their zenith. But by 1945, the Nazi empire was defeated; by 1990, the Russian empire had imploded. One possible future for China’s empire, then, may well be its collapse within the next ten years. After all, 60% of the land currently held in their iron grip by the Han Chinese belongs to Tibetans, Mongols, Uighurs, Manchus et al, who are not enamored of being second-class citizens in a Han-dominated land.

Of course, the other comparison is with Japan and Korea, both of which thrived. But there is a major difference: those other East Asian States had moved much further towards openness and democracy by the time they held their Olympics. China, as a one-party, totalitarian dictatorship is inherently unstable: they are playing a dangerous game encouraging ultra-jingoism, because that may well turn against the dictatorship itself.

But there are encouraging signs of realism on the part of the Chinese Communists. Although they have railed against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, using their customary unparliamentary language against him, nevertheless they are continuing a dialog with him. This is because they realize that there is considerable world opinion in support of the Tibetan cause. China’s modus operandi is to constantly test the limits; as soon as they get some push-back, they withdraw. China is not immune to world pressure.

Similarly, after the earthquake, China been remarkably open about the damage as well as the casualties. They have admitted that 10,000 have died. This is in marked contrast to their past behavior: in the 1970’s a dam burst and killed 100,000 people; the news was suppressed for thirty years. Similarly, they pretended that SARS and avian flu did not exist. There might be two reasons for this new-found candor: the demand for accountability from a more demanding population; and the darker possibility that this is an “Olympics Special”, and they intend to return to regularly scheduled opaqueness later.

If the Chinese State is on the way to becoming a more normal entity, and not a pathological misfit bent on imperialism, then that would be a good thing for all of Asia.

990 words, May 13, 2008

This was printed in the Pioneer, April 8th


Here’s my original, which has been slightly edited by the Pioneer. I made a factual error: Moscow was the 1980 Olympics, not 1984.

Are Tibet and Kashmir the same?

Rajeev Srinivasan on how China’s fifth-columnists are exculpating genocide

There has lately been a slew of articles and editorials in India’s English-language media about China’s inhuman genocide and reign of terror in Tibet. Some of these supported the state-perpetrated terrorism against oppressed Tibetans.

The media is merely reflecting the failings of the self-proclaimed “intelligentsia” in India. Their discourse is so distorted that what would be considered lunatic-fringe leftist in the real world is considered “centrist” in India. A true centrist would be, and is, deemed a lunatic-fringe right-winger, and is instantly demonized as a fascist and Nazi.

Therefore the usual perorations of the media can be taken with a large pinch of salt. A number of them support the Chinese, either out of an exaggerated sense of awe about China, or out of loyalty built up through boondoggle Potemkin trips or cold, hard cash.

But they attempt to intimidate people with a logical fallacy: they suggest that Indians have no right to comment on someone else violating human rights. Wrong. The fact that the Indian government may be violating human rights somewhere does not preclude any Indian individual from commenting on, or condemning, what the Chinese are doing. Evil has to be resisted.

Here are a couple of apt quotations: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”, attributed to Edmund Burke, a Briton.

“First they came for the Communists,
– but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
– but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
– but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.,”

attributed to Martin Niemoller, a German, speaking about the Nazis.

Therefore, it is absolutely proper for anyone to speak out against gross human rights violations. Those who use rhetorical devices to try and shut people up are bullying and censoring others. They should be ignored and laughed at.

But I found something a little more outrageous in the perspectives of a few China hands, including the editor of a newspaper infamous for reprinting Xinhua propaganda verbatim, and a retired diplomat.

These worthies made the assertion that India must not say anything about Tibet because Tibet is just like Kashmir. This merits attention. In fact, they are right, amazingly enough, although for entirely the wrong reasons. Consider the analogies:

In Tibet, a bunch of outsiders, Han Chinese, invaded and are oppressing local Tibetans.

In Kashmir, a bunch of outsiders, Mohammedans, invaded and oppress local Hindus.

In Tibet, Han Chinese are murdering and ethnically cleansing Tibetans.

In Kashmir, Mohammedans have been murdering and ethnically cleansing Hindus.

In Tibet, Han Chinese are practicing civilizational genocide.

In Kashmir, Mohammedans are practicing civilizational genocide.

In Tibet, a Semitic belief (Communism) is wiping out an Indic faith (Tibetan Buddhism).

In Kashmir, a Semitic faith (Mohammedanism) is wiping out an Indic faith (Hinduism). Therefore, nobody is bothered, as it is the defined job of Indic faiths to be wiped out by Semitic faiths.

With these parallels, there is an exact match between Tibet and Kashmir. The media mavens are absolutely right. And just as the Congress government stood by and watched the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, the UPA government will stand by and watch the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Tibetans in Tibet. Therefore, on five points out of five, the match is perfect.

There is one difference. Tibetan Buddhism was created in the first place by the few monks who fled Nalanda with their lives when Mohammedan invader Bakhtiar Khilji burned the university to the ground circa 1192 CE (which in itself was a crime against humanity because of the knowledge lost), and beheaded every one of the Buddhist monks he found. Hinduism, specifically Kashmir Shaivism, on the other hand, was the faith of the region from times immemorial.

Ironically, the job was started by Bakhtiar Khilji is being completed by the Han Chinese. This is another example of the Communist/Han-Mohammedan axis, also seen in the A Q Khan Nuclear Wal-Mart. It appears Communists are irresistibly drawn to Mohammedans (although the reverse is not true: the latter liquidate the ‘godless’ Communists as soon as they cease to be ‘useful idiots’). There is an ‘understanding’ between China and Pakistan to keep the lid on Uighur nationalism and separatism.

It is amazing that when it comes to Chinese oppression of Mohammedan Uighurs, Pakistan somehow forgets that it is the owner of the “Mohammedan Bomb”. That, of course, may be because Pakistan’s Bomb is in fact a screwdriver job supplied by China.

Similarly, I look forward to my favorite media mavens’ dilemma when China starts to beat up on Uighurs, who, allegedly, are plotting terrorist attacks the Olympics. Who will said mavens support – Hans or Uighurs, Communists or Mohammedans? Surely they’ll support the hand that feeds them.

The proper solution to both the Kashmir and Tibet problems is the same: the perpetrators of oppression must be made to realize in no uncertain terms that you cannot get away with ethnic cleansing and genocide. Therefore, it must be made clear to the Mohammedans that India will never relinquish Kashmir. Similarly, it must be made clear to the Han Chinese that they will never be able to extinguish the spirit of the Tibetans.

Today, the Chinese look impregnable, and they are using the 2008 Olympics as a coming-out party, just as Japan and Korea did with theirs. But there is a difference: those nations were not oppressive empires at the time, just as India is not. Democracy has a way of dealing with conflict, which is not available to imperialists. It is quite possible that this is in fact the zenith of the Han empire, and that it is downhill from here on.

Let us remember that the historic independent nation of Tibet, which includes the Amdo and Kham regions, accounts for fully one-third of the land-mass controlled by the Han Chinese today. In fact, 60% of that entire land-mass is land that belongs to ethnic minorities. Han Chinese control could collapse, just as the Soviet Union’s Russian domination collapsed.

There are a couple of interesting historical parallels. In 1936, at the height of the self-glorification of the Nazi State, the Berlin Olympics were held. But in ten years, Nazism was dead and buried. In 1984, the Moscow Olympics were held when the Soviet Union looked like an invulnerable empire. In seven years, that empire imploded suddenly. In 2008, when the Han Chinese look, in turn, like masters of the universe, brutalizing others like Manchurians, Mongols, Uighurs and Tibetans. It will be interesting to see where they will be in ten years.

That is another way in which Tibet and Kashmir differ: Tibet may well lead to the unraveling of the Han Communist empire, while Kashmir is not going to affect the fabric of the Indian nation.

1170 words, April 3, 2008

The Sacrifice of Tibet

March 27, 2008

This was published recently on Rediff