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India emerging as ‘Maha Bharath’

Before 1947 in the period leading up to Indian independence many Indian nationalists, including intellectuals and politicians, were of the view that India was the successor to the British Raj. They were deeply disappointed that Britain had created Pakistan for the Muslims. A regular contributor to your columns former Diplomat K. Godage pointed out recently that Jawaharlal Nehru’s senior advisor one Pannikar had wanted Burma and Ceylon to be made "satellite states of India". This imperial mindset of the Indians has not left them even after 60 years. We have seen this mindset manifest itself on a number of occasions during these 60 years; first we saw the annexation of Sikim and after that, the virtual take-over of Bhutan. India never let Nepal forget that she would have to contend with India if Nepal ever got close to China. Nepal was made to pay a heavy price for cultivating a close relationship with China. It would be recalled that India closed almost all her border crossing points and hurt Nepal in many ways. Her crowning moment of course came in 1971 when she was able to break up Pakistan and create Bangladesh.

From 1980 onwards with the return of the imperious Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, we watched helplessly as India destabilized our country and let loose a separatist movement to create a separate state in this country, not out of any love for the Tamil people in our land but in the words of Professor Sankaran Krishnan of the East West University of Hawaii, who has stated, "Mrs. Gandhi was not in the business of fighting other peoples’ struggles for them. India’s interest in Sri Lanka was not bringing justice to the Tamil people but ‘Finlandizing‘ the country". It was to pull us into their security orbit

India endeavours to assert a domineering role in South Asia; She seeks adherence of her neighbours to her own policies on regional and international issues. India seeks to create a relationship of dependence. In 1978 Sri Lanka, (President JR apparently wanted Sri Lanka to be as Independent and neutral as Switzerland) and tilted towards the west as it was President Jayewardene firm belief that the insurgency in the North should be tackled not only by military means but also by developing our economy with the assistance of the West, which had the capital, the know-how. India viewed the tilt towards the west, during the period of the Cold War as a threat to her security and intervened. She of course paid a heavy price for that adventure but she did no doubt figuratively plant her flag here and in the words of Mr. K Godage, India "circumscribed our sovereignty" through the letters exchanged between the then Indian Prime Minister and our President. It has been suggested that it was an effort to Bhutanize this country or to Finlandize the country (referring to Article 3 of the Agreement between Finland and the former Soviet Union) fortunately she did not succeed.

Considering her own security concerns, today’s India is in some ways paranoid because of Nuclear China in the north and Nuclear Pakistan in the north-west and the fact that the two countries have a very close relationship. China’s friendship with Myanmar, is also a matter of grave concern to India. She perceives of threats to her security purely in military terms, both from within and from outside the region. She also has to defend her extensive coastline. India today perceives of Pakistan as the principal threat, this has loomed large in India’s dealings with her neighbours. Domestic pressures (as in the case of Sri Lanka) have also conditioned India’s foreign policy. India’s defence perimeter does not end at her borders but at the outer boundaries of her neighbours in the region.

India is obsessed with Pakistan and vice versa. Pakistan seems to be totally focused on containing India. Meanwhile how does India see herself as we proceed into the 21st Century? India understands the importance of power in international relations and she is preparing the ground for being accepted as a powerful nation both militarily and economically worthy of a permanent seat in the UNSC. Being a nuclear power catapults her into a different orbit from ours. Though it is generally believed that investment in India’s military security will contribute to the stability of the region, we, in small countries in the region have cause to fear, for India’s strength could breed leaders who would seek to establish a greater India or a ‘Maha Barath’.

India may have her own national goals and aspirations and to pursue them she appears to have tied up with the US in the same manner as she had a special relationship with the Soviet Union during the period of the Cold War. This tie-up certainly gives her greater clout than before but she need to put her house in order first, and Kashmir and the other insurgencies and the disaffected Muslim minorities come to mind. Next she has to treat her smaller neighbours better, for India has a natural leadership role in the region and there is a responsibility that goes with it. Although we are small countries we must be treated with respect and as her partners and our independence respected. In this regard we should also guard against our own duplicitous, cunning, wily politicians who have their own agendas and dangle carrots (describing them as ‘opportunities’) before the unsuspecting public and seek to end our being separate from India by building a bridge across the Palk Strait!

Mr. Godage has stated in many of his articles that India must, with sincerity, adopt the Gujral Principles and not ask what we small countries could do for India but what India can do for us without expecting us to reciprocate. India needs to underwrite our security, our territorial integrity and sovereignty not merely through words.

India has much work to do if she is interested in playing the role of the regions leader. India has only produced three leaders, Pandit Ji, Inder Kumar Gujral and Manmohan Singh whom we would consider as statesmen all the others have been common or garden Indian politicians Many in this country suspect India’s intentions when she advocates Regional Integration —— they say ‘Regional Cooperation", we must say yes but as for Regional Integration, we must say a firm No. The emerging world order will not save us from this plight because our economies are weak. One would not be surprised if India comes along and bails us out, but there would be price to pay and what would that be? None other than our agreeing to sign the CEPA! If we sign to CEPA that would be a huge triumph for India for she would next have Nepal fall in line and the next country that would be compelled to sign up a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement would be Bangladesh. India would then not only have isolated her enemy, Pakistan but would have integrated our economies with that of the huge Indian economy. We would in actual fact have been swallowed up. If the government has no options left but to sign the CEPA as the price for the bail-out, then it is incumbent on the government to ensure absolute transparency and have the necessary safeguards built in to ensure that we do not cede our independence through this subtle mechanism.

Yes, the fear is that considering Indians sheer size, it population and its resources, Regional Integration would be a subtle way of incorporating us into India’s economy. Though we are living in an interdependent Globalized world India would take over the commanding heights of our economies and we would then become virtual colonies of the new Imperial India—the ‘Maha Barath’!

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