Perhaps, the greatest general of the 20th Century, Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese victor over, successively, the Japanese Imperial land forces, the French colonial army, the United States and, under his guidance as defence minister, the beating up of the invading Chinese PLA in 1979, is no more. He died Oct 4 in Hanoi at 102. Defeating one great power in a lifetime would be tremendous enough achievement; to lay low four world powers — all within a 40 year time span,is unimaginable military success. He was the steel behind Ho Chi Minh’s ideological silk.
Consider Giap’s reply to a question in a PBS interview (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/peoplescentury/episodes/guerrillawars/giaptranscript.html) as to why Vietnam was the only country in the world to defeat America in war. “Speaking as a historian,” the military strategist and war planner non pareil and, right up to the colonial power France’s banning of the Vietnamese Communist Party and his exile to China with Mao’s fighting cadres, and his subsequent leadership of the first Vietnamese nationalist guerilla army, the Viet Minh, was a teacher of history with special interest in Napoleonic wars, “I’d say that Vietnam is rare. As a nation, Vietnam was formed very early on…. Why? Because the risk of aggression from outside forces led all the various tribes to band together. And then there was the constant battle against the elements, against the harsh winter conditions that prevail here. In our legends, this struggle against the elements is seen as a unifying factor, a force for national cohesion. This, combined with the constant risk of invasion, made for greater cohesion and created a tradition — a tradition that gave us strength.”
This is exactly the opposite to what happened in greater India — the Indian subcontinent throughout recorded history, at least from Alexander’s time (323 BC), where the distinct tribes and communities, instead of setting aside their differences and unifying against the invader by rallying around the locally powerful chieftain (Porus, Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Tipu Sultan, and, during the freedom movement, Subhash Chandra Bose) to overwhelm the external enemy and occupier, invariably and myopically intrigued against him,compromised with the invaders/occupiers, becoming willing collaborators, until ending up as demeaned subjects in a British colony. May be as a mongrel race, we are a hardy people but our survival instincts have eviscerated our will to fight, time and again prompting us to kneel rather than unite and firm up against the outsider. Here again the principles that have historically motivated the Vietnamese people to mobilize, unite, and fight are illustrative about what Indian peoples as a nation lack: “Unification above all”, “Victory above all”!!
One so wishes the Indian peoples and nation had displayed the grit and the sense of unity and purpose of the Vietnamese nation and people through the ages, which they never could, and never did. The awful thing is in the 21st Century, India still can’t.
It is this visceral antipathy to being dictated to by anyone and the undiluted fighting spirit of its people that has marked out Vietnam’s singularity and why, I have been advocating over the last two decades and more, that India should make Vietnam its strategic pivot — arming it, equipping it, with every strategic armament, including nuclear missiles and the Brahmos cruise missile, and anything else Hanoi wants, to keep China occupied east of Malacca, and off our backs. If we don’t have the guts to take on the Chinese — as the Congress govt of Manmohan the Silent has shown in the last nine years, let’s at least help a country that summons the will to fight and can be the outer tier of India’s security perimeter.