Confluence of Interests on Seas

There’s certain symmetry in INS Vikramaditya’s imminent assumption of the flagship role in the Indian Navy, the launch in Japan of the Izumo, quaintly described as a “flat-top destroyer”, and the Japanese Emperor Akihito’s second state visit to this country.

Shinzo Abe made Japan’s strategic interest plain in 2010 in an address to the Indian parliament entitled “Confluence of Two Seas” — the Indian Ocean and the East Sea, and the intertwining of the maritime destinies of the two states. These separated expanses of water permit India and Japan to work together to stretch China militarily at its extremities. A similar coupling of Japan and the United States, sealed by a treaty relationship, has made the latter a fixture in the Far Eastern power balance and security architecture post-1945. From the Japanese perspective, America has been and is the security anchor. However, in the future Tokyo apprehends that the burgeoning economic and trade relationship will result in a faltering American will to protect Japanese interests, such as in the dispute over the Senkaku/Diayou Island chain. It is for that inevitable day when the US economic interests in China will dictate American strategic choices that Abe — the most nationalistic and strategic-minded of post-War prime ministers — has been trying to prepare his country for. Whence, the importance now being accorded India by Tokyo.

Actually, India is in a situation analogous to Japan’s. From the Nineties when P V Narasimha Rao initiated the opening to the West in the guise of globalising the economy, the United States has become more central to Indian policymakers, and India’s foreign, and even domestic, policies. Thus, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, instead of ordering a targeted intelligence operation to take out Dawood Ibrahim, who is hiding in plain sight in Karachi, by whatever means and at any cost, had no qualms indicating he had approached the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to corral this transnational criminal and terrorism funder. The Congress party-led coalition government, in like vein, rather than mount a concerted effort for a counter-cyber operation, readily admitted that US agencies had cyber-penetrated the Indian system and, in effect, advised that because the country can do nothing to prevent such cyber offensives, it may be best to accept it as a fact of life — a variant of the Central Bureau of Investigation director Ranjit Sinha’s counsel to women experiencing rape, to lie back and enjoy it. And, starting with the nuclear deal, prime minister Manmohan Singh suggested by indirection that India’s strategic security deficit against China will be made up by the US when such commitment, as the Japanese are beginning to find, grows iffier by the day.

The immediate escape for India from a bad security situation getting worse is the over-reach that a bumptious Beijing is prone to. Out of the blue, on November 23 it announced an “air defence identification zone (ADIZ)” in the East Sea. It is an airspace version of the “nine dot line” expansively delineating its sea territory that encompasses the legitimate claims over the Exclusive Economic Zones of neighbouring states — Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan in the South China Sea.

More ambitious still, just as the “nine dot line” seeks to demarcate a mere closum (closed sea) controlled by China, the ADIZ attempts to make the free airspace way off the Chinese coast a Chinese concern, attempting to shut down international air traffic other than on its terms. Indeed, in announcing the ADIZ the Chinese authorities demanded that all non-commercial aircraft submit their flight plans and maintain continuous radio contact whilst in the area. The next day Tokyo scoffed at the ADIZ, calling it unimplementable and two days later the Americans proved it by deliberately sending two unarmed American B-52 nuclear bombers over the Senkakus encompassed within the ADIZ. Beijing may not bring the issue immediately to boil. Rather, its plans seem oriented to the medium-term future. By 2030 when it may actually be in a position to enforce the ADIZ, the 2013 announcement of the zone will come in handy to establish its “historic” claims on this airspace.

It is imperative, therefore, that just as Indian naval ships ignore any notions of the nine-dot line Indian military aircraft too should now be tasked to fly frequently through this ostensible ADIZ without giving notice to mark out India’s right of free passage in this airspace for all time to come. It should be followed up with more full-fledged Indo-Japanese naval and air exercises in the Sea of Japan to bolster the point of free air and maritime space, unconstrained by Chinese claims.

The whole thrust of military co-operation with Japan, at least in theory, is to put China on notice not to swing against one or the other country. It is a warning that will grow teeth if New Delhi were to speedily take up on the Japanese offer to produce in the Indian private sector the Shin Miewa US-2 maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft that is also an excellent platform for mounting from-the-sea Special Forces actions.

But the defence ministry under A K Antony has been so infernally sluggish in taking decisions and then making the wrong choices, there’s every danger that this strategically significant Japanese proposal — the first of its kind by Tokyo under its “peace Constitution” which bars arms exports and sales — too will grow cobwebs before it is acted on.

Japan’s bulking up security co-ordination with India could prod its economic reorientation away from China. Japan was the source in 2012 of $122 billion worth of Foreign Direct Investment, most of it to China. As of now, Japanese companies are sitting on a “cash pile” worth a massive $2.4 trillion. India can be the prime investment destination for these funds, especially as the Indian government has plans for infrastructure development costing $1 trillion. But Tokyo has to be motivated to channel these monies India-wards and intensified security co-operation can be that raison d’etre if only New Delhi had the wit to realise it.

Alas, the Congress party-led coalition government has shown it is bereft of any such understanding.

[Published in New Indian Express as “Confluence of Interests on Seas”, November 29, 2013 at http://newindianexpress.com/opinion/Confluence-of-Interests-on-Seas/2013/11/29/article1916715.ece

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Military Acquisitions, South Asia, South East Asia, Special Forces, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Technology transfer, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Confluence of Interests on Seas

  1. RV says:

    Mr. Karnad, China is rapidly attaining a level of strength to challenge the so-called “established status-quo” in Asia, and it’s only a matter of time that it actually will. Your statement: “These separated expanses of water permit India and Japan to work together to stretch China militarily at its extremities.” has no realistic basis whatsoever.

    India cannot outsource its defense/existence to some undependable and hostile foreign power like the US, or to a nebulous, untested and unreliable alliance with Japan, as you have suggested. Nations like India which cannot induct its own 4G jet fighter (Tejas), which haven’t been able to develop a cryogenic rocket motor after close to 30 years of development, whose armed forces brass are largely tainted by corruption and incompetence, and which doesn’t have the will to correct its flawed TN design, will fold up like a cheap suit in a major conflict with China. At that time, India will find itself friendless and all the so-called “strategic alliances” nothing but cheap vaporware!

    Every country has its own ADIZ, as does Japan:

    If the US thinks it can intimidate China by flying a pair of prehistoric bombers over China’s ADIZ, I believe it is sadly mistaken. Eventually, when push comes down to shove, and matters come down to a question of exchanging Shanghai for San Francisco, all to defend Japan, SoKo, etc., the US will back down. In fact, it is the continual flaunting of all known international norms by the US and its allies from GW-2 to Syria, which has led to China creating its own rules.

    Where this will lead to, is not something I can guess. BTW, with regards to the Indo-Japanese alliance you have suggested, have you asked the Indian ambassador in Japan at the time of POK-2 of the racial epithets that were hurled at him and India by the Japanese power-structure, who at the same time were pouring sympathy over Pakistan for its tests? Next, as you are aware, the average Japanese government lasts around 11 months. Abe may last a bit longer, but what about future Japanese governments?

  2. RV says:

    Mr. Karnad, as an addendum to my above comment, by International Law an ADIZ should not include disputed territories. If Japan can include the Senkaku/Diayou Island chain in its ADIZ, what stops China from reciprocating in kind? This island chain has been disputed territory for quite awhile! China isn’t a worthless feudal kleptocracy like India, which on one hand claims undivided J&K as its sovereign territory while on the other hand enacts laws like Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and, equivalent laws that exempt J&K under Indian control from several key Sections of the Indian Penal Code!

    You of all people are certainly aware that China has a mandatory death penalty for any Chinese citizen who attempts to compromise Chinese sovereignty and territory. By this yardstick, the entire UPA government, starting with MMS would have been stood up against the wall! Finally, you have correctly stated that Japan “are sitting on a “cash pile” worth a massive $2.4 trillion.”. You of all people are certainly aware that the stolen monies stashed by Indians in various havens exceeds that amount. The identities of these people are well known. Why doesn’t India get this stolen loot back and ban participatory notes (which is institutionalized and legalized money laundering)? The identities of the persons involved are well known, and with the proper “medicine” administered, this can be achieved!

  3. RV says:

    Here’s a glimpse of the Indian Quislings and the UPA in their true colors:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2515187/India-ready-let-China-Aksai-Chin-neighbour-country-drops-claim-Arunachal-Pradesh.html

    India ‘ready to let China keep Aksai Chin’ if neighbour country drops claim to Arunachal Pradesh
    By SAURABH SHUKLA
    PUBLISHED: 22:13 GMT, 28 November 2013 | UPDATED: 22:13 GMT, 28 November 2013

    The bhai-bhai days may soon be reborn in bye-bye avatar along the India-China border.
    Foreign ministry documents on border negotiations accessed by Mail Today reveal that India has signalled its readiness to let its Aksai Chin region remain in Chinese hands in exchange for recognition of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.
    In other words, India is willing to give up its claims to Aksai Chin if China does the same for Arunachal.
    China continues to push for territorial concessions in Arunachal Pradesh, which it has been eyeing for a long time, before moving forward on the long-standing border issue between the two countries.
    Publicly, India has been holding to its stated position that there can’t be any territorial concessions. But behind the closed doors of the negotiating room, India has told China that it “may not be averse to status quo position”.
    Simply put, it means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 km sq of Jammu and Kashmir. That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sq km over to China in 1963.
    Bargaining point
    This contentious formula is not the stated position of New Delhi, but it is being considered a bargaining point, officials privy to the discussions have told Mail Today.
    Any such proposal can only be implemented if a new government in New Delhi has enormous political will, because there is an unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament of 1962 that India will ensure that it gets back all territory illegally occupied by China.
    Several documents based on the notes made by Indian officials suggest that even after 16 rounds of boundary negotiations, the talks are effectively deadlocked. China insists it needs substantial concessions on Arunachal Pradesh and the entire disputed Eastern sector before a framework or a formula to resolve disputes in all sectors can be agreed to.
    The boundary talks are currently in the second leg of a three-stage process. Both sides signed an agreement on political parameters in 2005, and are now negotiating a framework to resolve disputes in all sectors.
    First stage
    The first stage was to establish guiding principles, the second included evolving a consensus on a framework for the boundary, and the last step comprised carrying out its delineation and demarcation. This final stage involves delineating the border in maps and on the ground.
    The 16th round of boundary negotiations earlier this year between National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Chinese Special Interlocutor Yang Jeichi, a former Chinese foreign minister, also ended on a disappointing note, with India contesting the Chinese assertion that the boundary was never demarcated.
    Menon has been a tough negotiator, responding strongly to Chinese suggestions of concessions and rejecting its maximalist approach.
    The Indian side also says that both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions on the boundary question so as to arrive at a package settlement.

    The Big Deal
    A consensus is building where India and China may agree to territorial concessions. It means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir.
    That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sqkm over to China in 1963.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2515187/India-ready-let-China-Aksai-Chin-neighbour-country-drops-claim-Arunachal-Pradesh.html#ixzz2m6iwW7dj
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  4. RV says:

    Here’s a glimpse of the Indian Quislings and the UPA in their true colors:

    From Mail Online India

    India ‘ready to let China keep Aksai Chin’ if neighbour country drops claim to Arunachal Pradesh
    By SAURABH SHUKLA
    PUBLISHED: 22:13 GMT, 28 November 2013 | UPDATED: 22:13 GMT, 28 November 2013

    The bhai-bhai days may soon be reborn in bye-bye avatar along the India-China border.
    Foreign ministry documents on border negotiations accessed by Mail Today reveal that India has signalled its readiness to let its Aksai Chin region remain in Chinese hands in exchange for recognition of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.
    In other words, India is willing to give up its claims to Aksai Chin if China does the same for Arunachal.
    China continues to push for territorial concessions in Arunachal Pradesh, which it has been eyeing for a long time, before moving forward on the long-standing border issue between the two countries.
    Publicly, India has been holding to its stated position that there can’t be any territorial concessions. But behind the closed doors of the negotiating room, India has told China that it “may not be averse to status quo position”.
    Simply put, it means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 km sq of Jammu and Kashmir. That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sq km over to China in 1963.
    Bargaining point
    This contentious formula is not the stated position of New Delhi, but it is being considered a bargaining point, officials privy to the discussions have told Mail Today.
    Any such proposal can only be implemented if a new government in New Delhi has enormous political will, because there is an unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament of 1962 that India will ensure that it gets back all territory illegally occupied by China.
    Several documents based on the notes made by Indian officials suggest that even after 16 rounds of boundary negotiations, the talks are effectively deadlocked. China insists it needs substantial concessions on Arunachal Pradesh and the entire disputed Eastern sector before a framework or a formula to resolve disputes in all sectors can be agreed to.
    The boundary talks are currently in the second leg of a three-stage process. Both sides signed an agreement on political parameters in 2005, and are now negotiating a framework to resolve disputes in all sectors.
    First stage
    The first stage was to establish guiding principles, the second included evolving a consensus on a framework for the boundary, and the last step comprised carrying out its delineation and demarcation. This final stage involves delineating the border in maps and on the ground.
    The 16th round of boundary negotiations earlier this year between National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Chinese Special Interlocutor Yang Jeichi, a former Chinese foreign minister, also ended on a disappointing note, with India contesting the Chinese assertion that the boundary was never demarcated.
    Menon has been a tough negotiator, responding strongly to Chinese suggestions of concessions and rejecting its maximalist approach.
    The Indian side also says that both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions on the boundary question so as to arrive at a package settlement.

    The Big Deal
    A consensus is building where India and China may agree to territorial concessions. It means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir.
    That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sqkm over to China in 1963.

  5. RV says:

    In a self respecting country like China, if the contents of the above article were even remotely and minutely true, the entire UPA leadership, government, and national security establishment would have been kaput! Teaching Indians self-respect and honor is more difficult than teaching virtue to a dedicated whore!

  6. RV says:

    The Great White “Massa” has decided to kowtow: U.S. ‘advising’ airlines to ‘comply’ with China request on disputed zone

    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/29/world/asia/china-japan-us-tensions/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

  7. RV says:

    In my comments herein, I have talked about the lack of self-respect of India vis-a-vis China. Herein, I will cite some relevant examples of the differing approaches of the two countries, and peoples. While many a so-called educated (read Anglicized) Indian will utter Churchill’s name in great reverence, the fact is that he was a genocidal maniac who murdered millions of Indians in cold blooded man made famines:

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2031992,00.html

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/10/how_churchill_starved_india.html

    Still, legions of Indians and their worthless leaders pay obeisance to British rule in India, which was the worst genocidal exploitation in human history, exceeding even the Nazi Holocaust. One of the most disgusting events to watch was MMS’s shameless behavior in Oxford. Despite this background, the Indians still let a perjuring Italian of very dubious antecedents and her wild, corrupt, and illiterate family run riot and commit every crime in the book, and it is glossed over not only by the Congress, but even by the BJP (Brajesh Mishra being one particularly shameless example for his role in getting RG-2 (Pappu) off the hook in the US, when he was in the process of being nailed to the wall). India has never served an ultimatum to the UK for a formal apology for its criminal conduct in India, which lasted close to two centuries.

    In contrast, China will never forget the atrocities committed by the Japanese, such as the Marco Polo Bridge incident, the Rape of Nanking, the barbarous activities of Unit 731, etc….., and the crass misbehavior of the Western Powers when they extracted concessions from the Chinese. It is this virtue coupled with the hard working nature of the Chinese, their discipline, their devotion to rigor, and their relative abstinence from cheap empty rhetoric which has made China a Nation to be reckoned with and respected. In stark contrast, there is India which at both a National and individual level has displayed all the opposite qualities, and will continue to serve as one of the public conveniences of the world!

  8. RV says:

    In my comments herein, I have talked about the lack of self-respect of India vis-a-vis China. Herein, I will cite some relevant examples of the differing approaches of the two countries, and peoples. While many a so-called educated (read Anglicized) Indian will utter Churchill’s name in great reverence, the fact is that he was a genocidal maniac who murdered millions of Indians in cold blooded man made famines.

    Still, legions of Indians and their worthless leaders pay obeisance to British rule in India, which was the worst genocidal exploitation in human history, exceeding even the Nazi Holocaust. One of the most disgusting events to watch was MMS’s shameless behavior in Oxford. Despite this background, the Indians still let a perjuring Italian of very dubious antecedents and her wild, corrupt, and illiterate family run riot and commit every crime in the book, and it is glossed over not only by the Congress, but even by the BJP (Brajesh Mishra being one particularly shameless example for his role in getting RG-2 (Pappu) off the hook in the US, when he was in the process of being nailed to the wall). India has never served an ultimatum to the UK for a formal apology for its criminal conduct in India, which lasted close to two centuries.

    In contrast, China will never forget the atrocities committed by the Japanese, such as the Marco Polo Bridge incident, the Rape of Nanking, the barbarous activities of Unit 731, etc….., and the crass misbehavior of the Western Powers when they extracted concessions from the Chinese. It is this virtue coupled with the hard working nature of the Chinese, their discipline, their devotion to rigor, and their relative abstinence from cheap empty rhetoric which has made China a Nation to be reckoned with and respected. In stark contrast, there is India which at both a National and individual level has displayed all the opposite qualities, and will continue to serve as one of the public conveniences of the world!

  9. RV says:

    Some references to Churchill’s genocide in India:

    content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2031992,00.html

    bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/10/how_churchill_starved_india.html

  10. RV says:

    Unfortunately, this site does not always allow URL’s. So, the above articles are reproduced herein in their entirety.
    _________________________________________________________________________
    From: bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/10/how_churchill_starved_india.html
    From BBC News
    How Churchill ‘starved’ India
    Soutik Biswas | 15:50 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

    It is 1943, the peak of the Second World War. The place is London. The British War Cabinet is holding meetings on a famine sweeping its troubled colony, India. Millions of natives mainly in eastern Bengal, are starving. Leopold Amery, secretary of state for India, and Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell, soon to be appointed the new viceroy of India, are deliberating how to ship more food to the colony. But the irascible Prime Minister Winston Churchill is coming in their way.

    “Apparently it is more important to save the Greeks and liberated countries than the Indians and there is reluctance either to provide shipping or to reduce stocks in this country,” writes Sir Wavell in his account of the meetings. Mr Amery is more direct. “Winston may be right in saying that the starvation of anyhow under-fed Bengalis is less serious than sturdy Greeks, but he makes no sufficient allowance for the sense of Empire responsibility in this country,” he writes.

    Some three million Indians died in the famine of 1943. The majority of the deaths were in Bengal. In a shocking new book, Churchill’s Secret War, journalist Madhusree Mukherjee blames Mr Churchill’s policies for being largely responsible for one of the worst famines in India’s history. It is a gripping and scholarly investigation into what must count as one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the Empire.

    The scarcity, Mukherjee writes, was caused by large-scale exports of food from India for use in the war theatres and consumption in Britain – India exported more than 70,000 tonnes of rice between January and July 1943, even as the famine set in. This would have kept nearly 400,000 people alive for a full year. Mr Churchill turned down fervent pleas to export food to India citing a shortage of ships – this when shiploads of Australian wheat, for example, would pass by India to be stored for future consumption in Europe. As imports dropped, prices shot up and hoarders made a killing. Mr Churchill also pushed a scorched earth policy – which went by the sinister name of Denial Policy – in coastal Bengal where the colonisers feared the Japanese would land. So authorities removed boats (the lifeline of the region) and the police destroyed and seized rice stocks.

    Mukherjee tracks down some of the survivors of the famine and paints a chilling tale of the effects of hunger and deprivation. Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones. “No one had the strength to perform rites,” a survivor tells Mukherjee. Dogs and jackals feasted on piles of dead bodies in Bengal’s villages. The ones who got away were men who migrated to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. “Mothers had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of daughters,” writes Mukherjee.

    The famine ended at the end of the year when survivors harvested their rice crop. The first shipments of barley and wheat reached those in need only in November, by which time tens of thousands had already perished. Throughout the autumn of 1943, the United Kingdom’s food and raw materials stockpile for its 47 million people – 14 million fewer than that of Bengal – swelled to 18.5m tonnes.

    In the end, Mukherjee writes eloquently, it was “not so much racism as the imbalance of power inherent in the social Darwinian pyramid that explains why famine could be tolerated in India while bread rationing was regarded as an intolerable deprivation in wartime Britain”. For colonial apologists, the book is essential reading. It is a terrifying account of how colonial rule is direly exploitative and, in this case, made worse by a man who made no bones of his contempt for India and its people.
    ________________________________________________________________
    From: content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2031992,00.html

    From Time Magazine

    The Ugly Briton

    By Shashi Tharoor Monday, Nov. 29, 2010

    Few statesmen of the 20th century have reputations as outsize as Winston Churchill’s. And yet his assiduously self-promoted image as what the author Harold Evans called “the British Lionheart on the ramparts of civilization” rests primarily on his World War II rhetoric, rather than his actions as the head of a government that ruled the biggest empire the world has ever known. Madhusree Mukerjee’s new book, Churchill’s Secret War, reveals a side of Churchill largely ignored in the West and considerably tarnishes his heroic sheen.

    In 1943, some 3 million brown-skinned subjects of the Raj died in the Bengal famine, one of history’s worst. Mukerjee delves into official documents and oral accounts of survivors to paint a horrifying portrait of how Churchill, as part of the Western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia. And he did so with a churlishness that cannot be excused on grounds of policy: Churchill’s only response to a telegram from the government in Delhi about people perishing in the famine was to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

    British imperialism had long justified itself with the pretense that it was conducted for the benefit of the governed. Churchill’s conduct in the summer and fall of 1943 gave the lie to this myth. “I hate Indians,” he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for “breeding like rabbits.”

    As Mukerjee’s accounts demonstrate, some of India’s grain was also exported to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to meet needs there, even though the island wasn’t experiencing the same hardship; Australian wheat sailed past Indian cities (where the bodies of those who had died of starvation littered the streets) to depots in the Mediterranean and the Balkans; and offers of American and Canadian food aid were turned down. India was not permitted to use its own sterling reserves, or indeed its own ships, to import food. And because the British government paid inflated prices in the open market to ensure supplies, grain became unaffordable for ordinary Indians. Lord Wavell, appointed Viceroy of India that fateful year, considered the Churchill government’s attitude to India “negligent, hostile and contemptuous.”

    Mukerjee’s prose is all the more devastating because she refuses to voice the outrage most readers will feel on reading her exhaustively researched, footnoted facts. The way in which Britain’s wartime financial arrangements and requisitioning of Indian supplies laid the ground for famine; the exchanges between the essentially decent Amery and the bumptious Churchill; the racism of Churchill’s odious aide, paymaster general Lord Cherwell, who denied India famine relief and recommended most of the logistical decisions that were to cost so many lives — all are described in a compelling narrative.

    Churchill said that history would judge him kindly because he intended to write it himself. The self-serving but elegant volumes he authored on the war led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to bestow him an award for peace, to give him, astonishingly, the Nobel Prize for Literature — an unwitting tribute to the fictional qualities inherent in Churchill’s self-justifying embellishments. Mukerjee’s book depicts a truth more awful than any fiction.

    Tharoor, a Member of Parliament in India, is the author of Nehru: The Invention of India and other books

  11. Rahul says:

    You have hit the bulls eye with this analysis Mr Karnad….I agree completely with you on this especially the part when you talk of Scamgress party and its henchman Saint Antony….You have argued that India should send its fighters and naval ships to the contested area….The fear that haunts South Block is what if there are repercussions? Scamgress dynasty rule over the last 60 years has turned Indian military in such a bad shape that in the eventuality of a conflict with China, India will be outgunned and outnumbered….For Scamgress, the first and foremost thing have been survivability of the dynasty and not the nation….They are basically TRAITORS of this nation. Period. And they will play the secular vs communal card every election to establish fear factor among minorities and compel them to vote for the party….

    One point in the so called partnership, especially military partnership between nations….RV has rightly pointed out that in the eventuality of trading Shanghai with San Fransisco during defending Japan, US will back out. Similar will be the case between Asian allies…It will be foolish and naive to think that when PLAAf will bomb Senkakus, India will open a new front in Arunachal or vice versa….Joint training and exercises are fine when it comes to learning each other’s experience and tactics in confronting the common enemy but to assume that it will be a substitute for defence preparedness is a classic Scamgress ideology….

    RV, so you admit that LCA Tejas unavailaibilty after 30 years and many other delayed projects are issues….Thanks…Hopefully the author will realise that before writing the next article castigating the Rafale….

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