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January 12, 2001
Colonel Anil Athale (retd)
One reason for China's anti-Indian stance and fighting India through the 'monkey on our back' Pakistan has been the conviction that India does not matter. Indian domination in IT and Pokharan II should have led to some re-thinking in China, says Colonel Anil Athale (retd), co-author of the official history of the October war.
Together, India and China account for nearly half the world's population. Both boast of a continuing 5,000-year-old civilisation. India and China are in a league different than from say Egypt or Greece where very little of ancient civilisation remains. This issue alone makes for a strong case for a co-operation between the two nations.
There is some need to define civilisation as distinct from culture. France, England or even the US have a distinct culture but one civilisation. Much confusion has been caused by Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations' thesis (incidentally, a much over-rated work.) With their distinct world view, philosophical moorings, unique arts, aesthetics, religion and language, the nation states of China and India are the only two 'civilisational states'. This automatically ensures they cannot accept a world hegemony of a single culture. Thus, in the long term, the two are 'natural' allies. No short term tactical move should detract from this basic truth.
The Chinese, under the influence of its military, the People's Liberation Army, and India under its arrogant and Anglicised foreign affairs bureaucracy have often lost sight of this. Many of the current problems between the two nations are a direct result of this mindset. The PLA has been backing China's pro-Pakistan tilt to the detriment of its long term interest.
In India, a respected diplomat like Appasaheb Pant once confided to this author that Nehru's patronising attitude towards China and Zhou Enlai at the Bandung Conference in 1955 began souring relations between the two nations. If the two countries have to build a long term relationship, these pitfalls must be avoided.
The Alliance of the Future
Arnold J Toynbee, in the last volume of his world history series, prophetically remarked, 'Once the economic changes and industrialisation going on in India and China becomes a reality then the huge populations of these nations will begin to count in the military/industrial calculations of world power. Such invigorated giants will then demand their just share in world resources currently monopolised by the West.'
Toynbee was half right, only China seems to have reached a stage of development where she is taken seriously by the West. One reason for China's anti-Indian stance and fighting India through the 'monkey on our back' Pakistan has been the conviction that India does not matter. Indian domination in information technology and Pokharan II should have led to some re-thinking in China. India may yet prove the tortoise in the technology race, a race that will determine the power balance in the 21st century.
Advantage: India & China
Western domination of the world is a 300-year-old phenomenon. It must be reiterated that for the rest of the 4,700 years, the Asian continent ruled the roost and was the cradle of the most advanced agricultural civilisation. Being on top of the heap, Asia (essentially India and China) lost out to Europe in understanding the power shift that industrialisation meant.
Today, as the world moves to the 'knowledge revolution', these ancient civilisations are in a better position to adapt and change, like Europe in the 16th century. This phenomenon of the 'underdog' having an advantage in a revolutionary situation can be seen domestically (upstart provinces with little industrial infrastructure overtaking advanced regions) as well as internationally. Japan did this to the West earlier and now lags behind India in IT.
Even more fundamentally, the Indians and Chinese share a basic truth, that the world is not black or white but grey. The Indian concept of sat (altruism), rajo (acquisition) and tamo (aggression) has a parallel with the basic Chinese concept of Yin and Yang. This understanding of the world lies at the root of the civilisational view of the two countries and is in contrast to Greco-Roman absolutism. This view is also closer to the 'reality' of nature and therefore has a greater chance to survive and ensure the survival of earth and mankind.
Both India and China have a duty towards mankind to make sure that the earth is not destroyed by peoples and civilisations that treat nature as an adversary to be conquered rather than lived with. Will the Indians and the Chinese have the wisdom to understand this?
Design: Lynette Menezes
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