Thursday, July 22, 2010

Que sera sera

Que Sera Sera – Whatever will be, will be. Thus ends a fascinating book, Hinduism and its Military Ethos written by Air Marshal RK Nehra. According to the retired Indian Air Force officer, it could be the motto of India: The future is already written, we can’t do anything about it!
At the level of an individual or a nation, the blind acceptance of the present, as it is and the future, as it will be can have critical consequences.
Air Marshal Nehra relates one by one the battles that the Indian nation has gone through for the past 2300 years and shows that the loss of ‘warrior’ mindset by the country’s leadership has often resulted in slavery.
He explains: “It is equally baffling to see the ease with which Hindus accepted their slavery. They adjusted to it with remarkable alacrity, almost as a duck takes to water. There was no great national upsurge, no fight back, even no major signs of resentment.”
According to him, the problem is that India is “stuck in the bhool-bhulayas (blind and dark alleys) of ahimsa, shanti and satya”.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with these great Indian virtues which have been the ideals of every Indian for millennia, but the problem seems to be rather that instead of being the final goal, the ultimate objective of a civilization, they have become the means to achieve this end. Mixing up the goals and the means is the tragedy of India.
Chanting shanti, shanti or speaking of ahimsa on a battle field (or on the parleys’ table) does not help to achieve shanti or remove the violent instincts in the opponent, especially when one faces a rogue one.
Though Nehra restricts himself to military matters, the mindset described by him also exists in other fields, particularly in diplomacy.
Take the example of the recent ‘Islamabad talks’. I was shocked to read the comment of an ‘eminent’ analyst who said that ‘India shone’ in Islamabad. Why? Because India did not respond to the insults received.
One can understand that the Indian Prime Minister wants to leave some trace of his passage at Race Course Road and is ready to take some risk for that, but why silently accept insults. When Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi compared Home Secretary GK Pillai to Jamaat-ud-Dawa Chief Hafiz Sayeed and complained that his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna took telephonic instructions from Delhi, the Indian side only feebly protested. The next day, the Indian Foreign Secretary even said that the talks were on. Que Sera Sera!
The worst is that Pillai was punished for standing by ‘satya’, he had just confirmed that the ISI had been involved ‘from beginning to end’ in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks: the Ministry of Home Affairs has now appointed a new spokesperson for the Ministry.
Indian diplomatic blunders would take pages and pages just to list. One of the biggest, according to me, was the Panchsheel Agreement through which India unilaterally surrendered her rights in Tibet, without getting even a proper demarcation of her frontier in return. The Machiavellian Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai enigmatically declared that all the issues ‘ripe for settlement’ had been solved. Nobody reacted till several years later when it was too late (the Chinese had already built a road through Indian territory, in the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh).
Air Marshall Nehra’s theory is that there is something wrong with the ‘Hindu’ mindset. He writes: “Out of the recorded Hindu history of around 2300 years, Bharat was under jackboots of slavery for some 1300 years — a dubious record.” He tries to analyse: “It is baffling to see the great Hindu civilization going under with such extraordinary ease. It would appear that reasons for Hindu slavery lay in their mind, rather than in their muscle. The ancient Hindus were a set of martial people who lived by the sword. Somewhere along the line, Hindus lost their way and their martial spirit.”
One of his conclusions is that “Hindus developed a deluded sense of dharma under influence of Buddhism; that was the main reason for their downfall.”
Here, I differ with his view. There are many examples of Buddhist ‘warriors’, defending the highest Indian values. Even in modern India, without the Nubra Guards of Colonel Chhewang Rinchen, who received twice the Mahavir Chakra, Ladakh would today be under Pakistani occupation. One could also cite the role of the Ladakh Scouts during the Kargil conflict or on the Siachen glacier and the Tibetan Special Frontier Forces who participated in the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and several other battles.
For Buddhism (as well as for Hinduism), a tradition of defending the highest Dharma has existed; Nehra himself quotes the Bhagavat gita: hatova prapsyasi swargam jitva bhoksyase mahim (Slain in battle, You attain Heaven, Gaining victory, You enjoy the earth).
But Nehra is probably right when he says: “Hindus suffer from bouts of phony morality and bogus sense of self-righteousness. …All these are un-military-like attributes, which must be shunned.”
He speaks at length of India’s military campaigns and India’s lost chances to send back the invading forces to their Penates. One of the first ‘blunders’ of Independent India occurred in January 1948; suddenly the Indian forces stopped their advances in Kashmir and the raiders were not pushed back to Pakistan.
If one studies history, one discovers that Indian defeats have always been the result of wrong interpretation of the Indic spiritual tradition.
However, some Indian leaders did see things differently. When Hindus were butchered in East Pakistan during the first months of 1950, the Government first contemplated strong steps, then the Prime Minister of Pakistan came to India and Nehru melted; he signed a Pact with Pakistan; at that time, Sri Aurobindo argued: “The massacres in East Bengal still seemed to make war inevitable and the Indian Government had just before Nehru's attempt to patch up a compromise made ready to march its army over the East Bengal borders once a few preliminaries had been arranged and war in Kashmir would have inevitably followed. America and Britain would not have been able to support Pakistan and [they] had already intimated their inability to prevent the Indian Government from taking the only possible course open to it in face of the massacre. In the circumstances the end of Pakistan would have been the certain consequence of war. …Now all this has changed. After the conclusion of the Pact …no outbreak of war can take place at least for some time to come, and, unless the Pact fails, it may not take place. That may mean in certain contingencies the indefinite perpetuation of the existence of Pakistan and the indefinite postponement of the prospect of any unification of India.”
Sixty years later, India is perhaps ‘shining’, but losing battles.
At the end of the day, is it not a problem of leadership? India has unfortunately only had leaders who sing: The future's not ours to see! Que sera sera!

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