MJ Akbar: Nehru’s relationship with China outweighed India’s national interests
‘Nehru’s blunders have completely shredded our ability to meet the Chinese on equal terms. He made fundamental and historic errors that really, in a sense, corrupted the Indian position,’ said MJ Akbar
New Delhi: Senior journalist and Rajya Sabha MP MJ Akbar takes us through the historic blunders by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and how India is still paying the price for his submissiveness to China. The Galwan Valley clashes in which 20 Indian soldiers were martyred have exposed how vulnerable the situation is at the borders.
Q: Where did India’s submissiveness to China start?
MJ Akbar: It all started in Nehru’s mind. For him, his relationship with China outweighed India’s national interests on critical issues like Tibet, defence policy and the ability to protect the nation's integrity. This lies in his long relationship with Chiang Kai-shek, president of China. Shek always made his point very clear. When he objected to the independence of Tibet issue, Nehru buckled under pressure. Nehru’s blunders have completely shredded our ability to meet the Chinese on equal terms. He made fundamental and historic errors that really, in a sense, corrupted the Indian position.
Q: What was Nehru’s blunder with respect to the UNSC permanent seat?
Akbar: Today, joining the UNSC is a high point in the Indian diplomatic effort. But we got an offer to join UNSC from the US in 1950 when the then Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles sent an invitation to India and added that the US was ready to get public opinion in this regard. The US was powerful at that point in time to help India. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s sister, had written a secret letter to him in this regard, but Nehru arbitrarily turned it down. He refused it because he was of the view that it would upset China. It was not India’s interests that were on the top of his concerns, but it was China. At that time, he had already taken the issue of Kashmir to the UN. If India were a permanent member of the UNSC, you can imagine how powerfully we could have argued our case. This decision of Nehru is a massive blunder. In 1955, another offer was made by Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin. He again turned it down. But this American offer made earlier was not made public. Parliament too was not informed. Had he informed his Cabinet, they would have asked him to reverse his decision. It was done behind the back of Indian people. We still are paying the price of this blunder.
Q: What do you have to say about Nepal’s attitude towards India?
Akbar: At the moment, Nepal has a Communist government. It has given a distinct tilt. The issue is not the Nepalese attitude towards China, but the Chinese attitude towards Nepal. Sun Yat-sen is the father of modern China. He is revered in both Beijing and Taipei. For Communists, he is a very important figure and for Kuomintang nationalists, he is the founder of the party.
He made it clear in 1911, that annexation of Tibet was highest on his agenda. Also, in 1924, he said Nepal is a tributary state of China and that it accepted the suzerainty of China. It has also claimed Nepal to be a civilisational part of China. This point is kept hidden from public discourse. It is for the Nepalese to understand the friendship and equality that India offers.
Q: How should India send a message to China?
Akbar: China has to respect India’s defence policy. PM Narendra Modi has made it aptly clear that not an inch of India would be ceded. The LAC was determined by China. So now, they don’t have any right over Galwan. PM Modi perfectly knows what to do. He is one of the finest minds in international politics. He will protect India’s interests deftly.