BIC had a stimulating discussion on “The New Himalayas and the Global Raja Mandala” on 16 th June 2010. The speaker was Mr Nitin Pai, a Gold Medalist from Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Editor of Pragati, a publication on strategic affairs, public policy and governance. The session was moderated by Mr C V Ranganathan, Former Ambassador of India to China.
In a wide-ranging analysis of history and political philosophy in India and China, Mr Pai argued that there were basic and fundamental differences in the way the two countries viewed, and continued to view international relations. One interesting, but practically unknown, fact narrated by Mr Pai was that the first Chinese invasion of India came as early as 649 A.D and it was led by a Chinese noble, called Wang Xuance. According to Mr Pai, the fact that no large-scale military confrontation took place between the two civilizations was largely because of the mighty barrier posed by the Himalayas which made such confrontations logistically difficult. This barrier became irrelevant when air-planes came into existence. However, by that time India came under the control of the British, and China had its own internal problems to take care of. By the 20 th Century, both countries were independent and back on their feet and the Himalayan barrier, which in the earlier years prevented large-scale troop movements, was no longer a barrier. It is significant that at that stage border incursions and military confrontations between the two countries became more frequent, ultimately culminating in the bloody war of 1962. An interesting point made by Mr Pai was that the nuclear capabilities developed in India in 1970s (Pokhran) raised a new Himalayan barrier between the two countries – the barrier of Nuclear Deterrents, and it is this new Himalayas which is the most effective insurance against a full-scale war between the two countries.
Mr. Pai drew attention to the fact that most of our trade, including the crucial import of fuels, is sea-borne and that it was strategically essentially to have an active naval presence to keep our interests secure. India must not be viewed globally as a soft state, too engrossed with domestic politics and generally uninterested in what is happening in other countries, irrespective of whether such lack of interest jeopardizes the over-all national interest or not.
Mr Pai lamented the fact that the Indian Foreign Policy is too laid back and is unable to appreciate the need to take up a pro-active stance with its neighbours, other Asian countries and other maritime nations along its strategic trade routes to counteract the aggressive diplomacy of the Chinese. He felt that this placed our energy security, which is heavily dependent on fuel imports, at a very high risk. His conclusion was that India must take active steps to keep the new Himalayas high and must take pro-active measures to act as a geopolitical swing power. In all this, he wanted that the Civil Society must also come in the forefront to supplement the efforts of the Government.
The highly interesting interactive session was moderated with erudition and skill by Mr C V Ranganathan.