From Our Archives: War Psychosis, And The Sanity Of Prudence

From Our Archives: War Psychosis, And The Sanity Of Prudence The India-China border. (Biju Boro/AFP/GettyImages)
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  • In this archival piece from the 26 May 1962 issue of Swarajya, Vol VI, No 47, Rajaji talks of the pitfalls of bravado in war and the need for composed and calculated understanding of our situation.

In Kenneth de Courcy’s outspoken review of world affairs, there is a passage which appears remarkably apt for describing the state of public opinion in India about her present government.

Public opinion, particularly after the last general elections, may be analysed into three main groups. There are people who do not think or analyse but accept official views on the ground that it is inconceivable that the government could be wrong on matters of great importance.

This is the largest group numerically. But a great body of intelligent people think the government is wrong, but blame it on ineptness and wishful thinking.

Then there is a much smaller group of people who think that Mr. Nehru and some of his colleagues have a design to bring the present order of society to an end and substitute it by an order closely approximating a communist society.

Of these groups, the second, which is an evolutionary factor, is a big group among thoughtful people. The first group is, of course, the largest in total number and along with the law of inertia, gives the power to the government.

The situation unfortunately is not left to evolve peacefully and democratically. A war-psychosis is now being created on the basis of information about China and Pakistan retailed by the government to the public.

A war with anybody would be bad for India. But there can be no two opinions on this, that war with China would be disastrous.

It is only when a neighbouring nation behaves unreasonably that it becomes most necessary for a sensible nation to think calmly and not act under the impulse of anger and irritation.

It is a matter of unalterable conviction for all those who adhere to the Gandhian tradition that Pakistan and India should be friends always, and bind themselves not only not to resort to arms over any issue as between them, but to combine together to defend their borders and present a joint bastion against aggression on the part of any third party.

It is a pity that proposals for working out a joint defence on these lines were not taken up, or even received warmly, when the present Pakistan government mooted it sometime ago.

But it has to be taken up seriously sometime or the other and tackled constructively, whatever the anti-Pakistan shouting may be in some quarters in India and whatever the anti-Indian shouting may be in some quarters in Pakistan itself.

The greater danger is the war psychosis in relation to China. As regards China, the only course, legitimate and practical, is to meet the hostile and very irritating attitude of communist China by a definite and firm alliance with the Western Powers limited to the protection of Indian territory against Chinese incursion.

This will be an effective deterrent with some possible (but only just possible) risk involved of a world conflagration.

This change from present policy is necessary in view of the complete breakdown of diplomatic ability in coping with China.

We must give up our non-alignment absolutism in this case.

A vague dependence on the evolution of differences between Russia and China in coping with Chinese aggression is utterly wrong and dangerous. Nothing would be more futile than hoping to receive any assistance, diplomatic or other, from Soviet quarters to solve our difficulties with China.

The present ideological differences between Krushchov and the Chinese leaders or between Krushchov and Albania or Yugoslavia, or the like, which are wishfully played up in Western (particularly American) journals, even if substantial and significant, will (by reason of an understandable psychology) prevent rather than induce Soviet intervention in our interest.

Depending for defence equipment on Moscow would be the worst folly imaginable. At all times, it is a difficult thing for lay cabinets (assisted by equally lay although more pretentious secretaries) to deal with technological matters with any degree of assurance.

When dealing with urgent defence equipment, the difficulty is attended with positive danger.

Old and firm friends with an interest clearly adverse to communist nations are the safer quarters to look up to in such difficulties.

Let us not forget that Kruschov has earned a reputation for subterfuge.

We should not imagine that we are wiser than the rest of the world.

It would be progressively disastrous to increase our defence expenditure on an isolated basis.

It will be an unending business and take our nation too far on the road to a total breakdown.

To yield to a war-psychosis on the basis of non-alignment and isolated strength, is as foolish as the temptation is great.

Putting it at the lowest level, this is not the time for hobnobbing with Soviet Russia.

Reverting to the classification of public opinion at the commencement of this article, it would be most unwise to do anything to increase the number of people falling in the third small group.

It is possible that Mr. Nehru and Mr. Krishna Menon may think that all this warning and opposition, and all these doubts, spring from ignorance and a tendency to support a dying and anachronistic view of affairs in general.

But I hope they do not doubt the sincerity of these thoughts and will pay some attention to them, and avoid the trap of excessive confidence.

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