London: India's civilization and culture are such that this country always plays by the rules. At the time of the formation of the United Nations, it was clear to the whole world that India's independence was round the corner. India had made huge contribution to the war effort of the Allies in the just concluded World War 2. But for the heroic contribution of Indian army's famed 4th Division the result of the tank battle against Rommel in El Alamein could have been different. That victory alone changed the course of war in Europe.
In 1946, India's was the world's third largest economy. Yet, India was denied her rightful place in the United Nations Security Council. The Allies had made their Cold War calculations in denying this country her right. All that is history now, and the country continues to be deprived of her rightful place at the global table. Ever since independence, many a nation continued to call this country as the land of snake charmers and elephants as though that was all about India. Instead of striking back, the Indian leadership took all such remarks as an expression of frustration of their former colonial masters. They could not foresee the manner in which India held together in unity. They predicted famines in the face of India's population explosion and were belied. A deliberate effort was made to hurt India's dignity and image.
When India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru undertook his state visit to the United States, the President of that country Harry Truman is said to have remarked that it was strange to hear so much elocution about democracy from someone he had told was a Communist? It was not easy for the right wing politicos of the West to face the emergence of a democratic giant that has become the world's largest democracy. It is a different matter that today, we ourselves, seem to be making a mess of that great heritage and success.
India suffered and paid a heavy price in following an independent foreign policy in the face of Cold War of the two warring global blocks. Even as India tried to befriend China, emerging as our giant Communist neighbour, this country did not remind them of the contribution made by Indian Army and other civilians in China's support during the World War. What was the reaction of the Chinese leadership towards India? Mao was said to have described Nehru in the most despicable terms as an agent of the Anglo- American block. Why?
This author was a witness to the manner in which Western countries, primarily the U.S. and the United Kingdom tried to force India into giving concessions to Pakistan following the Indian Army's debacle in 1962 against China. The country at the time had great negotiators like the then Foreign Minister of India Sardar Swarn Singh who could handle pressures without giving in. It was marvel of those skills that kept Pakistan at bay from undertaking any adventure in Kashmir while India modernized and strengthened her armed forces.
Let it also not be forgotten that despite India's protests the United States had continued to arm Pakistan's army with most modern weapons throughout the period of cold war. India's repeated protests that such weapons could only be used against India by that country were ignored and not even listened to properly by the United States and the West. Then came the 1965 infiltration into Kashmir by Pakistan and the war that ensued between the two countries. The Indian Army gave a befitting reply to the aggressor and all the weapons that United States had given to Pakistan, including the Patton Tanks, were of no use for that country. India at the end of the war was sitting on vast swathes of Pakistani territory.
Then followed the peace talks in Tashkent , this time initiated by the Soviet Union, the adversary of the Western Alliance in the Cold War era. These peace talks, this author has believed to this day, were only aimed by the Soviet Union to try and wean Pakistan away from the United States. After all, Peshawar was the secret base of the U.S., from where U2 planes were flying over the Soviet Union on espionage missions. The Soviet Union applied all its pressure at Tashkent and India was forced to give up areas, including those it had recaptured in Kashmir with great sacrifice, such as Haji Pir .
Thus the reader can see all through the above cited episodes that India was wronged. Why could we not fight back? Why could we not defend our dignity? Why could we not fight pressures that cost us heavily? In part the answer is that India's economy had been mishandled by each succeeding government. The country had followed Fabian socialism and even proclaimed that it would create a "socialistic pattern of society". All that made the country far too dependent on foreign aid and loans. And beggars have no choice.
However the fact that following such economic policies India nearly went bankrupt when she had to mortgage part of her gold reserves became a blessing in disguise for this country. Now under pressure from the World Bank before that body would agree to any further loan to bail out India, the country had to change its economic policies and thus were ushered the economic reforms. Once the economy was released from the shackles of "licence permit raj", the suppressed energy of its entrepreneurs began to show results. The country's economy today, despite the current slowdown, is the second largest growing economy in the world.
Following the economic reforms, India became a much sought after market. Not just that, as the economy has grown, Indian companies have begun investing abroad as well. Today this country is the second largest investor in the United Kingdom next only to the United States. India today is net exporter of food. Her agricultural output and industrial might will continue to grow. As the economy grows, so does the strength of her armed forces for we are now able to buy weapons we need without having to seek any loans or aid.
In the changed circumstances, it is not easy for any self respecting Indian to see the country or its people being treated shabbily by any foreign country. One is not suggesting any warlike attitude but it was good to see that Indian negotiators did manage to get the Chinese to withdraw from the territory that they had entered in Ladakh recently. It has to think twice before sparking off a conflict with India. Also, Chinese can ill afford to lose the big sales they make to India.
This takes me to the issues that we face with the United States and the United Kingdom apart from some other European countries. We need to make it clear to the United States that it cannot and should not expect India to compromise her interests in Afghanistan and her friendship for the Afghan people. If the US needs a strategic relationship with India, then it must understand India too has her strategic interests . This is something Pakistan needs to understand as well. It is time that India considered a strategic treaty of friendship with Afghanistan to cement the age old relationship with that country. That would go a long way to strengthen our position in the region.
This brings me to a country that is facing the prospect of a very sick economy, the United Kingdom. Some say that UK's economy is headed the Greek way. UK has dared India and insulted her people for the manner in which it proposes to bring in new Visa regime. That country cannot treat the second largest investor in its economy in this manner. The real problem that UK faces is the uncontrolled immigration from East European countries and to divert the ire of its people from that failure, it projects India among villains of immigration. UK forgets conveniently the huge contribution being made to its economy not just by India's investment there, but by the large and rich Indian diaspora that lives there.
The UK cannot have any kind of unilateral visa regime vis a vis India. If this proposed visa regime is racist , as some are alleging, then India needs to advise its citizens against travelling to that country as tourists and block any further investment by Indian companies there.
A time and moment has come, when India's government and her representatives must assert their rightful position. There just cannot be any compromise with the dignity and respect of the nation and her people. Will it be asking too much of the present Government to stand up and ensure that India's interests are protected. That, no nation how -so -ever powerful is allowed to transgress upon the rights and interests of this nation and her people.
The United Kingdom cannot have a unilateral regime vis a vis India. If the policy is racist, as some allege, it is time Indians are advised not to proceed to the country as tourists and India discourages her industrialists from investing in the UK.
The author, the Chairman of the Asian News International, is presently in London.