Friday, November 1, 2013

My Article Published in an International Website

Historic Tussle in India over Historic Legacy

A historic battle is in the offing between India’s ruling Congress Party and the principal opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP.

historic-india-legacyInterestingly, the battle is historic in the sense that it is all about historic legacy. “What is history after all; it is a fable mutually agreed upon,” Napoleon Bonaparte famously quipped once. His prophetic words are coming out to be true in India now.
The battle over the historic legacy of a great leader of India’s Independence movement and India’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a bit intriguing because the leaders of the ruling Congress Party launched it. India’s Independence movement had several leaders of national stature. Two among them, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, occupy position and stature next only to Mahatma Gandhi.
In over six decades, such questions about the historic legacy of these leaders have never been raised by anybody in India. Historians and commoners alike generally concluded that while Jawaharlal Nehru represented a liberal, western worldview, Sardar Patel was a conservative and quintessential Indian leader. In the political realm also, the principal parties, the Congress and the BJP, have always identified with each of them respectively.
The Congress Party is largely seen as the pocket borough of the family of Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. Even to this day, the Nehru-India family rules over that Party. Most of the Government Welfare Schemes and infrastructure projects in India are routinely named after the members of the Nehru – India Gandhi family whenever the Congress Party is in power.
On the other hand, the BJP, and its previous avatar the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, BJS, have always identified their politics with Sardar Patel.
One of its senior leaders, Lal Krishna Advani, India’s Deputy Prime Minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government during 1998-2004, acquired epithets like “neo-Sardar” and Loh-Purush (“Iron Man”) etc. Iran Man was a nickname given to Sardar Patel by his admirers.
In this background, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent statement stating that Sardar Patel belonged to his Party and by implication the BJP had no right to inherit his legacy raised many eyebrows, and of course hackles from the main Opposition Party.
Prime Minister Singh’s new interpretation of history is seen by many as a desperate attempt to prevent Narendra Modi, India’s most popular leader today and the candidate for Prime Minister’s post from the BJP, from trying to usurp Patel’s legacy. Modi, on his part, declared that he would be building a statue for Sardar Patel in his home State, Gujarat, (Incidentally Modi is the current Chief Minister of Gujarat). Being built in the backwaters of a big dam in Gujarat, this statue, when completed, would be taller than the famous Eifel Tower in Paris.
Prime Minister Singh’s statement kicked up a political storm with the BJP questioning the Congress Party’s sudden love for Patel, and reiterating that the legacy of all great leaders of Independence should belong to the entire nation. The Congress Party leaders harangued that the BJP has no moral right to invoke Patel’s legacy as he was a leader of the Congress Party and was the one who had banned the ideological mentor of the BJP and India’s biggest voluntary Hindu organization, the RSS.
Sardar Patel, who was caught in the middle of this history storm, was in fact the leader who had enjoyed more popular support than Nehru at the time of India’s Independence. Had the Congress leaders been allowed to follow their constitution, Sardar Patel would have become India’s first Indian Prime Minister in 1946.
His name was recommended by 12 out of 15 provincial Congress units, which was the mandatory requirement for the election of the President of Congress Party, who would in turn become the Prime Minister of India in the Interim Government.
Curiously, not a single Provincial Committee recommended Jawaharlal Nehru’s name.
However, Mahatma Gandhi, the mentor of the Congress movement, got Patel to withdraw his nomination and support Nehru for the post. Thus, Nehru, instead of Patel, became the first Prime Minister of Independent India. The other contention of the Congress Party that Patel had banned the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP, also flies away in the face of the facts.
Patel had banned the RSS for a few months on the charges of conspiring in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in January 1948. But in less than a month after the murder, he conveyed to Prime Minister Nehru that there was no evidence to link the organization with the said murder. Within a few months, he ordered the revocation of the ban on RSS too.
Whatever be the reason, the controversy stoked by the ruling Congress Party is causing more damage to it than helping it. With more and more facts about an utterly uneasy, if not hostile, relationship that had existed between Nehru and Patel in the last few years before Patel’s demise in 1950 tumbling out, the Ruling Party is faced with more uncomfortable questions than probably it had anticipated.
Ram Madhav is Director of the India Foundation, Delhi, India. Follow Ram on Twitter @rammadhavrss.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

India has a moral commitment on Tibet - Part 1 & 2

India has a moral commitment on Tibet - I
Ram Madhav
The govt has to be firm with China
Not Freeze; But Actively Discuss Border

In 1980 when Deng Xiaoping suggested sector-wise approach to resolving the border conflict between India and China it was presumed that he was only resuming Zhou’s line. However when the border talks began in 1981 Indian side got clear indications that the Chinese are pursuing a maximalist approach. By 1985 when the 6th round of talks began the Chinese had started making open claims over Tawang in particular and Arunachal Pradesh in general.

For the Chinese, the obvious policy appears to be to get the maximum territorial advantage of the talks. That is the reason behind their constant harping on Arunachal Pradesh. Even there the initial claims were only over the Tawang region.

Till the 60s the Chinese were talking about a bilateral settlement on Aksai Chin. The 38,000 sq. km. area part of Ladakh region came under illegal occupation of the Chinese Red Army, which started constructing the Karakoram Highway linking Tibet with Sinkiang region in the 50s.

Zhou Enlai, the then Premier of China, convinced Jawaharlal Nehru that the McMahon Line is an ‘imperial leftover’ and hence China and India should reject it. Under Krishna Menon Plan in 1960 it was even proposed that India should agree for the Chinese control over Aksai Chin while the Chinese on their part would agree for something ‘closer’ to McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.

This, obviously, was not acceptable to India because China was conspiring to annex Indian territory in exchange for another Indian territory. The proposal failed; war followed; and we formally lost control over the Aksai Chin region.

Subsequently Sikkim became the theatre of conflict. While India was engaged in a war with Pakistan in 1965 the Chinese PLA was actively making incursions into the Indian territory in Sikkim along the Tibetan border. China blamed India for preventing its sheep from grazing inside the Indian territory, which led to the incursions. There were skirmishes between September and December in 1965 in that region.

Tensions continued along the Sikkim-Tibet border where there was armed conflict in September 1967 near Nathu La Pass when the PLA tried to cross the border in large numbers. Indian troops had successfully repulsed these advances.

By the 80s, the theatre shifted to the eastern sector and Arunachal Pradesh became the new arena of conflict. While under the so-called Krishna Menon Plan the Chinese were willing to agree for the Indian claims in the eastern region in exchange for Aksai Chin, in 80s they started making fresh claims over Arunachal Pradesh.

In 1980 when Deng Xiaoping suggested sector-wise approach to resolving the border conflict between India and China it was presumed that he was only resuming Zhou’s line. However, when the border talks began in 1981 Indian side got clear indications that the Chinese are pursuing a maximalist approach. By 1985 when the 6th round of talks began the Chinese had started making open claims over Tawang in particular and Arunachal Pradesh in general.

What followed gives a clear idea of the Chinese method. There were major border violations by China in 1987 in the Sumdorong Chu Valley where the Chinese had penetrated deep into the Indian territory and constructed a helipad and started bringing in reconnaissance. This had led to a major military build-up and an eyeball-to-eyeball positioning of both the troops.

Tensions ran very high for several years until the Narasimha Rao regime signed a treaty with the Chinese Government in 1993. In a way this treaty too could be called a victory for the Chinese side, as it had resulted in both Indian and Chinese troops moving out of the Sumdorong Chu Valley and leaving it a neutral region. Once again while the Chinese had to vacate the territory that they occupied the Indians were forced to vacate what belonged to them.

Almost five decades of efforts to resolve the border issues had resulted only in India conceding every time and ending up as the loser. Zhou talked of a ‘package deal’; Deng talked of sector-wise approach. We today see neither of them to be relevant anymore. Of the 2500-km border only peaceful sector is the middle one-namely the Tibet-Uttarakhand/Himachal border, which is not more than about 550 km.

The Chinese refuse to talk anymore about the Aksai Chin. For them it is a settled fact. What is unfortunate is that even our own leadership stopped talking about it. Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988; Narasimha Rao in 1993 and Vajpayee in 2003. The nation has not heard them talk about the occupation despite the fact that there is a unanimous Parliament resolution of 1962 on getting that territory back.

For the Chinese, the obvious policy appears to be to get the maximum territorial advantage of the talks. That is the reason behind their constant harping on Arunachal Pradesh. Even there the initial claims were only over the Tawang region. These claims were based on the so-called historical aspects like the birth of the 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso there.

But now the claims extend to the entire state of Arunachal. In 2006, just a couple of weeks ahead of the visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, the Chinese Ambassador to Delhi Sun Yuxi had made the outrageous claim that Arunachal Pradesh belonged to China. "In our position the whole of what you call the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory, and Tawang (district) is only one place in it. We are claiming all of that-that’s our position," he told the news channel CNN-IBN. India forced China to call him back. But the events after his return make it amply clear that the Chinese have their eyes firmly set on that state.

For China the McMahon Line is only an excuse. This so-called ‘imperialist line’ is the one that demarcates the border between Myanmar and China. It is thus clear that it either intends to occupy more Indian territory or use it as a bargaining chip for something else. The big question is: What could that something else be?

One of the most contentious issues between India and China has been the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his people on the Indian soil. Although successive Indian Governments, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954, have conceded directly or indirectly that Tibet is a part of China, the Chinese harbour serious apprehensions. They see in HH the Dalai Lama not a venerable saintly figure but a ‘divisive politician’. They are convinced that it was His Holiness and the agents of the West that were responsible for the recent uprising in Tibet and apprehend more trouble in future.

India on its part tries to mollycoddle China by assuring it that its soil wouldn’t be allowed to be used for any anti-China activities. Yet the suspicions remain. They knew about the tremendous popularity HH the Dalai Lama enjoys in Tibet even to this day despite his exile for almost half-a-century. In the 80s, when his representatives were allowed by the Chinese authorities to visit Tibet, they received unprecedented and spontaneous welcome. That must have rattled the Chinese leadership.

The Chinese attitude towards the Dalai Lama and his people hardened quite a bit after that, which continues to this day. No effort is spared by China to browbeat countries that extend an invitation to HH the Dalai Lama. Very recently it pressurised Sri Lanka into withdrawing its invitation to him. All this in spite of the fact that countries like India categorically declared that Tibet is an internal matter of China.

This brings us to the most crucial aspect of India-China relations-i.e. the Tibetan exiles including the Dalai Lama, not Tibet. This shift from Tibet to the Tibetans is very important today.

For India the critical issue is its sovereignty. The Government has to be firm on that question. The policy of freezing border question and addressing all other issues like bilateral trade and cultural exchanges etc no longer works. It has to sit down and seriously work on the demarcation of the border by exchanging maps. While doing that we must act as equals, not as subordinates or inferiors.

What plagues Indian establishment is the utter lack of unanimity in the ruling establishment. Reports suggest serious differences between the PMO and the MEA on one side and the Defence Ministry and the Home Ministry on the other.

India has a moral and ethical commitment to HH the Dalai Lama and his people. Every Indian wants them to realise their dream of a return to their homeland but with dignity and honour. India is duty-bound to help in that process. Unfortunately our Government has completely abdicated that duty. It is only the American official visitors who raise the question of Tibet with their Chinese counterparts; we seldom do that.

Just to reiterate: It is no longer the question of Tibet; it is the question of the Tibetans now. 

(To be continued)

(Courtesy: Organiser; October 4, 2009)

India has a moral commitment on Tibet-II
Ram Madhav

We need a strategic vision

Leverage on diplomatic relations

For almost one decade the Russia-China talks remained deadlocked over this ‘principle’ issue. But with the Soviets not budging the Chinese had to climb down and in 1983 they finally agreed to not insist on the principle anymore. The US and many others tend to dismiss all this as Chinese propaganda. It may be partly true. But the underlying lesson remains; that you don’t have to acquire same number of naval carriers as your adversary; you should rather have enough capability to disable them.

‘Dialogue is the only solution’, our leaders untiringly exhort when it comes to our relations with the neighbours. Undoubtedly. But what is more important is perseverance.

With countries like China we need to understand that there is no easy solution even if you are ready to talk. The border dispute between our countries is more than six decades old. And the talks too are almost three decades old by now. Not much has been achieved. In fact while the talks are on we concede more and achieve little.

That is the most important lesson that we must learn: while in talks, be firm. Set your goals firmly before going into the talks; and once there, be steadfast.

Maybe we can take a leaf or two out of China’s own history. China resolved a very vexatious border dispute with Russia in 1991. While India has a border stretching to over 4500 kms, Russia too shares a border of almost the same length with China. Interestingly not just the length of the border but the nature of the dispute too is same; China declares that it doesn’t recognise ‘imperial treaties’ as they were ‘unequal’ treaties. It is well-known that China wants everything redone after 1949.

The pattern followed by China in its talks with Soviet Russia is similar to what it does with all other countries; and to what it did with India too. When the talks began between China and Soviet Russia in mid-60s the Chinese insisted that the Russian side should first of all agree ‘on principles’. By ‘principles’ what it meant was that the Russians should agree with its contention that all the historical treaties arrived at between Russia and China prior to 1949 should be considered as ‘unequal treaties’.

Realizing the carefully laid trap in the name of ‘principle’ the Russians at once rejected the Chinese argument and insisted that they were not going to negotiate a new boundary and were only willing to discuss ‘minor technical adjustments’. They accused China of "attempting to substantiate its claim to 1.5 million sq kms of land that properly belonged to the Soviet Union by using a far-fetched pretext of righting the ‘injustices’ of past centuries". 

Naturally the initial talks in 1964 collapsed. When they resumed in 1969 the Soviets were firm on their position that there is no question of negotiating a new boundary except to talk about a few issues limited to not more that 0.1 million square kilometers. The Chinese side persisted with its demand that the ‘basic principle’ of the unequal nature of the past treaties must be accepted by Russia first.

For almost one decade the Russia-China talks remained deadlocked over this ‘principle’ issue. But with the Soviets not budging the Chinese had to climb down and in 1983 they finally agreed to not insist on the principle anymore. Once that happened the rest of the negotiations went on and a final settlement was arrived at by 1991.

Just to understand the success of Russia and China border settlement we have to understand the mindset of the Russian leaders. One statement of Boris Yeltsin while on his way to Beijing in 1996 would suffice to indicate it: "There are instances in which we agree to no compromises. For example, the issue of to whom the three islands - in the Amur River not far from Khabarovsk and the.... Bolshoy Island in the Argun River in Chita should belong. With regard to this our position remains firm: the border should be where it lies now’.

Can we show that firmness? Have we done that before? China insisted that it wouldn’t recognize McMahon Line since it is an ‘Imperial Line’. Have we come across a Yeltsin in India who would have told them that if McMahon Line is fine for China and Burma to settle their borders why not the same for China and India? Do we have the courage to tell them that barring some ‘minor technicalities’, the border should be where it lied in 1947 or 1949?

So perseverance - the Russian type, is the key. But two more issues played important role in settling Russia-China border dispute. Firstly, both the countries felt a need for ‘coming closer’ for strategic purposes. In early 80s under Deng Xiaoping it became an important part of the Chinese new foreign policy. But more importantly the second factor, the superior military might of Russia, was also a clincher.

No meaningful settlement will be possible between two unequal neighbours. It has been made amply clear by the repeated statements of our military bosses that India lags far behind China in terms of its military capability. Elsewhere the new RSS Sarsanghachalak Sri Mohan Bhagwat also said: "Though frequent wars and border infringements imposed on us after the independence have made us some what less complacent regarding our defense preparedness, we are still less prepared for any potential war as compared to that of China and it is necessary to make more potent arrangement to secure our borders".

Critics may call it war-mongering, but the fact remains that we need to strengthen our preparedness. But what do we understand by defense preparedness? Do we mean parity in terms of weapons, aircraft and ships etc? Is it possible? Someone suggested that since China spends 7 per cent of its GDP on defense we too should spend that much. But 7 per cent of the GDP for China and 7 per cent of the GDP for India are not the same. 

Here also the Chinese experience might give us a clue as to what we should do. For China, the US is a bigger rival. Even to this day it spends 14 times more money on its defense than China. That China had to face humiliating situation when a US aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz entered the Taiwan Strait in 1995-96 to force China to stand down from its threats to Taiwan. If China learnt any one lesson from this stand-off, it was that in military terms what is important is capability, not necessarily parity. Through capability one can build deterrents without actually entering into a race for parity. And that is what China did in the last 15 years.

The Chinese leadership has realised that it would be foolhardy to try to take on the US might head on. Instead they started working on the stratagem that would give it an advantage in case of any conflict. The bottomline for China is to raise the costs of war exorbitantly high for the US to think several times before taking the plunge. They call the military capabilities that support this strategy as "assassin’s mace". The ‘mantra’, to quote the Foreign Affairs magazine, is that the ‘assassin’s mace’ will enable ‘the inferior’ (China) to defeat ‘the superior’ (the US).

The Chinese today have ICBMs that can effectively destroy forward US bases like the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa Island in Japan or the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam in South of Japan. The message is clear: in the event of war, China has the capability to the forward bases of the US redundant in no time.

Today, the US is greatly worried about what is described as the "wasted assets". It has forward bases, but China has the capability to strike them with accuracy at will. The US has a huge and most powerful Navy, but the Chinese are deploying UAVs, radars and reconnaissance satellites that can detect warships at progressively greater distances. The Chinese have a large number of submarines with advanced torpedoes and high-speed sea-skimming missiles that can stalk US carriers. It has aircraft that carry high-speed anti-ship ballistic missiles. Thus even the vast US Navy is fast becoming a ‘wasted asset’ for the US.

In other words the East Asian seas are a no-go zone for the US Navy today. It is noteworthy that the Chinese Navy is still at its nascent stage. What China did was to demonstrate capability, not necessarily the parity.

Not just the seas and the sky, even the cyberspace is increasingly being made redundant for the US by China. It is reputed to have launched cyber attacks on the Pentagon that disabled computer systems there. Even the low-earth-orbit satellites of the US, which supply crucial military and commercial data for the US, are well within the reach of the anti-satellite ballistic missiles or ground-based lasers of China. In other words even those are turning out to be a ‘wasted asset’ for the US. Many of the ‘smart weapons’ of the US depend on the GPS constellation. The PLA is working overtime to acquire the capability to destroy this constellation thus making the US military just redundant when it comes to any confrontation in the East.

The US and many others tend to dismiss all this as Chinese propaganda. It may be partly true. But the underlying lesson remains; that you don’t have to acquire same number of naval carriers as your adversary; you should rather have enough capability to disable them. The mute point is: where do we stand in terms of research and production of modern weaponry? Prof. Steve Cohen of the Brookings Institute says that India is the most lethargic country when it comes to indigenous production of weapons. May be our politicians and military bosses are driven by ‘other’ considerations in depending on imports rather than developing indigenously?

Another important lesson that we should learn is to frustrate the enemy. China practices it to the full. It has encircled us from all sides. It has built a ‘listening post’ in Burma’s Coco Islands and upgraded it into a full base later. It has built the Gwadar Port in Sindh, Pakistan. It is building a commercial port in Sri Lanka. It is engaged in building infrastructure in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. All these will become strategic assets for China. The Gwadar port can function as a base for the nuclear submarines of the Chinese Navy.

Sadly, we are doing nothing on that front too. We have done precious little to help countries like Taiwan. The Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was in India last month. Despite the fact that we have best of the relations with that country which is very strategically located: land-locked between Russia and China, we hardly thought of leveraging our relations to the strategic advantage of our country. The argument is that such a move would unnecessarily ‘irritate’ China. We have an Air Force base in Kazakhstan but no aircraft.

What is needed is a strategic vision, not just statements. Unfortunately while we seem to lack it we are not even trying to learn a lesson from our own adversary, China. 


(The writer is member of National Executive Council, RSS.)

(Courtesy: Organiser, October 11, 2009)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Interview published in The Economic Times on 14-07-2013

Modi's popularity is a well-known secret: Ram Madhav, RSS

15 Jul, 2013, 0514 hrs IST, Amita Shah, ET Bureau
Contrary to perception in sections of the media and the public, the RSS doesn’t permit its office-bearers to get directly involved in electioneering.
In an interview with ET, Ram Madhav, leader of RSS, talks about the organizational structure of BJP and RSS, and maintains that the two are independent of each other. Excerpts:

How do you respond to the allegations that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh micromanages the affairs of BJP?

There is no truth in these allegations of micromanagement. We don't even macro-manage the affairs of the BJP for the simple, yet most important, reason that the swayamsevaks of the RSS working in the BJP are capable of handling their affairs and we have full faith in them. The Sangh and the BJP share an ideological relationship. We also share human resources occasionally. But organisationally, both entities are independent of each other. None interferes in the day-to-day affairs of the other.

Narendra Modi's recent interview to a foreign news agency triggered a controversy over his remarks on being a Hindu nationalist and on the 2002 Gujarat riots...

A controversy was sought to be created where it didn't exist.

Does the Sangh feel that Modi's projection as the prime ministerial candidate will bring electoral dividends to the BJP?

The BJP leadership is the best judge of what brings electoral dividends to them. We believe that they take an appropriate decision after due consultation within. We also believe that whatever they decide must be in their interest. We don't interfere in or influence their decision-making ...That he is popular is a 'secret' well known.

Are Modi's critics right when they say that his candidature will polarise the electorate?

The BJP leadership knows better about these matters.

But the Congress says the BJP is working as a call centre of RSS to hard sell 'product' Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 elections...

In politics, parties indulge in such allegations and counter-allegations . Some of them will be out of frustration and hence ridiculous. The Sangh doesn't like to get involved in this political sparring.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani is reportedly unhappy with the Sangh's pointsman in the BJP. Is that true?

Shri Lal Krishna Advani ji is a senior and respected leader. His views are always taken seriously . We have no knowledge of the authenticity of the reports being referred to about Advaniji's unhappiness with any RSS functionary.

What was the message for the BJP from the Sangh's recent meeting in Amravati?

Amravati meetings are an annual review exercise that happens after the training programmes are completed. We review the participation in our training programme and plan for the activity and campaigns in the coming months. The message is only for the Sangh functionaries.

What will be the Sangh's role as the BJP gears up for elections — to the state assembles as well as the Lok Sabha?

The RSS doesn't play any role in elections. Contrary to perception in sections of the media and the public, the RSS doesn't permit its office-bearers to get directly involved in electioneering at any level. However, we certainly ask our swayamsevaks to actively participate in the election process as enlightened citizens. We expect them to encourage other citizens to utilise their democratic right of vote and ensure that maximum voting takes place in their respective areas.

What will be the role of the Sangh's various offshoots in the elections?

They will encourage their ordinary members to actively play the role of enlightened citizens who have the good of the country at heart. Like the BJP, these outfits are otherwise independent organisations and, hence, the Sangh doesn't give any directive to them about the elections.

(Interviewed by Amita Shah)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Deccan Herald Interview

'An umbilical cord connects the BJP and the RSS at ideological level'
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is playing a major role yet again in setting the controversy-riddled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) house in order. However, its affable spokesperson Ram Madhav refuses to accept that. In an interview with Bharti Nath of Deccan Herald, he defends the RSS and its ideology, which he says, is against any kind of violence in the name of religion. Excerpts:
By making Narendra Modi the poll panel chief, hasn't the BJP brought out Modi detractors within the party and outside in the open?

There are no Modi detractors in the BJP - not to my knowledge. Not a single person has spoken against Modi. Advani hasn't spoken against Modi. Whatever reservations he had, he has taken them back. The BJP leaders had taken a decision together in Goa which was attended by all except Advani. In their own wisdom they got together, discussed and took a decision. The RSS doesn't comment on a decision taken by the BJP leadership unanimously. We feel whatever decision is taken together must be in the interest of the party and the country.
Both Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik have walked away from the NDA. Your reactions.Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik are the best judges of the situation. They took a decision which they thought is in their interest.
Very often, the RSS comes forward to "counsel" the BJP leaders - the latest being Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat placating LK Advani. Doesn't it amount to intervention in BJP's internal affairs?

There were some developments in the last few days but they have ended well. Everything has been sorted out. Advaniji is a tall and a highly respected leader of the country. He had certain reservations over the way things were happening. He took a decision which startled many people. Many tried to persuade him to take back his decision including the NDA allies. That doesn't amount to intervening in party affairs. In a similar manner, the RSS chief also suggested that keeping in view the interest of the party and his colleagues. You must understand that Advaniji and Bhagwatji both belong to the same ideological school and both share mutual goodwill and respect.
Why don't you declare the BJP the political wing of the RSS instead of staying in denial mode?

If the BJP was a political wing, we would say that. But it is not. RSS members work in different fields and some of them work in the BJP which is political field. So we have an umbilical cord that connects both the organisations at ideological level. But at an organisational level, these are two independent entities. The RSS doesn't get into day to-day politics and we don't have any political wing per se. Ideologically, the closest party for the RSS members to join is the BJP. The concept of cultural unity of this country is shared by the BJP.
After the rift in the BJP and its souring relations with National Democratic Alliance partners, do you think the BJP will be able to form the next government at the Centre?People of the country will decide in the next election. If you ask me what will happen to RSS in 2014, I can tell that the number of 'shakhas' will increase but how can I predict who will be the prime minister. People want a good change in this country. They will vote accordingly and there will be a change. People are not disillusioned with politics altogether, maybe with one party or a leadership.

Instead of "Hindutva nationalism", why doesn't the RSS practice an ideology which is acceptable to all Indians?

The essence of "Hindutva nationalism" is respecting all forms of religion. We don't believe in dividing the society on any lines. We treat India as one. That's the true essence of secularism and that's what we stand for - and that is what Hindutva is. Many people understand what we say but there are others who get influenced by the negative propaganda made for political reasons. Many people preach secularism but in reality practice what is against secularism.
Most of the leaders in the BJP have their roots in the RSS, yet when in power they are corrupt and autocratic. In Karnataka, The BJP lost power because of that.

This is an important question but directed to a wrong person. The BJP has analysed the reasons and it will do what it has to. In election parties win, parties lose; it's not the end of the road for the party. If some things need to be corrected, the BJP will do. People aren't disenchanted with the BJP. It got 10-15 per cent of vote. RSS association or not, political leaders have to fulfill certain expectations of people. If they don't, there will be consequences. The RSS is frequently associated with communal violence - what do you have to say about it?

Any violence in the name of the religion is wrong. The RSS never supports, never subscribes, never sponsors any form of violence in the name of religion. This is our committed position on using violence as the means to perpetuate ideas. Secondly, efforts to link the RSS to certain incidents are part of political vendetta. The RSS wasn't involved in any of those incidents. The RSS has in fact asked the government of the day to act against the culprits. Only thing that we are clear in our mind is that nobody should create an atmosphere which leads to violence. We live in a society which is heterogeneous and we have to follow certain values where we respect each other; we don't trample upon sentiments of the others. "I am minority, I have the right to do anything, you are the majority so you should tolerate" - that also is not acceptable. We have to live as one society so we have to respect each other. If everybody follows this, scope for violence will be minimal.

My Interview on

India should register its views forcefully and forthrightly with China says Shri Ram Madhavji
(Excerpts from an interview with Shri Ram Madhav)

Animated Shri Ram Madhavji during an interview

Q : What, according to you, are the issues should India raise with China during the visit of Chinese premiere to India?
See, there is an English saying that you can not choose your parents. You can apply this to countries also. You can not choose your neighbors. But, unfortunately in India’s case, we voluntarily picked up two neighbors. One is Pakistan, which was our own creation. It was carved out of India in 1947. You know certain historical, I would say, blunders committed by the then leadership of the country. The other country, China, never in the long history was a neighbor to India. We had a buffer state between these two big countries, but again, due to our own mistakes, our own lack of foresight or vision whatever you say, we allowed China to occupy Tibet through a continuous aggression for ten years and by 1960, China stood on our borders and that also became our neighbor. And from then till date, India and China and the other country which was created by us as our neighbor, India and Pakistan have been facing not so friendly neighborly relations. Now, I would not say that India has hostile neighbors all around, but major hostility is with these two countries.
At a time when the Premiere of China visiting India, there are several important issues that we would want Government of India to raise before him, talk out with him and convey our concerns and our views on several of these issues in a very forthright manner to the Premiere of China. Most important is the tensions along the line of actual control. This line of actual control is not really the border between these two countries. Line of actual control is a line which we were forced to accept after Chinese aggression on India in 1962. It is 50 years since that aggression happened. We lost huge territory to China in 1962. China after occupying that territory, stood at a place from where it continues to nibble away our borders. Its armies commit huge encroachments. In the last three years there were thousands of reported incursions by Chinese army into Indian Territory. This is a deliberate provocation continuously perpetuated by the Chinese army. This has to stop. India has always stood for peaceful neighborly relations. But, these continuous violations of line of actual control create unnecessary tensions and they increase the hostile atmosphere between the two countries. So India has to tell the premiere of China that China should desist from these incursions.
Secondly, for India and China to move forward as friendly neighbors, China needs to give up this aggressive behavior towards India. Many times we find Chinese media, Chinese think tank and intellectuals raising issues that concern the integrity of India. Many times they raise issues that concern the sovereignty of India. For example, questions are raised about whether states such as Arunachal Pradesh belong to India or not. These are deliberate provocations. Arunachal Pradesh has been, is and will continue to be an integral part of India. For China to raise it time and again, if not officially, through its other agencies is a deliberate provocation. It is unacceptable to India. India could have raised so many issues. India could have raised questions about provinces such as XinJiang. There are many issues on which there are disputes in China whereas Arunachal question is settled long before that it is an integral part of India.
Similarly, there were earlier some Chinese websites talking about India being dismembered into 15 to 16 different nations. This is the kind of discourse that happens in Chinese intellectual circles. Government of India should take very strong measures. it should register its strong protest to China and tell china that for better future relations of these two countries, there needs to be a more friendly, more peaceful behavior from Chinese side. India has always demonstrated a very peaceful and a very friendly attitude towards China.
A few years ago, there was a breakdown of one dam system in China which resulted in flash floods causing huge damage to kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. This happened because of an incident of breakdown in river dam in China. India wanted its engineers to go and study the situation so that the future protective measures could be taken by us in our country. China refused to allow our engineers and we remained silent. Now, on Brahmaputra, China is building innumerable number of dams and trying to divert rivers, knowing well that on Brahmaputra waters, as a downstream country, India too has specific rights over the waters of Brahmaputra. Even then, India has only urged China not to divert the waters of Brahmaputra. Disrespecting India’s concerns and demands, China is going ahead building dams on Brahmaputra. These kinds of gestures by China are not helpful in creating friendly neighbor relations.
So India should place these concerns before China. India and China are two big countries in this region and together they should move forward. Together they should try and ensure peace in the world. Instead, if China continues its aggressive maneuvers towards India, then India too, being equally big country, should register its views forcefully and forthrightly.
Q: We often hear a term "Trust Deficit" about the relations between India and China. What are your views on this?
Trust deficit is a very catchy phrase to underplay the Chinese aggressive maneuvers and try to show that as though both the countries have a problem. Problem is created by China. It is China’s attitude and its actions that cause serious problems to India. What has India done to cause any Trust deficit in China? So this trust deficit is a very catchy phrase that is used by intellectuals to justify certain actions of China which are certainly provocative for India. So what is needed is for China to change its attitude. I would say there is a cultural difference. Manifestation of Indian culture is such that you don’t behave in any provocative or aggressive manner with anybody whereas China has different cultural trait in it because of which it has strained relations not only with India but also with almost all of its neighbors. It has strained relations with Mangolia, Russia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines. You name a country, it has some complaint against China. This could have something to do with its cultural approach. So, probably that could be a justifiable reason, but this whole argument of trust deficit is like equating both the countries, the aggressor and the victim.                 
Q: You were mentioning that China claims Arunachal Pradesh. On what basis, China is claiming any rights on Arunachal Pradesh? Are there any cultural/historical rights that let China claim Arunachal Pradesh?
China does not have any cultural or historical rights to claim even territories of Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mangolia, Manchuria and all other territories. You must understand that right from the Han-kingdom days, China has always demonstrated a very expansionist and aggressive political approach. It has annexed territories, it continues to demonstrate such expansionist attitude even to this day. Not just Arunachal Pradesh, on and off, it raises the issue of Sikkim. It continuously raised the issue for several years ofthe entire Ladakh region being a part of their country. So, this is the Chinese attitude of expansionism. They say that Arunachal Pradesh is actually south Tibet. Why is it South Tibet? There is no historical reason to claim that it is south Tibet. In one of their magazines, they said that graves of ancestors of some Tibetans are located in Arunachal Pradesh. So, those Tibetans want the territory on which the graves exist to be a part of Tibet. Can this be an argument? Tomorrow, applying the same argument every country can claim the territories of another country. These are the very flimsy grounds on which China rakes up these issues but the real issue is that China has the tendency of expansionism. And India has paid enough price. Not just India but countries like Tibet have paid the price of their independence to the China’s expansionism. So we have to be very careful about the China’s claims over Arunachal Pradesh.
Q: It has been over 50 years since the war with China. Have we learnt any lessons from that and demonstrated applying those lessons?
Unfortunately the last 50 years of our relations with China, the way we conducted those relations, give us an impression that we have not learnt any lessons from the 1962 war. It is true that it has been 50 years since then, but there is nothing to celebrate because it was a war in which we were humiliated in many ways. Firstly, our territory was occupied, we faced a very bitter defeat, more than 5000 soldiers were killed, we lost precious lives of our soldiers and most importantly we were cheated. We believed in the words of China when we gave this slogan together with Chou-en-Lie in 1954 that “Hindi – Chini Bhai Bhai” (Indians – Chinese were brothers ). We believed in that slogan, but finally what we faced was, I would use the harsh word, that we were cheated. We were misled. But there were reasons. We failed to understand China. I would like to refer one classic example –in 1954 when we signed ‘Panchsheel’ with china, Nehru told the Indian parliament that ‘Panchasheel’ is about peaceful coexistence between the neighbors, India and China have signed this agreement of peaceful coexistence. Just 8 years down the line we had a major war. Few months before the war, Mao said a classic thing which demonstrates the mindset of China. When Chou-en-lie reminded him of Panchasheel and this whole business of peaceful co-existence, Mao tells Chou-en-lie to go and tell Nehru that India and China should learn, not peaceful co-existence, but armed coexistence. Of course it was too late by then, we could not be really armed to know the coexistence with armed and armies. But 5 decades down the lane have we learnt the lesson that with China we have to behave with strength. Unfortunately, successively we conceded direct/indirect defeats to China – 1987, China occupied our territory. We begged, pleaded and it took 6 full years to make Chinese go back but on the condition that India also will go back. They came inside our territory, we tried to stop them and after 6 years  the agreement  was they will  go back but we also will go back . That means we lose our territory. We claimed that it was peace and tranquility agreement. This was the great agreement we entered with China.
                See what happened just one week or 10 days before. China occupies Indian Territory, penetrates deep inside our territory. Firstly the government tries to underplay saying it was only 10 km inside India. Then after some time they say “no, it was not 10km, it was 19 km”. But the final truth was that they came 27 km inside our territory and what was the response of our government? Our foreign minister was on record saying that there was perceptional difference with regard to the border demarcation. Now, if it is perceptional difference, have we ever tried to go to that side? Can there be a perceptional difference of 27 km? If it is perceptional difference, then it will be 2km or 1km.They came 27 km inside our territory and we say “No, No it is just perceptional difference”. We heard our foreign minister saying in Beijing that both India and China have agreed to go back .Where is the question of India going back?. We have never encroached the territory of china. That means again you have conceded territory to China.
                So it only shows that we have not learnt the lesson that Mao wanted us to learn –Mao said you should learn how to live with china and you should know how to have an armed coexistence policy. Instead, we are still believing in that peaceful coexistence policy. Our foreign minister declared –“ I will go to Beijing  and talk it out with China” as though through talks he can solve it.. Indian leadership should therefore understand that China’s attitude towards India has not changed since 1950. Unfortunately we have also not learnt any lessons from 1950 . While china is continuing with its aggressionist policy of nibbling away our territories and we are continuing with our policy of Bhoodan, allowing our neighbors to occupy our territories at their own will.
Q: We also have an annoying problem with Pakistan and with the nexus between China and Pakistan.  What is your view on China giving a lot of infrastructural and arm support to Pak?
At one point in time Pakistan was an independent country. We had problems with it which we had tried to solve. We had 2 wars with Pakistan. But today Pakistan is simply a proxy of China. Today Pakistan and China have developed very intimate relationship. Pakistan has passed on nearly 5000 sq. km. of the occupied Indian Territory to China in Karakoram area. That territory is used by China to connect to Pakistan’s main land through which today it has access to Karachi and ports in Sindh. It has reached up to Gwadar port. Pakistan and China are very close friends. Today Pakistani army has a major presence in Karakoram area. Thus, not just on our  Eastern front, but also on the northern front today china is sitting on top of  our Jammu and Kashmir. So China and Pakistan have emerged as a major nexus against India. It is everybody’s view that the nuclear capability of Pakistan is mainly because of the support extended by China. China has done the same thing with several other countries such as North Korea, which is today regarded as a proxy of China. Pakistan is also today acting as a proxy of china only. So this is an enhanced threat to India. Pakistan by itself is a major nuisance for India. It thrives only and only on hatred for India. The very survival of Pakistan depends on hate for India. Pakistan continues to promote various anti-Indian activities – terrorism, drugs, fake currency infusion into India and radical-Islamism being exported into India through madarasas etc. All these actively been done   by Pakistan from several decades. Added to that, it has today joined with another arch anti-Indian country like China. Together they have formed into an axis to contain, control and trouble India.
Q: How should Bharat handle the threat from China?  There are very few knowledgeable citizens who would boycott Chinese products but on the major scale how would we handle this?
China’s challenge to India is actually two-fold. China applies multiple strategies. It had a very Great War strategist, by name Sun-Tzu, whose life period is described as some 2000 years ago. He authored a book called “Art of War”. One of the principles he suggests in it is that you should not have a single strategy against your enemy but you should have multiple strategies and multiple targets. China applies that in letter and spirit. Today China on one hand uses its military might to bother India to put pressure on India, but at the same time China also uses its engagement with various sections of our society, in a way, to suck India into its own vortex. I would say China uses three pronged strategy. One  is engagement. It engages different sections of our society or our country. It engages at trade and commerce level in a very big way. Today India and China’s trade engagement is boasted by the government to be around $70 billion. What the government does not tell is that it is hugely uneven trade relationship. Of the $70 billion, $60 billion is the India’s imports from China, whereas our exports are only $10 billion, the net deficit being a huge $50 billion. This trade deficit can tomorrow become a major handle for China to exploit India. China does it with many countries. It used one airbus order to a company in France to control the entire European Union. China knows how to use trade to achieve its political objectives. India, not realizing this, is allowing China a free run in our country through its trade. Here comes the role of people. This trade has become possible because we have got used to consuming huge quantities of Chinese goods in our country. Right from the electrical appliances to our day to day items and even our religious items like Ganesh idols are brought from China. The furniture we use comes from China. Even the fabric is coming from China. It is resulting in a huge loss to our own industry. On one hand, thousands of our factories are being shut down and many companies turning bankrupt while on the other hand we are increasingly depending on China. Here the people have their role. If necessary they must tighten their belts. They should be ready to spend an extra penny to purchase an item produced by an Indian company. They should try and avoid using Chinese products. The second thing that China is doing as a part of its engagement policy is sending its technology. Today, in the power sector, telecommunication sector, huge amount of Chinese technology is entering India. Its hardware, software is entering our country. Technology is entering in many ways into India. Companies like Huwei have a huge presence in our telecommunication industry. Many of the telecommunication stations have equipment that belongs to China. Today, most of the private power generating units in India are manufactured by Chinese companies. China is trying to slowly suck India into its system through its technology. This is where this engagement can become a major trouble spot for India in future. America has disallowed the Huwei Company to enter it. They take many measures to prevent the Chinese companies from exploiting their markets whereas, we are like a choultry where anybody can come and do anything they want. People need to be more alert and careful about such engagement which is not of our interest. In a short run we may feel the products to be cheap, but everybody knows that they lack quality and on the other hand our own industry is collapsing and we are sucked into its economy.
                The second is encirclement. There  the major role is of the government. Today, China is encircling India. As I said, China has its proxy in Pakistan. Bangladesh is their good friend. They have their major presence down below Myanmar in a place called Coco islands, which is just about 50 nautical miles from our last island of Andaman and Nicobar chain, very close to India. China, which used to have a listening post there, has now developed a full-fledged military base, just on our borders. They have a major presence in Sri Lanka. They caused huge embarrassment and humiliation to us in Maldives. They have their presence in Sindh at Gwadar port. They have practically encircled India from all the sides. This is the second type of danger that we face from China. Here, it is not just the people, it has to be the government, it has to be pro-active, and it has to engage with the neighbors. In War, there are number of techniques all of which can not be discussed on camera, but the Governments have to have strategies to tackle these kinds of threats.
The third thing that China does is that it always sides with your enemies, encourages your enemy. We should very be careful. Wherever there is an Indian interest involved, China jumps in  and mobilizes the anti-Indian forces to ensure that India’s interests are blocked. Whether it is Asian development bank funding, or United Nations related matters, you find China to be siding always with our enemies. Have we ever found China on our side in the last five decades? We were responsible for China getting a seat in Security Council. It was Nehru, who continuously campaigned for a seat for China in Security Council. After joining Security Council, right from the Kashmir issue to the Arunachal issue and on many other issues, China is always found to be on our opposite side. This is China. There the role of government becomes very important. But, having said this, I must tell you that I am not saying that India must have a confrontation with China. We are not war mongers. When Paramapujyaniya Guruji, the second chief of RSS, cautioned the government of India in early 1950s about the impending danger of China occupying Tibet, he said that once China completely occupies Tibet, then  China stands on our borders and China known to be an expansionist natured country and will be a threat to India. Those days, he was blamed to be a war monger. History showed that what he said turned out to be true. In 1962, China attacked India and encroached upon our territory. Even today when we ( the RSS ) alert the government about the maneuvers  and intentions of China, some people may accuse us of provoking tensions. But the fact is that we want peaceful neighborly relations, but we cannot have a clap with one hand. China continuing with its aggressive maneuvers and India alone talking about peace does not help. So India has to follow Mao’s advice. It has to learn to live with an armed China in an armed existence manner and has to show some strength. India should be very clear that India’s legitimate rights must be respected by China. It cannot support India’s enemies on international forum. It cannot put military pressure on India over the line of actual control (LAC) which is not even a border. India should show courage over these matters and have more friends in the region. India should befriend Taiwan, which unfortunately even to this day does not enjoy a status of country. India does not recognize Taiwan.  India should have more friendly relations with many countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, Phillipenes, Japan, Mangolia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Myanmar especially. Most importantly, today, the Indian Ocean region is emerging as a future battlefield. India should encourage the countries in this region such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka to ensure that the Indian Ocean region remains peaceful. India should take the lead. We all should come together to ensure that this region does not become a future battlefield between big powers.These are some of the things on which India has to act proactively. When Mr. Narasimharao was the prime minister of India, India declared ‘look east’ policy in 1993. The idea was to reach out to the nations of south-east Asia and bring them closer to India. Unfortunately,  it remained a slogan for almost a decade. But when Mr. Vajpayee became the prime minister he converted this ‘look-east’ policy into ‘act-east’ policy. He proactively took steps to bring these countries closer, he travelled to those countries. Today India has to take it forward and create much more bonhomie between India and other ASEAN countries. All this is needed to ensure peace in this region. India has to have the big picture in mind and act as a big country, as a country with 5000 year old civilization, as a responsible country that has a message to give to the whole world. Instead the present government behaves as a very weak, meek and a submissive country does.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chinese Aggression - India's Response

The Chinese had come in, pitched their tents for almost three weeks well inside the Indian territory - initially it was said that they had come in some 10 KMs inside and later announced that it was 19 KMs - and after three futile flag meetings they themselves have withdrawn, as per the latest media reports. These three weeks have seen a flurry of activity in India. The Government, the Opposition, the Army, the media and the intellectuals - everybody was seen reacting to the blatant violation of Indian sovereignty by the Chinese Army in their respective ways.

As usual, the Government response has been lacklustre and devoid of any commitment to or vision for India's territorial integrity. It appeared clueless as to how to handle this blatant and belligerent aggression of China and waiting with fingers crossed for the miracle of the Chinese' withdrawal. Rather than reassuring the nation about its commitment and ability to protect Bharat's territorial integrity the Government betrayed only confusion, rhetoric and a very political attitude of trying to underplay things with a view to misleading the nation.

The Prime Minister called it a 'localised issue' while the Foreign Minister repeated the same old myth that the boundary between the two countries has not been demarcated so far. It is a myth because the Chinese side has not deliberately supplied the border maps for last twenty years in spite of the understanding for exchange of the same. That we have clearly demarcated LAC and that has been violated by the Chinese, and this violation is not a lone incident and it has happened more than a thousand times in last three years ...... all these facts have been suppressed from the countrymen. In stead our Foreign Minister is repeating the same argument that the Chinese Foreign Minister had made a couple of days ago, that there was a 'perceptional difference over the boundary line'.

This kind of self-deception would be suicidal for the nation. The Government's attitude amply demonstrates that after 50 years of the 1962 Chinese Invasion we have not learnt any lessons about our preparedness nor have we understood the Chinese machinations. We are committing the same follies that Pt. Nehru had committed, of trying to appease the aggressors, downplaying the possible consequences and betraying the laughable innocence that everything can be settled through talks.

We are in the 50th year of the disastrous Sino-Indian War. There is nothing to celebrate. But it certainly is a time for the Government to revisit the 1962 experience, learn lessons and show maturity and courage in handling the impending situation. As part of his obsession with Panchsheel Prime Minister Nehru used to often talk about the principle of  'Peaceful Coexistence' between neighbours India and China. In a tactical and timely response to that, Chairman Mao had famously observed in 1961 that what India and China should learn is 'Armed Coexistence'. It was too late for India to understand the import of Mao's observation and the '62 War resulted in a humiliating defeat because of our unpreparedness. In fact that was a war that India had never fought. Time has come for us to understand the rules of engagement with China.

It is pertinent here to refer to a Resolution that was passed by the RSS at its Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) in March 2011.

"The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha expresses serious concern over the growing multi-dimensional threat from China and the lackluster response of the Government of Bharat to its aggressive and intimidator tactics. Casual attitude and perpetual denial of our Government in describing gross border violations by the Chinese People's Liberation Army as a case of 'lack of common perception on the LAC', attempts to underplay the severe strategic dissonance between the two countries and failure to expose the expansionist and imperialist manouvers of China can prove fatal to our national interests", the resolution warned.

It made the following recommendations to the Government with regard to India's relations with China.

"1.  Reiterate the Parliament's unanimous resolution of 1962 to get back the territory acquired by China to the last inch.

2.Take effective measures for rapid modernization and upgradation of our military infrastructure. Special focus should be on building infrastructure in the border areas. Towards that, constitution of a Border Region Development Agency should be considered which would help prevent the migration of the people from the border villages.

3.Use aggressive diplomacy to expose the Chinese' designs globally. Use all fora including ASEAN, UN etc for mobilizing global opinion.

4.Disallow Chinese manufacturing industry free run in our markets. Prohibit Chinese products like toys, mobiles, electronic and electrical goods etc. Illegal trade being carried out through the border passes must be curbed with iron hand.

5.Follow strict Visa norms and maintain strict vigil on the Chinese nationals working in Bharat.

6.Restrict the entry of Chinese companies in strategic sectors and sensitive locations.

7.Mobilize the lower riparian states like Myanmar, Bangladesh etc to tell China to stop their illegal diversion of river waters."

All these suggestions are very important. But how far the Government can show the determination to take on the aggressive neighbour is a big question. China has cancelled the meeting of the Finance Ministers of Japan, S Korea and China as a mark of protest to the visit of some Japanese Parliamentarians to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where the graves of the World War 2 Generals of Japanese Army are situated. That is how swiftly China reacts to any insult to its sovereignty even if it happens on a foreign territory. The unwillingness of our Government to announce the cancellation of the visit of our Foreign Minister to China later this month is baffling. In fact we should also unilaterally call off the forthcoming visit of the Chinese Premier Li Keqing towards the end of May.

Bilateral economic relations also must be reviewed from the national security angle. Our Government underplays the fact that we share a huge trade deficit in bilateral trade with China with $ 60 billion imports and $ 10 billion exports. We must drastically curtail this trade to protect our economy from being sucked in by China, even if that meant tightening our belts and spending some extra dollars for imports from other countries.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must not repeat the mistake of 1962 by thinking that it was a 'localised problem' borne out of 'perceptional differences' over 'un-demarcated' boundary. It is unfortunate that some intellectuals were seen trying to minimise the import of the Chinese aggression by claiming that the internal politics in China and troubles in leadership transition were responsible for the Chinese' actions. Some of them even tried to indirectly blame Bharat claiming that our border infrastructure building activity must have been the provocation for the Chinese actions. Our Government should not be influenced by such misleading 'expert opinion'. Any complacency in addressing the challenge thrown by China through this open aggression will prove very costly.

Our Government must pursue the policy of strengthening border infrastructure on Indo-Tibetan border with much more vigour and perseverance. Special attention should be paid to the borders in Arunachal Pradesh like the Tawang region anticipating surprise aggression by China.

Bharat has historically practised the principle of world peace. However, it should not forget the dictum that 'to be prepared for war is the best way of ensuring peace'.

Thursday, May 2, 2013



Paper Presented at
2nd ASSE International Conference on
Nation, Nationality, Nationhood: What is in the Name?
On 2–3 May 2013 at Tirana, Albania


Nation, nationalism and nationhood are relatively new concepts as far as the West is concerned. It was in the 18th and 19th centuries that the discourse on what constitutes nation had really gained currency and momentum. However, even at the turn of 21st century no single definition for nation and nationality could be agreed upon.

Joseph Stalin in hiswork ‘Marxism and the National Problem’ described nationa as a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. Many Marxist historians like Eric Hobsawm argued that nationalism defies any definition. Benedict Anderson viewed nations as imagined communities.

Paul Gilbert, in his work The Philosophy of Nationalism, describes seven categories of nations – Nominalist, Naturalist, Voluntarist, Territorial, Linguistic, Axiological, Destinarian. Cultural dimension to nation discourse was added recently by scholars like Samuel Huntington, Lawrence E. Harrison etc.

In India, the concept of nation existed for millennia in the form of a pan-Indian spiritual-emotional identity. In Rig Veda, the most ancient work of Hindu seers, the word ‘Raashtram’ was used to describe the national identity of the people of the land called Bharatavarsha. ‘Raashtram’ is a uniquely Indian concept for nationhood founded essentially on the spiritual foundations. Thus ‘Raashtram’ as an idea is a unifying and development-oriented (Abhyudayam) concept as against today’s concept of nation which has been a major source of political conflict and violence throughout last three centuries.

This paper explores the epistemology of the word ‘Raashtram’ and determines how it has acted as a catalyst for the gradual evolution of the Indian national identity over millennia. This spiritual-emotional identity of ‘Raashtram’ is the principal unifying factor of Indian nation through the centuries. It is this identity that was invoked by the Indian freedom fighters of all hues – from the revolutionaries to the Gandians alike – in their efforts to rouse the Indian nation against the foreign yoke of the British in 19th and 20th centuries.

A profound understanding of this concept helps in evolving new theories and concepts of nationhood that are based on universal ethical and spiritual principles. Such understanding of the concept of nation in the light of the idea of ‘Raashtram’ will help forge a world free of sectarian nationalist conflict and misery.

*          *          *

Nation, Nationalism and Nationality are essentially European ideas which evolved in the 18th & 19th centuries. Emergence of Nation States in Europe and their expansion into America was the first catalyst for the discourse on the concept of Nationhood in the West. This discourse is still on, and no one definition or explanation can fully and comprehensively explain this concept.

Nation-states: A History of Just Two Centuries

One of the main reasons for this lack of clarity is the relatively recent exposure of the world to this concept. Nation States came into existence hardly two centuries ago in Europe. "The concept of nation-states, i.e. that the aspirations of the people that constitute a nation are best served by a common political entity is considered a relatively recent idea in Europe from the 18th century. Nationalism led to the formation of nation-states and modern countries. This development was followed up with a gradual hardening of state boundaries with the passport and visa regime that followed it", says Sankrant Sanu in an enlightening article "Why India Is a Nation".

Many European nations that we see today didn't exist 200 years ago or 300 years ago. We heard of monarchs and royals earlier, but the Nation States that we see today came into being much later. Their boundaries too kept changing in the last two centuries. Two World Wars witnessed great changes in the geography of many of these Nation States and the disputes about their boundaries and their very existence are contested by many groups to this day. Take the case of the Scots in the UK or the Flemish in Belgium or the Kurds in Turkey... they all challenge the Nation State they live in and say they are a different Nation.

History of the United Kingdom in last two hundred years itself is a testimony to the upheavals that the concept of Nation State has endured. England, Scotland and Wales got together in 1702 to form what is called the Great Britain. Even then they retained different laws and held on to separate National Churches. Scotland had a Presbyterian Church for a very long time to which many of its citizens adhere to. It is in a way the national Church of Scotland and is known as Kirk in that country. It is essentially a Protestant Church. The British continue to have the Anglican Christianity as their State Religion. Although an Anglican Church, the Church of Wales has its own Arch Bishop who is independent of the Anglican Establishment of England.

Using political, military and religious power Great Britain abolished the Irish Parliament and annexed Ireland in 1801. Thus what we today call as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland emerged. However the Catholic majority never accepted this arrangement and a long, often bloody, struggle followed, which culminated in the collapse of the arrangement of the United Kingdom. Catholic majority areas of South Ireland seceded from the UK to emerge again as the Republic of Ireland, although the Anglican Church ensured that its followers, who have by then become a dominant group in Northern Ireland, continue their allegiance to the United Kingdom. Thus the Nation State of UK that we see today can boast not even a century's history.

Even American history also tells the same story. The Anglo Saxon aggressors, who sailed to the shores of the east Coast of America and anchored near Boston were hardly in control of less than 10% of geographical entity of what is today called the United States of America at the advent of the 18th Century.

At the time of the great American Revolution in 1776 when the 13 British Colonies came under one umbrella led by Thomas Jefferson and declared independence from the British Parliament's control, their geographical area was limited to the area covering the States on today's East Coast of the USA. Texas and California joined in 1845 after the Mexican War and Hawaii became a State in 1900. Seen from this historical background the United States of America as a Nation State is not more than two centuries old.

Also important to note here is the discourse as to whether the Nation State called the USA has really become a nation or not. The Second Continental Congress had declared independence in July 1776 and adopted the United States Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in American society, government and ways of thinking. Americans rejected the aristocracies that dominated Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. In 1788 the new American Constitution was adopted. The Bill of Rights, the most important part of the US Constitution was adopted in 1891. It is this Bill of Rights that keeps the diverse American peoples as one. However skeptics like Samuel Huntington questioned this very feeble foundation of American identity. In his important work 'Who Are We' Huntington raises the crucial question as to whether the United States of America had really become one nation. His answer was in the negative although his thesis was about creating one national identity for entire America which he described as 'Protestant Ethic without Organised Church'.

The Nation States in Africa were a creation of the Colonists. During 1884 - 1885, European nations met at the Berlin West Africa Conference to discuss the partitioning of Africa. It was agreed that European claims to parts of Africa would only be recognised if Europeans provided effective occupation. In a series of treaties in 1890–1891, colonial boundaries were completely drawn. All of sub saharan Africa was claimed by European powers, except for Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia. Germans too were major players in this game at that time. But what is most important to note here is the fact that not a single representative of the African people was involved when the Colonial masters were redrawing the boundaries and creating the Nation States in Africa.

There are a few countries that can claim much longer history. For example countries in South America like Mexico and countries in Eurasia like Egypt, Turkey etc. But here again the Nation States of all these countries are of very recent origin and had nothing to do with their ancient past. The Aztec culture that was prevalent in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest has remained only as a museum item and mark of pride while the present day has become Hispanic in language, religion and culture. Same is the case with countries like Egypt and Turkey etc. The ancient kingdoms of Mesopotamia, Egypt etc had lost all their traces in the modern Nation States of Egypt, Italy, Turkey etc.

All this points to the fact that the global understanding of the concept of Nation, Nationhood etc is based on models that are short-lived and shifting their bases constantly. Yet, based on the experience of last two centuries various scholars have tried to develop theories for Nation and Nationalism. Ethnicity, language, kinship, culture, territory and several other factors have been enumerated as the basis for Nationalism. All this has ended in definitional confusion with regard to Nation and Nationality.

What is the European concept of Nation and Nationhood?

Despite these definitional worries, there was a fair amount of agreement among the modern western scholars about what is historically the most typical, paradigmatic form of nationalism. It is the one which features the supremacy of the nation's claims over other claims to individual allegiance, and which features full sovereignty as the persistent aim of its political program. Territorial sovereignty has traditionally been seen as a defining element of state power, and essential for nationhood. It was extolled in classic modern works by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

The territorial state as political unit is seen by nationalists as centrally ‘belonging’ to one ethnic-cultural group, and actively charged with protecting and promulgating its traditions. This form is exemplified by the classical, “revivalist” nationalism, that was most prominent in the 19th century in Europe and Latin America.

In other words, a nation is any group of people aspiring to a common political state-like organization.

Some scholars have added cultural dimension to the definition. Michel Seymour in his proposal of a “socio-cultural definition” states that nation is a cultural group, possibly but not necessarily united by a common descent, endowed with civic ties (Seymour 2000). By this definition, nation became a somewhat mixed category, both ethno-cultural and civic, but still closer to the purely ethno-cultural than to the purely civic extreme.

Definitional variations abound. The early German elaborations talk about “the spirit of a people”, while somewhat later ones, mainly of French extraction, talk about “collective mentality”. Isaiah Berlin, writing as late as the early seventies, proposed as a part of his definition of nationalism that it consists of the conviction that people belong to a particular human group, and that “…the characters of the individuals who compose the group are shaped by, and cannot be understood apart from, those of the group …”.

Classical nationalism of the western origin is the political program that sees the creation and maintenance of a fully sovereign state owned by a given ethno-national group (“people” or “nation”) as a primary duty of each member of the group.

There are some scholars who believed that the concept of Nation itself is artificial and imagined. Ernst Gellner observes that nationalism is an ‘invention’ or fabrication, “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness, it invents nation where they do not exist”. Benedict Anderson claims that nations are imagined communities.

Some modern day critics like Prof. Balagangadhara have argued that the European concept of Nation State has its origins in Christianity itself. They cite the story in Genesis of the Old Testament. According to the Old Testament there is a narrative of the City of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Everyone on earth spoke the same language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in the land of Shinar. People there sought to make bricks and build a city and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for themselves, so that they not be scattered over the world. God came down to look at the city and tower, and remarked that as one people with one language, nothing that they sought would be out of their reach. God went down and confounded their speech, so that they could not understand each other, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Thus the city was called Babel.

Ethno-Political or Ethno-Cultural form of Nationalism has led to the creation of a large number of Nation States in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It might have benefitted some, like the Israelis, the Belgians etc and continues to be seen as beneficial by groups like the Scots in UK, the Flemish in Belgium, the Kurds in Turkey and Iran and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. But it essentially is based on divisive and superiority sentiments.

Nation-states Alien to Indian Thought

Influenced by the Euro-centric discourse on Nation and Nationalism some Indian and British scholars have tried to apply the same Nation State concept to India as well. The British, who ruled over India for more than two centuries, were in the forefront arguing that India was never a Nation in th European sense of the term. Sir John Strachey, a Member in the Council of Secretary of State of the British Government wrote in 1888 : “This is the first and the most essential thing to learn about India that there is not and never was an India or even any country of India possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious. No Indian nation, no people of India’ of which we hear so much.” As late as 1930, the Simon Commission referred to India as a “conglomeration of races and religions.”

This Anglicised discourse on India's nationhood was taken forward by some Indian scholars also besides the European ones. Surendranath Benarjee authored a book titled "A Nation in the Making" describing India as a Nation that is slowly being built on the lines of the European Nation State model.

However, the European concept of Nation is alien to Indian thought. "The concept of nation itself is, in fact, alien to the Hindu temperament and genius. It is essentially Semitic in character, even if it arose in Western Europe in the eighteenth century when it had successfully shaken off the Church's stranglehold. For, like Christianity and Islam, it too emphasizes the exclusion of those who do not belong to the charmed circle (territorial, or linguistic, or ethnic) as much as it emphasizes the inclusion of those who fall within the circle. Indeed, the former, like the heretics and pagans in Christianity and Islam, are cast into outer darkness", writes eminent Indian author Girilal Jain.

Robindranatath Tagore too was critical of the West contrasting it with the Indian thought: "The civilisation of Ancient Greece was nurtured in the city walls. In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles of brick and mortar. The walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. Thus in Indiait was in the forests that our civilisation had its birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and environment. It was surrounded by the vast life of nature and had the closest and most constant intercourse with her varying aspects. Her aim was not to acquire but to realise, to enlarge her consciousness by growing into her surroundings. The West seems to take pride in thinking that it is subduing nature as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement of things. This sentiment is the product of the city wall habit and training of mind. But in India the point of view was different; it included the world with the man as one great truth.India put all her emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and the universal. The fundamental unity of creation was not simply a philosophical speculation for India; it was her life object to realise this great harmony in feeling and action".

In fact a land of such extreme diversity in language, religions, rituals and customs is a nightmare for and scholar to explain in terms of the modern Nation State concept. That leads us to the question of what is the identity of India if not a Nation in the European sense?

Rishi Aurobindo, one of the greatest saint-philosophers of 20th Century described Indian approach to Nationalism is the following words: "In Positivism Europe has attempted to arrive at a higher synthesis, the synthesis of humanity; and Socialism and philosophical Anarchism, the Anarchism of Tolstoy and Spencer, have even envisaged the application of the higher intellectual synthesis to life. In India we do not recognise the nation as the highest synthesis to which we can rise. There is a higher synthesis, humanity; beyond that there is a still higher synthesis, this living, suffering, aspiring world of creatures, the synthesis of Buddhism; there is a highest of all, the synthesis of God, and that is the Hindu synthesis, the synthesis of Vedanta. With us today Nationalism is our immediate practical faith and gospel not because it is the highest possible synthesis, but because it must be realised in life if we are to have the chance of realising the others. We must live as a nation before we can live in humanity."

Sri Aurobindo rejected the theory that the essential conditions of nationality are unity of language, unity of religion and life, and unity of race. He pointed out that the English nation itself was built out of various races, that Switzerland has distinct racial strains speaking three different languages and professing different religions, that in America the candidates for White House addressed at that time the nation in fourteen languages, that Austria is a congeries of races and languages and that the divisions in Russia are hardly less acute. He argued that the idea that unity in race, religion or language is essential to nationality is an idea which will not bear examination. He referred to the example of the Roman Empire, which created a common language, a common religion and life, and tried its best to crush out racial diversities under the weight of its uniform system, but it failed to make one great nation. In an illuminating passage, Sri Aurobindo defined the essential elements of nationality. He wrote:

“We answer that there are certain essential conditions, geographical unity, a common past, a powerful common interest impelling towards unity and certain favourable ‘political conditions which enable the impulse to realize itself in an organized government expressing the nationality and perpetuating its single and united existence. This may be provided by a part of the nation, a race or community, uniting the others under its leadership or domination, or by a united resistance to a common pressure from outside or within. A common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest is the most powerful fosterer of nationality."

Rashtram: The Enlightened Path

"Common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest" as basis of nationhood has been realised in India for Millennia. This is described aptly from the Vedic period as "Rashtram" or "Rashtra".

Rastram is etymologically explained as a firm, enlightened path for welfare of a community. The word is derived as a combination of two roots: ras'mi 'the sun' and sTha 'firm, placed in'. This leads to an extraordinary evocation in the Vedas: rastram me datta (Give me that lighted path).

In India, the concept of nation existed for millennia in the form of a pan-Indian spiritual-emotional identity. In Rig Veda, the most ancient work of Hindu seers, the word ‘Rashtram’ was used to describe the national identity of the people of the land called Bharatavarsha. ‘Rashtram’ is a uniquely Indian concept for nationhood founded essentially on the spiritual foundations. Thus ‘Rashtram’ as an idea is a unifying and development-oriented (Abhyudayam) concept as against today’s concept of nation, in which the basic urge to live together is not developed, and which has been a major source of political conflict and violence throughout last three centuries.

Rashtram – The Divine Mother

Rashtram has been invested with divinity and motherhood in the Vedas. Vak, one of the innumerable women composers of the hymns in Vedas says in the Pratham Mandala of Rig Veda:

Aham Rashtri Sangamani Vasunam Chikitushi Prathama Yagyiyanam – Rig Veda

I am the beholder of this Rashtra; benefactor of the gods; and first among the worshipped.

Thus an effort was made to infuse the sense of divinity, sacredness and motherhood in Rashtram from the times of Rig Veda. Most important aspect to note is that from time immemorial women were held in very high esteem in India and this hymn is the in a sense the originator of the concept of Bharat Mata – the Motherland Bharat. Rishi Aurobindo described her as Jagajjanani – the mother of all mothers – the Universal Mother. 

In the foreword to R.K. Mookerjee’s The Fundamental Unity of India, late Sir J. Ramsay MacDonald, ex-Prime Minister of Britain writes: “The Hindu regards India not only as a political unit naturally the subject of one sovereignty – whoever holds that sovereignty, whether British, Mohamedan, or Hindu – but as the outward embodiment, as the temple – nay, even as the goddess mother – of his spiritual culture… He made India the symbol of his culture; he filled it with this soul. In his consciousness, it was his greater self.”

Evolution of Rashtra

In Bharat there was evolution of Rashtra. The underlying concept was different. It is not similar to the theory of Nation in the West. There is a beautiful shloka in Atharva Veda which says:

Bhadram icchhantah rishiyah
swar vidayah, tapo dikshaamupanshed agre.
tato raashtram, bala, ojasya jaatam
tadasmai devaupasannmantu

It means that a bhadra icchha - a benign wish originated in the minds of ancient seers during the course of their penance. This benign wish was for Abhyudayam - the welfare and glory of all. This is not divisive and is not guided by the desire that I should get all pleasures. These rishis – sages were supremely learned and it was their benevolent wish.

Abhyudayam is material and spiritual wellbeing of the mankind. The above shloka mentions that the sages, through their penance and meditation, have realised this benign wish of the universal wellbeing and that wish has invigorated the consciousness of the Rashtram. The sages says that even gods bow before such consciousness of Rashtra. Now what is Rashtra here? This is not political but it is spiritual. This is for the welfare of all.

But the most important question is how to explain bhadra icchha (benign wish)? The entire philosophy of Rashtra emanates from this bhadra icchha (benign wish). A doctrine of Dharma was developed on the basis of this bhadra icchha.

Sage Kaṇāda in Vaiśeṣika Sūtra notes a definition of Dharma by its beneficial impact, focusing on discharge of one’s responsibility:

Yatobhyudaya nisreyasa siddhihi ca dharmah

"That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihśreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma". The Bhadra Icchha – Benign Wish of the sages was to secure this two-fold objective.

It is this Dharma which is the soul of the Rashtra. Swami Vivekananda described India as 'Dharma Praana Bhaarata' - 'Bharat with Dharma as soul'. This concept of National Soul is unique to India and that soul is 'Rashtra' - the quintessential national identity of India. Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya called it 'Chiti'. The first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his Western upbringing and Socialist convictions, had to appeal to this concept of the National Soul in his famous Tryst with Destiny address to the Indian Parliament on the midnight of 14/15 August 1947 when India became independent. He said:

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again."

The ideals that Nehru referred to as those that had given her strength were the ideals of Dharma. Dharma can be understood a set of values that define the ethical, spiritual life of India as a Rashtra. They include its outlook to life, creation, universe, god, state, wealth and everything else. It is these ideals on which the Indian nationhood - Rashtriyata - was founded and thrived. It is these ideals India 'never lost sight of' in her long journey through victories and vicissitudes.

Some of the fundamentals of Dharma can be enumerated briefly in order to underscore the difference between the concept of 'Rashtram' and 'Nation'.

On the question of Creation it believes:

* Isavasyam idam sarvam (Chapter 4: The Isavasya Upanishad).
The entire universe, animate and inanimate alike, is pervaded by Isvara - the divine consciousness.

On the question of ethnic, racial, linguistic and other difference in the world it proposes:

* Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
The entire world is one family.

On the economic question it talks about 'sustained consumption':

* tena tyaktena bhunjitah
One should acquire only that much which was left for him by Isvara

On the welfare question, it states:

* sarve bhavantu sukinah - sarve santu niramayah
Let ALL be happy and free from diseases

On the environment related questions, its proposition is:

* Mata bhumi putro'ham prithvyah (Atharva Veda 12|1|12)
This earth is my mother and I am her son.

On the question of religious diversity in the world, it proposes:

Indram mitram varunnamagnimaahutathoe divyah sa suparnoe garutmaan |
Ekam Sadvipraa bahudhaa Vadanti maatarisvaanamaahuh - Rig Veda
Truth is one; wise men interpret in different ways.

It has attained ultimate levels of tolerance, accommodation and celebration of pluralism on the earth.
nana vibrati bahudha vivacasam
nana dharmanam prithivi yathaukasam
sahasra dhara dravitasya ye duham
dhruvena dhamurenk pasphuranti

‘The earth is full of variety; it contains people speaking different dialects and speech, of diverse religious customs, each living according to what they think is right. The earth contains innumerable valuable things. It bears trees and plants of great diversity. We should pay homage to that Earth’.

Entire World is One Rashtram

However, one important dimension needs to be understood here. 'Rashtra' is not a political concept in the sense that it doesn't define any geographical boundaries. It is more an ethical, spiritual concept - a view and way of life. The sages of India concluded that this whole earth surrounded by oceans is one Rashtra

prithivyah samudra parayantaayah eak raat iti

Therefore the idea and concept of Rashtra is a philosophy here. It is a way of life and principles to live life which define relationship and expected behavior between people and other beings.

State under Rashtram

What is State under 'Rashtram'?. We need to look at this crucial question in order to understand the concept of 'Rashtram' fully. Contrary to Nation State concept Rashtram views State as one of the many institutions that help society pursue the path of Dharma. State, described as Rajya, is thus not coterminous with Rashtra.

The Aitereya Brahmana, one of the ancient scriptures of India describes 10 kinds of Rajyas under one Rashtra:

sAmrajyam. bhaujyam. svArajyam. vairajyam.
pArameShThyam. rajyam. MahArajyam Adhipatyamayam.
samantaparyAyI syAt. sArvabhauma sArvAyuSha AntAdAparArdhAt.

Chanakya, the great Indian political philosopher, states that Rajah - the King - is a servant of Dharma. Unlike in Nation States the Rajah enjoys no special privileges whatsoever. He is mandated to live like a commoner. The happiness of the Rajah lies in the happiness of his subjects. Even his powers as ruler are subject to the scrutiny of the Dharma. When a Rajah is coronated he would declare thrice - Adandyosmi - Nobody can punish me. A revered sage is then made to pronounce thrice - Dharmadandyosi - The Dharma will punish you.

Millinnia-old Experience of India as Rashtram

In India, this kind of Rashtra existed for Millennia as an ethical and spiritual idea pervading the entire national life of Hindus. There existed innumerable political units in the form of kings, vassals, principalities, self-governed republics and occasionally the monarchs. But they never interfered in the national life of the people. Their duties were limited to safety, order and development. In fact while the kings waged wars the society carried on with its daily life unhindered.

As a Rashtram it had the enormous catholicity to welcome and absorb any number of outside elements, whether they came as aggressors like the Huns, the Kushans, the Greeks etc or whether as refugees like the Parsis, the Zorastrians and the the Jews. When its boundaries were threatened the Rajah of entire Rashtram rose against the enemy. In fact the Rajah were mandated to secure the borders not only of their kingdoms, but also of the Rashtram.

In order to sustain this spirit of ethical and spiritual ideals various institutions were devised in India. Innumerable sacred places were strewn across the length and breadth of the country. Pilgrimages, festivals etc became important institutions in the life of the Rashtra instead of politics and Statecraft. A unique band of renounced individuals became the vehicles of this ethical, spiritual ideal across the country from place to place, time to time and generation to generation. They authored number of Dharma Shastras to guide the society in upholding the spirit of Rashtram in contemporary age. Great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to their innumerable forms in later ages became powerful instruments of carrying the message of the Rashtram through generations. That is the secret of India's uninterrupted life as a Rashtra for Millennia irrespective of the fact that it was never in history a united political entity.

To conclude, Rashtra is spiritual, all inclusive and is for the welfare of all. The foundation and the meaning behind it is not political or divisive. This Rashtra does not exist on the basis of rulers or army. This Rashtra has originated from the bhadra ichchha (benign wish) of the sages - rishis. This bhadra ichchha (benign wish) sees element of supreme soul in all, it propounds the idea of Ekam Sadvipraa bahudha vadanti and has a vision of sarve bhavantu sukhinah before it.

It is this bhadra ichchha, which has given rise to the Bharatiya Rashtram - Indian nation and sustains it through Dharma, that should be the basis for a new discourse on Nation and Nationality.

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