India haunted by innocent victim mentality

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/17 15:13:39

Neville Maxwell with his book India's China War Photo: Li Feng/GT

Editor's Note:

The 1970 book India's China War is considered an authoritative analysis of the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Author Neville Maxwell (Maxwell) points out in the book that India provoked China into the border war. Why do the border disputes between China and India remain unsettled? How should we interpret the impact of the 1962 border war on Indians? How can we cool the simmering standoff in the Doklam region? Global Times (GT) Australia-based correspondent Li Feng interviewed Maxwell over these issues.

GT: China and India have been locked in border disputes for decades. In your opinion, what are the differences between the two countries' attitudes over the border issue?

Maxwell: The border between China and India has never been settled. This is the fundamental point you have to keep in mind.

There is a diplomatic process by which a border or frontier is turned into a boundary.

Now, in all the thousands of kilometers between India and China, there is no agreed sector as most of it was unsettled and all of it is disputed.

Both sides have different views of where the border should lie.

India maintains that it has the right to decide where its borders lie by consulting history, myth and the current situation. It hopes the line they actual control becomes the border.

China, on the other hand, has many more neighbors. China has 14 different states bordering it. And very early on, China determined that it must negotiate with its neighbors to find agreed compromise lines. That was the opposite approach to the one which India followed.

India decided it would itself find its borders and impose them. The Chinese much more wisely decided we must discuss with our neighbors and agree by a process of compromise where our boundary lies.

Now the result is that of the 14 different nation states which border China, 12 of them have settled their borders with China, and the two outstanding ones are India and Bhutan.

Why? Because they refuse to negotiate. Each one insists, "We will tell you where the border lies," which makes a settlement unreachable. The border quarrel between India and China has never been resolved.

GT: In your book you mentioned that India has the mentality of an innocent victim. This has been a shadow over India since the 1962 border war with China. Why does this shadow linger?

Maxwell: Because of the bitter humiliation of the defeat.

India, in 1962, went to war with China expecting victory, but in one month, that dream was broken and India suffered a complete humiliating defeat. Now that leaves a deep mark on the political class of the country and the bitterness of the defeat in 1962 became a lasting wound in the consciousness of the Indian political elites.

And from that bitterness comes a hankering or wish for revenge. That is a very dangerous habit in the Indian political structure.

The feeling may be that there should be a second round in which this time India would triumph. It's a dangerous psychological malady, particularly in the military.

The generation who fought the war against China realized that India had provoked the conflict, but the new generation of Indian soldiers are ignorant of that. They just see themselves as having perhaps one day the chance to take revenge against China.

The Indian public and Indian intelligence were both told by the government that India had suffered surprise unprovoked aggression from China, "a stab in the back."

This was a false explanation given to the fact that the Indian government under Jawaharlal Nehru had taken the country into a war against a superior military power, the result of which was inevitably defeat.

But that could not be confessed by Nehru. It had to be disguised with the lie that China has suddenly attacked India. The Indian people, the Indian political class have been deluded into a mistaken belief.

GT: Your book has been regarded as an authoritative work upon the Sino-India border issue. The book was published in the 1970s, and at that time, I think the whole world stood by India against China. Why was that?

Maxwell: The US was keeping the People's Republic of China as an outlaw. It did not represent China and the Kuomintang was still China.

The Indians had the support of the West because everyone believed that China was an outlaw state. So, when India said we have suffered aggression from China, the West was willing to believe that.

GT: The Sikkim section of the China-India boundary was defined by the Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet in 1890. The Indian government has repeatedly confirmed that in written forms since India's independence, recognizing that it concurs with China on the boundary alignment at the Sikkim section. This time, Indian troops entered China through this area, and India's excuse to enter China is that China is building a road in that area. And that the road is close to the Siliguri Corridor. How do you view this?

Maxwell: That is not an acceptable explanation. There should be no surprise that China has reacted violently. It is an intrusion into Chinese territory. But it should not be allowed to escalate into armed conflict. I don't think that this will spark into a war between the two sides. I think neither really wishes to see a war.

GT: There have been so many confrontations between China and India through thousands of years. Even some skirmishes.

Maxwell: But fortunately, no one has pulled a trigger.

GT: But this time, it's a little different, because there is another small country of Southeast Asia involved, Bhutan.

Maxwell: I don't agree that is a major factor. It is a minor difference in form without a change in reality. The essence is this is a clash between India and China. Bhutan is a puppet of India.

Bhutan naturally would wish to be on good terms with both its huge neighbors, with China and with India. Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China, because India will not allow it to open diplomatic relations, because the Indian government controls Bhutan with troops inside Bhutan.

GT: Is there any basis in international law for India to take control over Bhutan?

Maxwell: No, but with nearly 15,000 troops in Bhutan, India has complete control.

India has troops in Bhutan. Bhutan could just speak up in the United Nations and complain about this, but they don't. They acquiesce in their position under Indian suzerain authority. They have no choice.

GT: Given the ongoing standoff in the Doklam region, can you give some suggestions on how China should deal with India?

Maxwell: Patience and reason. Make clear to India that it is a matter of vital concern to China. Be patient and trust good things will prevail, if the Indian government will not do anything further to provoke a conflict. Play it cool. Make clear that is a dangerous situation.

GT: It seems funny, over dozens of years, China did not take India as a main competitor or the enemy. We always take India as a friend because we both belong to the Third World. But it seems that India was always telling China, "No, I'm your enemy."

Maxwell: Because the Indians were misled into believing that in 1962, they suffered an attack from China. The truth is the other way. They still do not believe it. They still believe they are the victims of 1962.

GT: China is stronger than India. If there is another war between India and China, it would be very destructive. But China will win the war because China is a stronger country. Do you think so?

Maxwell: I agree, but the Indians will not agree.

GT: It seems Indians are very confident. Where do you think their confidence from?

Maxwell: Pride, pride in the strength of their country.

But anyway, the tragedy is, these two countries should be in a friendly relationship and the tragedy is the Indian people had been misled into seeing China as an enemy.

GT: Indian influence in South Asia is stronger than China's influence over Southeast Asia. Where do you think India's power in South Asia comes from?

Maxwell: From size, from economic predominance, finally I suppose from military strength, the strongest power in the region.


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