India and China have been neighbors for over 4000 years. One can say that they had been living together like two dormant dinosaurs since the dawn of history. One reason for this was the Himalayan mountain range that formed an impregnable barrier between the two countries. The second reason was the existence of a buffer state in Tibet. Though China had always claimed Tibet as its integral part yet for significant periods in history Tibet was an independent state. Thus an effective buffer existed between China and India. The Tibetan plateau is also fairly forbidding and geographically and physically was not the best way to reach India.
Despite great dynasties like the Mughal in India and the Ming in China people to people contact between the Chinese and Indians was near zero. Despite this, the spread of Buddhist religion did take place despite the Himalayan barrier. This intermingling of thought resulted in the spread of Buddhist philosophy from India.
The Buddha was a unifying factor between the relations between India and China. The advent of the 20th century saw a thaw between India and China contacts. Modern technology and revolutionary thought contributed to India and China becoming neighbors with a border spread over almost three thousand kilometers. China thus appeared on the doorstep of India. This was due to the faulty policies followed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who gave up Tibet as a buffer state. This by itself is the single biggest blunder of Nehru. China also began to follow a path of domination with a communist regime taking control of China. Mao Tse Tung began to work to restore the old glory of China which at one time was considered the ‘middle kingdom‘ and the center of the world.
In contrast, the Indian leadership was more like a tortoise content to live from day to day and having absolutely wrong priorities. Pandit Nehru was talking of imperialism which had become a dead horse after world war II. The Chinese were also at the receiving end but they were able to pull through with their vision to dominate the world.
The Indian people led by Nehru and Gandhi wanted to live their life in their own sphere of influence. Domination of Asia and a hark back to ancient Hindu Kings who ruled South and Central Asia was never the beacon. This was perhaps the outcome of 900 years of Muslim rule.
However, by its very size despite a complete lack of ambition to dominate Asia the Chinese have been alarmed. India as a potential great power in the future is not acceptable to China which sees India as a rival. One must remember that if one wants to see his own image one has to look into a mirror. The reflection will show you what you really look like. Keeping this in mind it is worthwhile to know as to how India’s biggest competitor China looks at India.
Many readers would have heard and read the writings of the famous Indian political commentator and philosopher Chanakya who lived around 340 BC. He was instrumental in the rise of Samrat Chandragupta who defeated the Greeks and consolidated a massive empire over most of India and extended to Central Asia.
This was possible because of the advice of Chanakya. His writings have come down to the present age and have relevance in the 21st century. Chanakya has stated that to defeat the enemy one must know the way he thinks and plans for you. Hence the Chinese point of India must be part of the menu of every Indian intellectual and politician. We also must remember that China thinks of India as a competitor. There is a good chance that what the Chinese think about India is really their dream but sometimes dreams can become a reality and thus it is worthwhile to examine what the Chinese think of India.
There are two opinions to this line of thought. The first one is to dismiss the Chinese point of view as mere rhetoric but the second is to remember what Chanakya had said. He has articulated that a nation must never dismiss the enemies assessments out of hand. Hence what the Chinese think of India and what is their line of thought is something that we must study.
The Chinese Institute of strategic studies has compiled an article which was published a few years back. Later the Chinese government and the institute itself backtracked from this article and claimed it did not represent their official policy. Despite this denial, the article gave the Chinese view of India. It is worth examining what this article says.
The scholars from the Institute’s think tank opine that India is ripe for disintegration, like what happened to the erstwhile Soviet Union. At that time the policy of glasnost ushered in by Mikhail Gorbachev saw the USSR break up into 18 countries and the Americans were absolutely delighted.
The Chinese feel that one of the pointers to the disintegration of India is the Hindu religion itself. This thought should not be dismissed out of hand. China says that the caste system that exists in India doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. This is true. The Chinese also say that this caste system is perpetrated by the government and is part of the Indian Constitution which sanctifies the division of society into a caste-based society. This again to an extent is true. Thus for the next two or three generations, there is no hope that the caste division of Hindu society can end. There is no doubt this caste system runs deep in the country and it is on record that the various elections in the country show a division of society on caste.
Mahatma Gandhi had an excellent chance to do away with the caste system. he had a grip on the masses but unfortunately, Gandhi made no attempt in this direction. He has gone on record and said that the caste system was good for Hinduism. He also said that equality among castes does not mean that a lower caste will sit and eat food at the same table with the higher caste. Many people are not aware that when Gandhi held his famous speeches on caste in the country, he allowed separate enclosures to be created for the scheduled caste and the untouchables. Why the lower castes were separated has never been explained by anybody.
One cannot really agree 100% with what the Chinese think tank is publishing but the fact remains that caste, as sanctified in the constitution, is not a healthy sign of for a country aspiring to throw the past shackles off.
Another bugbear is the.creation of linguistic states in India. This is detrimental to the integration of the country. India was never divided into linguistic lines throughout its history. The creation of linguistic States really hits at the roots of an integrated India. The RSS which at one time opposed the concept of linguistic States and caste-based reservation has changed its tune and this is by itself is very detrimental to the state.
In addition, we now have an insurgency in six States led by the Maoists and a low-intensity war is on in Kashmir and the Northeast, particularly the tribal areas of Eastern India. The army has to be deployed for this low-grade military activity. The Indian nation cannot afford to withdraw the army from these areas as withdrawal of the army from these areas will lead to secession from the republic and that could well be the end of India. The army is thus the biggest stakeholder in the unity of India.
The army cannot be the sole force to unite India, the politicians have to play the ball as well. However, caste and religion, coupled with linguist division of India is not the best recipe for the Indian nation. In addition, far-flung areas like Kashmir and the Northeast have not been integrated with the mother country and we have anachronisms like article 370 and reservation based on caste. This translates to a country where 50% of all jobs are reserved on the basis of caste and meritocracy is given a low seat. This is something that cannot be championed by anybody, yet there is no one to bell this deadly concoction. At best all these factors can disturb the best of intellectuals.
The Indian leadership will have some introspection to do. The Chinese view is the biggest bugbear to the unity of India. The Hindu religion itself which is based on caste and untouchability needs to reform. Indian intellectuals have to look in words and counter this opinion of the Chinese institute. It is not necessary that the Chinese view will be a reality because India has the capacity to get out of this bog.
There is no doubt that the Chinese are living on a wishful hope. It is also worth remembering that two swords do not fit a scabbard and China can never be a friend of India, but never the less the Chinese view could also prevail.