Happy 66ThBirthday India! Yes, our beloved nation turned 66 yesterday. Every year we come across newspapers flooded with stories of our freedom struggle, accompanied by the rustic charm of photographs in black and white, the monochrome suddenly becomes so lively, making one relive all the milestones of the past, each singing its own story and instilling in you a strange sense of pride and gratitude. But, this year was a bit different for me. While I sat glancing at these archives, my mind started wandering into the travails of India’s 66 years of journey after independence, full of bruises and stumbles. If we consider the international arena, 15th August 1947 wasn’t the end of India’s tryst and that struggle still continues. So, I took a flight in time looking at India’s international ties since independence and here’s a motley collection of the pieces I could pull together.
15th August 1947, Union of India was born. 14th August 1947, rewind one day more and we realise we lost a part of us, the rise of Pakistan as an independent nation. Countless civilians died and millions were displaced in the historic partition. Amidst all the chaos and bloodshed, the midnight of 14th August 1947 saw Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister deliver his landmark speech “Tryst with Destiny”. Little did he know, the ‘tryst’ was yet to end. Nehru served concurrently as the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs. Under his leadership, India began its maiden journey in the international fora and received its first jolt in the first year itself in the form of Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, with Kashmir being the bone of contention. The relations grew even more fragile as India joined hands with erstwhile East Pakistan(now Bangladesh) in 1971 to liberate it from Pakistan and form an independent nation. Our relations grew even sourer as the two nations saw the unfolding of the Kargil War of 1999, each side losing thousands of soldiers. All these years, despite all the efforts to strengthen these wounded ties, by both sides, the bitterness just doesn’t go.
Nehru was frequently criticized for softness in foreign policy, but who knows, had he taken another route at the time, the move could have augured even worse. Nehru was concerned about any overt commitment to either of the two powerful blocs at that time, USA and USSR and he championed the cause for third world solidarity. His ideas paved the way for the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, which saw the coming together of the leaders of the developing nations of India, Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana and Yugoslavia and strongly promoted the cause for a middle path for the developing world in the course of Cold War between the Eastern and Western blocs. Today, NAM boasts of 120 members nations, although internal contradictions do haunt the foundations of the organisation.
The Non Aligned Movement, the brainchild of Nehru did bear fruit, but the cause of his crowning glory loses its shimmer if we go back to the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It is at this juncture, we realise, that Nehru’s policy indeed has a soft stance for which both China and India are paying the price till today. The Sino-Indian War of 1962 had its offshoots in a host of reasons, the most important of these being the Chinese violation of the Panchsheel Agreement signed between the two nations in 1954, which laid down the five principles for peaceful coexistence between the two nations. Conflict over territory triggered the war, and the hostility was further aggravated due to India’s provision for asylum to Dalai Lama, following the Tibetan uprisings of 1959. The war ended on 20th November, 1962, as China declared ceasefire and announced its withdrawal from the disputed area. However, even today the issue hasn’t subsided. There is repetitive reporting by Indian media regarding Chinese encroachment of Indian territory.
As my voyage through time reached its end, I began to analyse the current day scenario and I believe India has got a mixed bag. Come to 2013, the faces of widows mourning the death of their husbands who lost their lives due to the recent firing by Pakistan flash my mind, the news of Indian territory being impugned by the Chinese yet again disappoints me. Just when I feel that nothing has changed over these 66 years, I see the face of a dynamic Malala Yousafzaiuniting the aspirations of thousands of Indians and Pakistanis, the determination and the exuberance on the faces of Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers to charter out a course for peace and tranquility the hopes and aspirations brimming across the faces of all our fellow men for a better India, a strengthened Asia and a cohesive world, I realise, truly a lot has changed!