18 January 2012

Kuldip Nayar and the manifestation of Nehru’s Curse

In April 1955, 29 states from Asia and Africa came together to promote goodwill and co-operation. Sir John Kotelawala, then Prime Minister of Ceylon, took some pot shots at Communism and at China. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru is supposed to have been livid. He had reason to be of course since the objective was to seek common ground and not to score debating points. His response, however, was classic in its Big-Brother, India’s-Burden condescension. Nehru had asked Sir John why he had not shown the speech to him before delivering it.

‘Why should I show you my speeches?’ he had shot back, pointing out, ‘you don’t show me yours!’
I don’t know if Nehru suffered an attack of apoplexy as some say he did but I wonder if cursed Sir John and the people of this island and in the process conferred pomposity, ignorance, arrogance and much else besides to people who succeeded him and the articulators/defenders of their policy preferences.
A few days ago, we had Nehru’s great grandson Rahul speaking as though Sri Lanka is that family’s or India’s plaything. We all know what Nehru’s daughter Indira and his grandson Rajiv did to Sri Lanka and how many lives were lost as a result, not to mention the physical destruction and political destability their actions engendered. Nehru’s presumptuousness looks quite mild, all things considered, compared to the bullishness of his descendents.

All the above is ‘intro’ by the way. Just wanted to place subject in context; subject being Kuldip Nayar’s self-righteous, erroneous, arrogant and presumptuous rant in the Island of December 26 (Sri Lanka going the wrong way) and context being what I think we can now safely call ‘Nehru’s Curse’. 
Nayar has been taken to task more than adequately by Gamini Gunawardena, again in the Island (January 3, 2011, ‘India, China and Sri Lanka’). There are a couple of points he makes, however, that I would like to expand on. Let’s first get some language issues out of the way.

Nayar engages in classic Eelam-speak by the liberal use of the problematic word ‘North’. It immediately bifurcates the country; North as ‘Tamil territory’ and South as ‘Sinhala’. He does not say ‘Northern Province’, one notes, and as such gifts half the island to Eelam myth-mongers. Secondly, he has no clue about demographic realities; most Tamils live outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

This ex-diplomat seems to be endowed with the rare ability to see what goes on in the minds of others. He claims that the ‘Sinhalese’ (sic) Government had a ‘one nation, one flag, one anthem’ plan which was ‘put on hold’ due to ‘fear of the LTTE’ and ‘pressure from Tamils outside Sri Lanka’. Now India has a ‘one nation, one flag, one anthem’ reality and it is a country that is far more diverse on all counts than Sri Lanka, not to mention raging insurgencies and incipient separatist struggles all over its territory. And how is it that this bleeding-heart do-gooder cannot see ‘Kashmir’? Is selective myopia a kind of qualification to join the Indian Foreign Service? 
What self-respecting government would plan to concede territory in the more-than-one-nation manner anyway? Nayar seems to think that the Sri Lankan Government should plan for a split and can’t seem to hide a disappointment that the forces that might have ‘stopped’ the government were pushed out of the equation. 

He believes that Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to spite India and that’s why he’s looked to China and Pakistan.  He presumes that Sri Lanka should let India choose friends for her. He believes that being friendly with China or Pakistan amounts to spiting India. 

Let’s talk ‘spite’. India nurtured terrorism to spite J R Jayewardene for his friendship with the US. India should not cut its national nose for welcoming Barack Obama. Nayar doesn’t have the intellect to see the contradictions in his piece. 

As Gamini Gunawardena and others have pointed out, there’s a big difference between these countries and India. Relations with them are friendly. With India, there is no friendship.; there are pound-of-flesh-and-more contracts.

He says that when he was High Commissioner in London, he refused to meet with an LTTE leader and cites this as evidence that India did not want to be misunderstood by Sri Lanka. Well, Mr Nayar, don’t worry. Sri Lanka has never misunderstood India. Jawaharlal Nehru in that crass, classless and overbearing question put to Sir John, made things so clear that he deleted ‘misunderstanding’ from the bilateral relations script. 
The line about ‘misunderstanding’ is followed by the threat, ‘if Colombo continues to encourage China and Pakistan, India would have to do something to safeguard its interests’. Nothing ambiguous about that either.

There can’t be friendship with caveats such as ‘You can’t be friends with him, him and her’. India’s friendship, according to Nayar, is of this kind. And it is this contractual nature of India’s foreign policy with respect to Sri Lanka that is pushing Sri Lanka to seek friendships elsewhere. As Gamini Gunawardena pointed out, Pakistan and China didn’t attach price tag to ‘help’. India helped, yes and we are grateful, but for a price. 
It is sad that the Indian Foreign service had to count on people like Nayar, for he has a pretty horrible memory. 
He paints India as a generous and hit-taking saint, quite forgetting India’s deliberate and malicious nurturing of terorists by way of encouragement, funding, arming and training.

Nayar wants us to thank India for all that? I believe that no one has been as bold among our post-independence political leaders as Sir John was in Bandung. 
To his credit Mahinda Rajapaksa, without being as blunt, appears to have achieved what his predecessors could not: kept the Ugly Indian at arm’s length and treated the Pretty Indian (yes, not all Indians are intellectually and politically insufferable as Rthe Nehrus and the Nayars) with watchful hospitality. As he should. 
As for Nayar and his ilk it is probably high time for those who decide such things to conclude that just about an Indian with a long CV can string a few sentences together in Engilish, this does not mean he/she has anything useful to say. Indeed, as long as there are Nayars doing there thing, those who maliciously want to give India a bad name can take a break.

He’s going out of his way to confirm what the Nehru’s have basically forced us to think: India is an opinionated, double-tongued, bully. 

[First published in January 2011] 



fayaz said...

India is a bully and has always been .. very true..

the only country they really fear is pakistan and thats amazing as India is so vastly superior to pak in terms of arms quality and numbers.

as for pakistan liking sri lanka... that affection is also amazing n it goes back to Mrs B and 1971.

Mrs B had the guts to allow Pakistan use our airports as a transit to East pakistan, and this is something the average pakistani never ever forgets.

we havent taken advantage of pakistan's friendship enough and even tho that country is in a mess, u can bet on their help, anytime.

when Zia ul Haq offered unlimited help to that clown JRJ, he was very sincere indeed.

and pakistani's arnt great muslims anyway.. for sure. what if they were to become good muslims? thats an interesting idea.!

Anonymous said...

Just in case it is deliberately misunderstood as is the done thing Observer2014/09/28.