Sunday, November 30, 2003

India's blunders revisited
Rajendra Nath

India Since 1947
by Dr. R. L. Singal. Abhishek Publications, Chandigarh. 
Rs 550. Pages 259

India Since 1947The author, a retired professor with many books to his credit, has critically analysed important developments in various sectors since Independence. The canvas he covers is so large that one has to be selective and concentrate on his overview of the past and the present as well as forecast which he terms as Agenda For the Future.

The book opens with the chapter on the Partition of India, discussing various factors responsible for the tragedy that resulted in the Kashmir problem, or a festering sore, as the author rightly calls it.

According to the book, the Partition was a watershed in the history of the subcontinent. It created more problems than it solved. How Jinnah, whom Pandit Nehru recorded in the Discovery of India as a great advocate of communal harmony and whom Sarojini Naidu once called the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, later became a strong opponent of the Congress and demanded Pakistan for the Muslims of India, queries the author.

According to him, Jinnah left the Congress because of his deep differences with Nehru and

Gandhi. In any case, that the British policy of divide and rule played an important role in the division of India is the correct contention of the author. Eventually, the Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah, backed by the British, won the day and India was partitioned. Yet, Jinnah was not a devout Muslim, though he adopted the catchy slogan of "Islam in Danger" that resulted in the perpetual India-Pakistan problems. "Perhaps, if Jinnah had lived, there might have been some amicable adjustment," remarks K.F. Rustamji in his foreword.

While discussing the Kashmir problem, the book criticizes Mahatma Gandhi for doling out Rs 55 crore to Pakistan when a full-scale India-Pakistan war was raging in Kashmir. The Kashmir problem is still there and costing the nation a lot. The book then goes on to describe the Cancer of Corruption in a candid manner: "Corruption has become a way of life in India and so widespread, deep-rooted and institutionalised that even the rulers have stopped discussing it." The author singles out Nehru, who he says was Prime Minister for full 17 years, but did nothing to stop corruption.

The chapter Defence A Casualty of Hollow Idealism deals with the security problem of India. He traces the neglect of defence since Independence, as the "peace at any cost" policy led our leaders to look for easy ways instead of formulating a proper defence policy.

Nehru's policy of non-alignment clashed with the US policy of sponsored military pacts. Pakistan, being practical, joined CENTO and SEATO and got military aid from the USA. President Eisenhower of the USA offered India a similar military aid with no political strings attached, but Nehru declined the offer. Krishna Menon as the Union Minister for Defence did not help the matters either as he had a marked communist slant, says the author. The result was a disaster in the 1962 India-China war. Regarding this war, C. Rajagopalachari said: "Don't blame the enemy for cheating you. It is the enemy's business to cheat."

The book also deals with terrorism in Punjab, the vote-bank politics and the muddled education policy. The chapter Agenda for the Future suggests various ways of bailing out the country.

The author has tried to balance the book in the last chapter by mentioning the country's achievements.