Dr Jay Dubashi
When it rains, it pours. And throughout the tumultuous decade of 1960’s, it poured and poured, as if the skies had burst and nothing could stop them. It is a miracle that we survived the deluge and were more or less in one piece at the end of it, but what will happen next time? Look at the series of events as they unfolded year after disastrous year:
December1961: The Portuguese, who had managed to remain in Goa for 450 years, are expelled and the territory reverts back to India.
October-November 1962: Chinese army crosses McMahon Line and enters India, and goes back home after trouncing our forces.
May 1964: Jawaharlal Nehru dies of broken heart; Lal Bahadur Shastri takesover as PM.
1964: Communist Party splits – not a great tragedy but a significant development nonetheless.
April 1965: Pakistani army attacks on the western border. Retreats with its tail between the legs.
January 1966: Lal Bahadur Shastri dies in Tashkent, Soviet Russia. Was he killed or was it a natural death? Doubts never fully cleared.
January 1966: Indira Gandhi takesover as PM, a second Nehru family member to do so. Good omen or bad?
1969: Indian National Congress splits after 84 years. Indira Gandhi behind the split.
Three foreign wars, three prime ministers and two splits in national political parties, all in a span of eight years – if this is not unusual, I do not know what is. To add to the roster, the Congress Party suffered badly in general elections in 1967, halfway between Indira Gandhi’s takeover of the party and the split, and the party lost badly in some State elections.
At the end of it all, the country was still in one piece, but, as James Bond used to say, shaken but not stirred. Pakistan attacked again, but that was in 1971, the beginning of another decade, but within a decade of the expulsion of the Portuguese. Pakistan was spliced into two, but like most Muslim countries, it still keeps growling at India, like an old dog whose growl in worse than his toothless bite.
But any one of the above events could have gone out of control, and nearly did. Take the expulsion of the Portuguese. For some reason, the White nations had a soft corner for them, and were all the time advising Nehru and others not to push things too far, meaning, let sleeping dogs lie, and let the Portuguese enjoy their afternoon fish curry and rice in Goa in peace. But when Indian forces crossed the border and entered or attempted to enter the tiny foreign piece of Europe at the heart of India, some of them suddenly went berserk and alarm bells started ringing from Lisbon to Washington.
John Kenneth Galbraith, a self important buddy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, us president, was returning to Washington on a summons from the president, and was fast asleep in London, when he was woken up and asked to return forthwith to Delhi, where he was Kennedy’s ambassador. He had been asking Nehru not to annoy the Portuguese, but Nehru went ahead nonetheless and asked the armed forces to cross into Goa. Of course, they finished their act in two days and were enjoying their holiday, and Galbraith couldn’t do anything about it.
But, assume, for the sake of argument, the Lisbon allies had lost their heads and decided to teach Nehru and Krishna Menon, whom they hated, a lesson, and sent a couple of squadrons to Goa, as also to some Indian cities, including Bombay, as a warning. What would India have done? And assume that the Soviets had completely lost their head and decided to send their planes in retaliation – what would have happened then? Assume again that, instead of Kennedy, America had Richard Nixon in the White House. This man was not exactly a friend of India, and certainly not a friend of Nehru’s. If he had dispatched a couple of bombers over Delhi, or even Bombay? Perish the thought!
Perhaps they would have held their forces until 1965 and decided to cast their lot with Pakistan, when that country attacked India? They nearly did six years later in 1971 when Nixon sent his aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal. It is true he held his horses and nothing untoward happened, but had Nixon and Kissinger lost their heads and decided to teach India a lesson, with other countries, including Soviet Russia, joining in. The possibilities are enormous.
I have a gut feeling that history is going to repeat itself in the current decade, that is, 2010-2020. It will be exactly fifty years after the 1960’s, when so much happened, and so much more could have happened, for they say that history repeats itself every two generations, or every fifty years.
I am certain that the days of the Congress are numbered, and it will be beaten black and blue in the 2014 general elections. Things are more different now than they were fifty years ago, for neither the US nor the Soviet Union are as powerful as they were. Neither, for that matter, is the European Union, if indeed there is something called the EU.
It is quite possible that no major party wins the 2014 poll and the country is left wide open, politically speaking. India will then be at the mercy of gangsters posing as politicians, and tiny little one-man outfits as political parties. They are already making plans to do so, and counting their eggs before they are hatched. But there is little doubt that we are in for delicate times, when men, and possibly women, of no consequence, who have made their pile in recent years, will naturally want to cash their cheques, and enter into all sorts of permutations and combinations to establish their claims on Delhi, as they have always done in history, going back hundreds of years. This is how the foreigners entered India and staked their tents, before getting rid of all the small fry, and capture the throne, or thrones.
It has happened in the past, and since history always repeats itself, either as a farce or a tragedy, it will almost certainly happen again. To capture a country now, you don’t have to capture the Parliament or the presidential mansion; all you have to do is capture the markets. Hence the pressure on our babu prime minister and the other babu finance minister to open up the sluice gates to multinationals- Walmart & Co. – and to foreign banks and foreign brokers to grab our financial markets and tighten the grip on investments. It sounds and looks very simple, but when East India Co. came here, and when its representative stood before Jehangir, without shoes and without his red cap, nobody believed that he and his king would one day takeover poor Jehangir’s throne and send the Moghuls packing.
Did I say history repeats itself?