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Friday, October 25, 2013

DANGERS OF BURIED STORIES - Forgetting history may harm India’s insight into the present

By Swapan Dasgupta

The extent to which India as a nation lacks a sense of history was driven home to me recently by an account of the Bangladesh Government’s commemoration of the liberation war of 1971.

Anxious to honour those Indians who had contributed the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation four decades ago, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina organised a series of events in Dhaka over the past two years. Since most of those who contributed, either publicly or under a cover of anonymity, to the liberation struggle had died, Bangladesh graciously invited their family members to accept the awards on their behalf. Predictably, since most of the non-Bangladeshis who played a role in ensuring the defeat of the brutal Pakistani regime between March and December of 1971 were Indians, the authorities in Dhaka were compelled to seek the assistance of the Government of India to locate the individuals or their families.

According to the officials in Bangladesh handling the commemoration, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm in Delhi over Sheikh Hasina’s gracious gesture. In particular, Bangladeshi officials were stumped over the complete blank that greeted their inquiries of two individuals. One was an Indian Foreign Service officer managing the Pakistan desk in South Block, the only non-military Indian official present at the surrender of the Pakistan army in Dacca; and the other was a more shadowy figure, the right-hand man of R&AW chief R.N. Kao, operating from Calcutta. Inquiries about the first gentleman produced no results from the Ministry of External Affairs and the intelligence community in Delhi were unaware of the existence of one of the early stalwarts of R&AW.

At one level, the entire episode reeked of official indifference to anything that was not in the normal line of duty. Far more important, it seems to me, was the confirmation of a huge lacuna in ‘official’ India: the complete absence of institutional memory. The collapse of East Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh was one of the most important chapters of India’s post-Independence history. It continues to define Pakistan’s attitude towards India and, as such, has a direct contemporary bearing. Yet, it is astonishing that absolutely no organised attempt is made to disseminate the history of that crisis to a new generation of diplomats who will be managing India’s relations with its neighbours in the future. This wilful disregard of history can be contrasted to the exacting importance the Pakistan Foreign Service and, for that matter, the Pakistani military establishment attaches to learning the lessons of its greatest national humiliation.

The publication of Gary J. Bass’s eminently readable The Blood Telegram: India’s Secret War in East Pakistan is as good an occasion as any to revisit the events of 1971. Based almost entirely on official US Government documents, the White House tapes pertaining to the presidency of Richard Nixon and the papers of Indira Gandhi’s Principal Secretary P.N. Haksar and the then Foreign Secretary T.N. Kaul, the book provides a gripping insight into the calculations of policy makers in Washington D.C, New Delhi and Islamabad. Although much of the narrative now belongs to the realms of history, there are important strands that have a direct bearing on the contemporary relations between India and Pakistan.

Bass’s most crucial revelation is one that was well known in official circles in India but was quite consciously hidden from public view and, consequently, is insufficiently factored in contemporary Indian assessments of Pakistan. The Pakistan army’s crackdown in erstwhile East Pakistan began as an offensive against Bangladeshi nationalism and the Awami League. This involved murderous action against students, political activists and the paramilitary forces staffed by Bengali speakers. However, once the Pakistan army entrenched itself in the towns it initiated a parallel campaign of ethnic cleansing of the minority Hindu population. So much so that by the time the Indian army began its military offensive against Pakistan in December 1971, nearly 80 per cent of the 8.5 million refugees who were camped in India were Hindus.

This attempt to ‘purify’ Pakistan of non-Muslims was well known to both India and the West, particularly the US. On July 19, 1971, Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s amoral Secretary of State, had remarked that President Yahya Khan of Pakistan had loved the cloak and dagger arrangements surrounding his ‘secret’ visit to China, adding: “Yahya hasn’t had such fun since the last Hindu massacre.”

The remark may have been characteristically tasteless—and the White House tapes resonate with Nixon and Kissinger outdoing each other in showering profanities on Indians and Bengalis—but it indicates that the viciously sectarian character of the Pakistan military regime was well known. It is a different matter that India deliberately underplayed the denominational details of the refugee problem to avoid any diversion from the fact that the crisis had stemmed from a Bengali uprising against Pakistani domination. However, in allowing the real story to remain buried for more than 40 years, India lost sight of a larger reality. It also glossed over the fact that Pakistan was not normal. A state that couldn’t countenance any deviation from its Islamic identity and, in fact, was fanatical enough to lose more than half the country on this count, cannot be judged by the accepted standards of international statecraft.

What emerges from the Nixon-Kissinger private exchanges is that Pakistan’s foremost ally was clear in its mind that Yahya had embarked on a path of self-destruction. Pakistan, they knew, couldn’t win a war against India in the East. At various point they even tried telling this to the “big, honourable, stupid man” that was the Pakistani President. However, as Kissinger was to confess later, Yahya “was oblivious to his perils and unprepared to face necessities. He and his colleagues did not feel India was planning war; if so, they were convinced that they would win. When I asked tactfully as I could about the Indian advantage in numbers and equipment, Yahya and his colleagues answered with bravado about the historic superiority of Moslem fighters.”

Ayub Khan too had believes that one Pakistani soldier was equal in worth to 20 Hindu fighters. This was the basis of his war to occupy Kashmir and even reach Delhi in 1965. In both 1965 and 1971, Pakistan failed to live up its exalted self-esteem. Yet the belief in its superior national character has never waned. There is a big section of the Pakistan establishment that believes that the country was “betrayed” in all its wars against India. Consequently, the belief that unflinching Islamic nationalism is the only way to realise Pakistan’s manifest destiny (in Kashmir or elsewhere) is deep-rooted and widespread.

For India this implies permanent danger on the frontiers. The threat is doubled by Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine that is premised on the understanding that the adversary in India is somehow a sub-human whose elimination is also a religious duty.

Beginning with Indira Gandhi and P.N. Haksar who felt that Pakistan must be allowed to recover from Dacca debacle with an iota of self-respect, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh whose perception of the Pakistani national character is coloured by pre-Partition nostalgia, India has tried its best to couch neighbourly relations with civility and the lure of good economics. After each disappointment, India has tried to begin afresh, believing that pragmatism will mark every new generation in Pakistan. Each time history has hit back. 

In dealing with Pakistan, India cannot eschew institutional memory. We may have changed, become more cosmopolitan, more global and more post-national. Across the Radcliffe Line, however, the mindset of 1971 is alive and dreaming of revenge. 

The Telegraph, October 25, 2013


Shanti Chadha said...

You must never forget the mindset of these Pakistanis.They have used such derogatory words for Hindus in their school text books that one feels ashamed to call them humans.There can never be any reapprochment with Pakistan, now or for ever.They have been humiliated so many times but they persist with their nefarious activities. We should treat them as ISRAEL is treating its neighbours.

Susanta Mishra said...

Informative and sad! Thanks.As it is being made out Indian history post 1947 means only Gandhis only.Any thing else is termed as saffronization.Historical blunder of the highest order!

Anonymous said...

Why blame Richard Nixon & Henry Kissinger ?

Blame it on Mohandas Karamchand gandhi the "VIOLENT PACIFIST" who with his indoo-muslim bhai bhai slogan thrust this co existence on HINDUS thus preventing full exchange of population. Had all the muslims left Bharath for GOOD Hindus would not have died this way.

Who are you going to hold accountable for the subsequent genocide of HINDUS in India on a day to day basis ? There was no RICHARD NIXON & Henry Kissinger when muslim marauders came & killed native HINDUS razing down TEMPLES & lording over us.

Why fulminate at Richard Nixon & Henry Kissinger when azam khans & mulayam singh yadavs are STILL alive & orchestrating the killing of HINDUS & lathicharging VHP preventing us HINDUS from worshipping.

When the cuban missiles were pointing at AMERICANS India could not care less.

During 1962 Russia did NOT express even faux sympathy for India of jawaharlal nehru. It was USA that called for a ceasefire & China agreed.

Sophists keep fooling us somnolent HINDUS into further slothful idiocy by telling how HINDUS were living "happily" with Moghals including Akbar , Tipu Sultan blah blah & that when the British came those "muslims fought for the independence of indiaaa".


That "VIOLENT PACIFIST" MK Gandhi was such a dangerous IDIOT he asked the JEWS to jump off some cliff & commit mass suicides to win over the heart of Hitler. It is the same MK Gandhi who Hindus included call "father of the nation " blah blah.

Read the entire deposition of Sri.Nathuram Godse who has exposed the real MK Gandhi who is no mahatma.

When the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Kandahar Afghanistan my muslim neighbour from Mumbai (typical quarter baked yuppie shopping at JC Penny , Marks & Spencer London opting for HINDUS' Ayurvedic Remedies for dementia problems BUT badmouthing HINDUS reading only Akbar & Birbal of Amar Chitra Katha insisting Birbal was intelligent only because he served under Moghal Akbar & that Dilip Kumar is the best the most handsome in the entire world BUT purchasing uncensored Mira Nair's kamasutra movie explaining she & her muslim husband wanted to learn the " different positions that is all" & watching Basic Instinct starring Sharon Stone daily but holding themselves in relief from HINDUS superciliously claiming we are pious muslims praying five times facing the west ) actually GLOATED at the plight of those hijacked passengers. In their minds they have deep affinity with MUSLIMS all over this world. Not just Pakistan. With muslim AR.Rehman also.

She told me "India is to be blamed for hurting the feelings of Pakistan".

Bangladeshi muslims also have not a shred of goodwill towards HINDUS. It is Indian doctors in Vellore CMC , Shetty's Herat Clinics etc who welcome many Bangladeshi muslims who avail themselves of surgeries being fed BEEF , VEAL etc. It was reported many of them are actually TERRORISTS having links with maoists in India. Tamil Nadu Police stumbled upon this shocking truth while investigating some heist in a jewellery shop in some town in Tamil Nadu.

Anonymous said...

Sri.Kanchan Gupta got it right much earlier. He has lived in Egypt interacting with many people.

For muslims all over this world (including Gujarat where they are suddenly expressing faith in Sri.Narendra Modi but I have my fingers crossed ) it is their IDEOLOGY (ummah) that binds them.

I had made my points earlier also.
Every flow tide is followed by an ebb tide. When HINDUS face "slings & arrows of Fortune" somehow endure , pray & plod along. Would never go around razing down TEMPLES & planting bombs.

Muslims always do exactly that. Do not sit & analyze. KPS.Gill rightly observed "it is an IRREDUCIBLE ideology".

There are some Gujarati muslims who INSIST Godhra train arson was caused by self combustible coaches even today. And that 9/11 was caused by Americans themselves.

No wonder some maulvis are plaintively bleating it is (sic) "Modi who should change & apologize".

Better they QUIT BHARATH at least now. This will ensure PEACE for both Hindus within Bharath & Muslims as they have their mosques in Saudi Arabia to Nigeria. They can pray , never face shortages , unemployment of any kind , no Consecrated Icons of HINDUS TEMPLES turning them into VIOLENT iconoclasts.

Our Ramar Paalam would remain safe. For converted christians , muslims , communists, atheists & secularists of India Ramar Paalam is but "stones & sand mythology".

News media under the monopoly of muslims invariably ridicule Sri.Ram & Krishna calling Sri.Ram "alleged warrior".

Eunuchy Hindus accept such blasphemy with a sheepish grin & "paravallaey paravallaey" chants.

Anonymous said...

Why blame Richard Nixon & Henry Kissinger ?

I agree with almost all of what you have written. Nixon and Kissinger were acting in the interests of America in the middle of the Cold War. Woe betide the nations that are such fools that they cannot understand where their own interests are.

The Israelis have always had a lot of American help but then they also know what is in their interests and act accordingly. If the Hindus possessed a hundredth of the brain cells that the Israelis have, we would have solved our Chinese and Pakistani problems a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Anon @3:18PM above ,

I don't see any great future for India immediately without heavy FUMIGATION taking place first.

It calls itself multi culti with the word "secular" inserted by Indira Khan ( who is not Indira Gandhi). Educational material that is thrust down our throats in useless schools,
jurisprudence , health care , rotten constitution everything is anachronistic legacy of the British who still exert considerable influence in our affairs.

Hindus have NEVER had the liberty to ENFORCE Vedic Dharmam in governance. It includes not just STOPPING slaughter of cows , calves but protecting our fauna & flora. That is the MAIN cause of total chaos in Bharath.

"Qurbani" stands for annihilation for one's EGO not slaughter of camels & cows. And evangelicals & politicians have ruthless control over all HINDU TEMPLES.

Media reports so belatedly that lots & lots of precious trees have been routinely felled in the thick wooded areas belonging to Thirupathi Temple & smuggled to several Far Eastern countries for their construction work etc etc. This has been taking place with the CONNIVANCE of local politicians , police under their hold & several anti VEDIC Indians.

Wild animals like cheetas , bears living in those forests thus are forced to stray inside & are killed by the people after being tortured.

The latest scandal being LAND belonging to The Deity in Thirupathi has been "bought" by some "rich muslims" & that an "ISLAMIC varsity" is coming up there. Without OFFICIAL connivance this brazen INVASION would never have happened.

POWER is NOT in the hands of HINDUS. And stupid secular hindus are opting for the dangerous bargain that one "hindu varsity if set up in Saudi Arabia should compensate for this INVASION".

WRONG. Let these muslims set up as many Islamic varsities & mosques in Saudi Arabia & Timbaktu.


BBC I am warning you would report it as "indoo muslim confrontation". It is very imperative HINDUS become self reliant DEPORTING all INIMICALS to their own respective countries.

Let muslims go to Saudi Arabia. And Christians to Vatican & UK.

This mixing up of INIMICAL ideologies with VEDIC DHARMAM of HINDUS will never contribute to harmony , prosperity & peace.

Anonymous said...


Qurbani stands for annihilation OF one's EGO.

Anonymous said...

Muslims of India are the craftiest.

Even today not a single Indian muslim admits the fault is with THEIR VIOLENT IDEOLOGY. Which can NEVER integrate with HINDUISM.

Now that they realize their oxygen suppliers called congress , dmk , dk, communists & SP have become disabled they are suddenly blaming congress party of having "used them as votebank".

More accurate would be admitting that they always band together as one VIOLENT group & were ALLOWING themselves to be pampered & appeased by congress & dmk all these decades. It is a well known fact DMK & DK are VIRULENTLY anti VEDIC having come up with nothing but blasphemous acts & statements against Hindu GODS & GODDESSES. YET , the muslims of India ( Tamil Nadu) have ALWAYS joined hands with them , sharing their Iftar meals with DMK including ghulam nabi azad.

Now the same muslims banding together are heaping flattery on Narendra Modi NOT owing to any regard for Hindus and GRATITUDE but only because they know they cannot EXTORT such egregious appeasements & pamperings in any part of this world save MASOCHISTIC HINDUS filled India.

The highly astute muslim MJ.Akbar, Saeed Naqvis included never own up
the faults in their violent creed but facilely shift the blame on us HINDUS that we "should provide for them". Add to this one Tavleen Singh afflicted with the unhealthy itch to "uplift the deobandis " & shedding copious tears over some tearjerker for the umpteenth time portraying muslims as "victims" in India.

Anyone can manipulate facts coming up with tearjerkers. Gulzar can make a movie portraying Yasin Bhatkal & Omar Masood as "shaheeds" who became terrorists as they were engulfed by HINDUS.

We HINDUS should feel IMMENSELY GRATEFUL towards George Bush & AMERICA for doing away with lot of jihadists in our neighbourhood.

Swami Vivekananda uses the phrase "HOLOCAUST of HINDUS by islamists".

BUT it is again Americans like Robert Spencer & Hugh Fitzgerald who made such a thorough study of their violent ideology certainly not us HINDUS.

We continue to play cricket with them holding "fruitful talks".

Jitendra Desai said...

It appears even more sinister than mere obliviousness to history and records.Is it that MEA and UPA II have pro Pakistani elements entrenched within? How come a foreign country seeking to honour Indians finds this kind of dead ends in the officialdom and political establishment?

Shiv Sarma Duvvuri said...

History must be recorded and events investigated at the time of happening by independent agencies to inform and inflence current policies and attitudes of a nation. Post Independent India leaders have been less than honest in this. I wish to know if there was any independent commission of inquiry into the Partition deaths in 1947 as also those of 1946 in Bengal,into those responsible covertly and overtly. Millions on both sides died If not, why not. Nuremburg trials resulted in the then German Justices including the celebrated Justice Ernst Awning, being tried and sentenced. Indians needs to know.

Anonymous said...

@Shiv Sarma Duvvuri,

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was anything but a "mahatma".

He was so heavily biased towards the muslims & that is the reason shabana azmis & many "secular charlatans" are so fond of him & the word "gandhigiri". Read how unperturbed he was during Moplah Massacres where pregnant Hindu women included had their fetuses torn apart & brutally massacred by muslims of Kerala. Lots of HINDUS were killed then. But MK Gandhi had not a word of censure or shock. He said " muslims were being true to their religious belief systems".

Have arundati roys & tehelka portal ever talked about this ? Nope.

MK. Gandhi requested Jinnah the HINDU KILLER to become the prime minister of India. He went & begged not once but more than ten times a day. Mercifully Jinnah exclaimed " To HELL with your inner voice". Then made lecherous nehru PM of India.

He was quite a hypocrite. When his own wife Kasthurba was very sick wrote a lengthy letter full of his hotch potch information on Vedanta asking her to fearlessly face death & thus avoiding medical treatment. Whereas for his own infected appendicitis promptly underwent surgery.

MK.Gandhi never truly suffered either from baton blows from the British & their footsoldiers or from the pangs of fasting. His "fasting" threat was used to intimidate HINDUS into submission.

Whereas many gullible HINDU followers were COERCED into receiving baton blows & REAL fasting by this CRUEL manipulative MK.Gandhi. Their deaths did not move him a bit.

The unfair hanging of Sri.Bhagat Singh included did NOT move the hard hearted Gandhi to tears.

The only good thing he did according to me is dying on Oct 2 which was a school holiday. A public holiday in India.

Read Sri.Nathuram Godse's deposition. There was OVERWHELMING public support for Nathuram Godse.

CERTAINLY NOT for useless insane "VIOLENT PACIFIST" MK.Gandhi.