When a Chinese dignitary visits, the Delhi Police are in a tizzy. They do not know where the angry flag-waving Tibetan will spring up from. So three days before the visit, the “Free Tibet”-wallahs are rounded up as it happened last week, when Chinese President Hu Jintao was in New Delhi for the BRICS summit.
The Delhi and Dharamsala-based Tibetans do not profess violence. They are masters at wriggling out of police lines and creating a scene near Jantar Mantar, Parliament street or Khan Market, the posh Central Delhi rendezvous, which has now become a destination for visiting delegations (yes Fab India has an outlet there) . The Indian Tibetans also have a put-on aggression as they try to create as much of a scene as possible. Almost all of them have been born and brought up in India and so this protest can only be for an imaginary homeland, bereft of nostalgia and a sense of locale, though a homeland is their right. The agitation in India, though important, is somewhat like a sub-nationalistic Telangana agitation in the US by second generation Andhraites .
By any standards the Indian Tibetans are democratic protestors and not one instance of violence (apart from self-immolation) has been reported against any of them in all these years of unfurling anti-China flags. As soon as the Chinese plane takes off from Delhi they are all released and they go back to their ghetto called ‘Majnu ka Tilla’ on the north eastern periphery of Delhi, making and eating momos, which is what Delhiites think they do . Actually they have the migrants’ hard-working philosophy and have integrated themselves into the Delhi trade and business scene with aplomb. They don’t threaten national sovereignty nor do they hurl bombs.
For the Indian state all these are within allowed parameters of accepted behaviour: only don’t do it when the Chinese dignitary is in town. Why? India fears that China can easily return the favour by organizing a “ India leave Kashmir” demonstration when the Indian PM or foreign minister is in Beijing. Or giving Pakistan some defence deals.
Hu Jintao paid compliments to the Great Indian democratic state by applauding the way Tibetans were rounded up and demonstrations prevented. How much we love to show off to the Chinese.
Apart from the protests that emanate from the Tibetan ghetto, there is no other protest against China in India. No Arunachal Pradesh native comes to Delhi to unfurl a ‘China Leave Arunachal’ or ‘Arunachal belongs to India’ banner. If indeed they travel to distant New Delhi, they could gang up with the Tibetans and make a formidable array of protesters lined up against the visiting Chinese dignitary. They haven’t so far.
That could be because people of the north-eastern state are trying to figure out if its better to be part of India or China. Many of them surely wouldn’t mind being part of China. China claims huge chunks or the entire state of Arunachal as their own. On that border we stand eyeball to eyeball with Chinese troops. If economic status is a criterion to chose which state to belong to, then the Arunachalese people will be in a dilemma. India does not compare too badly with China on that score and we have our own little Shanghais (the surrounding squalor can be forgotten for the sake of this argument).
But when things get a bit hot under the collar, China makes a statement claiming Arunachal Pradesh as their own and the MEA mandarins, like defence minister A.K. Antony, will slap their heads and express outrage. They then scramble to restate their position and exclaim how so many years of good work has been undone by this statement. Then they summon the Chinese Ambassador for a cosy reprimand and give him tea. We love all these rigmaroles of state. We also know that if China decides to teach India a lesson, as they did 50 years back, for whatever reason they can do it easily again. So China is our good enemy number one.
Now the friendly enemy number two, Pakistan. Number two because they cannot teach us any lesson. We know how to rap them on the knuckles. But yet we can’t have enough of each other. So much so Pakistan has given us MFN status. For the uninitiated who may think it means Most Furious Nation, it actually means Most Favoured Nation for trade. Trade barriers will be lowered and Indian goods will flood Pakistan and vice versa. The Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani recently reminded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in South Korea that it wasn’t easy to sell the MFN idea to his country. Oh we love him for that.
Now Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari wants to come to Ajmer. To pray at the dargah. Understandable since he needs a lot of divine help to survive politically. India offers all sorts of divine solutions for desperate situations. An Ajmer trip is the only way Zardari could have come to India considering there was no indication that he would be called in as head of State for a summit. But we love him nevertheless. Zardari will be made to feel at home, the red carpet will be rolled out for him, the papers will be full of him. For sure, there will not be any Indians unfurling banners saying “Kashmir is none of your business” or things to that effect. When Manmohan Singh visits Pakistan also the favour will be returned.
So the drill consists of figuring out how to continue with this cyclical drama of playing friends and enemies. How long to continue with the occasional confrontation followed by the calming. Actually we do it quite well. The enemy thing we play at one level and the friend thing at yet another.
Pakistan’s Rehan Butt is the captain of an Indian club team at the World Series Hockey (WSH) now being played across the country. It is a different matter we don’t allow Pakistani cricketers to play the IPL because then how do we balance this friend-enemy thing?
We love the Chinese for what they make, and for what they have done to their country. We watch them with a combination of admiration, envy and terrible fear (lessons taught 50 years back ). Indian traders make frequent trips to China to import cheap goods. One of them was recently abducted for non-payment (typical Lalaji trick which the Chinese have no patience with).
Chinese products have almost fully replaced local remakes of costly products, which was a Delhi speciality and still is in many sectors. Every costly battery or electronic goods have a cheap Chinese remake . The earlier “original chahiye ya local chahiye” has been replaced by “Original chaiye, ya China (sic) chaiye?”, in shops around the country. Yet many big projects given to Chinese companies have been blocked due to “security concerns”. This despite the fact that all Chinese companies are known for their no-nonsense attitude and meticulous work.
When General V.K.Singh’s Indian Army-is-in-bad-shape letter leaked, the outrage was not about the leak but about what Pakistan will think about its chief enemy. “ Our enemies in the north and west will score decisive victories over us,” a retired army officer thundered on television the day after. Another officer said his son died in war because the helicopter he used was defective. So basically it is this. To keep the defence procurement establishment happy we need to have two ‘active’ enemies. When defence procurement hits roadblocks like in this case, suddenly the enemies in the north and west will raise their ugly head. Defence procurement is never complete because there is always something more to buy. And if you need to buy the latest fighters at 1,000 billion dollars, you need to point to an enemy which is ready to strike. In India’s case there is always one in the north and another in the west.
What else can we in India do than play this routine? Nothing, since over the years the only foreign policy we have had is not to have any policy. Sometimes the hands of the foreign office is forced like it happened during the UN human rights vote in Geneva last week. We would have preferred to keep the “hands off ” policy. So it is a moral “wronged nation” position that we strike everywhere. We believe in the moral position that good will triumph over evil. So terrorism will vanish and we will live happily. We love to wish the bad things away. We love to play the long term, tire-them-out game . Not realizing it doesn’t work always.
So as a ‘wronged nation’ we love to have these two enemies. Or better still, most favoured nations who cannot be trusted.