Is Ram Madhav Modi’s Menon?

India, it seems, is condemned to eternally mollycoddle China. In the Nehruvian era, it was the communist V.K. Krishna Menon, the first prime minister’s alter ego, who molded the policy of China appeasement (and, as defence minister, undermined the Indian military, thus leading to the 1962 fiasco). And now it is the likes of Ram Madhav, the ruling party’s national general secretary and RSS apparatchik, who are determined to keep Beijing in good humor.

In an article, ‘India’s interests tilt eastwards, it walks a new tightrope,’ in The Indian Express (January 2), Madhav wrote, “India’s diplomatic interests are tilting eastwards towards the Indian Ocean region where the global power axis lies today. India’s trade, economic and strategic interests are hugely tied to the Indian Ocean. In this century, the Indian Ocean is going to be the theatre of great power and huge rivalries. If Trump translates his rhetoric on issues like the South China Sea, the trade imbalance, Taiwan and currency devaluation into reality, it may lead to greater tensions in the region. A much-harried China, with its economic and military might, will be a security nightmare in the region” (emphasis added).

But why is Madhav worried if China is harried? Further, shouldn’t it be harried? After all, it is the only major nation that doesn’t give two hoots to international law, as evidenced in its refusal to accept the order of a tribunal at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. The tribunal had validated the Philippines’s claim against China in a dispute in South China Sea.

Further, China has been involved in nuclear and missile proliferation. It has played a major role in making Pakistan and North Korea nuclear, both rogue nations. Beijing has shielded Pakistan-based jihadists. It is trying to encircle India in every possible manner. Its role in cyber warfare is well-acknowledged. Therefore, if there is any country in the world that needs to be harried, contained, and confronted, it is China.

Madhav seems to be following in Krishna Menon’s footsteps. A pro-China communist, Menon had a huge influence on Nehru who himself was a fellow traveler. Both of them have a pathological hatred not only for the West but also for facts, commonsense, and reason. Sanguine that communism is the best system in the world and that socialist countries don’t launch aggression, the duo remained criminally negligent to the threat from Mao’s China.

Nehru even condoned China’s land grab. He thoughtlessly told Parliament not to make a fuss about all this because not a blade of grass grew in Aksai Chin. A veteran parliamentarian and Congress leader Mahavir Tyagi pointed to his own bald pate and retorted, “There is not a single hair on this head but shall I surrender my head to the enemy?” Nehru laughed off the issue, but it was not a laughing matter, as the nation realized in 1962.

Menon’s sins are impossible to be described fully in an article. Shiv Kunal Verma wrote in 1962: The War That Wasn’t, “In 1957, when it was becoming obvious to Nehru that his Panchsheel policy with China was going nowhere, he had turned to Krishna Menon… As the defence minister of India, his appointment coincided with the elevation of General Thimayya to the top job in the Indian army. Temperamentally, Krishna Menon was a loner, and having had no ministerial or administrative experience, he found it necessary to dominate the military bureaucracy by trying to make a dent in the solidarity of its senior ranks.”

Krishna Menon not only played havoc with national defence by chafing professional military officers and playing favorites but also egged on Nehru to placate China.

Ram Madhav is not known as Narendra Modi’s Menon, but there is a striking resemblance between the attitudes of Modi and Menon as far as China is concerned; both want to appease Beijing. On the completion of his two years in office, Modi said in an interview to Wall Street Journal, “There is no reason to change India’s non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has been in place.” He was responding to a query about China’s increasing assertiveness. The interviewer asked, “The US is very keen on India, the rising power that India is, to be part of, if not an alliance, then at least a grouping that can stand up to some extent to China. Where do you see India taking a position on the global stage?”

He went on downplaying the multifarious threats emanating from China. “We don’t have any fighting with China today. We have a boundary dispute, but there is no tension or clashes. People-to-people contacts have increased. Trade has increased. Chinese investment in India has gone up. India’s investment in China has grown. Despite the border dispute, there haven’t been any clashes. Not one bullet has been fired in 30 years. So the general impression that exists, that’s not the reality.”

Ram Madhav may not be Modi’s Menon, but there is certainly a clique that is following in Menon’s footsteps. A much-harried China, they frighten us by saying, will be a security nightmare in the region. These folks should be told firmly that an un-harried China will be a bigger security nightmare.