Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nationalism vs. Jingoistic Nationalism in the Indian Context

I’m not those who outright completely reject the ideas of nationalism and national security, for I believe that centrally governing the planet to everyone’s satisfaction is impossible (except if ever faced by a threat from aliens!), when there are disputes even between provinces within countries, and to imagine the world as a completely, perfectly peaceful place with no problems is utopian, for humans are imperfect creatures, and what we perceive as good and evil actually exist with respect to each other as to light and darkness. Nationalist cohesion is necessary for progress and security, but it shouldn’t override humanism as Nazism did. Especially in the Indian context, when it comes to Pakistan, there are those who have made what I call “peace-mongering” a mindless industry that is different from genuine peace activism based on attempting at real conflict resolution, and it is more of an intellectually elitist exercise at distortions to create false equivalences, as I have discussed in some detail here.

However, in general, as a principle, long-term peace and stability, which will only be in our interest, and jingoism perpetuating conflict is not, and blindly believing in the version of events presented by the government of the country you happen to be born in is silly (though blindly rejecting it to be biased to the other side is equally silly and that’s another story), and peaceful resolution may involve understanding the other side and making even territorial compromises if the other side has its own valid standpoint too, as India did in the context of border disputes with Bhutan in the 1970s and 1980s, the recent Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh and even the Rann of Kutch Arbitration with Pakistan in 1968. 

One occasion when India did blunder on this front was the Nehru government’s handling of the Sino-Indian border dispute.  Nehru was not overly trusting of or generous to the Chinese as many imagine, but in fact, a little too aggressive and tried to unilaterally impose the Indian position on the Sino-Indian borders, on the Chinese (his infamous “Forward Policy” among those who know of it), ignoring the advice of military officers like Thimayya asking him to not provoke the Chinese, and rejecting the very fair and pragmatic Chinese offer of a swap of Indian and Chinese claims over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh respectively (do kindly study the history of the Sino-Indian border dispute carefully and with an open mind before calling me anti-national).

Herman Goering is believed to have said during the Nuremberg trials – “Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” Likewise, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks has stated in an interview in 2011 – “I’ve discovered that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could've stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn't reprinted government propaganda they could've stopped it.”

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