Uneasy Neighbours: India and China after 50 years of the War Ram Madhav, (New Delhi: Har-Anand, 2014). Pp. 256, Rs. 595
Intro:India’s perception towards China revolves around the fundamentals of uneasiness and Ram Madhav’s, Uneasy Neighbours: India and China after 50 years of the War picked the temper correctly.
India-China relations had been going through a patch of rough roads. In 1962, these so-called neighbouring Asian civilisations got in to a military tussle over contested boundaries. Although, a number of books have been written around this theme, Uneasy Neighbours is an addition to that literature which is written in a semi-narrative and non-academic form making it an easy literature to comprehend. Ram Madhav has written a frank and well woven account of the events leading up to 1962 war, which marked the physical outbreak of Sino-Indian conflict. Given the fact that Ram Madhav comes from a journalistic background and represents Rahstriya Sawamsevak Sangh (RSS), his writing a book on this subject reflects his views on the Sino-Indian rivalry in a patriotic mood.
India’s defeat in 1962 has been investigated from a number of perspectives, starting from theoretical reasoning to operational debacle and the array of intellectuals have put down their views in some of their best sellers. Generally, most of the writings on the subject are intriguing but involve intricate style of presenting the facts. It is certainly not easy to narrate the timeline and terrain of 1962 war. India’s China history is short in length but has swelling effects over the political viewpoints in India. India’s perception towards China revolves around the fundamentals of this uneasiness and the book has picked the temper correctly. Ram Madhav, circumvent the complexities involved in writing a book on such issues, perhaps his journalistic skills have finally paid off. The chapter names, description are factual and less metamorphic which lets the audience connect with the subject easily. Perhaps, here is the good reason why this book is on stands today. It represents evidence and does not puzzle the readers. In twenty one chapters, the book covers the 62 war events and the atmospherics in which the enmity was ensued between India and China. Out of which first nine chapters brief the scenarios building up towards the inevitable – 1962 war. The remaining chapters can be broadly categorised in two sub-sections, one dealing with the post debacle post-mortem and the rest dealing with the contemporary analysis of the continued India-China contest. Author’s approach to touch base on the major issues of conflict has been brought out in the discussion. This includes chapters debating political blunders, India’s Tibet policy, and flaws in India’s inheritance of diplomatic wisdom, undervaluing the challenges and inflating the wrong strategies of national security. Ram Madhav also gives details about the institutional efforts to cover-up the slip-ups and how a class of political section wished it to be seen more as an aggression and not a political blunder. The intensity of allegations is high and the author has well attempted to support his arguments by giving reasonable references. The references include parliamentary debate, biographies and letters both official communications and private.
Ram Madhav attempts a comprehensive survey of the Chinese deception of India and India’s apathy for not gauging the dangers. To be precise, author has put excessive focus on the latter, the book would have been monolithic if the Chinese deception had been discussed in details involving accounts of communist rise, how the PLA was built to force the Chinese territorial agenda during 50s, what was the Soviet stand and how the Chinese diplomacy planned to evade the blame of being aggressor. Moreover, Ram Madhav could have also built up his unique narration by giving backgrounder (Chinese short history – covering territorial boundaries and dynasties, major international events etc.) in first few chapters. Lastly, a chapter on Vajpayee’s China policy would have added a fine touch. Nonetheless, the book is informative, well articulated and narrates the Sino-Indian conflict and the aftermath in a definitive way.
-Aravind Yelery (The writer is visiting Associate Fellow,Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi)