India, China and peace

JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN’s article is the text of his inaugural address to the Sixth Sarvodaya Conference for Madras State last year.

Submitted by Reddebrek on February 27, 2019

THERE WERE FOURTEEN YEARS in which to resolve peacefully the dispute between India and Portugal over Goa. Both countries are members of the United Nations. But there was no solution. Then India acted unilaterally and started military operations. At that time all of us---or most of us-became narrow-minded nationalists and forgot that no such nationalism can be tolerated today if it imperils the peace of the world. If there was any voice raised in India against the Goan action, it was that of the Sarvodaya movement.
I think it is the same in the case of the Sino-Indian conflict. As early as December 1960, at the conference of the War Resisters International at Gandhigram, it was left to me, speaking for the Sarvodaya movement, seriously to put forward the proposal that the border dispute between India and China was a fit case to be settled by arbitration. I was roundly denounced in the ·press and by political leaders in the country for my foolhardy suggestion. The Prime Minister was put a question in the Parliament about it. He just brushed it aside. I repeated my proposal, as President of the All-India Sarvodaya Conference at Unguturu, because it was not only my personal opinion but also the view of the Sarvodaya movement. This time I seem to have created some impression on the minds of our leaders. Some months later, when the Prime Minister was again asked in Parliament, he said he agreed in principle with the idea of arbitration, but did not see it anywhere on the horizon.
I regret that we did not pursue the idea of arbitration as persistently as perhaps we could have. We should not be satisfied merely to place a suggestion before the people. We could have pursued it in co-operation with peace movements in other parts of the world. We could have pursued it with our own government, perhaps discussed this question with the Prime Minister. Vinobaji could have taken it up with him, examined it and placed it before the Chinese leaders, perhaps in a form they could have considered if not accepted.

The idea of arbitration has been explicitly stated in the U.N. Charter. In the Bandung Declaration it says that when there is a dispute the first step toward its settlement should be bilateral talks, failing which there should be mediation, good offices, adjudication and finally arbitration. Are there other peaceful ways of settling disputes ?

Last December the suggestion was made for an international group of pacifists, votaries of non-violence, to undertake a friendship march from somewhere in India to somewhere in China, so that an effort should be made to stop the war that stands between the peoples of India and China. It was hoped that some kind of slender bridge be established, some sort of dialogue made possible between the peoples of India and China, a dialogue in which representatives of the Gandhian movement and non-violent movements all over the world could participate.

That suggestion was accepted by the Sarva Seva Sangh and Shanti Sena Mandal, and the Friendship March started from the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi on March 1st. This is, of course, a small effort compared to the task that faces us. Many wise people made similar jokes about the Dand March. Manufacturing contraband salt and trying to overthrow the British government in India: these seemed such incongruous things. Yet history shows what happened.

People have raised the question of whether the message of peace and love has at all to be preached to the Indian people. It has been said that if the Marchers really wish to bring about friendship between India and China, they should go right away to Peking and start preaching to the Chinese people. because it is assumed that the Indian people are overflowing with the milk of friendship and love. I do not know how much has been appearing in the papers about black flag demonstrations, hostile slogans, debates in Assemblies or remarks of Ministers. Let me assure you of one thing: that wherever the Marchers have really met the people, talked to them, answered their questions, opened their hearts and shared their thoughts as friends and equals, they have made an impression which is difficult to describe. If this question between India and China is settled peacefully, this March will have made a contribution to the settlement beyond all proportion.

The trouble with all these professions and declarations about peaceful settlement of disputes which we hear today is that at the same time everybody prepares for a violent settlement also. Everywhere this is going on: armies are multiplying, weapons are being manufactured, more and more dangerous weapons every day—and yet everyone talks of peaceful settlement. It passes one’s understanding how a peaceful settlement could come out of a situation such as this. If ever a peaceful settlement is possible, it will be possible only in an atmosphere such as is being created by this Friendship March.

I think one of the proofs of the success of the Friendship March, one indication that it is on the right track, is that it has been attacked not only in India but even more violently in China. Just as we are Indian nationalists here, they are also Chinese nationalists there. This lens of nationalism distorts reality. The world has become too interdependent for these nationalisms.

If India wishes to create a military power in this country equivalent to Chinese power, it will be a gigantic task. Last year we spent four hundred crores (four billion rupees, one U.S. dollar equals about 4.76 rupees) on our army and this year we are going to spend nearly 900 crores. We are trying to beg, borrow and buy whatever arms we can get from anywhere in the world.

Why are we doing all this ? Do we, after full consideration, really believe that by raising an army as big as that of the Chinese army we can settle this question with China ? We are setting ourselves against the lesson which history has taught us, the history of thousands of years. It is necessary for us to see this as clearly as the sun in the sky.

We should go to the people, as friends, and tell them as openly, as unhesitatingly as possible, the foolishness, the absurdity of what is being done. First of all, I think it is necessary for us to understand and make the people understand. the price that will have to be paid by us for the adequate militarization of this country. The price will be sacrifice not only in terms of hard work but in the values of our life. the foundation on which the Indian culture has stood all these years.

It is easy to see that this is going to set into motion between India and China perhaps one of the biggest armaments races the world has seen, the end of which is difficult to see, an endless waste of human resources. This race is confined not only to the so-called conventional weapons. We know that the Chinese are very actively trying to manufacture their own atom bomb. It will not take longer than two years, maybe less, to test their own bomb.

For the present the Prime Minister’s policy is not to use atomic energy for destructive purposes. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission is working to develop that energy for peaceful uses. After China has publicly tested her bomb. I doubt very much if it will be possible for Mr. Nehru to persist in this policy. The logic of the armaments race, the very logic of not being left behind by our enemy, would force him or his successor to reverse this policy. India would also be launched on this path of a race not only in conventional arms but in nuclear weapons also.

The cost of that in material, cultural and spiritual terms can easily be imagined. I doubt very much whether this country would be able to bear that cost. I doubt very much whether we could do all that and preserve our democratic ways of life, our democratic institutions. I doubt very much whether we could do all that and preserve our essential humanity. The gigantic effort it would require—and it might end in complete disaster—would brutalize all of us.
There is much talk of offensive and defensive war. Every self-righteous Indian says he cannot imagine that his country would think of starting an offensive war against anybody. All these preparations are only for defence. Even a child today knows there is no difference left between an offensive and a defensive war. The histories of war teach that it is difficult to find out how a war starts, it is difficult to lay a finger exactly at the cause of war. This distinction between an offensive and a defensive war is merely an academic distinction.
Every Indian youth today talks about taking back every inch of Indian territory which the Chinese have now occupied by force. Now suppose the Chinese sit tight on what they have occupied and the flag of China flies over the Aksaichin, what is Indian going to do about that? How is it going to fight a defensive war? India is committed to take back every inch of Indian territory. As India builds great military forces for herself, there will be this logical pressure behind it and sooner or later there will have to be a conflict. Then who shot the first bullet will mean nothing at all. The fact is there will be a situation in which a war becomes inevitable, and each side will blame· the other.
We had one little war lasting an interval of a few weeks and we were exhausted in that war. Now every Indian wants to wash off the blot, the shame involved in it. Suppose that after India prepares for this second engagement with China, India wins and the Chinese flag is removed from the Aksia-chin and· the Indian flag flies there. Is there anyone so foolish as to think that will settle the dispute with China forever? That one war will not lead to another?
Even if you could isolate China and India, it will be an unending process which will mean the ruination of both India and China. Every war cannot necessarily remain a localised war. If it becomes a global war, where is your security then? Where is your defence? Where is protection of the national interest?

Where leads, then, this question of settling the border dispute by military preparations, by military means? These are questions that face every one of us today. They are questions we the people must answer, and not only the government, What can the government do? What can Mr. Nehru do? He represents us, the people. If we want him to have the biggest army in the world, he will be forced to act.

It is therefore for us, the people, for us the Sarvodaya workers, to go to the people and explain to them. It is for them to decide whether they will commit suicide and fall into the ditch. But at least let us place before them all the facts we can, and let the people judge for themselves.

The people might ask: what is the alternative? Is Jayaprakash Narayan and the Sarvodaya movement preaching cowardice, submission to aggression, meek acceptance of injustice? No one should feel that those who believe in nonviolence would for a single moment be prepared to make any kind of compromise with cowardice. If cowardice, submission or moral degradation were the only alternative to military preparations, even to destruction, I would not, with full sense of responsibility, be preaching the renunciation of war.
It is because we could not have forgotten so soon what Mahatma Gandhi taught us and taught the whole world : that there is an alternative, not only an alternative but the only alternative. He has shown us that war leads us into more wars, and then into complete destruction. This alternative of nonviolence is the only answer to the situation the world is facing today.

Such means as peaceful settlement, negotiations across a table, good offices, adjudication, arbitration, friendship marches—they may succeed, they may fail. But there is no failure for a people who have accepted nonviolence and have prepared themselves to resist whatever evil might come. The alternative to armament is disarmament, the disarmament of violence and the taking up of the armour of nonviolence. If we were to completely and unilaterally disarm our selves, demobilise the Indian army and take up in place of violent arms and weapons of nonviolence—that would be a real alternative.

What would be the meaning of nonviolent armour? It would mean we have shed our fears. The Indian people should fear neither China nor Russia, nor America, nor all of them put together. We have determined not to bow our heads before any aggressor, before anyone who wants to impose his will over us. We have resolved to resist all injustice, not to bow the knee to any conqueror. If we have done this fearlessly and understandingly, not all the nuclear weapons of Russia and America put together could equal the power of such a preparation.

Acceptance of nonviolence would not only mean giving up military preparation. It would also mean a radical transformation in our own lives, a transformation of our social and economic institutions. A nonviolent India which has disarmed herself would be a very different India from what we see today: an India of exploitation, of inequality, of all kinds of social injustices, untouchability, caste system, high and low, rich and poor and all these. It is not as if the acceptance of nonviolence is a mechanical thing, throwing away the gun from our hand and for the rest remaining as we are. An India which deliberately accepted nonviolence would go through a complete transformation of life and of society.

If the Indian people accepted nonviolence, how would they then face aggression?
First of all, I do not think that a country which has adopted nonviolence will have many disputes with other countries. Even if it has disputes, perhaps it will be much easier to settle them than when that country has an army. It is because the parties concerned both try to negotiate on the basis of what they call strength, which ultimately means military strength, that settlement becomes difficult.
Second, if this dispute continues and is not settled even after India has disarmed, and the Chinese army marches into Indian territory, what will the people do?

We have all the experience under British rule when we fought for our freedom. We have forgotten that experience, or are inclined to brush it aside by saying the conditions are entirely different, etc., etc. Suppose the Chinese army marches, and the Indian people have no arms; there is no army, only Shanti Sainiks working amongst the people as their nonviolent guards, helping them—what then?

The people would say to the invader that if he come as a friend, he would be welcome; he would be given the place of honour in this country. But because he has come as an invader and aggressor, he may expect no co-operation, no Indian will help him in any way whatsoever, not a grain, not a pie (smallest Indian coin), not a word for the aggressor on the road, in the train, in the shop. No one will give him information. Complete non-violent non-co-operation will be offered the aggressor, and along with it complete preparedness to suffer the consequences that follow. The people would say they are prepared to die.

We must make the people understand that no matter what the degree and quality of their military preparedness might be, in modern war it is not only armies that fight and die. The people also die, and therefore they should never be misguided into thinking they will not be called upon to lay down their lives while they are working in their fields, factories, homes, hospitals and schools. Bombs will be dropped all over and the people will have to die in any case. But this death leads to further death, ultimately to complete annihilation. There is no end to it.

A people committed to non-violence will say: “Not a single shot will be fired on our side, you go on killing, we are prepared to die, we will not submit, but we will not accept your rule, we wilt not bow down before you, we will not co-operate with you.” This is the best method for meeting Chinese aggression, or any other.
Then it is said in retort: “If a country does that, the Chinese will be quite happy because it will be like running a knife through butter. They will march from the Himalayas to the Kanyakurnari, Nobody will stop them. Advocates of non-violence are merely preaching the complete decimation of the people of this country, and the complete conquest of India by China.” What is the answer to that?

I do not think that any army, made up as it is of human beings, would be able to do this. When an army is faced with another army, and there is killing on both sides, then each army is concerned only with the question of how to kill the largest number of the enemy. No question of conscience arises. The Chinese want to kill as many Indians as possible and vice versa. And they glory in that accomplishment.

If one side is killing but from the other side there is complete passive resistance, not a stone being thrown, not a word of abuse being uttered, then I do not think this invading army, which as I have said is made up of human beings, will go on killing people and killing people day after day after day. If an army were made up of animals (lions, tigers) which kill human beings, this could be possible. But the Chinese are human; the Indians are also human. From the very moment when the first Chinese fires the first bullet, the question will arise in his mind: “What kind of war am I fighting?” He will ask his officer, who in turn will ask his superior officer, and finally the question will go to Peking. It will go to Washington, to New York, to Paris and London and Moscow and Berlin. The whole world will be asking: what kind of war is this? No fighting from one side, killing from the other.

In all sincerity, I do not think such a war can last longer than a week.
Bloody wars can last I don’t know how many years. There have been wars in history which were never formally ended. But such a war cannot go on because we are human beings, and there is a God who created human beings; there is an element of godliness in every person. If you do not have faith in human nature, in humanity; or in this Creation, this all-pervading Consciousness, then all right. Then you may be cynical and may say that Jayaprakash Narayan is dreaming. Such a thing will never happen. The Chinese are not ordinary human beings, they are cruel. The whole of the Mongolian race, I have been told, is a cruel race. Well, I do not know. We are not in any way less cruel in our own country, with our murders and our riots.
Wisdom and good sense will dawn, the war will come to an end, and no party will be the vanquished party. That is the beauty of it. That war will not lead to another war and yet another. A new situation will arise in the relations between India and China.

This has never happened in history. It had also never happened before that when the viceroy of a ruling party was leaving he was greeted with the slogan “Lord Mountbatten Ki Jai” (Hail to Lord Mountbatten). When Lord Cornwallis left America, the thirteen united colonies which had fought British colonial power did not shout “Lord Cornwallis Ki Jai.”

This is the way for India, if the people of India are brave enough, wise enough. All the sacrifices demanded for the military way, in terms of money and of spirit, will be unnecessary. All this energy can be used for the development of this country, for the eradication of poverty, injustice and inequality. As human beings we can all rise higher, in such a climate of non-violence, and become better.

Perhaps India can show a way to Russia and America, to East and West, which are today at each other’s throats, in spite of the Geneva conference that goes on and on endlessly. Maybe India can show the way that peace can be established on this earth.