It’s time for China, Pakistan, even India to rethink the fantasy Modi called expansionism

India, China and Pakistan all want territory from another. But it’s a pursuit doomed to fail as they can’t get it without annihilating the other.


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It’s time for China, Pakistan, even India to rethink the fantasy Modi called expansionism 1

Addressing the troops on his surprise Friday morning visit to Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took care not to take China’s name. But he left no guesswork as to where his message was directed when he said that the era of expansionism was over and that this was time for development.

This was directed at China. But it is one of those fine lines of pragmatic wisdom that could also be directed at Pakistan or even at ourselves. I know the risks in my going that far, but let’s expand on the thought.

China’s expansionism under Xi Jinping is a globally acknowledged issue. It is the new migraine for the big powers and is crushing toes of most of its neighbours, terrestrial or maritime, barring its clients/surrogate states.

The Chinese, like us Indians, are also a civilisational nation and carry the collective weight of nostalgia about a more glorious past. In our case, it could be the Akhand Bharat of the Mauryans or the Gupta golden period. Theirs is the hankering for a return to the expansive borders of the Qing Dynasty. Let’s describe this, for convenience and brevity, as their ‘Akhand China’ fantasy.

The difference is, in India, it is the ideology of the founders of just one — though now dominant — party in a democracy where power changes hands. In China, it is central to the only party that rules forever. How unrealistic and destabilising it is, particularly in the hands of the world’s first Deputy Super Power, run by a dictatorial establishment, we have seen.

Ladakh is a tiny salami-slice issue. The big one for them is Arunachal Pradesh, more than 83,000 sq km. Do they imagine they can grab any of this by force? In the 21st century, nursing those thoughts only means you need to get your heads examined. It isn’t going to happen.

But so irresistible is the force of nationalism, particularly when the fuel propelling it is what political scientists describe as irredentism, the belief that you should restore to your country what was its own at some point in history, that reason takes the backseat. This applies to dictatorships, democracies and systems which are a bit of this and a bit of that.

The post-war world saw the rise of two ideological states at about the same time: Israel and Pakistan. One was the promised land for the Jews; the other the ‘natural home’ or the ‘fortress of Islam’ for the subcontinent’s Muslims. Israel is by no means perfect. But, compare it with Pakistan.

Both started out as democracies around the same time. Both became American allies and the West’s favourites very early on. Both were fighting adversaries whose support-base lay in the Soviet Bloc. See where each one has ended up, politically, economically and socially.

The only area where Israel has failed to achieve its objective is territorial — the West Bank. But it is different from Pakistan on Kashmir. The annexation of the West Bank is itself a polarising issue in Israeli democracy and not central to its nationalism. Pakistan is different.

It is today a Chinese protectorate for all practical purposes, and on its way to being colonised economically. It still uses terror as leverage against India. It has shrunk to less than its original size. And it has even less of Kashmir than it was left with in 1948.

From a per capita income about 18 per cent higher than an average Indian’s in 1985, today it is about 30 per cent lower, and the gap is rising. Bangladesh has beaten it on all social indicators and will soon do so on per capita income too. What made the difference? How did a lost-cause with starving millions make such a turnaround? That’s because when the East liberated itself from West Pakistan, it also declared freedom from its Kashmir madness.

The post-war world saw the rise of two ideological states at about the same time: Israel and Pakistan. One was the promised land for the Jews; the other the ‘natural home’ or the ‘fortress of Islam’ for the subcontinent’s Muslims. Israel is by no means perfect. But, compare it with Pakistan.

Both started out as democracies around the same time. Both became American allies and the West’s favourites very early on. Both were fighting adversaries whose support-base lay in the Soviet Bloc. See where each one has ended up, politically, economically and socially.

The only area where Israel has failed to achieve its objective is territorial — the West Bank. But it is different from Pakistan on Kashmir. The annexation of the West Bank is itself a polarising issue in Israeli democracy and not central to its nationalism. Pakistan is different.

It is today a Chinese protectorate for all practical purposes, and on its way to being colonised economically. It still uses terror as leverage against India. It has shrunk to less than its original size. And it has even less of Kashmir than it was left with in 1948.

From a per capita income about 18 per cent higher than an average Indian’s in 1985, today it is about 30 per cent lower, and the gap is rising. Bangladesh has beaten it on all social indicators and will soon do so on per capita income too. What made the difference? How did a lost-cause with starving millions make such a turnaround? That’s because when the East liberated itself from West Pakistan, it also declared freedom from its Kashmir madness.


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