Saturday, October 03, 2009

On Netaji Subhashchandra Basu, Indian Independence and World-War 2

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World War Two (WW2) and Netaji Subhashchandra Basu's friendship with Germany and Japan is bashed as a wrong move by many centre-left intellectuals and commons. Gandhi was staunchly against this move of Netaji. The common argument given by the proponents of this view-point is that British were much more tolerant and democratic than Germany or Japan. If Hitler had won WW2, then perhaps India would have been a German or a Japanese colony and would have suffered a fate much worse than she did under British occupation.

I think, there is a serious fallacy in this argument. All these rants are assuming that it was very easy for British to occupy, conquer and rule India. While the ground reality was totally different. The process of colonization, that too of a giant country with huge population is impossible without the cooperation of local people. And that cooperation is difficult to achieve without highly disintegrated state of national polity which was the case with India in 1818. And in spite of these broken nature of India at that time, British had to fight countless wars with Indians, 3 major wars each with Marathas and Sikhs, and sustain a major outbreak of Public anger (1857) before they standardized their rule in 1858.

If we consider the disintegrated society of India broken by petty regional bickering and rigid, pathological casteism, it stands as a stark contrast in front of Indian society in 1940, which was rejuvenated, risen and million times more nationalized and united. British could complete India's conquest because of lack of unity amongst Indians and nothing else. It is impossible for even god to rule vast country like India without the cooperation of Indians. British could do it because we cooperated.

People of Bengal celebrated when Siraj was defeated in 1757. People of Pune celebrated when Bajirao-2 was defeated in 1818. People would have bitterly fought back if Germans OR Japanese would have attempted to colonize India in 1940s. It was becoming progressively difficult and expensive to rule India after 1935. The public opinion was too much in favour of non-cooperation. Any threat of external enemy would have instantly unified India against the invaders, be it German OR Japanese. It would have been literally impossible to rule India even for Japanese or Nazis, with owing to this unified non-cooperation of Indians. Hence, there is nothing wrong in what Netaji Subhashchandra Basu did when he asked the help of Hitler and Japanese to fight and overthrow the British regime of India.

Consider this scenario. If Bose would have succeeded in entering Bengal, imagine the tremendous support he would have received from common man. And now juxtapose the artificially created Bengal famine of 1943 wherein 4 million people died. Don't you see anything fishy about this strategically convenient famine? Was it simply co-incidence? I think not... The timing of this artificially created 1943 famine and Subhashbabu's success are deeply connected. Imagine the support Netaji would have got if he had reached Bengal. British calculated this hazard and induced this famine in Bengal which decimated the strength, the population and the morale of Bengal so that in case Basu manages to reach Bengal, he won't get as much support as he otherwise would have.

Geo-political implications and importance of India's independence.

India's independence in 1947 was a momentous occasion, not only for India, but for countless other third-world countries. It is so important, that many people fail to grasp its real importance. But it came with a price of debilitated India. If one cares to read Mackinder's Heartland theory of Geographical Pivot which is quite widely circulated and known among the people who are acquainted with international geo-politics, one will understand the backdrop of the great game, the reason of India's partition and its effect on the prosperity of India.

The heartland theory states that "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island (Eurasia); who rules the World-Island controls the world."

The Nation which has access to Central Asia and Indian Ocean trade-routes, will undoubtedly be the largest economy in the world. Russian Empire was trying for this since the time of Aurangzeb. British empire was staunchly resisting this.

This is essentially a Euro-centric theory, but its last two clauses are particularly important. Heartland is central asia which is extremely resource-rich. India had a natural supremacy over the heartland for about until 1947 since the dawn of civilization. The only country which can possibly have Central Asia-Indian Ocean access is India, owing to her geographical position. Hence, India was largest economy in world until 1800 AD. In 47, this connection was artificially cut off by creating Pakistan from India. Central Asia was made further inaccessible for India by allowing Pakistan to keep the Northern Areas of Kashmir out of India's dominion, simply because that is the second possible link between India and the heartland (Central Asia).

After a millenia, there was everything about Indian state which was Indian in origin. The flag, the symbols, the anthem. India with 500 princely states within, 30 major languages, different castes, cultural differences, frankly british did not expect India to last long, yet India did despite all odds. The memes which Savarkar, Netaji, or for that matter even Patel were expounding were much more Indic and Indigenous than those expounded by Nehru. The foreign-policy and decision making of Nehru was highly influenced by the foreign policy of British.

It is highly unlikely that Nehru betrayed India on his own when he declared a cease-fire and plebiscite in Kashmir. There are proofs now which suggest that many British officers of BIA assisted the pathans who had invaded kashmir in 1948 to capture the major region of Gilgit and Northern areas. This is the second possible link of India with the geographical pivot, the central asia. Such was the influence of the British on India's administration during 1947.

What world war two did for India?

1. British were forced to industrialize India in terms of weapons manufacturing and ordinance factories which were negligible in India prior to threat from Japanese and INA invasion.

2. Thousands of Hindus joined the army and gained valuable war-experience. This helped a lot during and after partition. Savarkar must be given some credit for this.

3. British were preparing to leave India anyways by 1950-55. WW2 hastened that process; but in that hassle, they supported jinnah and partitioned India. Partition worked out for India with partial good and partial evil effects.

4. WW2 and the threat from east forced British to give Andaman and Nicobar naval bases under Indian control. They could have very well kept it with themselves. They were also giving India Chittagong, but Nehru refused. It was strategically important region, which Nehru let go. Just like Aksai Chin, Just like Northern Areas and Just like Tibet.

5. WW2 and performance of Indian soldiers increased the reputation of India a lot. Since it was the only largest democracy in Asia with potential of developing strong military force, India was offered permanent place in UNSC, which Nehru declined.

6. Gave Indians to regroup and rise on their own terms. If there was no WW2, British would have given undivided India independence by 1955-60 and the resultant India would have been strategically strong yes, but would there be a chance of peaceful co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in India?

7. Symbols are important. When was the last time when the geography of modern India was ruled by people who followed the Sanskriti of India? even if politically segregated, when was the last time? It was before Ghurid invasions. for good or for evil, WW2 caused partition and gave some time for Indic Sanskriti to regroup.

8. However, there are trade-offs. WW2 broke people like Subhashchandra Basu from INC. The towing of British interests which was done by Nehru would probably not have happened if Basu or even Patel were the PM. Now, would it be good for India or bad for India, that's a different issue and falls within the domain of counter-factual history.

9. The important point is, Hindus were determining the foreign policy of India after a millenia. For 1000 years, there was no Hindu ruler, which interacted with world with a particular policy in mind. Hence the understanding of the world was meagre in Hindus at the time of partition. Ordinary illiterate Muslim had heard of places like Istanbul, Rome, Mecca, baghdad, hazira, jerusalem, egypt from his religious teachers. Ordinary illiterate Hindu of that age did not. There were simply no or very few individuals within Hindu society with independent thoughts over the foreign policy of India and place of India in the global politics; leave alone having a first hand experience of the same.

10.British India never had to deal with outside world. The Indian/Hindu leaders cared about internal matters alone. The policy of British India towards rest of the world was made in England. Subash Basu was one such person who actually interacted with prominent powers of the world on Indic terms without looking through British glasses. When he met with Hitler, with Tojo, he spoke with them about Indian interests which were not in coherence with British Interests, but with Indian interests alone.

Was this good or bad, its difficult to say, but fact remains that Netaji had much better understanding of international politics than INC leaders had, especially when it comes to thinking of National interests which are viewed in completely neutral and uninfluenced manner. In politics, there is no friend, no enemy, no sympathy and no apathy. There are only interests. All the talk of principles and stuff is not relevent in international politics. Ribbentrap-Molotov pact is testimony to this fact.

Germany and Japan sympathized Indian cause because it was their interest. USA too sympathized Indian independence (Atlantic Charter) because it was its interest. Later, British favoured partition, supported Pakistan in all its proxy-wars against India to further their interest. War is merely an extension of politics. War without politics and vested interest is waste of time and resources.

Netaji's opinion was definitely based on his correct assessment of India's place in global politics, her potentials and drawbacks and strengths. What would have happened, if Germany had won the WW2, is different matter, but what can be said with surety is that it would have been impossible for any foreign power to rule India of 1940. Netaji's strategy was definitely well thought out and worth a shot.


Ace said...

Chiron, you have said that British could rule us because we Indians cooperated, but would this cooperation have been really possible if the British were really so despotic,tyrannical and rigid in their approach? This needs a debate.

Ace said...

Chiron,u said that the British deprived us a chance of being the regional superpower by cutting of pakistan,part of kashmir from India (but wasnt there complicity of the then Indian leaders also involved? why couldnt they see through the grand design of the British? I personally feel it wasnt a part of some design but an unfortunate consequence of the circumstances then).Coming back to the main point, India has access to countries like Nepal,Bangladesh,Sri Lanka, Bhutan,Burma ... Yethow much leverage India has managed to hold on these countries in the recent years vis a vis China?

Chiron said...

Ace, thanks for the comments. Here is my attempt to answer your doubts.

1. There is no debate over the tyranny and despotism of British. The genocide in Indo-Gangetic belt after 1857 is very well documented in annals of history, although not widely publicized among general masses as the tyranny of Nazis and Japanese in WW2. The tyranny of British, not only in India, but even outside (French-Indian wars in North Ameria; Boer War in South Africa) are documented facts.

2. Indians cooperated because there was no viable option for British in those times. The time form 1680 (Aurangzeb's Deccan invasion) to 1858, there was really no uniform and central power and system in India which gave India the stability required to prosper. Subconsciously, Indians were tired of this. Later Marathas did not show the promise of Shivaji. And Madhavrao-1 died very young. The Sanskritik bondages loosened amongst Indians owing to lack of a central power-system for such a long time. Any power which shows the promise of permanence, stability and hence prosperity after century of impermanence, is cooperated with, usually.

3. Indians in general and Hindus in particular, are quite intolerant when it comes to cultural domination of any non-Indian system over India. Hence, after the standardization brought about by british, Hindus quickly rallied and reformed and started resisting to British simply following their trait of foreign resistance.

4. British did not deny India chance of becoming a regional power. India is a regional super-power since 1947. By creating its access to Central asia and creating 7 countries within India, British is delaying India's rise to the position of global super-power and largest economy as long as possible.

5. Hindus were away from international politics for 1000 years. The general political understanding of Islamic world (which is much bigger than Hindu world) among ordinary Muslims of that time was much more than ordinary Hindus. Even an illiterate Muslim of that era knew about Mecca, Madina, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Andalucia (Spain), Baghdad, Khilafat and Crusades and Saladin from his religious teachers. Ordinary Hindu was nowhere close to this knowledge of geography and associated politics. Hence, Muslim league leaders showed greater acumen of politics and convinced British to favour partition. Hindu leaders, were more introvert and by and large ignorant about geo-politics. Gandhi would never have said,"India needs no army because She doesn't want to invade anybody" otherwise.

6. It was a part of grand design. I would recommend you to read about mackinder's theory of Geographical pivot and the theory of the Great-Game. The book I recommend is "In the Shadow of the great game: An untold story of India's partition" by Narendra Singh Sarila. He was ADC to Mountbatten.

7. Complicity of India vis-a-vis her neighbouring countries is subject of debate and its origin lies in the degree of Mercantile and Mercenary Character which I have discussed in my previous post about Power and Permanence. I would recommend you to read that part of article to understand why current Indian leadership is so much complacent. It also has to do with nature of North-Indian Politics, which is the subject of my next article.

You are welcome to cast your opinion over my attempt of answering your comments.

Thanks for the valuable posts again.. :-)