Mainstream, VOL LII No 18; April 26, 2014
A Rejoinder to Maxwell’s Article
Tuesday 29 April 2014, by
If some disparaging remarks about me make Neville Maxwell happy, I do not want to grudge him that. What disappoints me is a streak of self-righteousness which runs through his article published in the Mainstream. [“On Writing India’s China War”, Mainstream (April 12, 2014)] Editors and others at The Times, London, never referred to me as a stringer. They would address me as their correspondent and publish my dispatches under my by-line. I worked for the paper for 25 years.
Neville Maxwell wants to be a martyr by alleging that he would have been arrested if he had visited India after writing the book, India’s China War. He is mistaken. The government took his and others’ criticisms in its stride and there was never any serious thinking on his arrest, whatever the British Foreign Office might have told him. If he was not disturbed for nearly a decade when he sent all sorts of biased reports on the happenings in India, I do not believe that anybody in the political circles took him seriously because his bias against the country was so blatant and relentless.
Except for the duration of the Emergency, India has a clean record of free and independent press as any democratic polity has. I was critical of New Delhi when it ousted The Times corres-pondent during the Emergency. I defied the government and spent three months in jail. Yet the same country punished the perpetrators once the elections were held after the lifting of the Emergency in 1977. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was seeking support from the West which had not liked Beijing’s invasion on its peaceful neighbour. Neville’s book gave it strength.
Where Neville went wrong—and he refuses to admit it—is his firm belief that democracy would not last long in India. He was confounded by the diversities in the country and failed to grasp the people’s unstinted faith in democracy. We have had 15 parliamentary elections and the sixteenth is in progress. The country, that has the largest number of poor in the world, still has an open society and free media. Naturally, Neville was wined and dined by Chou Enlai himself because Neville’s account tallied with Beijing’s propaganda that India had attacked China.
Neville has not yet answered my question: Why did he say that the 1967 elections would be the last one? We had free and fair elections in March 1971 after 1967. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in 1975 and extended the term of the Lok Sabha from five to six years. But then she and her Congress party were wiped out in the northern India and lost their majority in the Lok Sabha polls in 1977.
The problem with Neville is his ingrained bias that democracy is not suited to the genius of India. This also explains his one-sided slogan, “India’s China War”. After the publication of the Henderson Brooks report, I do not have anything to add except to reiterate that India was prey to China’s ambition to occupy the disputed territory which Beijing continues to do. Whatever may be the failure of political leaders, as the Henderson Brooks report reveals, the Army knew its pluses and minuses. It was unprepared and conveyed this to the then Defence Minister, Krishna Menon. But he was pro-China and heaped abuses on Pakistan with such views. Menon could not have been a party to the attack by India, a myth which Neville continues to spread relentlessly.