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a call for statesmanship - Vivek Nallur

Apr. 26th, 2012

01:21 pm - a call for statesmanship

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* India tests Agni V. Most papers go ga-ga about India's pride and what-not
* The usual tabloids in China warn India against being arrogant (http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/705627/India-being-swept-up-by-missile-delusion.aspx)

Now, there are multiple debates on whether a country that has starving citizens, should be investing in missile technology or not. This is not a post about that. There are also debates about whether the Chinese are (rightly or wrongly) arrogant about their superior military prowess. Again, I do not wish to add to that debate.

Rather, this is a call to learn from history. Since, we're both old civilizations, we should be looking back to figure out, under what political, economic and social conditions, the greatest civilizational advances have come about. This is understandably difficult due to memories of the Indo-China war of 1962. But, if France and Germany after 2 centuries of war, could make peace, there's no reason why India, and China cannot.

It takes great statesmanship, to ignore the short-term political damage, to ignore the fears generated by the war-mongers, and take the first step towards establishing genuine friendship. It took Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, to reach out and sign the Elysée Treaty. And then it took a further 10 years or so, for Willy Brandt and Pompidou to actually create bonhomie. But the silencing of the war-drums, and making a political commitment to friendship, has allowed their populace to interact, discover each other's culture, and establish relationships.

How much do we really know about China, their people, their myths, their taste in films, their familial structures, their traditions of birth/marriage/death? How much do they know about our literature, our art, our passion for food? Are we afraid of what we might find, if we knew them better? Would it be more difficult to mistrust them, if we knew that the commuters in Shanghai behave exactly like the commuters in Mumbai?

Perhaps the haiku by Iio Sogi captures it succintly:

morokoshi mo
ame shita to ya
tsurakaran

Does not china also
lie beneath this selfsame sky
bound in misery