BEWARE OF THE DRAGON-a book review(Article)

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Book Review. "Dragon's Shadow over Arunachal"

By R.D. Pradhan (Rupa and Co) 192 pages

New Delhi, March 19 (ANI): Tibetans in India observed in March this year the fiftieth year of the escape of the Dalai Lama from Tibet following Chinese occupation of Tibet. They have expressed the hope that the Tibetans, who are presently living in their homeland, would be able to live in peace and freedom.

It was perhaps, unintentional but timely, that we have a new book written by the first Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, R.D. Pradhan, entitled "Dragon's Shadow over Arunachal".

Not many gave credit to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 when he decided that the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), as it was then known, should be given full statehood with its own Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister and a full-fledged Governor. The general feeling was that the people of 'NEFA' did not demand full statehood and one could wait.

Looking back, one realizes how right Rajiv Gandhi was. The first three years of Rajiv Gandhi's Prime Ministership was one of the best periods in Indian history. The Government of India entered into the Punjab Accord with Sant Longowal, the Assam Accord was signed with agitators in the State who were becoming violent on the issue of immigrants from Bangladesh, the Mizo Accord was signed and elections were held there with rebel Laldenga heading the new government, and major initiatives were taken to give full-statehood to the 'seven sisters' in the North-East.

Rajiv visited Bangladesh, which was hit by a cyclone, took major initiative to make efforts to settle the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka and convened the SAARC conference.

I recall having closely worked with the then Home Secretary, R. D. Pradhan, in projecting the decisions as Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. As one looks back, another good decision taken by Rajiv Gandhi to send Ram Pradhan as the first Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, even though he was initially reluctant to take on the responsibility after retirement.

During his assignment between 1987 and 1990 Ram Pradhan and his wife traveled all over Arunachal by road and air, met people of all the sixteen districts, each distinct from the other in their own way, painstakingly interacting with the tribal chiefs without patronizing them. He was able to carry forward the efforts of Sir Verrier Elvin and the Officers of the Indian Frontier Administrative Service, in instilling in the people with a sense of belonging to India.

He discovered for himself that many tribes from Arunachal, while having distinct traditions, had strong links with the rest of India. That there are temples associated with Bhishma, that Lord Krishna had married Rukmini-a Idu-Mishmi girl -- and that every year on Makar Sankranti day on January 14, people from far off came to Parasram Kund near Tezu on Lohit river for a holy dip.

As Governor, Pradhan studied India's border problem with China. Many have blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for having trusted China and entered into an agreement on Tibet in 1954 and helped China being ushered into the non-aligned meet at Bandung in 1955. Nehru's efforts were directed to make China a strong friend of India, even though he was skeptical of Chinese intentions.

That Nehru was skeptical about China is brought out in the remark he made to G. Parthasarathi, who called on him On March 18, 1958, just before left for China as Ambasssador: "So G.P. what has the foreign office told you: Hindi Chini bhai bhai? Don't you believe it? I don't trust the Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that. The Chinese are arrogant, devious, hyprocritical and thoroughly unreliable. In fact, they have deliberately chosen to be anti-Indian. Your brief from me, therefore, is to be extremely vigilant about all Chinese intentions, policies and actions towards us."

R.D. Pradhan says that Nehru was not naove in his personal assessment of China. After the Longju incident in August 1959, in his letter to the Chief Ministers on 1 October 1959, he foresaw the tension erupting into conflict and warned the army. The author quotes Kautilya to say that it is left to the genius of a country's leadership to make 'an ally or an adversary of a neighbouring State.' Nehru made consistent efforts to turn China from an adversary to a friend. He failed.

Nehru could never live down the wrong judgment he made about Chinese intentions to wage war against India in 1962. He died on May 27, 1964, a disillusioned man bequeathing the border issue to his successors.

Much water has flown down the Brahmaputra since then. (Incidentally, the author points out that Brahmaputra is one of the very few rivers in India that have a male nomenclature) The Chinese were not able to deflect Indira Gandhi in 1971 when India decided to support the Mukti Bahini in Bangladesh. Over the years, India has gradually strengthened its economy and defences.

There was a distinct change in Chinese attitude towards India after the Sumdrong Chu incident in 1986 when India decided to open a post there in response to Chinese movement in the area. Efforts commenced to persuade Rajiv Gandhi to visit China. The author quotes what Chinese Foreign Minister Wu told H. K. Dua (then working for the Hindustan Times): "The objective of talks during Rajiv Gandhi's visit could only be to arrive at an agreement on 'principles'. Without such an agreement, he added, no border problem could ever be resolved."

R. D. Pradhan had the opportunity of briefing Rajiv Gandhi before his visit to China. The world witnessed the famous handshake of Deng Xiaoping with Rajiv Gandhi in Beijing in December 1988 followed by remarks to his 'young friend': "Starting with your visit we will restore our relations as friends" The agreement on 'principles' were worked out. The Joint Working Group set up then on the boundary question has been meeting ever since - over two scores or more times.

The Chinese had agreed in 1988 that the two governments would identify where the Line of Actual Control is located along the Sino-Indian border. There has been no response by China on this matter for over two decades.

China has been laying claims to areas in Arunachal, particularly Tawang. When it faced an international outcry before the Olympic Games, China expressed its appreciation of the Indian approach. The tone changed soon after the conclusion of the games.

R. D. Pradhan points out that India has made the mistake of not developing infrastructure in the North East all these years. The policy changed last year. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal, called it 'Our land of the Rising Sun' and announced the implementation of projects costing 100 billion rupees.

The Chinese expressed displeasure over Manmohan Singh's remarks, to which Pranab Mukherjee responded by saying that Arunachal was an integral part of India and the Prime Minister did not do anything that was not warranted by announcing schemes for the development of the region.

The author points out that unless we are careful " we may find the Dragon occupying physically the space in the north east. And the people of Arunachal face the threat."

One only wished there were more Governors who took their tasks as seriously as Ram Pradhan did. I. Ramamohan Rao, March 19, 2009. email: By I. Ramamohan Rao.(ANI)

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