In the context of the continuing Chinese aggression in Ladakh, we bring to our readers this week extracts from a speech made by Jawaharlal Nehru at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party on 17 February 1963, a few months after the 1962 Chinese invasion, which explains the deeper Chinese world-view which underlies their actions, an explanation that may still be relevant today
Now at the present moment one may say that the major problem before India is this Chinese aggression and invasion. That is so, in a sense not merely because it is aggression and invasion but that is a challenge to many things that we hold dear. That is ultimately a challenge to our own whole position in Asia, the world. So, it is not merely a question of land, although land is important….
There are deeper things behind it, the real, basic issues, which arise out of the Chinese perceptions of the world situation today…. We have tried to think, have given great deal of thought to the reason why the Chinese have done this. It is not enough, it is a superficial way of looking that they wanted to grab some territory from us, that is not enough. The price they have paid for grabbing that is a heavy price, the heaviest being the hostility of India which has developed against them….
If you read foreign reviews, political reviews and others, there are plenty of articles just judging this, why has China done it at a great cost to herself, to her position in the world, to her reputation and so on…. Almost all agreed that China has done this because of China’s world view at the present moment, the world view which includes in its ambit its relations with the outside world. What I mean is that they arise from the world view that China has and what China feels it should do with regard to India in that context because China is a big power and takes a long term view of things. She wants to increase her strength and though she may not want to conquer other countries, she would like to have them under her influence. Having areas of influence would mean that they would not go against her policies. So, China would like to have many spheres of influence in Asia….
Apart from this world view or part of it, if you like, there is the question of, they are trying to humble or humiliate India. That is by showing that they are the most important and powerful country in Asia and no other country should come in their way and so on. So, this is a big thing and right from the day of this major invasion in October last, I have ventured to say that this is a long term conflict….There is no choice – no choice for a country which values its honour and integrity but to carry that burden and face the menace and put an end to the menace when it can.
There are many other things too, one of which is that the rift between China and the Soviet Union is widening. You may have read statements from the Soviet Union which talk of friendly relations with China. But as a matter of fact, the rift is widening not merely because it is an ideological debate on the two interpretations of communism. Whenever the necessity arises, this garb of ideological debate is given to the natural conflict of national interests…. But the conflict cannot be resolved and the distance between them is bound to widen.
China…. is a warlike nation, which is concentrating on war at the expense of everything and planning everything from the point of view of war. Even now, China is the only country in the wide world which continues to say that there will be and should be a world war. No other country does it. The Soviet Union is dead opposed to it because it has much to lose by it. It will stop all their progress. China thinks it has not much to lose and they can afford to lose, one hundred million or two hundred million people.
(Reproduced in Jawaharlal Nehru Selected Works, Second Series, Volume 81, pp7-29.)
Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library