India under Modi must join hands with China to lead resurgent Asia

A Panel Discussion under the title ‘India under Modi: Relevance for the Region and the World’ scheduled to be held on July 21, 2014 at the BMICH, Colombo and addressed by five prominent Indians led by Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Chairman, BJP Committee on Strategic Action, is intended to be a forum for Sri Lankans to gain an insight into the new style of governance of Narendra Modi and India’s unfolding role in the Region and the larger world, among other topics. It will be based, according to the organizers of this workshop i.e. Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), on a desire to forge close ties between the Modi Government and Sri Lanka.

This article will focus on India’s praiseworthy role in giving voice to the newly liberated nations following de-colonization leading to the Bandung Conference in 1955, and the role that awaits India under Narendra Modi to blaze a new trail in Asia and the larger world preferably and it is recommended, hand in hand with China.   

The people of Asia, where do we stand today in this world of ours?

In 1954, a perceptive Indonesian Prime Minister Dr. Ali Sastriomidjojo attending  the Colombo Conference hosted by the Government of Ceylon (then called) under Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala, asked the following question - Where do we stand now, we the people of Asia, in this world of ours today?

The Bandung Conference was convened one year later in 1955 to provide an answer to this question, and the leaders of Asia and Africa responded optimistically by supplying answers to that question.

This question despite marked changes in geo-politics is still valid 60 years down the track though in a re-formulated form as follows:

We the people of Asia where do we stand today in a world still largely controlled and manipulated by neo – colonial western powers who dominate the international mass media and dream of re-colonization and pillage of resources if not directly or at least indirectly by a series of manipulative acts using the rhetoric of Human Rights and Rule of Law, and international institutions e.g. agencies of the UN, as tools to do the spade work e.g. regime change, de-stabilization of countries asserting neutrality and independence from western dominance?

The holding of the Bandung Conference in April 1955 represented a watershed moment in the sphere of international relations. It was a landmark event. It was the most significant collective expression of the resurgence of Asia and Africa since the commencement of the process of de-colonization in the aftermath of the end of the second world war and the emergence of independent nations outside Europe. These new nations were to become a new set of actors in the global arena and in turn they created the Non-aligned movement.


However the most notable impact of the Bandung Conference was that it symbolized the collapse of colonialism and the rise of a large group of nations united by a shared past of oppression under western dominance and increasingly confident of challenging the hegemonic role of the Western powers in the arena of international politics.

Bandung Conference

The first ever Asian-African conference was held at Bandung, Indonesia, from April 18 to 24, 1955. It was sponsored by Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia and Pakistan and  attended by 18 other countries from Asia (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Nepal, Peoples Republic of China, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Vietnam, Syria, Thailand, Turkey and Yemen) and 6 countries from Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast [now Ghana], Liberia, Libya and Sudan). The rationale for holding of the Conference was based on a common understanding by the leaders of the newly de-colonised and liberated nations of Asia and Africa, that unless they come and work together as a collective force on the world stage their hard won struggle for freedom would be lost quickly to the very nations that had colonized them and grudgingly granted them independence but had not given up their dream of re-colonization.

Fears of Re-colonization

Two major incursions by Colonial powers namely France and Holland in post- war Asia after the defeat of Japan, to regain their colonial possessions and restore colonial rule by armed force, namely in Vietnam and Indonesia, sent alarming signals across the newly decolonised countries about the possible threats of re-colonisation.

a) Indonesia

On the night of December 19, 1948 Jogjakarta, the Indonesian capital was seized by Dutch paratroopers and President Sukarno, Prime Minister Mohammed Hatta, and several other members of the Indonesian government were arrested and placed in custody on an isolated island. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister condemned Holland's action, which he described as naked and brazen aggression, and closed all Indian seaports and airports to Dutch vessels and aircraft. Thereafter Nehru responding to the call of the Burmese Prime Minister U Nu to hold a conference of Asian states in defence of Indonesia, convened an International Conference, which was attended by 19 countries including Australia and New Zealand. The United States and Britain, which tacitly supported the Dutch military attempt to re- take Indonesia, were unhappy at the holding of the conference and, they exerted pressure behind the scene to sway the outcome of the conference. Nevertheless the Conference unhesitatingly condemned the Dutch aggression and called for the immediate release of the detained members of the Indonesian government, withdrawal of Dutch troops from Jogjakarta and handing over of power to the United States of Indonesia by January 1, 1950. It led to the ending of hostilities on May 7, 1949 and an agreement was entered into to conduct further negotiations at a conference to be held under the auspices of the United Nations.

b) Vietnam

The entry of Japan to World War II led to the French colony of Indochina (consisting of Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia), being occupied by the Japanese. In 1941 the freedom fighter and Communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh established a Vietnamese nationalist movement, the Viet Minh, to resist the occupiers and waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese. However the Japanese which began the war on the footing of establishing a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" i.e. a new international order seeking "co prosperity" for Asian countries which would share prosperity and peace, free from Western colonialism and domination, also promoted Vietnamese nationalism and ultimately granted Vietnam independence in March 1945 under the title ‘Empire of Vietnam’ (short-lived) with the Vietnamese Monarch Bao Dai as the titular head.


Following the Japanese defeat in WWII, the Vietminh under Ho Chi Minh took over Government in Vietnam. But the French attempted to retake possession of their colony. Their entry into Vietnam was only allowed by the Viet Minh after assurances had been given by the French that the country will be granted independence as part of the French Union. But negotiations between the two sides were unsuccessful and in December 1946 the French shelled the Port of Haiphong and forcibly seized the capital, Hanoi.

The French re-occupation of Vietnam resulted in a conflict that ended when the French were decisively defeated by the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The conflict was finally settled by the 1954 Geneva Accords, which temporarily partitioned the country at the 17th parallel, with the Viet Minh in control of the north, and a non-Communist state to be formed in the south under Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem. This division was designed to last until 1956, when national elections would be held to decide the future of the nation but the South Vietnamese Govt. under Ngo Dinh Diem scuttled the arrangement with American support. The rest of the developments in Vietnam following the Geneva Accords in 1954 is too well known to be re- produced here.

Colombo Conference of 1954

A significant five South Asian Premiers three day mini – summit was held in Colombo, Ceylon from April 29 to May 2, 1954 to prepare a plan for a solution of the Indo – China conflict and organised at the initiative of Sir John Kotelawala, Prime Minister of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) to which Prime Ministers of Burma (U Nu), India (Jawaharlal Nehru), Indonesia (Ali Sastroamidjojo), and Pakistan (Mohammed Ali) were invited.

It was at this Colombo Conference that the desirability of holding a conference of Asian and African nations was discussed and the Indonesian Prime Minister, Dr. Ali Sastromidjojo was the main exponent of the need for such a conference with which a new foundation could be laid for a new movement of independent nations in Asia and Africa.

Sri Lanka - then Ceylon - played a key role in the initial phase by organising the conference of the Colombo Powers, from which followed the Bogor Conference which, in fact, was the prelude to Bandung.

It was at the Bogor Conference that a decision was taken in respect of the number of countries to be invited to the Bandung, and in the original list, there were thirty countries, and in addition the Bogor Conference laid down four principles and the purposes of the proposed Asian African Conference.

The first purpose was to explore and advance the mutual as well as common interests of the participants; second, to view the position of Asia and Africa and their peoples in the world of today and the contribution they can make to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.

However the most notable impact of the Bandung Conference was that it symbolized the collapse of colonialism and the rise of a large group of nations united by a shared past of oppression under western dominance and increasingly confident of challenging the hegemonic role of the Western powers in the arena of international politics.

But the Bandung Conference was not without its antecedents. The ground for its eventuation was set in the period 1947 – 1955 by a series of freedom fighters of the calibre of Jawaharlal Nehru, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and Sukarno.  They gave voice in eloquent language to dreams long suppressed by colonialism and began to assert their rightful place and equality of status in the international arena.

Panchsheel – Basis of Sino Indian Friendship

The seed for forging strong ties between the newly liberated India (from British colonial rule in 1947) and the newly established People’s Republic of China (in 1949) took place in June 1954, during a recess in the Geneva conference discussing the future of Indo-China including the grant of independence and re-unification of Vietnam, following the defeat of the French colonial forces in the battle of Dien Bien Phu by the Viet Minh led by General Võ Nguyên Giáp in May 1954.

V K Krishna Menon, India's representative at the conference extended an invitation to the Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai to visit India. It was accepted. The ensuing talks between Chou En-Lai and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ended on June 28, 1954 in the signing of a joint statement on the principles on which relations between India and China were to be based. These principles, which were subsequently known as the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence or Panchsheel, were: (1) mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; (2) non-aggression; (3) non-interference in each other's internal affairs; (4) equality and mutual benefit; and (5) peaceful coexistence.

India’s Pro – active Role in Asia

a) Korean War

The development of India's foreign policy was very much influenced by the events following the commencement of the Korean War, on June 25, 1950. Though India initially voted in favour of the UN Security Council resolution that permitted the US to enter the Korean War under the flag of the United Nations, India refused to provide military support and instead sent only a medical team on a humanitarian mission. India adopted the position that its objective was to localise the conflict and work towards bringing the violence to an end. When the ‘UN Forces’ approached the 38th Parallel Nehru pleaded not to cross it particularly since China had forewarned that in such an event it would be forced to intervene on the side of North Korea in the war. However, the US without paying heed to Nehru's advice invaded North Korea in early October 1950, thereby, forcing China to enter the war with ‘Chinese volunteers’ crossing the Yalu River into North Korea. Furthermore India opposed a UN resolution that declared the Peoples Republic of China an aggressor in the Korean War. In addition India proceeded to play a significant role in proposing an Armistice which was accepted by the UN and the People’s Volunteer Army of China leading to the ending of fighting on July 27, 1953. India was also appointed to head the neutral-nations commission for repatriation of prisoners of war.

b) Peace Treaty with Japan

As much as Hon. J.R. Jayewardene earned for Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) the undying affection and gratitude of Japan and the Japanese people for his magnanimous stand at the San Francisco Conference convened by the United States on September 8, 1951 to sign the peace treaty with Japan, when he called on the delegates to show compassion and understanding towards Japan and not to accept reparations from Japan quoting the Buddha’s noble words that 'hatred ceases not by hatred but by love’, India too earned the unqualified friendship of Japan because of its refusal to attend the San Francisco Conference because of the US position that the provisions of the treaty were non-negotiable. India interpreted certain provisions of the Treaty as constituting limitations on Japanese sovereignty and national independence. India entered into a separate peace treaty called with Japan on June 9, 1952 for the purpose of giving Japan a proper position of honor and equality among the community of free nations.

c) Justice Radha Binod Pal – the dissenting Indian

No foreigner is as much venerated as the fallen soldiers of Japan than Justice Radha Binod Pal. A grateful Japan has not forgotten this famous Indian Judge who said ‘ Not Guilty’ when the sentence of death was pronounced on the former Japanese Prime Minister Tojo and 24 others for war crimes by all the other Judges at the end of the Tokyo Trials in 1948.

Justice Radha Binod Pal charged that the War Crimes Trials of Japanese leaders were incapable of conducting a fair inquiry or delivering a just sentence. There was no meting out of proper Justice at these Trials because the entire judicial process at these trials constituted a “sham employment of the legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge”


It has been said that Hideki Tojo the former Prime Minister of Japan and the chief accused had  left a haiku (a poem) drawn in praise of Pal before walking to the gallows. Pal  admired Pan-Asianism  and he had regarded the proceedings of the  non - impartial  War Crimes Tribunal at Tokyo through that prism. On a visit to Japan in 1966 Pal had remarked that he had been an admirer of Japan from a young age for being the only Asian nation that “stood up against the West.”

To this day Japan’s nationalist leaders and opinion builders have not hesitated to regard Pal as a hero, using his dissenting opinion at the Tokyo trials to point out that Japan did not prosecute a war of aggression in Asia.  

The Emperor of Japan had conferred on Pal the First Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasures, Japan’s greatest civilian honour in 1966. Justice Pal’s dissenting judgment is frequently referred to by diplomats and political leaders in the context of Indo-Japanese friendship and solidarity. In fact in 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a speech delivered in the Japanese Parliament, had said that: “The principled judgment of Justice Radhabinod Pal after the War is remembered even today in Japan. These events reflect the depth of our friendship and the fact that we have stood by each other at critical moments in our history.”

The reverence with which Pal is held by Japanese nationalists is such that a monument dedicated to him stands on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine. It is said that there are only three Indians, whom the Japanese revere, namely Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Justice Radha Binod Pal. Nationalists of both countries may well consider adding the name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to this illustrious list for enlisting the assistance of Japan to liberate his country India from colonial rule, which occurred largely as a result of Subhas Bose’s indefatigable efforts though he was not present to relish the fruits of his labour.  


The Dissenting Indian by Pheroze Kharegat (Deccan Herald)

China at Bandung Conference

The attendance of China at the Bandung Conference gave much credence to the legitimacy and success of the event. Despite a terrorist attack on an Air India Chartered plane carrying a group of Chinese delegates from Hong Kong to Bandung, resulting in the blow up of the plane in mid air over the South China Sea killing 16 Chinese delegates and the crew, a bomb presumably meant to target Chou en Lai, Chinese Prime Minister,   altogether about 340 delegates representing a population of 1440 million (almost two-thirds of the world's then population) attended the conference.

The Final Communiqué implored the participating nations to remain free from mistrust and fear, to show goodwill towards each other, to practice tolerance, to live together in peace with one another as good neighbors and to develop friendly cooperation on the basis of declared ten principles.

The saddest turn of events despite the huge optimism generated by the Bandung Conference was that the strong friendship and good-neighbourliness which was built up especially between India and China until 1955, was unfortunately converted into one of mistrust and unpleasantness in the second half of the 1950s and it has continued to remain that way to date.

N.D. Jayaprakash, an Indian Commentator, says as follows:

“ This unpleasant development was no doubt a big setback for the concerns of the peace loving peoples of Asia. Thus, apart from giving the needed stimulus to the struggle to end colonialism, the purpose for which the conference was organised remained largely unfulfilled. The failure of the Bandung conference to launch a permanent Asian-African countries organisation was a sign that it was the writ of the imperialist powers that ultimately prevailed, although Nehru did make a valiant attempt later to revive it in the form of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961.”


India and the Bandung Conference of 1955

N.D. Jayaprakash

Challenges before Narendra Modi

India under Narendra Modi as Prime Minister must claim its rightful place in Asia ( as well as in the larger world) as one of its true leaders, politically, economically and even militarily, and in order to demonstrate these credentials India must abandon without reservation the previous Government ( under Manmohan Singh) policy of servility and unconditional subservience to the West. It must do so in the full knowledge that continuing subservience to its former colonial masters and their allies i.e. the new sponsors of colonialism, will severely undercut any Indian claim to lead the once colonised but now liberated nations of Asia plus lose any potential support from the rest of the world looking forward to an Indian leadership having self confidence, pride in its great spiritual heritage and moral backbone.

India must mend any strains it has in its relationship with China and should not allow interfering outsiders, particularly from the West, to identify India’s friends and potential enemies and teach India how to conduct itself vis-à-vis imagined foes. India must take comfort from a historical fact that India and China despite being neighbours on the Asian continent had never gone to war with each other for over 5000 years except on one dismal occasion in contemporary history (1962) when it clashed over a border issue that has its roots in British colonial mischief.

India must set its own foreign policy agenda and goals from a central government perspective, rather than from a regional government perspective, and discard the weak kneed and cowardly policy adopted by the Manmohan Singh Govt. of appeasing regional blocks in India, which unfortunately contributed to India’s almost total isolation from its immediate neighbours in South Asia. A radical change in such posture will contribute immensely to improvement of India’s ties with Sri Lanka and other neighbours.  

India’s moral voice must be heard again in the far flung corners of the world in a manner that the Buddha, Mahavira, Asoka, Nagarjuna, Swami Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (popularly known as Babasaheb) and the like resounded to the serene joy and delight of humankind. Idealism must again re-surface to the top in India and in turn help to re-charge the batteries of a largely spiritually weakened Asia, now increasingly despoiled by unbridled crass materialism.  The time for measuring each and every inch of social progress solely by an economic yardstick to the detriment of moral and ethical values which was once upon a time championed by India’s great spiritual leaders must end.

We have obligations to both humanity and all other living beings. India’s Constitution has made provision that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures,” (Article 51 A (g)). This is the vision that India’s greatest son, Gautama Buddha, had for Bharat and its greatest Emperor Asoka faithfully strove to establish in the form of a compassionate society. Narendra Modi must unhesitatingly accept this challenge of transforming India into a compassionate society and strive diligently towards ending Man’s inhumanity towards animals. The steps that Modi has taken as Chief Minister of Gujarat to stop cattle slaughter and legislate against cruelty to animals are moves in the right direction.  We are further consoled by the fact that Narendra Modi has in his Cabinet of Ministers, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, one of the great champions of Animal Rights in the world.   

It is India more than any other country that originally provided the value system for the moral and ethical foundations of Asia, through the spread of the influence of Buddhism and Hinduism. Asia is indebted to India for this great contribution. It is this factor i.e. transmission of Buddhism, more than anything else that ensured China’s lasting friendship and gratitude to India down the ages. Buddhism is well integrated in Chinese culture and civilization. Both India and China are ‘mother’ countries for the people of Asia. Both have historical civilizations that have contributed immensely to the economic, cultural and moral development of the rest of Asia.

The stability of Asia in today’s world rests primarily on the leadership that that these two countries, India and China, acting together in peace and harmony, would be able to provide. 

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