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Savarkar’s scepticism about Nehru’s China policy

After the success of the first part, Vikram Sampath now unveils the concluding volume of the Savarkar series, the exploration of the life and works of one of the most contentious political thinkers and leaders of the twentieth century, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

Here is an exclusive and intriguing excerpt from the book where the author talks about Savarkar’s scepticism towards Nehru’s policy towards China and other matters of international relations:


Savarkar (Part 2) A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 || Vikram Sampath

With the restrictions on his political activities ceasing, Savarkar began to be more vocal on various aspects of national and foreign policy and governance. He was particularly sceptical and critical of Nehru’s policy towards China. On 29 April 1954, India signed the Panchsheel or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence with China. Four years earlier, China had invaded and occupied Tibet and India had remained silent. Writing about these in the Kesari on 26 January 1954, Savarkar said:

When China, without even consulting India, invaded the buffer state of Tibet, India should at once have protested and demanded the fulfilment of rights and privileges as per her agreements and pacts entered into with Tibet. But our Indian Government was not able to do any such thing. We closed our eyes in the name of world peace and co-existence and did not even raise a finger against this invasion of Tibet. Neither did we help this buffer state of Tibet when her very existence was at stake. Why? The only reason that I visualize is our unpreparedness for such an eventuality and/or war . . . That is the reason why after swallowing the whole of Tibet the strong armies of China and Russia are now standing right on our borders in a state of complete preparedness and on the strength of the above, China is today openly playing the game of liquidating the remaining buffer states of Nepal and Bhutan . . . We have not been able to put before her an army which can match the strength of her armies on these borders of ours even today. This is precisely the reason why China dares come forward with such an unabashed claim on our territories . . . China completely overran Tibet and destroyed the only buffer state so as to strengthen her vast borders. By this act of hers, China had with one stroke come right on our borders by force and prepared the way for an open aggression against India whenever she felt like it. Britain, when she was ruling over India, had by careful planning, pacts, treaties and agreements created a chain of buffer states like Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan in order to strengthen the borders of India and to safeguard it from China and Russia. Afghanistan also acted like a buffer state on the other side. Britain had on behalf of the Government of India, directly or indirectly taken upon herself by various pacts, charters and agreements even the guarantee of continued existence of these buffer states. Immediately on attainment of independence all these rights were transferred to the independent sovereign Republic of India. But in the very six years that we criminally wasted, China has equipped her whole nation with most modern and up-to-date arms, and without in the least caring for the feelings and sentiments of India had completely overrun Tibet and destroyed the only buffer state so as to strengthen her vast borders. 15


Savarkar asked India to emulate the example of Israel that came into existence in May 1948 after almost a two-thousand-year struggle by the Jews for a homeland of their own. Israel, he said, ‘is besieged by their staunch enemies Arab nations. But this tiny nation has given military education to its men and women, procured weapons from Britain and U.S.A., established arm [sic] factories in their own nation, intelligently signed treaties and with foreign nations and raised its own strategic power to that extent that their enemy Arab nations would never dare to invade them.’ 16

He claimed that it was still not too late for India to wake up from its slumber and similarly increase her military and strategic strength as the world recognizes only that. The Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai was accorded a warm welcome in New Delhi on 26 June 1954 and Nehru coined his favourite phrase ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’. In an interview on this India–China diplomacy in the Kesari on 4 July 1954, Savarkar welcomed this bonhomie with a sense of cautious optimism. He said:

‘In politics the enemy of our enemy is our best friend. Enlightened self-interest is the only touchstone on which friendship in political dealings could be tested, since there is no such thing as real and selfless friendship in the political arena. If the meeting between Chou En-Lai and Nehru angered the U.S.A., Indians should not pay attention to it because the U.S.A. too did not care to pause and think about India’s sensitivities if America entered into a military pact with Pakistan. All the policies of

India must be dependent on what was good or bad for India herself. If it was advantageous to India she should not in the least worry or care whether anyone felt enraged, insulted or irritated . . . The general principles that are being propagated as fundamental in this visit are very good and sound, so far as their language is concerned. Nothing is lost in proclaiming wishes for world peace, prosperity and brotherhood. But so long as India does not have any effective practical remedy or measures to check the transgressions, such visits have no more than a formal status. While crying from the roof tops about these principles it was worth noting that China, by swallowing Tibet, had ruthlessly trampled those very principles of world peace, brotherhood and peaceful co-existence. That was the funniest part of the whole deal, and it at once raised doubts in Indian minds about the bona fides of China and Chou En-Lai. There was at that time a political party in Tibet aiming at independence.


It was curious and in a way most astonishing that after preying on and swallowing the mouse of Tibet the Chinese cat was talking of going on a pilgrimage. That was exactly the role that the Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai and President Mao Tse-tung were playing. 17

In the same piece Savarkar also emphasized on the fundamental theory of foreign policy, which was permanent national interests and not merely high-sounding, one-sided moral principles. He hoped that the Panchsheel did not run this risk.


He said:

China, Russia, Britain and even the recently established Pakistan all are talking of high-sounding principles, but they do so as a step towards diplomatic measures to achieve their own ends, and for the success of their own political objectives. In the present state of human relationship it should be just so; but of all the countries India alone has for long been in the habit of preaching sermons of high principles to others and unilaterally bringing them into practice, which ultimately proves disastrous to the interests of India. I only hope that this does not happen in this case of the Panchsheel. What I feel is that if at all China uses India as a springboard to push forward her own territorial aims and interests, India should also primarily safeguard her own interests and if these moves do not go against her interests then alone take part in it. So long as China is looking to further her interests alone, India should also follow the same and use the good wishes of China only in so far as they help to push the interests of India forward. We should believe in their good faith and good intentions as much as and as long as they believe in ours. One fact must be made clear here and it is that [the] U.K., U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and China can force India to bring into practice all these principles because they hold the upper hand, being in possession of atomic and nuclear weapons of warfare. But can India do the same? Can India force these nations to see that they follow the principles that they profess to preach? This is the most important question. It is no use having political or diplomatic friendship alone with either China or Russia. We must immediately undertake to see that military potential and preparedness of the Indian armed forces with modern and most upto-date weapons of warfare is not being neglected and that we too can produce atomic and nuclear weapons just as these nations can. If China can erect plants and factories for the manufacture of atomic weapons of warfare in Sinkiang and other places we should also be able to do so. There is nothing difficult in it. Our scientists and laboratories might be able to invent and manufacture such weapons in a year or two or they might invent even more destructive ones . . . But so long a weak and impotent Government at the Centre does not take even one step to achieve these objectives it is no use talking of high principles and running after the mirage of world peace, peaceful co-existence, world brotherhood and prosperity, and nothing good can come out of such so-called good-will visits. High principles must have a robust armed strength behind them to see that they are brought into practice by those who wax eloquent about it. Taking all these things into consideration I feel that the time has come now when the Central Government must immediately take steps to increase the armed might and the military potential of India. 18

A lot of what Savarkar wrote about and cautioned was to turn prophetically true in the decades to come as far as India’s strategic, military and foreign relations were concerned.


Read Vikram Sampath’s Savarkar (Part 2) A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 to know more about the opinions and works of Savarkar.

The Boy Who Loved — An Exclusive Excerpt

1 January 1999
Hey Raghu Ganguly (that’s me),
I am finally putting pen to paper. The scrunch of the sheets against the fanged nib, the slow absorption of the ink, seeing these unusually curved letters, is definitely satisfying; I’m not sure if writing journal entries to myself like a schizophrenic is the answer I’m looking for. But I have got to try. My head’s dizzy from riding on the sinusoidal wave that has been my life for the last two years. On most days I look for ways to die—the highest building around my house, the sharpest knife in the kitchen, the nearest railway station, a chemist shop that would unquestioningly sell twenty or more sleeping pills to a sixteen-year-old, a packet of rat poison—and on some days I just want to be scolded by Maa–Baba for not acing the mathematics exam, tell Dada how I will beat his IIT score by a mile, or be laughed at for forgetting to take the change from the bania’s shop.
I’m Raghu and I have been lying to myself and everyone around me for precisely two years now. Two years since my best friend of four years died, one whose friendship I thought would outlive the two of us, engraved forever in the space– time continuum. But, as I have realized, nothing lasts forever. Now lying to others is fine, everyone does that and it’s healthy and advisable—how else are you going to survive the suffering in this cruel, cruel world? But lying to yourself? That shit’s hard, that will change you, and that’s why I made the resolution to start writing a journal on the first of this month, what with the start of a new year and all, the last of this century.
I must admit I have been dilly-dallying for a while now and not without reason. It’s hard to hide things in this house with Maa’s sensitive nose never failing to sniff out anything Dada, Baba or I have tried to keep from her. If I were one of those kids who live in palatial houses with staircases and driveways I would have plenty of places to hide this journal, but since I am not, it will have to rest in the loft behind the broken toaster, the defunct Singer sewing machine and the empty suitcases.
So Raghu, let’s not lie to ourselves any longer, shall we? Let’s say the truth, the cold, hard truth and nothing else, and see if that helps us to survive the darkness. If this doesn’t work and I lose, checking out of this life is not hard. It’s just a seven-storey drop from the roof top, a quick slice of the wrist, a slip on the railway track, a playful ingestion of pills or the accidental consumption of rat poison away. But let’s try and focus on the good.
Durga. Durga.
12 January 1999
Today was my first day at the new school, just two months before the start of the tenth-standard board exams. Why Maa– Baba chose to change my school in what’s said to be one of the most crucial year in anyone’s academic life is amusing to say the least—my friendlessness. 
‘If you don’t make friends now, then when will you?’ Maa said. They thought the lack of friends in my life was my school’s problem and had nothing to do with the fact that my friend had been mysteriously found dead, his body floating in the still waters of the school swimming pool. He was last seen with  me. At least that’s what my classmates believe and say. Only I know the truth.
When Dada woke me up this morning, hair parted and sculpted to perfection with Brylcreem, teeth sparkling, talcum splotches on his neck, he was grinning from ear to ear. Unlike me he doesn’t have to pretend to be happy. Isn’t smiling too much a sign of madness? He had shown the first symptoms when he picked a private-sector software job over a government position in a Public Sector. Undertaking which would have guaranteed a lifetime of unaccountability. Dada may be an IITian but he’s not the smarter one of us. 
‘Are you excited about the new school, Raghu? New uniform, new people, new everything? Of course you’re excited! I never quite liked your old school. You will make new friends here,’ said Dada with a sense of happiness I didn’t feel. ‘Sure. If they don’t smell the stench of death on me.’ ‘Oh, stop it. It’s been what? Over two years? You know how upset Maa–Baba get,’ said Dada. ‘Trust me, you will love your new school! And don’t talk about Sami at the breakfast table.’ ‘I was joking, Dada. Of course I am excited!’ I said, mimicking his happiness.
Dada falls for these lies easily because he wants to believe them. Like I believed Maa–Baba when they once told me, ‘We really liked Sami. He’s a nice boy.’ Sami, the dead boy, was never liked by Maa–Baba. For Baba it was enough that his parents had chosen to give the boy a Muslim name. Maa had more valid concerns like his poor academic performance, him getting caught with cigarettes in his bag, and Sami’s brother being a school dropout. Despite all the love they showered on me in the first few months after Sami’s death, I thought I saw what could only be described as relief that Sami, the bad influence, was no longer around. Now they use his name to their advantage. ‘Sami would want you to make new friends,’ they would say. I let Maa feed me in the morning. It started a few days after Sami’s death and has stuck ever since.
Maa’s love for me on any given day is easily discernible from the size of the morsels she shoves into my mouth. Today the rice balls and mashed potatoes were humungous. She watched me chew like I was living art. And I ate because I believe the easiest way to fool anyone into not looking inside and finding that throbbing mass of sadness is to ingest food. A person who eats well is not truly sad. While we ate, Baba lamented the pathetic fielding placement of the Indian team and India’s questionable foreign policy simultaneously.
‘These bloody Musalmans, these filthy Pakistanis! They shoot our soldiers…
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