2ndlook

India-China-India Face-off Ends: How Things Have Changed

Posted in China, Current Affairs, India, Media, Pax Americana, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on May 6, 2013

As for the current intrusion, all these war-like noises in the Indian media are good. It sends a good message

See how Daulat Beg Oldie can be used to cut off China from Pakistan and Gwadar.

See how Daulat Beg Oldie can be used to cut off China from Pakistan and Gwadar.

Right at the onset, the Chinese military contingent pitching tents at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh was a gesture. It was, of course, very clear that India of 2013 was not the India of 1962, when facing China. The small Chinese contingent was making a symbolic gesture – and India was responding to that gesture.

The reasons are clear. Though not to everyone.

China has significant numerical superiority – but technically and qualitatively, India can hold off and beat any kind of Chinese adventurism.

The Great Indian Defeat of 1962

India’s qualitative superiority was also probably true even in 1962.

Keeping in mind that the Indian soldiers of ’62 had been all over the world during WWII. Unlike China. Except the peculiar situations of the 1962 hides this aspect.

What 99.9% of the commentariat on the 1962 War with China forget is that the Chinese used the cover of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was when the world came closest to a nuclear war – according to some. While the world’s attention was locked onto Khruschev-Kennedy confrontation over Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba, China played mischief.

From 1959, to 1962, border skirmishes with China and ‘friendly’ talks were the norm.

Three contentious years later, Chinese forces launched a surprise invasion on October 20; the same day the Kennedy administration decided to enact a blockade of Cuba to keep Soviet missiles out of the Western Hemisphere.

Only days after Chinese forces crossed the Himalayas, President John Kennedy wrote to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asking “what [America] can do to translate our support into terms that are practically most useful to you as soon as possible.”

via A Forgotten War In The Himalayas.

To this offer of help, Nehru wrote two letters to Kennedy. Detailing what help US could extend.

W. Averell Harriman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and Duncan Sandys, British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, led a small group of diplomatic and military experts to India on November 22. While the experts assessed India’s military needs, Harriman, Sandys, and Galbraith discussed the implications of the border war with Nehru. Harriman and Sandys made clear their governments’ willingness to provide military assistance to India but pointed out the related need for negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute. In a private meeting with Nehru, Harriman stated that unless tensions over Kashmir eased, the United States could not continue to provide military assistance to both parties to the conflict. Nehru reluctantly agreed to negotiations but warned that in the wake of the humiliation suffered by India at the hands of China, Indian public opinion would not stand for significant concessions to Pakistan over Kashmir. (via FRUS, Vol. XIX, 1961-1963, South Asia.

Indian proposals to the US for help in armaments were met with talks, delays, and inaction. A drip of US military aid started, well after the war was over and continued till 1965 war with Pakistan.

Under the cover of the Cuban Missile crisis, the Chinese gave India a resounding slap in the middle of still-friendly talks.

SECOND -Before Indians could retaliate, the Chinese had withdrawn and were talking peace. The world, in an extremely stressful situation, pressured India to accept Chinese peace overtures.

After slapping us Chinese ‘talked’ peace profusely – before we could slap them back. And in the middle of the Cuban crisis, the world was afraid that this border conflict could draw in opposing allies and deteriorate into a wider conflict.

THREE – According to modern Chinese analysts, like Wang Jisi, in 1962, Mao was struggling to retain his hold on the party. He alone took this decision to send those soldiers to give a quick slap and run back to the Chinese side of the border.

Mao – Not 10 ft. Tall

Wang Jisi’s understanding of Chinese motivations, goes on to cover how Mao

lost control of number of practical issues. So he wanted to testify and show he was still in power, especially of the military. So he called the commander in Tibet and asked Zhang are you confident you can win the war with India?” Wang said.

The name Zhang referred to Zhang Guohua, the then PLA commander of the Tibet Regiment.

“The Commander said, ‘Yes Mao, we can easily win the war’. Mao said ‘go ahead and do that’. The purpose was to show that he was personally in control of the military. So it had little to do with territorial dispute, (may be) something to do with Tibet but not necessarily,” according to Wang, who was also associated with the Institute of International Strategic Studies of Party School of the CPC.

The strategist believes that most of the wars fought under the CPC leadership had strong links with domestic crises.

“Everything China did in the border war with Soviet Union was triggered by domestic crisis in 1969″ and so was 1979 war with Vietnam which was launched partly because Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping wanted to emerge as top leader, he said.

Asked whether he was convinced that domestic issues, more than territorial ambitions, prompted Mao to launch the war against India, Wang said “Yes yes I buy that theory because I looked at other episodes of history.

“The general conclusion is that (India-China) border war was neither based on real interest in getting territory nor solving territorial dispute.”

Asserting that China did not gain much out of the war, Wang said he was told by a top Chinese diplomat who served in India that the “war was totally unnecessary”.

via Mao ordered 1962 war to regain CPC control: Chinese strategist.

How Now …

Unlike the 1962 situation and China’s use of the: –

  • Cuban Missile crisis as a cover
  • While planting a resounding slap
  • Immediately offering a hand of friendship

was classic Chinese.

Today’s India’s airforce with Su-30MKI air dominance aircraft, Brahmos missiles, aircraft carriers have no Chinese equivalents.

China depends:

  1. On Russia for vital engines for its aircraft.
  2. On it unreliable domestic armaments industry.
  3. It is also on an international blacklist for arms supply.

India, too is dependent on imports. But, look at India’s track record.

At the height of the Kargil war, India was able to muster the French and Israelis to make emergency modifications to Mirage aircraft. These modifications helped IAF to fire laser-guided bombs that smoked out the Pakistani soldiers from camouflaged caves in the Himalayas.

China & War

China has no such options.China’s track record in war scenarios has been patchy.

In Korean and Vietnam Wars the Chinese support and intervention had no effect. China’s invasion of Vietnam in 1979 was a failure. Its’ attack on India in 1962 was under the cover of international crisis. China’s was badly brutalized at the hands of the Soviets in the 1969 War with Soviets.

Keeping this in mind, China will be mindful of an open attack.

Peaceful India?

India on the other hand has a successful record against the US-Pakistan War against India in 1965.

Similarly, staring down the US 7th Fleet while attacking Pakistan on two front, or turning tables in Kargil.

In the all the three wars of 1965, 1971 and the Kargil War, China was kept out of the war, with only lip sympathy to Pakistan.

Gentlemen … Applause

But while all this was happening what do some Brown American do?

Here is what Sadanand Dhume was doing.

Other Brown Americans do it differently.

Another will ‘shield’ Hinduism, while attacking India’s economic achievements and future (auto, software industries, for instance.). Another will scorn Indian education challenges with a dubious US public school model.

These Brown Americans are no less than the more famous stone-pelters from Lal-Chowk in Srinagar. All that they want to do, is throw stones at something Indian.

NEW DELHI: The 20-day military standoff with China at an altitude of 16,300-feet in Ladakh has ended. After furious activity over diplomatic channels, coupled with two flag meetings on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the Chinese troops retreated from the Depsang Bulge area to their bases on Sunday evening.

The resolution of the troop face-off came even as preparations were in full swing for foreign minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Beijing on May 9 despite a growing political clamour to cancel the trip. Now, the visit will go ahead as scheduled, in preparation for the May 20 visit to India by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

There was no immediate word on the conditions decided for the mutual withdrawal of the troops, confronting each other on the heights since April 15. The earlier refusal by the Chinese to withdraw its soldiers from northern Ladakh, where they had pitched tents 19 km inside Indian territory, has created a national security scare in India.

via China-India face-off ends as armies withdraw from Ladakh – The Times of India.



US & China: How Will They Engage In The Next 25 Years

Posted in China, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, Pax Americana, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on July 10, 2012

For any one to believe that countries do and governments do anything for reasons other than self-interest is delusional. But coming from a Chinese analyst …

A young Dalai Lama, and Indira Gandhi, during a visit to Nehru in New Delhi, on Sept. 4, 1959. It was the Dalai Lama's first visit to New Delhi since fleeing Tibet in March. - living in exile at Birla House in Mussoorie, India.

A young Dalai Lama, and Indira Gandhi, during a visit to Nehru in New Delhi, on Sept. 4, 1959. It was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Delhi since fleeing Tibet in March. – living in exile at Birla House in Mussoorie, India.

Peace and stability at last

To the Chinese people, after 50 years of dislocation and disaster, the communist victory brought promise of stability and direction.

Mao’s first decade (1949-1959) achieved three major things.

  1. China was cured of its opium addiction.
  2. China’s criminal gangs were busted.
  3. After many centuries Chinese peasants got land.

But these reforms were not likely to make China into a world power.

Baby steps to a world power

According to Mao, the path to China as a super-power was The Great Leap Forward.

Initiated in 1957-58, the Great Leap Forward saw famine and hunger across China. After the Communist takeover of China, land seized from land owners, was given to peasants in 1949. Ten years later, in 1959, the Chinese State took away the same land from the same peasant, during The Great Leap Forward. Food shortages, starvation followed. Western (questionable) estimates are that 30 million people died during this period.

Some speculate, the China’s war with India in 1962 diverted attention from two domestic catastrophes – after the disastrous Great Leap Forward and before the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution.

There could be another viable cause for the war.

Comfort of size

China had annexed Tibet in 1951, with the Dalai Lama being the nominal but ‘autonomous’ ruler. Seven years after annexation, in 1959, the Dalai Lama, fearing for his life, fled to India.

Three years after Dalai Lama’s defection to India, the 1962 war followed.

More probably, the 1962 War between India and China, also served to demonstrate Chinese determination to hold Tibet.

Alexei Kosygin (Soviet PM) & Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent. Photo: RIA Novosti/AFP; courtesy - livemint.com

Alexei Kosygin (Soviet PM) & Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent. Photo: RIA Novosti/AFP; courtesy – livemint.com

Middle Kingdom in a muddle

For China, 20th century began on an untoward note.

Failed Boxer War (1899-1900), followed by the fall of Qing dynasty (1912), Japanese occupation of Manchuria (1931 onwards), civil war (ended in 1949) – all this in a space of less than 50 years. To a China recovering from such difficult fifty years, size in itself was a comfort.

Sparsely populated, Tibet’s vast landmass gave bulk to the Chinese nation, making it the 4th largest in the world – nearly equal to USA (No.3) and Canada (No.2). Without Tibet, China would drop to 6th position – smaller than Brazil (No.5) and Australia (No.6). Remove Xinjiang, and another 16% of China gets reduced. Close to 45% of current China is Tibet and Xinjiang.

A larger population means a larger government – and a larger landmass means more raw-material sources, bigger markets. All in all, more economic heft.

On the negative side is of course, sluggish administration happens easily – and often.

Action shifts

In this quest for expanding Chinese frontiers, China took on the Soviet Russia – with unfavorable results.

April 1968, Prague, Czechoslovakia: A Russian soldier lights a cigarette as a Czech walks past a sign which equates U.S. policy in Vietnam with the Soviet (CCCP) occupation of Czechoslovakia (CSSR). A swastika painted inside a star (which is used as a symbol for both the Soviet and the American armies) completes the barb. Since Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, signs like this were scrawled on walls, windows and even Russian tanks

April 1968, Prague, Czechoslovakia: A Russian soldier lights a cigarette as a Czech walks past a sign which equates U.S. policy in Vietnam with the Soviet (CCCP) occupation of Czechoslovakia (CSSR). A swastika painted inside a star (which is used as a symbol for both the Soviet and the American armies) completes the barb. Since Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, signs like this were scrawled on walls, windows and even Russian tanks

While the Soviet Union with Khrushchev at its helm, was busy in Cuba (October 1962), expanding and deepening relations in Middle East, Vietnam, and in Russia’s own backyard in Eastern Europe, China started aggressive posturing against Soviet Russia on the border island of Zhenbao-Damanski.

Since this was an undeclared war from both sides, this aspect of international politics is rarely factored into most analysis.

Soviet Russia scaled down military operations against China after China was made to pay a price. The Russians even considered a nuclear attack on China. US support to China, against a nuclear attack stopped the Soviets from completely bull-dozing China.

This Chinese posturing alienated the Soviet Union.

June 7, 1969: Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev addresses the World Conference of Communist Parties in Moscow. In his speech, Brezhnev accused Red China of planning nuclear and conventional war against the Soviet Union. USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin, left, and President Nikolai Podgorny listen to his statement. | Photos: Bettmann/CORBIS; source: wired.com | Click for image.

June 7, 1969: Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev addresses the World Conference of Communist Parties in Moscow. In his speech, Brezhnev accused Red China of planning nuclear and conventional war against the Soviet Union. USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin, left, and President Nikolai Podgorny listen to his statement. | Photos: Bettmann/CORBIS; source: wired.com | Click for image.

When Russia thought of nuking China

Soviet Union launched a brutal response against China.

After a Russian diplomat in New Delhi probed for a probable American response to Russian nuclear attack on China, the dove-cote was aflutter. Chou En Lai, of China relayed Chinese concerns about Soviet intentions to Pakistan’s Air Marshall Nur Khan, who in turn briefed Henry Kissinger.

A few days earlier, another Russian diplomat in the U.S., with KGB connections, Boris Davydov had sought similar American reaction to a Soviet nuclear attack on China from William Stearman, of the US State Department. This Soviet approach was escalated to Henry Kissinger and President Nixon.

This was the opening that USA wanted.

Nixon visits China

Based on these developments, Nixon made an approach to the Chinese – and the Nixon-Mao meeting happened later (February 1972). China Daily, a publication that reflects the Chinese Government’s official stance, commissioned a special feature on the ‘40th anniversary of Nixon’s landmark visit to China’ – though diplomatic relations were finally restored only in 1979.

Nixon’s Asia and Pakistan policy was a significant departure in the mechanics. In 1965, before the India-Pakistan War, Johnson cancelled US trips by Pakistan’s General Ayub and India’s Prime Minister, LB Shastri.

Of course, for vastly differing reasons. US wanted to show displeasure to Ayub Khan for getting close to China. US did not want any criticism from Shastri on the Vietnam War.

China lets down all-weather friend Pakistan

Before the 1971 Bangladesh War, the punishment that the Chinese received in the Zhenbao-Damanski Island border (1969) conflict at the hands of the Soviets made the Chinese very careful. Aware of Soviet support to India, in the India-Bangladesh War – the Chinese adopted a complete hands-off attitude. The Chinese dreaded the Soviets.

But this does not explain 1965-Chinese neutral posturing in the India-Pakistan War. Was it fear that India could provoke the secession of Tibet – if China engaged itself with India in a military adventure?

If Tibet goes, would Xinjiang remain for long?

Chinese Talk and Walk

A hall-mark of the Communist Party foreign policy has been pragmatism. Deng reiterated Chinese thinking when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” echoing American President Teddy Roosevelt’s suggestion to an emerging USA.

How will China and US engage in the future?

Friends, Followers, Competitors, Collaborators, Rivals or Fr-enemies. Leader, follower. This following extract from a Chinese analyst is revealing.

China has undoubtedly benefited from the world system created and supported by the US. Richard Nixon’s journey to China in 1972 opened the door for China’s return to the international community.

Most of the next two decades were a honeymoon for Sino-US relations. On the economic front, the US not only granted China most-favoured-nation trade status, but also tolerated China’s mercantilist approach to international trade and finance, notably its dual-track exchange-rate regime. In the 1990s, bilateral economic ties continued to expand. US support for China’s integration into the world system culminated with the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Of course, China’s inadequate intellectual property protection has damaged relations. And the role of China’s state-owned enterprises and official Chinese support for technological “national champions” have also hurt relations. (via Couples counselling for US and China – Views – livemint.com).

Were US actions based on benign benefit to the Chinese that will merit gratitude? Probably, he has never given the primer on modern foreign policy.

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow” Lord Viscount Palmerston, 1848.

Does gratitude have a place in diplomacy?


Bollywood in Russia

Posted in America, Business, Feminist Issues, Film Reviews, India, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on January 29, 2012

Bollywood, as the Indian film industry has come to be known, leads the world in viewer numbers as well as production volumes. Soviet Russia was a key part of that story.

A Soviet film promotion poster featuring Raj Kapoor for Shree 420 | Image source & courtesy - timeoutmumbai.net | Click for image.

A Soviet film promotion poster featuring Raj Kapoor for Shree 420 | Image source & courtesy – timeoutmumbai.net | Click for image.

Baby steps to Big Daddy

For 2009, tickets sales for Hollywood films were numbered at 2.6 billion viewers. For Bollywood, the number was 3.6 billion.

A good 1 billion more.

More than the film-going population of USA, EU and Latin America put together. Against some 400 films that Hollywood releases each year, Bollywood releases 1200 odd films.

But it was not always like that.

Bollywood was post-colonial India’s first major export. In the 1950s, it had a huge following in the Soviet Union, India’s major ally. When leading man Raj Kapoor, a Charlie Chaplinesque tramp, and his heroine Nargis went to Moscow, they were mobbed by fans who shouted lines of songs from their movies, without understanding a word.

“Some years ago, when we started showing Bollywood movies in Toronto,” says Madeline Ziniak, vice-president of Omni-TV, “we were pleasantly surprised to find audiences in the Canadian Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Czech and Central Asian communities. We couldn’t believe it.” (via How Bollywood conquered the world… – Toronto.com).

Look back with surprise

Way back in 1954, when nearly a million Russian turned up at the Indian film festival in USSR, it seemed more like a flash in the pan.

Although Indian films caught on only after Stalin’s death in 1953, small steps to distribute them in the USSR were already being taken in the mid-1940s. Sovexportfil’m set up an office in Mumbai in 1946 to import films from India and ensure that Russian movies were shown here. The early preference was for socialist-themed movies: K Abbas’s Dharti Ke Lal was shown in Russian cinemas in 1949 and Chinnamul in 1951.

The watershed occurred in 1954, when a festival of Indian films, including Awara, was held in Soviet cities. Nearly a million people saw Indian movies within the first four days of the festival. From then, Indian movies, mostly in Hindi, were regularly distributed through theatres in the USSR. In all, 210 Indian films were shown in the USSR until 1991, of which about 190 were commercial Hindi movies.

Indian movies were embraced for a cluster of reasons. The “melodramatic genre’s explicit juxtaposition of exaggerated good and evil personages found a sympathetic audience”, she writes. The colourful characters, costumes, songs, dances and locations that typify the average Hindi film allowed viewers to indulge in “cinematic tourism”. Indian movies were “skazkas”, or fairy tales; they epitomised “byt” or personal space. Rajagopalan writes, “Byt was the realm of everyday life that remained untouched by ideology and was removed from if not opposed to the glorified realm of Soviet society.” An affinity seemed to exist between the Indian and the Soviet “dusha”, or inner world. Viewers felt that the situations depicted in Indian cinema were far closer to their own than those depicted in other foreign movies.

Over the years, Indian movies raked in the roubles. Love in Simla was the third biggest box-office hit in the USSR in 1963. In 1984, Disco Dancer had the highest audience turnout. Even as debates raged between fans and critics on the worthiness of Indian cinema, Soviet distributors knew that commercial films would guarantee financial returns.

Some explanations for this behaviour can be found in Sudha Rajagopalan’s engrossing book Leave Disco Dancer Alone! Indian Cinema and Soviet Movie-going After Stalin. Through research, interviews and questionnaires, Rajagopalan reveals the impact that Indian cinema had on the cultural life of (Soviet Russia). The book maps the period between 1954, the year after dictator Josef Stalin died, and 1991, the year the Soviet Union was disbanded.

“What inspired the book was really the fact that historians who have studied the former Soviet Union have looked at Hollywood and its reception among Soviet audiences, but it was news to many in my field that Indian films were an important feature of cultural life in the Soviet Union,” said the 37 year old historian. “So it was clearly a lacuna in historiography that needed to be filled.” (via Byt the bullet – Time Out Mumbai – parts excised for brevity. Supplied text underlined).

Most accounts of Bollywood in USSR seem to imply that Bollywood gained access to USSR because of political patronage. The official attention paid to India by the Soviet Bloc, aroused a mix of concern and envy from the West.

In fact, commercial success was the main reason. While the success of Awaara has had many tellings, Bollywood’s other successes are not known – at least in India.

After Awaara,

came the Indian saga about twin sisters, Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), a marvelous reminiscence of distant childhood. Children in Moscow courtyards tried to repeat the circus tricks of the brave heroine, Hema Malini. They copied her tightrope act and her daring manner of behaviour and speech. Indian cinema fans here still remember how one of the twins taught her wicked aunt a lesson. Songs from Indian movies were especially popular in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The fashion for disco dancing forced young Russians to view Indian cinema differently after the appearance of Disco Dancer (1982). The rags-to-riches story of an ordinary young Indian boy who manages to become a famous singer once again staggered the imagination of Soviet moviegoers. Mithun Chakraborty, the film’s star, replaced Raj Kapoor in the eyes of the new generation. Disco Dancer earned close to 60 mn roubles at a time when movie tickets cost 20-50 kopecks. The dance halls at Soviet summer resorts in the `80s resounded with the sounds of “I Am a Disco Dancer”. Some fanatics were capable of requesting the song ten times over. (via Bollywood returns to Russian screens | Russia Beyond The Headlines).

Problems in ‘paradise’

Financed and controlled by party bureaucrats of Soviet Russia, Soviet film production was seriously limited. But the demand for filmed entertainment from the paying Soviet public was greater than the domestic film production in Russia.

Unable to deal with commercial uncertainty, Soviet government resorted to imports of ready-made products. Imported films accounted for about 35% of ticket sales at the height of Brezhnev regime in 1970s.

Masha Salazkina, a writer who has covered Indo-Soviet film trade lists many co-productions with

Mithun Chakraborty and Shabana Azmi present for Mrinal Sen's film "Mrigayaa" - exhibited at the X Moscow International Film Festival.  Event date - 07/01/1977  |  Source & Credit: RIA Novosti  |  Click for source image.

Mithun Chakraborty and Shabana Azmi present for Mrinal Sen’s film “Mrigayaa” – exhibited at the X Moscow International Film Festival. Event date – 07/01/1977 | Source & Credit: RIA Novosti | Click for source image.

equal representation from each county in all functions, even up to the point of having two directors, one from each country. These coproductions were “meant to create films that would hybridize each culture’s favored motifs and narrative structures, in the hopes of creating truly popular films.” Here are all the Soviet-Indian coproductions she lists: Pardesi (Khozhdenie Za Tri Moray, 1957); Black Mountain (Chernaya Gora, 1971); Rikki Tikki Tavi (1975); Eastward, Beyond the Ganges (Voshod Nad Gangom, 1975); Alibaba and the 40 Thieves (1980); Sohni Mahiwal (Legenda O Lyubvi, 1984); Shikari (Po Zakonu Dzhunglei, 1991); and Ajooba (Chernyj Prints Adzhuba, 1991). Mere Naam Joker (1970) and Mother India (1957) are not listed because they were not full coproductions like the above films (via Minai’s Cinema Nritya Gharana: Indian Dances in Western Films about India: Part 4 (Coproductions).

Instead of large capital outlays that Hollywood and Russian films needed, Indian films earned profits for the Soviets.

Russians have been enjoying popular Indian melodrama and musicals since the first festival of Indian films in Moscow in 1954. In fact, box office statistics suggest that Indian movies were more popular than any other foreign films shown in the Soviet Union. In the period between 1954 and 1989, for example, while forty-one American and thirty-eight French movies attained “blockbuster” status (defined as selling more than 20 million tickets) in the Soviet Union, fifty Indian movies did the same. (via INDIAN FILMS IN SOVIET CINEMAS reviewed in Slavic Review).

For India, cultural exports were an unexpected feather in the cap. Even recently, till a few years ago, exports to Soviet region accounted for between 10%-15% of Bollywood’s overseas revenues.

Significantly, this was the largest source of revenues from non-Indian viewers.

Till around early the 1980s, the USSR accounted for export of up to 150-odd movies each year.

“However, after the disintegration of the country, Hollywood movies took over our market. We now send just four or five movies each year to these countries,” says a Mumbai-based distributor. With increase in interest in Indian movies in Russia in recent months, Parmeshwaran is confident of doubling exports to that country over the next one year. A major delegation of film-makers and producers from Russia is expected to visit the country in November this year. (via Entertainment industry targets new shores – Economic Times).

Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood's growth is based on attracting viewers with a mix of values and vision, a huge talent pool, savvy business minds. Not imperial military might or overwhelming 'special effects', powered by raw money power  |  Image source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk  |  Click for larger source image.

Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood’s growth is based on attracting viewers with a mix of values and vision, a huge talent pool, savvy business minds. Not imperial military might or overwhelming ‘special effects’, powered by raw money power | Image source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk | Click for larger source image.

With success comes envy … and imitation

After the break up of Soviet Russia, Bollywood remains a big draw in the Central Asia. All this success has also drawn its own share of backlash – like in Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.

The Express Tribune (from Pakistan) reports

Indian movies are shipped to Uzbekistan from India and are translated into local languages. These movies are not just being showcased in cinemas but are also taking up airtime on local TV channels. “We watch Indian movies at home on TV and listen to Indian songs on the radio all the time,” he says.

Uzbeks are still drawn to the choreography and bright cinematography of Indian cinema. The proliferation of this infectious Bollywood glitz and glamour that continues to embed itself in the hearts of Uzbek women, men and youth is not going unnoticed by the government.

The government strictly controls the entertainment industry and has take measures to try and protect the industry.

President Karimov’s government is currently chalking out strategies to promote Uzbek movies at home over Indian movies. The government has written scripts and engaged the entertainment industry in its effort to reintroduce Uzbek youth to the country’s indigenous culture.

Today there are more than 50 private film studios in Uzbekistan that produce about 50 films a year.

The personality that seems to be embedded in the minds of most of today’s Uzbeks is that of Indian actor Mithun Chakraborty, who came to the country in 1980 to shoot Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves. The movie, shot by an Uzbek film studio in collaboration with India, was one of the biggest international projects filmed in Uzbekistan during the Soviet era.

Obid Karimov, a local in Tashkent, says the ‘great movie’ also starred legendary Uzbek comedian Asomov and was one of the best-selling movies of all times in the Soviet Union in the 80s, and was watched by millions of viewers in USSR alone.

Although the country always embodied aspects of different cultures, what seems to be gaining popularity today are Bollywood hits.

“Bollywood is fantasy, and we love being a part of the journey, even if it’s just for a few hours,” says Obid. The Uzbek film industry, in an attempt to keep its audiences’ interest, has in fact started to elements of Indian films in their own productions. “The characters [in some recent Uzbek films] are larger than life just like in an Indian movie, but the ending is usually sad like a Russian drama,”adds Obid.

An official from the Pakistan Embassy in Uzbekistan says that the influence of Bollywood is “huge” (via Bollywood calling: The fall of Uzbekistani cinema – The Express Tribune).

In Russia (like in Pakistan), there are indications that families and women are more loyal to Bollywood films. With Bollywood busy promoting itself at Cannes, Canada and USA, stronger markets have been ignored by Bollywood.

In Brazil, a Bollywood style tele-novela, Caminho das Índias (Road to India), a TV soap opera based on Indian themes became a huge success – and stirred some controversy. Similarly in Russia, too, a prominent media group, Red Media has launched a Bollywood channel, which will air Bollywood-style content that the Russian studio will produce on its own.

President Dimitry Medvedev, , Yash Chopra, Shahrukh Khan at press conference.

President Dimitry Medvedev, , Yash Chopra, Shahrukh Khan at press conference.

Russia continues to love Indian cinema classics from the 1960s and 1970s.

These are the films most talked about on Internet forums, where fans lovingly collect photographs and stories of their idols. They constitute a retrospective of Indian cinema that is regularly shown on Russian television, especially the Domashny channel, which is aimed at women and promotes family values. For Russian fans of Indian films, there is even a special satellite channel called India TV. Russia’s love of Indian films has now spilled over into a mass passion for Indian dance. Every self-respecting sports club in Moscow teaches yoga and the art of Indian dance. Russian girls array themselves in saris for these lessons, which are more popular even than traditional European fitness classes. (via Bollywood returns to Russian screens | Russia Beyond The Headlines).

And Russian leaders too

President Dmitry Medvedev, on his visit to India, made time to meet up with some Bollywood biggies – and tried to re-ignite the old Indo-Russian fires.

Soviet directors like Bondarchuk, Tarkovsky moved to Hollywood. This move, assuming endless financing for their creative output, did not quite turn out like that. The studio system worked pretty much like Soviet bureaucracy to limit their production – as evidenced by their limited output in the West.

Within the Soviet film industry itself, there was much admiration for Hollywood and Western film genres and styles. Interestingly, Indian critics have seen Bollywood films as sub-standard – much like Bollywood sees itself, also.

But the viewers aren’t paying attention to carping critics and ‘superior’ art-film ideologues.


How Muscular Is India’s Foreign Policy

Posted in America, British Raj, China, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on November 2, 2011

Does India have a foreign policy at all? What does it seek to achieve? How has it changed over the decades.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

Does India have a Foreign Policy

As India stabilized from a rickety, post-colonial economy to an emerging power in the last 60 years, Indian Foreign Policy has seen little analysis from context and utility standpoint.

Most critics of Indian Foreign Policy have used a flavor-of-the-season approach – and failed to present the evolution of the policy over the last 60 odd years.

And the challenges.

The last 30 years

The last thirty years has been a difficult period for Indian polity – and development of Indian foreign policy doctrine.

Of the first 40 years (1950-1990), two Prime Ministers (JL Nehru and Indira Gandhi) ruled for 31 of the 40 years. The next 20 years saw just three prime ministers (PVN, ABV, MMS) last for more than 4 years in power – from seven Prime Ministers in all. No Indian political party has been able to win an absolute majority on merit, now for 30 years after Indira Gandhi’s win in 1980. Rajiv Gandhi’s electoral victory after 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi was ‘tainted’ with a sympathy vote for Congress.

Thirty years without a positive mandate for any political party is a tough commentary on Indian polity – and its inability to connect to the Indian Voter.

War on three fronts

Sun Tzu or Clausewitz.

Every military strategist has warned against opening war on two fronts. But, two fronts were assured against Pakistan itself – on the eastern front in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and against mainland Pakistan (then West Pakistan) on the west.

To that was a real risk of China joining in with a third front. During the 1965 and the 1971 Bangladesh War, India had to factor a third front that could be opened by China against India. Thundering in the parliament, Pakistan’s foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assured the Pakistani nation of China’s support.

In the event of war, Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan would be helped by the most powerful nation in Asia. War between India and Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia. (Z.A. Bhutto, Foreign Minister, Pakistan, in the National Assembly; July 17, 1963).

At least the US tried very hard to ensure that China supported Pakistan with more than lip service. In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch.

On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Without guns, food and money

After India’s independence, colonialism was not dead. USA was trying to take over Western colonies by installing proxy rulers in colonies.

Britain and France attempted to re-establish control over strategic positions in the world. The Suez Crisis was the high point of trying to roll back history.

Indonesia kept its freedom (1949), when Indian Govt. threatened to shoot down Dutch aircraft. Kenya (independence-12 December 1963) and Malaysia (independence-31 August 1957) paid a heavy price during their fight to throw off colonial rulers. US armies were killing millions across Asia – in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Korea. India’s own independence hung by a thread. Harold Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ was yet only words – and no action.

In such a situation Nehru’s foreign policy put an economically and militarily strong West on the defensive – against a militarily weak India.

Nehruvian foreign policy

Nehruvian foreign policy, India FP-One, based on anti-colonial agenda, pro-democracy, global agenda, relevant during the 1950-1970 period, saw Europe lose its colonies. Remarkably insensitive to India’s self-interest, Nehruvian foreign policy instead projected India onto global stage, as an anti-imperialism crusader.

Under FP-One, India could be pro-US also. Nehru unleashed anti-Soviet rhetoric along with the Eisenhower administration during the Hungarian Uprising – and anti-Europe during the Suez crisis. The Non Aligned Movement while making noise, posed no military threat. All the Super-powers paid attention to NAM positions and criticism.

Having made its mark on the world stage, FP-One succeeded entirely on powers of suasion and reason. Post-colonial India, without any military rank or an economic power, could yet make world powers listen to FP-One. Nehru’s own charisma had much to do with success of FP-One.

Nehru’s era saw a marked deterioration in relationships with major neighbouring countries – Pakistan and China. Nehru’s unpreparedness resulted in a disastrous confrontation with China – and the loss of Tibet. Stalin had little time for India during India FP-One.

Except for one agreement, which saw large Soviet imports of Indian cinematic content that made Indian actors household names in Soviet Union.

After Nehru? Who, What, How …

For most of the world, The India Question was – After Nehru, what?

Division is the essence of Indian polity. The fierce noise of linguistic riots in Bombay and elsewhere is heard from afar. Mr.Nehru should not equate the authority of his person with any fundamental cohesion in his country. In the absence of his cementing figure, these divisions are bound to enlarge. (Pakistan Times, Lahore, November 25, 1955).

No coincidence that Pakistani planned its 1965 assault soon after Nehru’s death. Pakistan tested Indian resolve in 1965, after the 1962 border conflict with China, which by most accounts went against India. India’s official rendition of the 1962 encounter with China remains classified.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

LB Shastri, India’s combative Prime Minister after Nehru, with none of Nehru’s oratorical skills, was able to surprisingly unite and galvanize morale with his Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan strategy – aligning the ‘trinity’ of government, army and people (in terms of Clausewitz Theory).

India, battling food shortages, after the colonial destruction of Indian agricultural system, was still in a feeble recovery stage.

Indian army working with WWII vintage arms and ammunition was ill-prepared to confront Pakistan, an American–armed-and-aided CENTO alliance partner. After the 1962 debacle against China, India made creditable, though slender, territorial gains. India had retaken territory in Kashmir, with Indian armies in sniffing distance of Lahore.

Chinese inaction during the 1965 War is a less analyzed factor of the 1965 War. India’s relationship with the Soviets had not yet reached the levels of the 1970s. What and who stopped China from joining Pakistan in its assault on India?

Was China’s support for Pakistan in the 1965 War limited to lip sympathy?

Troubled Times

In such a precarious situation, India fended off Pakistan – with the Soviet Union and the USA pushing for a quick ceasefire. The Soviet Union followed up with peace talks offer at Tashkent – the template that the US followed during the many Camp David talks.

Indian contingent landed up in Tashkent with Shastri in the lead – and Pakistan contingent with General Mohammed Ayub Khan. Shastri returned home to India – in a coffin, after a cardiac arrest. For the next two decades, Shastri’s death was fodder for conspiracy theories, hinting at plot by Indira Gandhi-Soviet Union, as the main players.

A New Alliance is Sealed

The development of FP2 started soon after India-Pakistan War of 1965 during LB Shastri’s regime, even as FP-One was no longer effective without Nehru.

After Tashkent, India decided to reject all outside interventions and involvement in bilateral matters. All UN resolutions on India-Pakistan conflicts started getting treated as ‘history’. Super-power offers for mediation are no longer welcome or entertained by India.

Solid Bedrock

The other major outcome after the 1965 War was India-Soviet Union alliance, under Brezhnev. Built on the pillars of

  • Russian oil for India, priced, paid, and designated in Indian rupees. Big win for both countries, as both had forex problems.
  • Soviet armaments for India, again in Indian rupees, to balance Indian exports of Indian tobacco, tea, engineering goods, consumer products, all in the era of shortages of consumer goods in USSR
  • Russian veto in UN in exchange for a Non Aligned commitment to give unbiased hearing to Soviet positions

it was a win-win agreement.

Soviet Union won respectability in global forums – and India was no longer dependent on the West for crucial imports like oil and heavy industry technology (nuclear, tyres, oil exploration, etc.). This foreign policy direction was a marked evolution from Nehruvian foreign policy (India FP-One).

India’s decade of muscular diplomacy

Looking back, FP2 survived an ordeal by fire with the first decade itself. Three events prove that it was a remarkable decade which shaped Indian foreign policy (FP2) for the next thirty years.

1971 – BanglaDesh War

In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch. On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

What made the Chinese so careful in 1971?

Before the 1971 Bangladesh War, the punishment that the Chinese received in the Zhenbao-Damanskii Island border (1969) conflict at the hands of the Soviets made the Chinese very careful. The Russians were even considering a nuclear attack on China. Aware of Soviet support to India, in the India-Bangladesh War – the Chinese adopted a complete hands-off attitude.

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

Staring down the West

The India-Soviet alliance also enabled India to counter the Chinese atomic bomb threat with its own Pokhran explosion in 1974.

In October 1961, a British journalist reported an estimate by Nehru that India could produce an atomic weapon in 2 years.

A reiteration of Nehru’s 1958 statement, what probably held back India from 1958-1974, was military and economic unpreparedness, to withstand sanctions by the West, that would follow an atomic test. The Indo-Soviet alliance also gave India the comfort of a Soviet veto in UN Security Council.

The first nuclear test by a non-P5 (USA, Soviet Union, China, UK, France) nation, India was in a precarious position. Assured of a Soviet veto on the Indian side, with Indian agriculture making a stunning comeback in the 70’s, buffered by Soviet Oil supplies and Bombay High, India was able to stare down Western disapproval of Pokhran atomic explosion for the next 25 years.

Compared to a ‘soft State’ like India, more ‘hard-line’ countries like apartheid South Africa and Israel, that counted Western nations as close allies, could not take the final step of an open, atomic bomb explosion.

MNCs – Go Home

The third major foreign policy initiative was an economic policy that severely impacted Western multinationals. In a decade when CIA /MNCs made and unmade Governments across the world, like in Iran, Latin America, Africa, this was a case where principle won over prudence. The Janata Party Government that come to power for the first time in 1977, pushed for dilution of foreign ownership in Indian subsidiaries of MNCs.

This evoked a storm of protest – and some companies like IBM and Coke, US icons in the 70s, walked out of India.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Soviet Union collapses

FP-One outlived its utility after decolonization of Africa and South East Asia.

The end of FP2 started with the meltdown of oil and gold prices during the 1990-2000 period.

This meltdown saw the Soviet Union bankrupted. Saddled with subsidies and aid to allies in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America saw Soviet Union slither into an economic morass.

Rapid and ineffectual leadership changes  after Brezhnev’s death (Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and finally Gorbachev) saw a directionless and geriatric Communist Party, at the head of the Soviet Empire.

Foreign Policy On The Brink

By the year 2000, India FP2 was in crisis. Yanked out of its comfort zone of India-Soviet axis, after the USSR’s collapse, India FP2 was buffeted by the din of a ‘uni-polar’ world. India’s increasing imports of Western technology and products, that started with a trickle during Indira Gandhi regime of 1980-1984, soon gained pace. Deregulation of Indian auto sector saw increasing oil imports – with stagnant India’s oil production.

During the last 10 years, one can see signs of India FP-III taking shape. What are the features of India FP-III?

FP-III Takes Shape

One major fallout from the crash of FP2 was armament imports. Under FP2, India imported major armament systems from Soviet Union. India’s import of Jaguar, Mirage jet fighters and Bofors howitzers happened in the dying stages of FP2. With Soviet armament production systems in disarray and bankrupted, India needed alternatives – and fast. Dependence on the US-armaments was seen as an unreliable alternative.

Israel come in

In such a situation, India went for Israeli imports.

Designating Israel as an armaments vendor, freed FP-III from influence of external policy guide-lines. This gave India access of armaments from a vendor, which was also a significant user of the same armaments. Israeli armaments were also designed for low-intensity conflict – similar to Indian usage profile.

In parallel, India went ahead and signed armament co-development deals with the Russia. Brahmos missile is the first success from FP-III. The 5th Generation fighter aircraft being jointly developed is the next major step. The new aircraft carrier is the other major initiative.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal may not deliver all that has been promised in the future. Yet, in the immediate now, it has delivered a resounding approval of FP-III. The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) approved a differential status for India – equivalent to a Nuclear Power.

Without signing the CTBT or the NPT, FP-III’s ability to achieve global consensus on the nuclear issue, is an important milestone.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

In the neighbourhood

India’s ability to get a foot inside Afghanistan, in spite of much opposition from Pakistan, may see India reap significant dividends with Central Asian oil and raw material resources. The turnaround in Bangladesh, after the new dispensation has come to power, breaks fresh ground in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has taken some significant actions against anti-India forces in Bangladesh – a sign of comfort for FP-III. Myanmar’s flirtation with China, according to some, maybe cooling off.

FP-III has also seen a change in handling Pakistan. From a rhetorical, tit-for-tat approach, Indian response to Pakistan has seen a change. The recent trade push with Pakistan may see an important Pakistani constituency root for a better India-Pakistan relationship. While Pakistan is being pushed to deliver on the anti-terrorism front, there is sense in seeing the changing Pakistani calculus.

Sizing Up China in South China Sea

An interesting development in FP-III was confronting China in South China Sea. Instead of precipitating a conflict situation in Indian border areas, is to take the battle to China in South China Sea. On the eve of delivery of Admiral Gorshkov, Indian Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, Indian Navy has better symmetry with Chinese Navy – that is struggling with scaling up.

Any confrontation in the South China Sea, between China on one side, against an India-Vietnam opposition, will see China friendless, in international diplomacy. With an appreciating yuan, and slowdown in Chinese economy imminent, the Chinese are likely to be circumspect – and the Indian hand will only get stronger.

How has India FP-III shaped up in the last 10 years.

Measuring FP-III

Many of FP-III initiatives may take a few decades to pay off – and will take persistence from India’s foreign policy apparatus. However, if the contours of a FP-III can take shape in this period of flux in Indian polity, an optimistic outlook can be deemed as realistic.

Much like the various mantras of American foreign policy are evoked, in the modern Indian context, homage is paid to the idea of NAM. But clearly, it is seen as an idea whose time has gone. Its effectiveness can be gauged from the strong reactions that it elicited from Nixon.

The table below presents a matrix to map outcomes, objectives, alliances and policies that Indian foreign policy has used in the last 60 years. As can be seen, Indian FP-One, FP2 and FP-III were rooted in the global realities of that time – and based on Indian needs and requirements of that time.

FP-One (1950-1970)

FP2 (1970-2000)

FP-III (2000-Now)

Leverage
  • Nehru’s charisma
  • Indo-Soviet Alliance
  • Indian economic power
Key Achievements
  • Decolonization
  • Third World dialogue
  • India heard at world forums
  • Defence production gathers steam
  • Soviet technology used for oil exploration
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • FP not influenced by armament purchases
  • Armament vendors instead of alliances
  • Un-committed to any super-power
Key Failures
  • Defence unpreparedness
  • Relationship with neighbours deteriorate
  • Tibet lost to China
  • UN interventions
  • Foreign policy influenced by Soviet line
  • Economic interests neglected
  • Limited access to Western technology, economy, finance
  • China, Pakistan relations not stable
  • Over engagement with West
  • Global initiatives (like NAM) impaired.
Key Features
  • Indian interests secondary
  • Global situation in focus
  • No Super-power tilt
  • Indo-Soviet alliance stitched
  • NAM acquires traction
  • Indian interests acquire importance
  • Super-power interventions rejected.
  • Indian interests paramount
  • FP-III depends less on Super-power coat-tails
  • Issue based engagement with P5
Key Persona
  • JL Nehru
  • Indira Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee in Janata Party govt (1977-1979).
  • Rajiv Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee
  • Manmohan Singh
Key events
  • Nehru-Eisenhower dynamics
  • Hungarian Uprising
  • Suez Crisis
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • Pokhran Atomic blast
  • MNCs brought to heel; IBM, Coke thrown out
  • Indo-US Nuclear deal
  • India Vietnam alliance in South China Sea
  • G20 inclusion

foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

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