India’s Uncle Tom Syndrome
For the unaware Uncle Tom Syndrome is a theory in psychology that refers to a coping skill in which individuals use passivity and submissiveness when confronted with a threat leading to subservient behaviuor while concealing their true thoughts and feelings.
The term ‘Uncle Tom’ comes from the title character Tom in the novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The reverse appears applicable to us in recent years where overtly there is big bombastic talk but fear within doesn’t permit any action beyond being defensive. If there is any action at all, it is a reaction to extreme provocation which too is only limited to our western neighbor.
Former ambassador RS Kalaha wrote in his book ‘The Dynamics of Preventive Diplomacy’: “It is often said that idealism has no place in making of foreign policy. But the argument is not that idealism should not be a stand-alone factor, but that the costs of always following an inward looking policy may be that much higher. Therefore, the most effective foreign policy for any country, whatever its weight, is one that balances realism and idealism – that in effect makes idealism realistic. But if idealism has its limits, the substitute is not a unidimensional brand of foreign policy realism either. A foreign policy that is founded only on hard-headed realism is a policy that can all too readily descend into cynical indifference, with results that may not be palatable later. Successful foreign policy options that are exercised have of necessity to reflect domestic opinion and must be based on a principled and judicious mixture of both idealism and realism”.
Notable is Kalha assertion that most effective foreign policy for any country, whatever its weight, is one that balances realism and idealism.
-Why have we become a reactionary nation – is it because we cannot differentiate between realism and idealism or is it something else?
-Do we believe that in dirty wars idealism will succeed beyond weightless accolades and patting our own backs?
-Why do we react only to terrorist attacks that cause massive damage and are submissive against China chopping away hundreds of sq km of our territory?
-Why do we say we will not give an inch of our territory when China has been sitting over 43,825 sq km of our territory ((38,000 sq km Aksai Chin + 5,180 sq km Shaksgam + 645 sq km territory as per Shyam Saran report of 2013) even before the recent intrusions in Eastern Ladakh?
-Why do we say we do not want an inch of anyone’s territory – is this an excuse to not make a counter intrusion?
Fortune favours the brave and it is on record that whenever PLA has been confronted, they have retreated. But the current standoff does not in any manner qualify to “confronting” the PLA.
We could have dislodged PLA first day when they came on Galwan heights, atop our post on Finger 4 at Pangong Tso and at Y Junction in Depsang where they have intruded 19 km deep.
Talks whether at military, foreign ministry or by NSA can only be effective if they are from a position of strength. One can’t obfuscate the ground situation by having 15-16 hours military-level talks or NSA taking for two hours with Wang Yi. The fifth round Corps Commander-level talks are slated next week while according to media government admits diplomacy has failed.
The Army Chief rightfully should have been the lead player in taking tactical decisions and acting upon it without looking back. But we have landed up in a situation where too many people call the shots with no delineation of charter/responsibility and even accountability. One wonders why the Chief of Defence Staff who has no operational role, accompanies the Defence Minister to the battlefront, not the Defence Secretary who is in charge of ‘defence policy’ both in war and no war?
Sure China agrees to “complete disengagement” and the LAC must be respected but LAC for China implies grabbers’ keepers. Continuing talks means giving PLA more time to consolidate who have established new camps proximate to Galwan and other locations. PLA has dug in their heels and disengagement means little.
One can continue debating whether the so called buffer zone is astride the LAC or on our side of the LAC in Galwan but the intrusions at Pangong Tso and Depsang anyway can’t be covered with semantics. There are indications PLA is staying put at Gogra/Hot Springs as well.
So the ball is firmly in our court and we seem to be only waiting for China’s next move. And China will do so with greater gusto if our politico-military establishment continues to demonstrate pusillanimous response – À la Uncle Tom Syndrome.
Coercion and aggression should be our policy. Those who are rejoicing that conflict has been avoided have no idea what we are in for if we continue in this manner, aside from what confirming our reputation as a soft nation.
The stupidity of having border agreements without defining the LAC is appalling. China will never give a firm LAC as it does not want a border settlement. So, instead of diplomatic pleading we could issue and ultimatum to the PLA for a change.
Government has been proclaiming that all Indian Territories including Aksai Chin will be retrieved. Surely this is no cakewalk and blood will shed both sides. So why are we scared of localized conflict now; telling China its adventurism must end?
Such a decision will have to be taken by the Prime Minister himself because his advisors, military hierarchy included, will unlikely muster guts to advise so. It is time we show some mettle to Beijing beyond economic measures. We should also be clear that this is our war and we should expect little from US and allies beyond posturing unless China simultaneously opens a front in South China Sea.
The author is veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personnel.