Is India the whipping boy of the neighborhood? Yes, a soft state gets whatever it deserves
-- By Dr Ramesh N. Rao
India does not just have a soft under-belly. It is soft all over. Whatever the exact details of who took over which village and who was constructing what kind of "kuttcha" road how close to the border and what kinds of previous skirmishes the BSF had with the BDR, the crux of the matter is that sixteen BSF personnel were brutally tortured and killed by Bangladeshis.
Some of the BSF men were trussed up like pigs and delivered at the border (Celia Dugger in a New York Times report says: "A photo published Saturday on the front pages of Indian newspapers showed Bangladeshi villagers carrying the body of an Indian soldier dangling by his hands and feet from a bamboo pole like a dead tiger." Tiger, not pig, makes it all right for Dugger.)
The Indian government should have responded quickly and decisively, the way the Israelis do, the way the United States responds, or the way any self-respecting nation does: bulldozers razing a few villages, surgical bombing of a BDR garrison. India should have sent a public, strongly-worded caveat to Sheikh Hasina and asked her to warn her countrymen that if there were any further attempt to attack Indian forces or to test Indian patience Bangladeshis would pay dearly, very dearly.
Instead, what we have seen is yet another display of 'pacifism'. For all the vaunted 'Hindutva' pride and promise of the BJP, here is another government exhibiting the 'celebrated' Indian character of 'spinelessness'. Whether we trace our weakness all the way back to the Buddha, or merely to our modern messiah Gandhiji, a country of a billion people has become prey to a kind of self-delusion. No other country, even the tiniest, weakest little chit of a nation would respond to abuse the way the world's fourth largest economy does.
It is this psychological frailty, this character flaw that makes Indians go soft toward the enemy and take out their knives to deal with their own. It is this character flaw that makes a Kuldip Nayar, pontificator par excellence, intone: "We felt horrified when China tied some of our border policemen on the tails of horses and dragged them all over the Ladakh region in the sixties. That it happened in the wake of slogans such as Hindi Chini bhai bhai was all the more disturbing. Friendly countries should never think of using force for settling any dispute". Really? Since when is China friendly? 1962?
Countries remain friendly when we show them that we protect our own and that we will defend our own. When we don't do that, our relationship is reduced to is that of hunter and hunted. Prey to our own platitudes, India is a hunted nation.
Originally published on June 2001, Politics.