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India vs China: How Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had refused to give in to China's economic aggression

In 2006, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, Nathula Pass situated on India China border in Sikkim was opened for trade between the two countries. This was a longstanding request from the Chinese. When Indira Gandhi was the PM, the Chinese had withdrawn their claim over Sikkim but wanted this trade route to open. This is when Sikkim was included in the Indian map, and it was a significant political development. But there were reservations in India to opening this trade route. When the route was opened, in spite of being invited Bengal’s then Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya didn’t turn up.

Jayanta Ghosal Jayanta Ghosal @jayanta_ghosal1
New Delhi Updated on: July 10, 2020 14:54 IST
India vs China: How Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had refused to give in to China's economic aggression
Image Source : PTI

India vs China: How Buddhadeb Bhattacharya  had refused to give in to China's economic aggression

In 2006, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, Nathula Pass situated on India China border in Sikkim was opened for trade between the two countries. This was a longstanding request from the Chinese. When Indira Gandhi was the PM, the Chinese had withdrawn their claim over Sikkim but wanted this trade route to open. This is when Sikkim was included in the Indian map, and it was a significant political development. But there were reservations in India to opening this trade route. When the route was opened, in spite of being invited Bengal’s then Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya didn’t turn up.

During that time the relationship between Manmohan Singh and Buddhadev Bhattacharya was pretty good. For Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s economical and industrial vision not only in India but also in the magazines of abroad he was known as ‘India’s, reformist Deng Xiaoping’.

Manmohan Singh himself had referred to Buddhadev Bhattacharya as one of the finest Chief Ministers of the country. 

Under this milieu, Manmohan Singh himself requested Buddhadev Bhattacharya to be present for that event in Sikkim. But he didn’t agree on that proposition. He even met Manmohan Singh in Delhi and very politely told the PM about his inability to attend the event. “Please forgive me, I am not being able to put up with the opening of Nathula Pass for  China to import. I am very much aware of the fact how much we can export from India to China,” he said.

Buddhadev Bhattacharya even told me that, “See I am a Communist from India whatever it maybe it is not my job to plant China’s flag on our land. What if I don’t become a communist of that sort? By dumping us they’ll ruin the North Bengal and I will excitedly to Sikkim.”

Although he didn’t show up for the event but there was a pressure for the presence of a representing minister in the ceremony. But there was none.  Although after listening to Buddhadev Bhattacharya Manmohan Singh told him, “Your reason is indisputable. Don’t worry. The opening of Nathu La pass is a figurative step; this is being done to maintain the diplomatic relations between two countries. But I’ve made arrangements for strict security. I won’t let China to do dumping from there.” He had faith in Dr. Manmohan Singh.  

During this time, talks of privatization and renovation of various ports had begun, top government officials had begun pondering over it. And to get these projects, various Chinese companies had appealed to the Indian government. And the Chinese government as well, to get the allocation for the Chinese companies, was doing heavy lobbying.

In China the private companies are actually under the government’s control. Many private industrialists were members of core committee in the political top brass. During that time the national security advisor was Brajesh Mishra and Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister was Lal Krishna Advani. However varied opinions they might have had between them, regarding China’s economic aggression both of them shared the same opinions.  By placing the question of National Security in the Cabinet security matter assembly this China allotment was stopped. Another member of the committee Defense Minister George Fernandez, was an open critic of China. During the era of Atal Bihari Vajpayee China did not receive the exemption.

But later when Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, China took the initiative afresh.

The relation was quite good between the general secretary of CPIM Prakash Karat and the China ambassador. The friendship between China’s Communist Party and India’s Communist party is no secret.

So the same ambassador during such time invited Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Prakash Karat for dinner.  Prakash Karat and Buddhadev Bhattacharya received the invitation letter for dinner with the China government emblem. Karat informed to Buddhadev that it is essential to attend the invitation. It’ll be rude if they don’t attend.  Dinner is dinner, no scope for any formal discussions of any agenda or political planning; just the exchange of idea. Buddhadev Bhattacharya agreed. 

In the white ambassador of the Central government, both of them went to Chinese embassy. On that day the Chinese ambassador over conversation requested Buddhadev Bhattacharya to speak with Manmohan Singh regarding port’s allocation. China will be able to do the task better and this will result in better relation between the two countries.

The way Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s National Security Advisor protested against this allocation in the same way Manmohan Singh’s national security advisor R.K Narayan protested against the proposal. Since the relationship of Buddhadev with Manmohan was sweet, the Chinese tried to use the Chief minister of West Bengal as the green signal to their plan.

Although Buddhadev Bhattacharya told the ambassador on his face, “Comrade, National security is not under State government. This affair is a Central government affair. And most importantly security is an extremely constitutional matter. As a Chief Minister how can I poke my nose in it.

Hence, even though he had faith in the Deng Xiao Ping’s economic liberality and in the theory of industrialization but Buddhadev did not support China’s diplomacy to enter India.

Today after so many years I recalled all these old memories. But China till date did not shift from their expansionism. Probably since the year 1949 during the formation of Socialist China, this diplomacy had remained to enter India.

From Mao Zedong to Deng Xiao Ping –there took place an immense transformation in China’s politics and economy. But during the era of Den, China did not change their policy regarding India. Although Deng gave more importance on China’s expansion in India’s market than attacks on borders. In simple words China has the same belligerence regarding the occupancy of India’s market, from that time till this day.  This has been named by many experts as ‘The China Syndrome’.

The tension between India and China currently because of Aksai Chin and then after the Ladakh incident has become more significant and relevant.  In the year 2012 Indian intelligence reported that, China attack India, based on that Indian Army in the borders took up the aggressive Indian Forward policy. China then stated that, India using the line “China will attack India” actually wanted to increase their army in the borders –this is a kind of pretext. Then even if there is no attack between the two countries but the distrust and faithlessness keeps on increasing.

When Barack Obama was the US president, even he tried to improve the strategic relationship with China. During such time, for the development of Northeast area especially for Arunachal Pradesh India asked for loan from the Asian Deployment Bank. But since China was unwilling to accept Arunachal as a part of India, they raised objection.

During that time there was a diplomatic assumption that as Obama had a soft corner for China, Asian Deployment Bank did not agree to provide with the loan to India. China informed America’s –Pacific fleet commander that it is necessary to accept Indian Ocean as the area under China’s influence.  China had to say that:  India’s psychology is,  since the name is Indian Ocean so the entire area is under their control. China had objection in India – US nuclear agreement.

In Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) China’s objection was registered. After that in the year 2008 in the month of November, the Mumbai 26/11 attacks happened, and there were reasons to believe that not only Pakistan but also China was involved.

Being allies with Japan and in the region, for balance composition against China, India using the America policy, angered China.

Today after so many years I feel the repetition of history is the law of nature. After Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, there is no doubt that he has tried for India to rise in front of the world.

Despite being friends with China, he did not melt by ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’(Indians and Chinese are brothers) romance and not always he agreed with China. All this time China although did not wage war but by continuous intrusion they tried to increase pressure through the roar of sovereign interests. They tried to stain India’s rise under Modi’s leadership in front of the world.  Although China did not get any success in this attempt but it is not assured that they will not attack again. This time Indian Army is geared up to provide with the worthy reply.

 

 

 

 

 

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