Seize opportunity to settle border row

EducationWorld January 2023 | Editorial Magazine

In an official statement made in Par­liament on December 13, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh made light of a December 9 scuffle be­tween Chinese and Indian soldiers on the McMahon line which marks the border in the north-east between the world’s two most populous countries.

However, the clash which prompt­ed banner headlines in the media, is a grim reminder of conspicuous fail­ure of successive governments in New Delhi to negotiate and demarcate a settled China-India border — which stretches over 3,488 km from the Aksai Chin plateau in the north-west to Arunachal Pradesh and the seven sister states of north-east India — for over seven decades.

Because of high defence expendi­ture aggregating 3.5-5 percent of GDP every year, post-independence India has never been able to increase annu­al expenditure (Centre plus states) for public education to 6 percent of GDP — declared as absolutely necessary by the high-powered Kothari Com­mission way back in 1967. As a re­sult, 75 years after independence, the country grudgingly hosts 287 million adult illiterates. In India’s 1 million under-provided government schools defined by crumbling infrastructure, chronic teacher truancy and multi­grade teaching, over 50 percent of children in class V can’t read class II textbooks or solve simple arithmetic sums. The outcome of weak founda­tional education carried forward into higher education and workplaces for decades, is arguably the lowest per capita agriculture, industry and government productivity worldwide. Guns versus butter. This iron law of economics is relentless.

The reluctance of the incumbent BJP government at the Centre to ne­gotiate and finalise a settled border with China is particularly surprising. The saffron party is under no obliga­tion to persist with Nehru’s ‘talk but don’t negotiate’ vacillation. In retro­spect, it’s impossible that the Nehru government was unaware that the Tibet-India boundary lines drawn by the British Boundary Commission of 1846-47 and in the north-east by Henry McMahon in 1914, were uni­lateral and forced upon a weak and ill-administered China of the 19th century. Therefore after communist China’s suzerainty over Tibet was conceded by New Delhi in 1950, Ne­hru’s obstinate refusal — graphically documented by Times (London) jour­nalist Neville Maxwell in his deeply researched India’s China War (1970) — to renegotiate and demarcate the entire China-India border was unrea­sonable and irrational.

The Galwan skirmish of May 2020 and the latest scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops is a reminder that this is a good time to set self-destruc­tive national pride aside and negoti­ate firm boundary lines to resuscitate Sino-Indian harmony and mutual re­spect which endured for 2,500 years before the war of 1962. The Modi gov­ernment unencumbered by Nehruvian baggage should avail this opportunity to negotiate a permanent settlement of the boundary issue for peace be­tween our two great civilisations.

Also read: The world university rankings: China science superpower

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