Although the task is painstaking, it is time to see “India through the ages” or in the historical perspective. We need to appreciate what possibly could lie in future of 1.30 billion heads, arguably and potentially the most populous country, ten years from now. The facts are too stark not to be noted; only an indifferent citizen would ignore the same.
The trend of Indian history shows that foreigners have usually enjoyed a somewhat special status thereby humbling the natives of the land owing to various factors, one of them being the innate inability of successive dispensations to read the mind of foreigners and take corrective action. There has also been a lamentable lack of vision in terms of matters domestic, thereby making things easierthan- expected for foreigners to trade, proselytise, terrorise, rule, misrule, overrule, subjugate and exploit the Indians for several hundred years, the end of which came only in 1947.
Arguably, for the first time in several centuries, the self-rule responsibility fell on Indians to shape the destiny of India, that is Bharat, which today, possesses such a huge geography of a sovereign polity after Aurangzeb’s rule (1658-1707). Before Aurangzeb, only the empire of the Maurya king Ashoka had a comparatively vast Indian terrain (273- 232 BC). Often forgotten and a conspicuously ignored factor of Indian history, however, is constant and steady.
During the last 1000 years, India faced approximately 40 major foreign invasions and from 1947 to 2019 it has been a narrative of relentless foreign aggression/ invasion/ penetration/ illegal immigration in different forms. The major conflicts were the war with Pakistan in 1947, 1965, 1971, 1999 and the Chinese invasion of 1962. The non-military aggressions of India, on other hand, happened in the form of forced eviction of Hindu Bengalis since the creation of East Pakistan (1947 to 1971), unlike the onetime eviction/migration of Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis in 1947-48, not to ignore the post-1971 influx of Muslims from Bangladesh.
This was wittingly or unwittingly abetted by several national and regional ruling parties, anxious to reap the demographic dividend. This has led to frequent victimisation of innocent and bona fide Indian nationals. It constitutes a colossal failure of foreign policy and the Centre’s border management system. Both entities are under the jurisdiction of the Government of India, and not the states.
To make matters worse, an attitude of confrontation and politicking by successive dispensations at the Centre and in the eastern and north-eastern states have directly impinged on national security and thus helped the unfriendly foreigners to fish in troubled internal waters… in keeping with the trend and tradition of Indian history ~ help the foreigners and harm Indians. Trends of Indian history are replete with numerous instances of “lure and love foreigners; loot Indians”.
Indians now are facing twodimensional pulls and pressures of the 21st century. Both are being applied by the USA and China. Before that, however, it’s time to recall the mauling of India to assess the danger that sovereignty faces today. In 712 AD occurred the Arab invasion of Nirun and Aror in Sind. Thus were the doors of India opened. Things started happening fast and furiously. From 986-987 AD began the first invasion of India by Sabuktigin, the ruler of Ghazni, followed by the defeat of the Indian king, Jaipal, by Sultan Mahmud and the capture of Kannauj (1018).
In 1175, Muhammad bin Sam invaded India, and in 1192 occurred the second battle of Tarain, where Prithiviraj III Chahamana (Chauhan) was defeated and killed through treachery. Thereafter followed the slave dynasty of Iltutmish (1206-1210) and the Mongol invasion of 1221. Chronologically, came Balban (1266-1287); Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316); the Tughlaqs (1325- 1388); invasion of Taimur Lang in 1398; the Delhi occupation of Delhi by Khizr Khan 1414; advent of and conquest by Babur in first battle of Panipat 1526; Afghan- Mughal struggle for supremacy on Indian soil (1526) to the second battle of Panipat (1556) when Akbar ascended the Delhi throne.
The Mughals reigned supreme till the last of the six powerful rulers, Aurangzeb, died in March 1707. The Mughal rule was a mixed bag of fortune and misfortune. They undoubtedly invaded India as hostile foreigners, but by the time their rule and rulers collapsed, they appear to have become naturalised Indians, and dethroned by a set of English-speaking foreigners; this time not by swordwielding invaders but by a band of roving and rapacious merchants and mercantile marines whose basic and fundamental understanding and motives revolved around money, profit and more profit with conspicuous contempt for non-white India.
Subsequently, however, they picked the machine gun to kill Indians, with the help of the fractious Indians. Thus was set up the first factory of the East India Company at the western coast port of Surat in 1612. This was followed by a firman (official notification) issued by the fourth Mughal, Jahangir in 1613. The British tentacles spread from west to south, through Anglo-French rivalry, spilling over from Europe, the oceans, the Deccan war (1744 to 1763), and ultimately to the east where the battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764), followed by various Anglo-Maratha, Anglo-Mysore, Anglo-Nepal, Anglo-Burmese wars till the 1820s, and the Anglo-Sikh wars in the 1840s, made them rulers of India.
It was a tale of bloodshed, treachery, maladministration in every nook and corner of India. Varying only in degrees, one set of foreign rulers was replaced by another band of traders, after having tasted blood, taking to guns and exploiting the eternally quarrelling and squabbling forces of the Indian peninsula. The trend began in the 6th century BC with sixteen Mahajanapadas.
The 89-year direct British government rule (1858-1947), after 93 years of a British private company’s loot, war, treachery, there emerged a semblance of a united fight against foreign invader-rulers (1858-1947). This was organised by a diverse segment of the Indian populace. There was also a parallel movement for a separate Muslim country, culminating in Pakistan (1906-1947). Seventy-two years have lapsed since India’s liberation from 800-plus years of foreign rule. Nevertheless, the contemporary revival of things foreign, from fast moving consumer goods to investment, banking to internal management, technology to transport, telecommunications to sovereign treasury bond, must make one hope that history will not be repeated.
Indeed, India today is in the midst of a fresh pincer movement, outflanked by two powers: from the west approaches the bullying United States of America. From the north-east has penetrated the Communist Party of China-ruled government of Beijing. And there is little to show that the India of 1.3 billion heads is geared to withstand pulls and pressures originating from either the Hans or Yanks in the long run. It’s time for India to re-read, and learn from, its own history. Lest we forget!
(The writer is an alumnus of National Defence College and author of China in India. Views are personal)