Learning from anniversaries in 2019
It is not just important to remember the lessons from history but also to possess the discerning ability to know which lessons apply and which don’t.editorials Updated: Jan 02, 2019 07:52 IST
The new year brings with it an opportunity to start afresh but it will be a mistake to not learn from the past. Anniversaries are a useful way of internalising the lessons from history and 2019 has a wealth of anniversaries. It was 20 summers ago that India discovered a Pakistani incursion near Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. This year will also see completion of 50 years since the Sino-Soviet Ussuri clashes of 1969. Incidentally, Kargil and Ussuri are the only two instances of nuclear neighbours indulging in a conventional conflict. The idea of a limited war below nuclear threshold received a great fillip after Kargil —the topic will crop up again later this year when the 20th anniversary approaches.
While the Sino-Soviet split opened space for the US in 1969, there was another split happening in India. The import of the split in Congress party is often under-appreciated. It did not just set the path for Indira Gandhi’s ascent, but probably changed the Congress party forever. The post-1969 Congress, many would argue, wasn’t a true inheritor of the legacy of India’s freedom movement. Speaking of the freedom movement, it is hard to understate the importance of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre—an event that will complete 100 years in 2019. The massacre robbed the British colonial empire of any moral legitimacy it could have claimed to govern India. India’s independence was only a matter of time. The claim to self-rule received a shot in the arm with India’s presence during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles a couple of months after the massacre in Punjab. India’s contribution to World War I earned it a rightful place at that table though it was not yet a self-governing state.
The experience of Versailles would also go on to inform India’s decision even after the independence. The victory in 1971 against Pakistan New Delhi in a position of strength. Mrs Gandhi’s decision not to use it to settle the Kashmir dispute in India’s favour was due to her advisor PN Haksar’s reading of Versailles. If the 1919 treaty had not imposed humiliating terms on Germany, Mr Haksar believed, everything from the rise of Nazism to World War II could have been avoided. In hindsight, were Mr Haksar and Mrs Gandhi wrong? It is not just important to remember the lessons from history but also to possess the discerning ability to know which lessons to apply and which not to.
First Published: Jan 02, 2019 07:52 IST