The Big Story: History or myth?

In the wake of India’s unprecedented admission of conducting surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Prime Minister Modi is falling back on an old Indian myth to calm nerves. On Sunday, Modi said that India has never attacked any country, nor has it ever coveted anyone’s territory but made supreme sacrifice fighting for others.

This is a frequently repeated tale that readers would have heard multiple times growing up in modern India. It is however troubling at many levels. First is of course the basic level of treating India as some sort of timeless political unit. When the Delhi Sultanate invaded Bengal, was that India invading someone else? And if India is a timeless unit, why are Shivaji or Maharana Pratap feted as freedom fighters for fighting against Mughal Delhi?

Even taking India’s current borders and projecting it back in time, this formulation encounters problems ­– and is an example of how North India-centric public history is. Tamils, for example, have invaded South East Asia rather successfully – an episode of history rarely spoken of in national boards such as the Central Board of Secondary Education.

Even after the modern India Union was established, gaining its freedom from the British in 1947, this myth does not hold. Since 1947, India has invaded and annexed the state of Hyderabad, Portuguese Goa and the Kingdom of Sikkim.

The distortions of having a holier-than-thou self-image are more than apparent from a simple glance at the 1962 Indo-China War. Nehru used morality with such a broad brush that it left him no space to manoeuvre with respect to the Chinese, who, more pragmatically, were far more amenable to putting onto official maps Delhi and Beijing’s actual ground positions. Now, seven decades later, India faces a hostile Pakistan backed by a hostile China. Conflict with China resulted in a military defeat, no gain of territory and till today harms India’s approach to Pakistan.

Political Picks

  1. Maharashtra is unlikely to make case for changes in law aimed at protecting SC/STs from caste atrocities despite the recent Maratha protests.
  2. The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh has turned up the heat on police in Balaghat after a team from the district’s Baihar station, led by a Muslim officer, arrested an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak.
  3. With Raghuram Rajan gone, the idea of “bad bank”, one which would absorb toxic assets from loss-laden state-owned lenders, is back on policy table.
  4. Pakistan's denial of surgical strikes suits India for now.


  1. The RBI is bound to cut the interest rates soon, but the question is whether it will happen now or in December’s monetary policy review, argues Tamal Bandyopadhyay in Mint.
  2. Uri means India would have to mend fences with China, argues KP Nayar in the Telegraph.
  3. Prime Minister Modi must ensure that cross-border attacks become a regular response to terror, says C Raja Mohan in the Indian Express.


Don’t Miss

Has Russia lost goodwill in India by conducting military exercises with Pakistan, asks Admiral Anil Chopra.

The thaw in Moscow’s relationship with Islamabad can be viewed in this broader context. For Russia, embracing a country slowly moving out of the US orbit clearly affords strategic gains that can be translated into advantage in Central Asia and the Islamic world vis-a-vis both China and the United States. Moreover, it could simultaneously provide leverage with India, by serving as a constant dampener and brake for New Delhi’s burgeoning ties with Washington, most recently reinforced by the LEMOA agreement. The last 18 months have seen a flurry of high-level visits between Moscow and Islamabad, including that of General Raheel Sharif in 2015, and negotiations for the sale of military hardware, such as the Mi35 helicopter gunships, and even the Su 35 fighter. Russia is also constructing an LNG pipeline between Karachi and Lahore for over $2 billion.

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