INDIA'S ROLE IN ASIA " S LEEPING ASIA," said General Smuts
in his speech at Capetown on Saturday, "is awakening, is stirring from one end to the other. Two-thirds of the human race are on the move." It was an accident, but in many respects a fortunate one, that the speech should have been published in this country the day before the decisive division on the Government of India Bill. We are too apt to think of India as a problem in itself, or at the most a British Commonwealth problem. It is time that our vision took a wider sweep and we saw it as an Asiatic p3oblem. Two-thirds of the human race, General Smuts reminds us, is Asiatic. In that 'great continent three nations predominate, India, China and Japan. China is the most populous, Japan the most powerful, independent State. India, far larger and more populous than Japan, favoured with far greater unity and a govern- ment far more ordered and effective than China, may yet in the unfolding of the decades which count as moments in the history of human institutions carve out for herself a greater destiny than either. That is the belief and confidence which animated the House of Commons on Monday when against a minority vote of 79 (for the other anti-Government votes were cast , by Labour members who wanted not less but more than the Bill confers) it approved the second reading of the measure designed to make the term self-government in India a reality.
It is the exercise of the new powers conferred on her that will determine India's role in an Asia where the next great drama on a world-scale may be enacted,—for in Asia, problems vital in their bearing on the prosperity and peace not only of that continent itself, but of Europe and America, are taking shape. There is no need to talk inflammably of the menace of japan. It is more than enough to speak of the portent of Japan. But the portent must be objectively and dispassionately assessed. Facts written into history are not to be ignored. The ambitions of Japan on the mainland of Asia were revealed without disguise or veil in the Twenty-one Demands pre- sented to China in 1915. The intervention of the Powers prevented the full realization of her aims and the process of penetration has been shifted further north. Korea was first made a protectorate, then annexed. Manchuria was severed from China and made an appanage of Japan by methods exposed in all their detail by the Lytton- Commission two years ago. The thrust is directed no' • towards Mongolia, and the contact established with SOviet Russia along the ManehukuO frontier has faced the world with the imminent danger of war between a great Euro- pean and a great Asiatic Power. As, part of the process Japan has renounced the pledges of peaceful conduct - which she gave When she signed the League of NatiOns Covenant, and denounced the Washington Treaty, which involved not only naval limitation but the non- fortification of any still unfortified Pacific bases. • She remains bound by the Pact of Paris, but she has already broken it—at Mukden in 1931.
That is the portent of Japan, and whatever allowance may be made for the natural ambitions of a growing State and the stringency created by a population expand- ing far too fast, the problems it raiSes for the rest of Asia, and the rest of' the world, are palpable,—Leven in the political field, and in fact the economic problems raised by Japanese competition in every Market are no 'less dis- turbing. If any demonstration Were 'needed of the im- pression Japanese policy is making' in 'countries to which her activity is of most immediate concern it would be found, in convincing shape, in the military preparations of Russia and the United States. It is just a fortnight since the increase of the Russian army to close on a million men, with a corresponding expansion of material armament, especially in the air, was announced ; and now from Washington come reports of preparations hardly, less formidable to equip the American fleet for any tasks that may await it in the Pacific. On the top 'of a naval construction programme already planned up to the full_ treaty limits (for all parties to the Washington' Treaty,' Japan included, are bound by it till the end of 1936) a further $40,000,000 is to be expended, mainly—and significantly—on strengthening the army and navy bases in the Pacific. Hawaii is particularly mentioned, and the army is to spend $11,000,000 on the construction of an air-base there, this to form part of a defensive scheme reaching from Alaska in the north to the Panama Canal in the south.
These are facts. Japan has left the League and denounced the Washington Treaty. The direct conse- quence is the resolute expansion of Russian armaments on the one hand and American on the other—and the world has learned once already in this generation where armament races lead. Japan, of course, is not directly threatening the United States nor the United States Japan. The break, if a break there is to be, will be over the open door in China. Ever since the days of John Hay that has been a cardinal feature of American foreign policy, and no American government has ever reconciled itself to the prospect of unhindered Japanese expansion over Chinese territory, or open Japanese infringement of Chinese sovereignty. Neither the United States alone nor the United States and the rest of the world together availed to protect Manchuria in 1931, but there is some distinction between Manchuria and what is termed China proper, and in any case a good deal of reflection has been going on in Washington and other capitals since the Mukden coup. The army.
leaders who are at present shaping Japanese policy, would not do well to cotint on universal and Unlimited acquiescence in the execution of their plans. And should be made unmistakably- clear in tithe. IThere is no question of an Anglo-American alliance, nor of a common front, nor of any formal understanding; but the touch between Washington and London should be sufficiently close and constant, the confidence of the two governments in one anther sufficiently strong, the determination of each to maintain the Far Eastern policy they concerted at Washington in 1922 sufficiently resolute, to deter any nation -from running deliberately athwart it.
One new aspect of the problen presents itself. There have been recent conversations between Japanese and Chinese negotiators at Nanking. There has - been vague but suggestive talk of a Pan-Asiatic movement in which those countries should play a leading part.
What it amounts to is not clear as yet. But if it amounts to anything at all, it is of vital importance to know where India stands—or might stand. The whole future of Asia, and perhaps of the world, might depend on whether India was contented or discontented with her lot, chafing sullen and explosive under alien trammels or building up her nationhood in co-operative partnership within a British commonwealth. ,That consideration in its full potentialities was probably in the minds of few, of the members of the House of Commons on Monday night, but it might properly have determined the vote of all of them. The Government of India Bill does not satisfy all India's aspirations. It might well have been more generous to them in certain respects. The right of that great nation to attain in due time whatever stature and status it shows itself capable of within the British Commonwealth should have been conceded without reserve or hesitation from the first. But a great step forward is being taken. The appalling dangers of a policy of repression have been avoided. An India politically immature is being. enabled to attain maturity in the indispensable and irreplaceable school of experience. And the vote of Monday means that we can look to her with some . confidence, as there could have been no hope of doing if the Government's opponents had had their way, to make her 350 millions a factor of stability, perhaps the decisive factor, in an Asia over which, as General Smuts rightly warns us, the storms are gathering, and may some day break.