1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 5

In Principle



ACARTOON in one of the principal Delhi papers shows the Indian Prime Minister and the Home Minister (Mr. Lai Bahadur Shastri) try- ing to drag an intractable and reluctant horse-- marked Parliament—to drink from a trough labelled 'Colombo Proposals.' This is about right, except that, reluctance apart, there is also a good deal of confusion.

The Indian Government's reply to Mrs. Bandaranaike was understood to have been that it had evaluated the proposals and entered certain reservations, but that only Parliament, meeting for a short sitting, could decide on acceptance or rejection. When Parliament assembled, however, the government resolution was for both Houses to 'consider' the proposals, and it was said that this would be changed to something more positive when the Chinese reply was known.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nehru met members from his own party as well as Opposition members in groups and told them that the Government had accepted the proposals 'in principle.' Before them, as well as before Parliament, he defended the acceptance of the proposals (along with their clarifications). In the meantime came the news of China's acceptance—also 'in principle'—and then hints of reservations and differences in 'interpre- tation,' Mr. Nehru then shed all talk of acceptance 'in principle' and said that both sides must accept the proposals as a whole. Parliament, groggy and still saddled with the original resolution, didn't quite know what it was expected to do.

But the Opposition had already made its dis- approval very clear. Barring the Communists and another small heterogeneous group, every organised Opposition party—Praja Socialist, Jan Sangh, Socialist and Swatantra—pronounced against the Colombo proposals.

Mr. Nehru holds that they substantially con- cede the Indian demand that, as a precondition of negotiation, both sides should return to the positions of September 8, 1962, when the Chinese launched their attack. Barring one post (which is to be negotiated) the Colombo proposals concede this in the eastern sector. In the middle sector there has been little change anyway. The problem is about the western sector.

Here India would not get back the forty- odd posts that were overrun, but the Chinese would withdraw twenty kilometres, leaving a demilitarised zone where both sides would have civilian instead of military posts, patrolled by their own police. According to Mr. Nehru, this has the advantage of vacating an area where the Chinese are in considerable strength. The Opposi- tion view is : (a) that large areas of Ladakh (in fact much of what the Chinese claim there) would still be in Chinese hands, which is contrary to the Indian Government's determination not to negotiate till territory gained by aggression is vacated and (b) that talks on this basis would only weaken the psychological temper of the country and make India's military task more difficult. Meanwhile the Chinese are now reported to be against the Colombo proposals that the demili- tarised zone in Ladakh should be supervised by civilian personnel of both countries.

The Chinese attitude is to take acceptance 'in principle' as the starting-point and go on to talks.

Whether talks, when started, would lead any- where is a different question. According to some of those who went to Peking on the recent media- tory mission there are two schools of thought in China : one led by Liu Shao-chi and Chen Yi, which is for a very tough line with India; another, with Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai among its members, which is more conciliatory. They also found a personal antagonism to Mr. Nehru which united the different groups. India, with experience of fruitless, hair-splitting negotiations with China, is keen to settle on a basis for discussion before going to the conference table.

Diplomatically the Indian Government would have the uphill task of explaining to the world why the Colombo proposals, even though approximating to India's preconditions, could not be worked despite China's acceptance 'in principle.' The Afro-Asian world, particularly, will have to be convinced that the efforts of the mediatory six nations were frustrated by China's intransigence.

India needs time to reorganise its economy for defence and to expand, equip and train its mili- tary forces for a struggle which, it now knows, is very much deeper than a border dispute. For this transformation 1963 is the critical year and India enters upon it with some disadvantages. The first wave of patriotic fervour has been allowed to settle. The administrative machine built, in normal times, around centres of personal and departmental power has not yet been able to change over to working for different objectives.

If the strength of the armed forces is to be increased threefold then the cost of mere main- tenance (assuming that armaments are available on some kind of lend-lease) would rise from Rs 4,000 million a year (the defence budget of 1962-63) to Rs 10,000 million. If at the same time the Third Five-Year Plan is to be salvaged there will have to be a 20 per cent. increase in the national income without any additional consump- tion—a target difficult to achieve without controls, physical and fiscal, and additional taxation. Except for some import cuts and a bid to stop the inflow of smuggled gold the Government hasn't yet shown its hand. For many in India life still moves in an abnormally normal way.