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Please be Fair with the Nation
by Dr. Jaipal Singh Bookmark and Share

Freedom of speech and expression is the political right by many democratic countries allowing a person to communicate his (or her) opinion and ideas to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is often used synonymously with acts of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Only a few days back, the author came across rather presumptuous, or shall I say slanderous, remarks of a gentleman in the context of the recent Indo-China face-off in certain sectors of India’s northernmost territories of Leh & Ladakh regions. In a nutshell, the gentleman vehemently opined that Indians are absolutely dishonest and corrupt people ready to sell their 'mother and motherland' for a few bucks. Besides, remarks on Indian Army were far worse in bad taste and almost abusive citinging China as truly patriotic and honest juggernaut who can decimate or annex the Indian territory at ease within no time. The allegations made relating to corruption, patriotism of Indian people and Armed Forces while glorifying China are so serious that this authour feels obligated to take cognizance of remarks and analyze issues rationally and logically a little deeper to unravel the truth.

There is no doubt and perhaps every conscientious Indian would agree that the country is facing a widespread corruption in various walks of life. This evil is also responsible to a considerable extent for the slow and tardy development and growth of the nation. One can easily cite a few recent scams and scandals with national and international implications to illustrate his point. But this evil will not die by itself. Those who are really concerned and care for the nation can make their contribution with responsibility by staying and working among own people by setting example through 'walk your talk'.

Undoubtedly, the corruption is a direct offshoot of the human greed. It is widespread globally but is more pronounced in the fast developing countries today. In this country, some Poor people indulge in corrupt practices to meet their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Also there are many people who have no dearth of wealth and prosperity, yet they indulge in all kinds of shoddy practices to earn more due to their insatiable greed. Then there are people who justify their indulgence in corrupt practices by arguing that even if they don’t do it, others will continue and take booty in any case. Needless to mention, but a large number of people are still around who endeavor to limit their needs within their legitimate earnings without indulging in corrupt means. Thus ultimately it becomes a matter of personal ethics and morality and branding every Indian citizen and the nation at large as corrupt is utterly preposterous and uncanny.

The Honest Juggernaut?

Now let us see both India and China on relative indices of corruption. Nearly for the last 20 years, a Germany based NGO namely Transparency International has been attempting to rank countries based on certain parameters on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be. The 2013 edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was published some time back drawing on certain common data sources, the perceptions of business people and country experts. Total 177 countries were evaluated on a scale of zero to hundred, where zero denoted a perception that the country’s public sector is highly corrupt and hundred represented a very clean position.

As per the recent rankings by the Transparency International, India ranks 94th with a score of 36 while China stands at 80th spot with a score of 40. Thus both the countries fare low signifying a high level of corruption in their public life but of course China is slightly better placed in inter se comparison, if these scores are relied upon. It may be remembered that in an autocratic regime, it is very difficult to get reliable data on any social-economic and political parameters because of the large restrictions on public (NGO's one of the criteria being perceptions of people and experts in country) in terms of the freedom of speech and expression to divulge with, including the freedom of press. Notwithstanding, it is obvious that the Transparency International does not recognize China as the honest Juggernaut. Of course one would argue, why worry about the others, we should be concerned about our own country. But then this also doesn’t grant a right to a person bestowing misplaced high praise to a potential adversary while totally denying and denigrating self.

Incidentally, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has not been without criticism over the years. Many critics worldwide hold that the NGO’s CPI carries and convey an elite bias (a pointer towards the developed West) and does not show evidence of the actual corruption. The main criticism stems from the difficulty and skepticism in measuring corruption, as by definition it happens everywhere behind the curtains. The CPI therefore needs to rely on third-party survey which have been criticized as potentially unreliable. Data can vary widely depending on the public perception of a country, the completeness of the surveys and the methodology used. Another objection raised is that data is not comparable from year to year because Transparency International uses different methodologies and samples every year. Though the findings of the CPI are used as a reference point but these cannot be taken as sacrosanct for all purposes and for all countries.

When people indulge in corrupt practices, there is always a person or party seeking a favour and a person or party granting such favour in some quid pro quo. For illustration, only recently the Indian government has terminated a high value scam-ridden VVIP Chopper deal with Agusta Westland International Limited (AWIL) on the grounds of the breach of pre-contract integrity pact. Under the deal, 12 Choppers were to be supplied and the deal run into trouble following allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 360 crore.

This is a case where a foreign company, desperate to win Indian market in a big deal, offered kickbacks, while dishonest and greedy Indian officials were found willing to dilute technical specification in return enabling the company to secure the contract. It is interesting to note that the Agusta Westland is an Anglo-Italian Multinational company with its Headquarters at Amsterdam, Netherlands which earned 8th rank (and boasts very clean) with a high score of 83 in Transparency International’s December, 2013 rankings.

Military Might

Now let us consider the geo-political situation and relative military strength of India and China. Geographically, India is spread over an area of about 3,287,260 sq km and an estimated current population of 1,249,670,000 with the land frontier of about 14,103 Km and a coastline of about 7,000 km. It shares border with five countries namely China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar with serious border and territorial disputes with the first two countries.

On the other hand, China is the second largest country in the world in land area with the estimated total area of about 9,600,001 sq km and an estimated current population of 1,366,910,000 with the land frontier of 22,117 km and a coastline of 14,500 km. It shares land frontier and maritime boundaries with fourteen countries. China has border disputes with almost every neighboring country and serious territorial issues with India, Japan, South Korea, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam.

The fact remains that the most of the countries maintain secrecy of their military programmes and do not reveal their exact military strength and often unconfirmed and misleading informations are deliberately shared for obvious reasons. Despite this position, various government and non-government agencies try to compile and evaluate relative strength of countries from time to time. Just for the indicative comparison sake, I am citing the relative military strength of India and China on a few broad yet significant parameters. This may not be absolutely accurate yet represents a fair degree of relative strength of both countries.

Category India China
Active Military Strength      1,325,000      2,285,000
Total Aircraft             1,785             2,788
Total Naval Ship Power                184                520
Total MBT/Light Tanks             3,569            9,150
Total Armoured Fighting Vehicles             5,085            4,788
Total Artillary Pieces             6,445            6,246


As per the Global Firepower (GFP), India ranks fourth in the world in conventional war capabilities only next to USA, Russia and China. India has two aircraft carriers compared to China’s one, and according to some reports India has over 5,900 MBT/Light tanks as against 3,569 indicated in the above table. GFP’s ranking is based on the nations’ potential conventional war making capabilities across the land, sea and air and excludes nuclear capabilities of nations. Incidentally, Japan and South Korea also appear in the list of the top ten who are eastern neighbours of China with many land and maritime territorial disputes. This also corroborates high level of threat perception and insecurity among the countries neighbouring China. I am not going into the details of the historical events of how Aksai Chin a part of Ladakh region was forcefully occupied as also a part illegally ceded to China by Pakistan but it remains a disputed territory under the Chinese occupation and places of the current face-off like Chumar and Demchok on the Indian side are very close to it.

There is no doubt that China significantly outspends on military budget and outnumbers India on all major military parameters. At the same time, it should be remembered that China has a far long land frontier and coastline to defend compared to India necessitating a larger military force and arsenal and it has many conflicts with neighbouring countries thanks to its expansionist approach including certain disputed tracts of land even with the powerful Russia for decades. China may perhaps prove more powerful than India in a long sustained conventional war due to its numerical strength in manpower and arsenal but now both have enough nuclear weapons with reliable delivery systems and in the event of a full scale war, a mutual destruction is assured as no country would like to tolerate ignomius defeat and dismemberment when the strike options are available.

It may, however, be also remembered that the numerical superiority or quality of weapons alone are not suffice to win a war. Leave aside the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war which almost became one-sided at a point, Pakistan had escalated 1965 war largely keeping in view Indian fiasco with Chinese in 1962 and superiority and numerical strength of own armour and air power in the sub-continent around that time. It is a recorded fact by unbiased sources as to how diminutive Indian Folland Gnat fighter aircrafts outsmarted sophisticated F-86F Sabres of Pakistan, in the battle airspace, then considered to be fastest operating fighters in the sub-continent. Similarly, equipped with Patton M-47 tanks with numerical strength and superior quality, Pakistan armour was outfought in the battle field in most sectors against not so advanced Sherman tanks and individual courage and bravery of Indian soldiers. By the time ceasefire took place, Indian armed forces had advanced with considerable gains in prominent fertile sectors like occupied Kashmir, Lahore and Sialkot as against much less significant advances of Pakistani troops in the Indian desert south of Sindh province and Chumb in the north.

Hence it is more likely that any fast growing and ambitious nation would opt to focus on a long term perspective keeping economic, political and social considerations in view rather than giving disproportionate weightage to a narrow objective of forceful occupation of a part of territory of another country simply to dominate or square up. Many events remain unreported for public comsumption, but low intensity conflicts and hostilities have always been going on particularly on India's northern frontier, thanks to history having rewarded India with two potential adversaries hand-in-gloves. So to say that China will decimate India within no time and Indian forces will flee (like in 1962!) is highly presumptive and preposterous and can be a conclusion of only a highly misinformed or even an unstable mind.

Incidentally, with author's own association and vast experience with the country’s Armed Forces for over 25 years, he can reasonably claim to have a fairly accurate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the military establishment as also the prevailing security scenario and threat perceptions in Indian sub-continent. India is governed by civilian rule and in the history of the Armed Forces, they have never exceeded their limits to challenge the civilian authority. Their conduct and demeanour never demanded an intervention from the President or political leadership of the country with a sermon or dictat to behave in a certain responsible way. Whether on border strife or internal security, they have maintained utmost self restraint and discipline and gone full throttle to perform once direction is received from the appropriate level. When called upon to take responsibility, our Armed Forces have done exceedingly well on all occasions despite constraints, barring the exception of the 1962 Chinese incursions. On war front, let us not forget their valour and achievement during the last Kargil war, and also their recent contributions in disaster management both in Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir. Just because there have been a few black sheep and controversial generals, one cannot blame the patriotism and competence of the entire institution with such an exemplary and meritorious record.

Democracy vs Autocracy

Despite many weaknesses and evils, it is because of the prospering democracy in India that allows people a freedom of speech and expression in true spirit, in the garb of which some people make unqualified and unsolicited remarks against every Indian and go to the extent of criticizing even the highest institutions of nation including president or prime minister of India with no comebacks. Such skeptics and critics close their eyes and mind while glorifying a totally autocratic nation like China where a person is detained, jailed or even exiled simply for expressing dissent or passing criticism to any policy or political leader. People tend to have a short memory but I cannot forget the pro-democracy protests of the unarmed Chinese students and civilians of 4th June, 1989 against whom even assault rifles and tanks were used to crush peaceful dissent by the autocratic Chinese leadership. The event is remembered by many with the name ‘Tiananmen Square Massacre’. Though the Chinese government sources admitted 241 dead and about 7,000 wounded but many western sources including Amnesty International, Times magazine etc. put the estimated death toll of about 1,000 to 2,600. Liao Yiwu, a Chinese writer and musician, was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment just for writing the poem ‘Massacre’ about Tiananmen Square.

Here the issue is not as to how many students and civilians were killed or wounded but how severely and brutally disproportionate force was used by the political leadership to crush the uprising and dissenting voice of people. But then is it not true of almost all autocracies and their history of supression of civil liberty and human rights? Any educated person with even ordinary prudence in his (or her) fourties onwards (without a reference to books) would be aware - what happened with the world's biggest autocracy and dictatorial regime USSR, with the introduction of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reform policies of Perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost (openness). Given a choice, the majority of human beings would prefer to live with civil liberty and basic human rights.

It is true that China have successfully controlled their population growth over the years by rigidly implementing one-child norm thus improving per capita availability of several services and goods. Do I need to cite details of disproportionate force on people and unethical measures taken by them to restrict the growth of the population? As reported in national dailies, only a couple of weeks back, a pregnant Chinese woman was abducted and detained by the government officials to force her for abortion and was released only after actually doing it. How do you take and react to this in India? In seventies with a view to enforce small family norms, certain sterilization measures were forced on people mainly in the north India, leading to mass upsurge and imposition of emergency in nation (an autocratic or dictatorial measure), which was rejected through a massive defeat of the ruling party in the following general election.

A fast pace of physical development has been achieved during the last 30 years or so in China largely due to its autocratic governance, which certainly facilitates quick and intended policy decisions. On one hand, autocracy in China has ensured fast building of high speed rail lines, six-lane highways, fastest urbanization programmes and business opportunities with almost 10% GDP growth; on the other hand, the same autocracy is the root cause of many existing evils like lack of civil liberty and freedom to speak, express or even maintain family or property, besides  creating a vast nexus of vested economic and political interests leading to endemic corruption, massive wasteful investment, near African-levels of inequality and rising social tensions.

NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have constantly highlighted and criticized China for violating the freedom of speech, movement and religion of its citizens. Instead of granting civil liberty, China claims to enforce civil rights through four cardinal principles (topics) on which any debate or different opinion is not permissible. These include upholding of the social path, dictatorship of the proletariat, Communist Party of China and Mao Zedong thoughts and Marxism-leninism. China has strictly enforced one-child norm and constantly neglected freedom of press. Fast physical development has been achieved but at what cost, does this need further elaboration for Indians so conscious about their civic rights, freedom of speech and expression.

In a democratic country like India with its size, population and diversity, for introducing any significant programme or reform a large scale consultation with the states and various other stakeholders is mandatory and this takes time with many challenges to resolve and implement even when the well-intentioned people in governance endeavor to carry it out on fast track. Yes, the elements of corruption further complicate and slow the process so often defeating the very purpose. But then when the people have made a choice for the democracy, they are destined to live with the good and evil of the system. Of course, George Bernard Shaw once remarked, "Democracy is a government of the fools, for....", so it is your choice if you decide to agree but please remember that it is on account of the democracy in this country that even today you can ask British PM for apology on account of the 'Jallianwala Bagh Massacre' while most of the Chinese have perhaps forgotten own 'Tiananmen Square Massacre' by now.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech and expression is the most basic of all freedom granted to the citizens of India under the constitution. Freedom of speech is an essential ingredient of a free society because it serves the purposes of self-fulfillment, discovery of truth, capacity of a person to make decisions and social change. But at the same time, this also bestows on citizen with certain responsibilities. For instance, a hate speech in the garb of freedom of speech can incite tension and conflict among communities or groups. Hence a person needs to exercise his freedom with due care and consideration. Since many people tend to deviate or act irresponsibly, almost all democratic governments including India put some restrictions on speech and expression. The most common limitations are libel, slander, sedition, hate speech, copyright violations, right to privacy, obscenity and pornography etc.

Freedom of speech and expression is fascinating and indeed the most important of all freedoms. But the unfortunate part is that with the upsurge of the print and electronic, particularly the internet, people are spewing all kind of trash, unsubstantiated allegations, slanderous statements and even abusive words and phrases to demean, defame and denigrate adversaries, famous individuals, institutions, society or even own nation. By doing this they are misusing the fundamental rights, freedom of speech and expression besides doing heavy damage and disservice to the society and nation. Only if they could do some introspection to realize and learn that any freedom has some premium but limitations too, they can perhaps remedy the situation by helping self and avoid hurting others’ feelings and sensitivities.

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Comments on this Article

Comment Freedom of speech is indeed a generalisation within the concept of democratic liberty. But as democracy is defined for, by, and of the people, so freedom of speech should be - as serving the public good. Thus can legitimate protest be distinguished from what is harmful, from what is free to express and what is not, as best serving the interests of all. 'All' is the important word; but within a large democracy, there are local issues that assume the appearance of the all for local people - say, the expansion of an airport that would cause worse pollution, or the construction of a dam threatening a community; whence protest is a democratic right within that local context that serves to represent the all in principle. In such cases, the good of the all might indeed overrule that of the local people, who would submit on that principle. Quite the opposite is the local ranting of an inciter of hatred as a divisive influence that is in principle against the interests of all, even though the preacher of hate strikes a chord with his immediate listeners as to what the good of all should be, but who are in a significant minority. Political parties within a democracy are preoccupied with defining the good of the 'all' at the expense of those who would lose out; here, the good of the all determines itself as the good of the majority that the political party stands for.

Typically, within a democracy, it is the majority vote that defines the good of the all in its party's policies; and therein is the never-ending strife of politics within a democracy, but with a consensus of opinion that the majority elected government makes the policies that suffices for the good of all.

09/29/2014 21:16 PM

Comment Thank you, Vatsya Ji. Different sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica, UN Demographic Yearbook etc compile data on geography and demography periodically. As I understand there is a concept of Land Area and Total Area with certain defined parameters for measurement. Currently, in Total Area Russia, Canada, China and USA appear as four largest countries in that order, while in Land Area Russia, China, USA and Canada are considered as four largest in the same order, with certain rider on 3rd or 4th spot.

But here my intent was not to go deeper into the finesse of such details for absolute accuracy but to give a feel of size, number and relative strength of two Asian Giants with specific motive as referred to in para 2 of the piece of writing. Kindly consider it in the same context.

09/26/2014 07:54 AM

Comment China is not the second largest country in the World; Canada is. If all the territories claimed by China are included in it, then it is the third largest country; if only the territories controlled by China are included in it, then it is the fourth largest country and the third largest is USA.

Raj Vatsya
09/26/2014 05:54 AM

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