I write to you from the most heavily bombed country in the history of the world. My guide told me Laos had reigned upon it during the ‘secret war’ 280 million bombs at a rate of 1 every few seconds for 9 years. The bombers were the Americans of course during the Vietnam War.
I get my spirit of adventure from my father. That drive from when I was a child from London to Gujarat still plays in my blood. So this Indian Independence day I wanted to mountain bike north from Luang Prabang to the Lao border with China, and by an unauthorised incursion plant an Indian flag on Chinese territory. See how they like it for a change! That was my Mission Impossible – an act of Independence.
After all, India Today reports there were some 300 incursions by the Chinese army into India last year. So why not one, just one, by an overseas citizen and non-resident of India?
The advice from my uncle when I told him about my Mission Impossible was characteristic of my family, it wasn’t ‘don’t do it’, it was, ‘don’t get shot or caught’. If some low level soldier were to report up to Beijing the daily happenings I’d like to think they may be perplexed that India has changed its policy to China to mirror the Chinese policy of incursion.
As for Laos, there are lessons for India. When that rifle bullet fired on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, few could have imagined that the assassination of an American President would ricochet to tragic ramifications half way across the world for a decade to make this the most bombed place in history.
And what did all the bombs achieve? The Communist flag flies proudly across this country. These Communists that the Americans tried to wipe out. The Yanks should have simply have dropped TV sets instead. Far more pervasive has been the voice of Hollywood and American ‘culture’ around the world than its bombs in the era of TV. It was American culture that defeated Communism in Russia without a single bomb being dropped – they all wanted those darn Levis jeans and to be free to sing like Madonna.
So what is the lesson for India? Laos, like India was a colony of the West because it could not protect itself. Like India seeking help from the British to protect itself from Mughals, so too Laos sought protection from the French to protect itself from the Chinese. Empire was after all a mafia-style protection racket played by countries instead of Italian dons.
India needs to have strong defences of course and I say this knowing soldiers have just died on one of its submarines due to a fire. But India should mirror the Chinese policy . Somewhere there is a document authored by a Chinese policy advisor to their Politburo stating the ‘Indian wants peace, from Gandhi to this day, they do not believe in being offensive. That is their Hindu way, and so we have learnt with the Buddhists, so too with the parent religion of the Hindu, we can bully them to our bidding as we did in taking Kashmir from them.’ This document is yet to be leaked by Wikileaks. But believe me it exists somewhere on some computer system in Beijing.
When I return from Laos to the UK, I will fly to India. I wanted to visit Srinagar in Kashmir but was told it is unsafe. I wanted to go to Kohima in the East of India to pay tribute to the Indian Army who in the Second World War caused the Imperial Japanese Army to suffer the greatest defeat in its history. But I was told it is unsafe. India today cannot protect its borders from foreign forces, the way it could during even the Second World War and Independence. That is India’s Mission Impossible.
As for my mission impossible to plant an Indian flag in China – I got within 160 miles of China – mountain biking through jungle roads, along paddy fields is tough – my 24 year old guide was more exhausted than me!
Alpesh B Patel