Guangzhou 1843 And Galwan 2020 : Bihari Troops The Common Thread, Is History Repeating Itself?
Colonel Kritya Nand Das
Every nation goes through good times and bad times, during the long course of its history. Human kind is such a restless animal that it keeps roaming across both natural and man made barriers and boundaries, non stop.
Such roaming always takes place at individual level as merchant, monk and mercenary and some times at group level as asylum seekers, silent infiltrators and as aggressive invaders. All leave imprint on the course of its host country’s history. Only the impact varies in degrees, little, more or less and the imprint is left on the sands of time.
No country has remained exclusive, all are inclusive under circumstances beyond their control. All countries have been influenced by each other. Exclusiveness is a political myth, opportunistic display of temporary arrogance. Inclusiveness is a natural balancing act of the nature.
Both India and China though being distant neighbours in the past, shared much from each other. When we gave them molasses, they sent it back after refining it as sugar and we still recognize the fact by calling it chini. When we sent them cotton they gave us silk.
Both had to deal with the steppe nomads through out their long history. We had natural barriers, the Chinese did not have any along the northern steppe, so they had to build the Great Wall of China. Though neither natural nor artificial barriers could ever prevent the desperate nomads’ intrusions and subsequent assimilation. In that Chinese were better than us, as they lived in a constant melting cauldron where, what ever entered turned into a homogeneous one, as Han.
Whereas we Indians have remained ever as a salad bowl civilization, retaining our individual shapes and colours. May be they being part of a resource scarce region,couldn’t permit varieties to coexist, fearing disproportionate consumption by some at the cost of others from meagre available resources. We being from resource plenty environ could afford to support varieties.
From first century of Christian era both India and China shared Buddhism. We sent Buddha to them as a human being and a great teacher, they sent him to back to us as Devine God in Mahayana version.
In third century AD China had to face a Hunic invasions that pushed northern Hans beyond the river Yangtze in south, into the Yue territory where they grafted themselves on the locals Malay-Khmer Yue turning them into Haka Hans. Quite soon the Huns established Buddhism across China as state religion.
In India, Hun invasions came a century and half later in mid fifth century. It knocked off Buddhism and re-established Brahmanism, which had already its presence in Mahayana Buddhism.
Then both the civilizations faced the rise of the Arab nomads. We at the bank of river Sindh and they at bank of river Talas in early part of 8th century. Both kept the Arabs isolated in the initial place of contact and intrusion for centuries.
This has been unlike the fate of other civilizational states like Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt, who lost not only their land but complete Civilization itself and by 21st Century have neither the desire left nor any hope to revive.
Then both India and China simultaneously fell to the invasions of Altaic nomads with different names and religions. We to the Turks and Mughal Muslims and they to the Mongols and Manchus Buddhists.
They had their local Ming Dynasty in between and we had our Vijaynagar Empire in between to save the grace for a while.
Once again both fell victim to the rise of the West. India was completely colonized. Whereas the Westerners found that it was better to keep a pliable government in power in China and make better profits than take the trouble of total governance.
This was achieved by gaining victory in the so called Opium war in 1840s where around 12000 British Army and East India Company troops defeated the huge Chinese Army. So China was left to continue with a lame duck Manchu Monarchy. till the Hans decided to do away with the alien Manchu barbarians in 1911 through an uprising started at Guangzhou.
However there is one major difference noticed between the two Civilizations. This is the difference in matter of real estate gained and lost by each over the Centuries. The Kushan Buddhists added land beyond the Fargana valley in Central Asia,to India.
This however shrunk south of Hindukush by the time of Guptas decline. By the time Hun invaders after joining the Indian SALAD morphed into Hindu Rajput principalities, India had shrunk from Attock to Cuttack. The Mughals finally lost Afghanistan to the Persians and then came the vilest the Britishers. The Brits in the end left in haste but before that they ensured partition of India on religious lines in such a way that its boundaries shifted further east from the river Sindh and an alien enclave was created in the east as well.
The Chinese on the other hand were lucky in this matter. Both Mongols and Manchus added massive alien territories to the China Proper, island of Formosa in the east, Manchuria and Mongolia in the north, Xinjiang in the west,Tibet in the South and Yunnan in the South East.
From that Whole, only Mongolia could extricate itself out partially with Russian help and interest, leaving its southern half in China as Inner Mongolia. When the Manchu Empire collapsed and Han Chinese could establish a Republic, Tibet and Xinjiang liberated themselves. But once the communist won the civil war in1949, they immediately annexed southern Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet one after the other. And in addition laid claims on more territories of its many neighbours for further expansion.
The present time is quite similar to what prevailed in mid nineteenth century in China of 1840s,during and after Opium Wars. There was trouble in Xinjiang and Tibet.
There were English gun boats shooting in the Pearl river in southern Chinese provinces and then rushing north with their gunboats opposite Shandong peninsula and shooting along Beihai river, on which Peking was located sending shivers along the spines of Manchu mandarins, leading to unequal treaties that Chinese keep quoting whenever it does not suit their contemporary ambitions.
British gun boats were there every where along the Chinese coast. Like the way American Aircraft Carriers and rest of its fleet is sailing up and down in South China Sea these days.
Now comes an interesting part of History. Gaya, Nalanda and Patliputra all have played an important role in shaping the history of Chinese Civilization. Then in 1840s the Opium War became a major turning point for the Chinese.
Chinese imperial troops were 200000 + in numbers whereas there were only 5000 British Army troops and 7000 East India Company troops. The Manchus then had clashed with those Bihari troops of East India Company in Guangzhou, rest is history.
Later on there was Taiping Rebellion against the much weakened Manchus which had more casualties than those suffered by all sides in the first World War1, between 20 to 30 million.
Later in 1911 the rebellion that finished the Manchus forever was again started by the Hans at Guangzhou and here again elements of British Indian Army ( this time Sikhs ) played a major role. It was because of them that Beijing got occupied by foreign troops for the first time.
Circa 2020, the Chinese have clashed once again with the Biharis, this time at Galwan. Will the trouble created by Biharis at Galwan ignite some rebellion again in China, this time against the oppression of the Politburo?
When Chinese rose against the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty), a Ming loyalists Wang Fuzhi had propagated the superiority of Han over the non Han and Ethnocentric Chinese Nationalism and Han Exclusiveness. This was then propagated by Hong Xiuquan,the Haka Han school teacher and Taipei Rebellion leader as well.
Our present Chinese leader also has some similarity of name —Xi Jinping and who also eschews similar jingoism. During the Taipei rebellion many European nations had got together to subdue China, though for wrong reasons.
Now again many nations are against China and an alliance of anger is shaping up due to Covid -19 spread and deaths caused by the disease and damage to economy.
Unlike grouping together against China during Opium war was generated by greed, fortunately it is for right reasons this time, on land, at sea and in air to cut China to some size so that peace is maintained.
Then it was opium that English wanted to fill the Chinese lungs with and now it is the Chinese who have filled the lungs across the globe with killer Wuhan virus. Then the West wanted to trade with China on their terms, now it is China which wants to trade with the rest of the world on Chinese terms.
The similarities are really puzzling. Pandemics due to its devastating effects becomes harbinger to great changes. Are we sitting at the cross road of time in history of such a change? Time alone will confirm that.
Hope world reaches some conclusions in time and Chinese greed in trade and lust for land is contained.