This thread has started me thinking about the nature of India's self-image, which thanks to our colonial history, is largely dictated by the three archetypes that centuries of psyops have contrived to shape and reinforce.
It should be noted that these three archetypes are not merely the foci of how we perceive ourselves when evaluating geopolitical circumstances and developing strategy. Psyops are a double-edged blade, honed by decades and centuries of mutual reinforcement... so that these archetypes have also shaped the lenses through which the originators of those psyops, themselves, perceive India and Indians!
Briefly, there are three major archetypes.1) The brave, noble and faithful soldier of the Empire.
This is the archetype evolved over centuries of colonial rule when Indian troops provided manpower to British colonial expeditions. Of all the three archetypes it is the most flattering. It projects Indians (or at least, certain "martial races" among Indians) as doughty foot-soldiers, who when bravely led and strategically marshalled by Western commanders could defend the Empire's interests against its enemies from Benghazi to Shanghai.
This archetype was used to manipulate Indian royalty, and later (post 1885) the Macaulay-fashioned Indian political elite, to support British war efforts around the globe. The British regularly flattered their subservient Kshatriya Scions, Sikh Maharajas and Muslim Nawabs with military-sounding titles and medals... it became the fashion for such potentates to affect Western-style military uniforms and ribbons, even if they themselves were too fat or gouty to go to the bathroom unassisted. As long as they opened up their coffers and supplied manpower from among their citizenry, they were heaped with praise as brave defenders of the Empire's bastions.
The Pakistan army took this archetype to heart, as we all know, and strove to become simultaneously absolute rulers of Pakistan and faithful soldiers of the West. Only since 1990 have they sought to serve a new master in Islamism... and even in this effort, as the GUBO decade shows, their subscription to the "faithful soldier" archetype has undermined their whole-hearted participation. No wonder the West wants to keep Pakistan alive at all costs.
It should be noted that this archetype never envisioned the Indian rising any higher in the ranks than a private soldier, or perhaps an NCO. Those in command were always Western. Thus, even though the UN is never shy about asking India to commit its soldiers to peacekeeping missions, we hear about instances where blue-helmet troops from white European nations refuse to take orders from Indian officers. At another level, the challenge posed to this stereotype by white-collar Indian techies serves to aggravate the anti-outsourcing and anti-H1B outrage among white Americans today (in their mythology, Indians are supposed to drive cabs and pump gas, not write code). But I digress.2) The Gunga-Din, or sufferer in a good cause.
This is the second stereotype of Indians created and reinforced by Western psyops since the colonial era. It is the image of an Indian who is fatalistic and superstitious, too weak of spirit to fight actively for any interest of his own, but with just enough strength of character to accept suffering on behalf of a "good" (read "Western") cause.
When, in order to finance their participation in the First World War, the British forced millions of Indian farmers to switch from subsistence to cash crops... they justified this genocide-by-starvation, in terms of the Gunga Din archetype. The Indians who died were too weak to fight wars, too primitive to forge a nation unto themselves, but suffered for the sake of the great and benevolent British Empire (starving to death so that its bills might be paid). Many "moderates" of the Indian National Congress at the time were content to accept such atrocities as Champaran, because they too accepted the Gunga Din archetype as justified.
Today, when the Hindoo is asked to "make concessions on Kashmir", to "restrain himself against Pakistan" in the face of terrorist attacks, to be passive cannon-fodder for the forces of Jihad so that the Pakistanis can concentrate on serving American interests along their Afghan border...
it is the Gunga Din archetype (and self-image) that the Americans are appealing to.
In effect, we (India) are being asked to fulfill the Gunga Din archetype, sitting passively and taking it on the chin for the Western "team", so that Pakistan can be flattered and bribed to fulfill the Faithful Soldier archetype. It seems entirely natural to American strategists to expect that we willingly do this, because of these archetypes defining their views of the Indian subcontinent.
M.K. Gandhi was one visionary who turned this Gunga Din archetype on its head, to the astonishment of the British who thought that passive Indians would never suffer and die in any cause other than one dictated by their colonial masters. Today, the MoorkhMohan-Maino combine has brought our nation back to Gunga Din-hood with a vengeance.3) The benighted heathen.
This is the third and least flattering (or most insulting, if you prefer) colonial archetype that defines the Indian image. It describes an essentially savage mass that is ruled by superstition and behaves no better than animals. Un-Christian, uncultured and unclean. This is the Indian archetype that was fostered by Bentinck's psyops about Thuggee and Suttee... and is continued today by the BBC and CNN psyops about Povertee , Untouchabilitee, Child Sex Slaveree and Slumdog Dharavee.
Christian missionary propaganda also uses this archetype liberally to justify their predatory conversion activities , connecting its allegations of hopeless, boundless misery with the "unsaved" nature of Hindoo souls.
The implication of this archetype is that India NEEDS to be subservient to the enlightened West if it is to survive at all. From this archetype stem all the most pessimistic and negative scenarios ever bandied about... Indians will perish in famine, Indians will never reach agricultural self-sufficiency, Indians are essentially poor and hopeless no matter what cosmetic developments may take place in their economy, the Indian state will fall apart because it is too weak to withstand internal divisions. Thus India needs a godfather... preferably a benevolent Western one... if we are to accomplish anything, or even to survive at all.
The Pakistanis have internalized this benighted-heathen archetype as the entirety of their image of India ... not realizing that in doing so, they are f*cking themselves, and entrenching their own vulnerability to being manipulated by Western psyops. Because for all their denial, the same archetype cuts equally in Pakistan's direction as well (now enhanced by images of gun-toting six year olds in Madrassas).
So... why am I bringing this Three Archetypes business up on this particular thread?
Because, fellow BRF-ites, I fear that we too are governed by these Three Archetypes far more than we should be. Even when discussing strategic options with regard to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
When we discuss our frustration at the current state of affairs, with MoorkhMohan showing "restraint" to Pakistan while our people are killed by terrorists, we are reacting to ongoing reinforcement of the Gunga Din archetype. Much of what we call "dhimmitude" is not merely "dhimmitude" to the ancestral memory of Islamic power... as our history shows, Islamic power on the subcontinent was all but extinguished by the Marathas and Sikhs through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Behind our compulsion to act as dhimmis with respect to Pakistan today, is a good measure of Gunga Din-hood (or vestigial dhimmitude to the West).
When we talk about deploying 120,000 troops to Afghanistan, we are effectively subscribing to the Faithful Soldier archetype. Yes, we imagine that we will be able to do this by maintaining supply lines via Iran, keeping our own independent command, choosing which regions of Afghanistan we will deploy in etc. etc. but this is all fantasy. We know fully well who sets the agenda for international intervention in Afghanistan today. Unkil will be in charge of dictating supply lines, deployments, doctrine, ROE, and for that matter making all political decisions at all levels. We will receive a lot of flattery, as our be-ribboned Maharajas did during the British days, but ultimately we will be supplying the faithful soldiers to accomplish the strategy of the West.
Lastly the benighted Indian archetype, which I think is finding its outlet on the
of this thread. Oh, look at us, if Unkil gets defeated by Taliban and Pakistan what will we do? Without the West to protect us how will we survive? This is the *real* fear behind all the lame-brained theorizing that "if the Islamists win in Afghanistan/Iraq and America loses, Jihad will receive a shot in the arm for having defeated a superpower".
We have always fought the Jihadis ourselves and always defeated the Jihadis ourselves... and yet, we have this overarching fear of extinction if Unkil abandons his anti-Jihadi cause (as if that cause ever had anything to do with our own).
Friends, I can think of only three instances in the past century where Indian civilian leadership thought out of the box and broke through the perimeter of self-image (and outsiders' expectations) defined by these three archetypes.
One was M.K. Gandhi, turning the Gunga Din's capacity to absorb suffering into a force for political accomplishment against the colonial masters, such as nobody could have imagined.
The second was Indira Gandhi showing the world that we were nobody else's Faithful Soldiers, during the Bangladesh war. Our capacity was not limited to serving in the ranks of an army commanded by others. We could determine our own geopolitical interests, fashion our own military strategy to achieve them, and command our own troops towards the swift and decisive execution of that strategy.
The third was the A.B. Vajpayee government conducting the 1998 nuclear tests (though perhaps some credit should go to PVNR for making the tests possible). The Benighted Indian showed that he was as capable of protecting himself, and the integrity of his nation, as any of his former superiors. No wonder the enraged West responded with reams of psyops about how "India had ignored its millions of starving benighted heathens to build a nuclear bomb", etc.
These instances changed the rules of the game with respect to the world's treatment of India. They were tremendously effective, not only because our leaders managed to extend themselves beyond the three-archetype perimeter... but because the world itself had become so ingrained with a view of India and Indians defined by the three-archetype perimeter. They were utterly shocked, dumbfounded and clueless how to react when we "broke the mold". The initiative was entirely in our hands, against far more powerful adversaries.
And yet, apart from these exceptions, the bulk of our policymaking (and even the patterns of our political thought process) seem dictated by the above three archetypes. We cannot afford this.
Confirming to the Faithful Soldier archetype (sending 120,000 troops to join NATO in Afghanistan) is no solution to our frustration with the Gunga Din archetype (restraint in the face of Pakistani terrorism, peace talks on Kashmir). Nor should we be compelled to follow either of these ultimately Unkil-serving strategies by the blackmail of the Benighted Indian archetype ("nuclear flashpoint" propaganda, the Congress government's media assault on our armed forces, the Malegaon witch-hunts, or fear that Unkil pulling out of Afghanistan will make Jihad invincible).
Let's reject the perimeter defined by ALL these three archetypes, and think out of the box. If Unkil is defeated by the Pakis and Afghans... isn't it possible that this eventuality may present an opportunity, rather than a threat? Let's start from there.