When Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh visited Japan last month, Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi urged India to sign the global nuclear test ban treaty, “so as to remove, he said, a lingering thorn in Indo-Japanese relations”. What he implied was that Tokyo, one of India’s main aid donors, will otherwise not resume all the loans and aids which it had cut off after India’s nuclear explosions in May 1998.
Japan makes it out as if its rigid moral stand against India – the harshest in the Industrialized World after Pokhran II – stems from the horrendous memories it has of the two nuclear bombs dropped in 1945 by the US Air Force on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Never again this monstrosity of man upon man”, they say. And to illustrate their painful point, a ruin has been left standing in Hiroshima and periodical exhibitions are taken all over the world, showing the unbearable photos of what nuclear weapons do to humans beings and cities. Adversaries of nuclear armament within India, such as Prafulla Bidwai in his forthcoming book “South Asia on a short fuse”, also repeatedly use the Japanese example to proclaim : “see what kind of world we are giving to our children”…
Yet, one has to go a little beyond appearances so as to take a fresh look at the real facts. Firstly, the Japanese are not as goody-goody as they would like us to believe. Right from the beginning of the century, Japan displayed a natural bend for expansionism and colonialism, acquiring for instance Formose, occupying Manchuria or Korea and massacring thousands of civilians in the Chinese city of Nanking, a genocide, which still stands out for its sheer unwarranted barbarism. The atrocities committed by the Japanese during the Second World War, where they sided with the Nazis against most of the Free World, are as horrendous if not more, than the effects of the two nuclear bombs dropped on them. In 1941, they attacked the United States by treachery in Pearl Harbor, destroying the entire US fleet and killing thousands of people. The Japanese were also known to be extremely cruel to their prisoners of war, starving and beheading many of them, or using “slave” prostitutes for the pleasure of their soldiers (many of whom were Korean women and are still alive today). The Japanese soldiers were fanatical to the point of absurdity – remember how the “kamikaze” pilots would throw their planes against American ships, taking their lives, along with many others ? They were disciplined to the point of being robots of war : until recently, lone Japanese soldiers would still come out of hiding in remote jungles, forty or fifty years after the end of the war, because nobody had given them the order to surrender (and note that they were welcomed as heroes, not as nitwits. Indeed, many present Japanese politicians still consider that Japan did no wrong during the 2d World War). Furthermore, India seems to have forgotten that the Japanese invaded her borders 54 years ago and killed many in Assam.
Quite a few historians believe that in 1945, after four painful years of war, Japanese morale was still so exalted and its high command had such a an inexhaustible reservoir of soldiers ready to die for their country, that that the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortened the war by TWO years. It is true that they created unspeakable mayhem, killing 150.000 people in Hiroshima and 80.000 in Nagasaki, but they probably saved four times that amount of lives and allowed the world to go back to peace and start reconstructing. We all know that there is no “good” nuclear bomb and that we have to move quickly towards a denuclearized world if we want lasting peace. But in the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita, force is sometimes “dharma”, duty – when it is to defend one’s children or borders, or when it helps shorten wars. The two bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have sprung from that sense of dharma; and even India’s nuclear deterrent makes such sense, when one knows about China’s hegemonic ambitions and the ninety ballistic missiles it has placed in Tibet, most of them pointed towards Indian cities, or the “Islamic” Bomb in the hands of volatile Pakistan.
Thus, in the light of Japan’s not-so-ancient violent past, it could be asked to the Japanese who they are to give moral lessons to India after Pokhran II ? Because it is also obvious, for those who know contemporary Japan, that the old hegemonic spirit is not fully dead – it has partly reincarnated itself in other fields and its expansionism might be waiting to manifest itself anew. Japan today has shown us, for instance, how business can be conducted as a war… and also in a spirit of revenge for their humiliating defeat by the Americans. The ruthlessness of the Japanese can still be perceived in their over-competitive system of education, which leads many of their children to commit suicide. It is also said that Japanese tend sometimes to be racists : they particularly look down on colored races… such as Indians ! Militarily, their navy is beginning to flex its muscles and it may be only because they are forbidden to have nuclear weapons by the US, that they have not tried their hand at it (and why they vent their frustration on India for having done so !).
Finally, compare Japanese bloody and war-like history with India’s.India’s armies never invaded other nations to colonize them; India has always been a land of tolerance, accepting in its fold all persecuted communities of the world, be it the Parsis from Iran, the Jews, or the Christians from Syria; and India never committed genocides on other communities, like the Japanese did on the Chinese. Finally, Japan should be a little more grateful to India from whom it got Buddhism, its martial arts (kalaripayat), or even the concept of the Samurais (kshatriya) !