Swapna Kona Nayudu
Indira Gandhi used the divisions between the CPI and CPI (M) on the Soviet invasion to her advantage. In 1968, under its newly-elected leader, Alexander Dubcek, Czechoslovakia moved swiftly towards the liberalisation and reform of its political landscape, allowing for more civil liberties. As Prague waltzed away from Moscow, the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, aiming at normalising conditions in Czechoslovakia, attempted but failed at securing negotiations with Dubcek. They responded first by occupying Czechoslovakia and then by issuing a retroactive statement explaining the occupation, in what came to be known as the Brezhnev Doctrine that offered a justification of the occupation by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces that had begun on August 20 1968, 50 years ago last month.
For the uninitiated, the episode has a significance in India’s cold war history. In India, the debate regarding reform within the second world resonated strongly with the Indian left. The 1960s were a turbulent time with the India-China War of 1962, the subsequent split in the CPI leading to the formation of the CPI (M) in 1964, and the Naxalbari uprising of 1967. The Brezhnev Doctrine brought to the fore schisms between the CPI and the CPI (M), which, in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split of 1959, exhorted their pro-Soviet or pro-Chinese positioning. The CPI (M) came to see the Prague Spring as a symptom of the malaise for the socialist bloc: that of ignoring aspirations of the people and it was now fervent in its opposition to Moscow. The CPI continued to support Moscow.
Indira Gandhi was in debt to the Soviet Union for facilitating the conclusion of the Tashkent Agreement of 1966, which ended the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. This closeness became difficult to manage for New Delhi during the occupation of Czechoslovakia . Initially, in the Lok Sabha, Indira Gandhi noted this development with disapproval, stating “the right of nations to live peacefully and without outside interference should not be denied in the name of religion or ideology…” Yet, in the UN Security Council, India avoided condemning the then USSR, abstaining in the vote on the matter.
Mrs. Gandhi used the rift to show that the left’s position on the matter was contested and, therefore, provided no direction for Indian policy. This provided the government the leeway to remain non-committal. A divided left allowed Mrs Gandhi to formulate a relationship with Moscow independently. When the Soviets wanted to cultivate good relations with India, they did so first without and then despite the Indian communists. The Prague Spring provided an occasion for this dissonance to become even more evident.
Swapna Kona Nayudu is an associate at the Harvard University Asia Center, and at the Asia Research Institute,
National University of Singapore The views expressed are personal
The views expressed in the Article above are Author’s personal views and kashmiribhatta.in is not responsible for the opinions expressed in the above article.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times: 06 Sep 2018