1 January 2020 was a happy, hopeful, promising year. Three months later, an unknown coronavirus—Covid-19—appeared in Wuhan, China. The man who gave a stern warning about the spread of the mysterious disease was arrested, lost his job and eventually died of the disease.
2020 ends with the frightening, unprecedented worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The disease, not quite yet accurately diagnosed, has played global havoc. Millions have died of the disease. The world has been transformed. In many countries the word lockdown has become familiar. Educational institutions are closed, there are not enough beds for Covid-19 patients, air travel and train travel have almost come to a halt. Hotels are empty, Christmas provided no joy. International sports, cricket, football, rugby are being played, but there are no spectators.
People are confined to their homes. The mask is now added to our wardrobe, families have been destroyed, the rich have become richer, the poor, poorer. Labourers from Mumbai escaped from the most Covid ridden city. No satisfactory arrangements were made for them to reach their home states. Some perished on the way, some slept on railway tracks.
In New York, Covid-19 ravaged and devastated every activity. The UK, Italy and most European countries suffered tens of thousands of deaths. The insensitive Mr Trump has till today not taken Covid-19 seriously.
In India, the Almighty has been more considerate. Lakhs have caught the disease, lakhs have been cured. Covid-19 has spread to large parts of the country, but some states have been mercifully, so far spared. However, it would be hugely irresponsible and dangerous to become complacent. Even doctors and nurses have not been spared.
Vaccines have been invented in America, UK, some European countries, Russia and China. The Indian vaccine will take some time to be available. Transporting billions of vaccines will be a stupendous task. Even in America not even one-fourth of the population will get the vaccines for many months.
The price of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine $39. It will be $50 for two doses of Moderna.
In many cases, those living under lockdown will suffer lifelong psychological damage. I am reminded of Murphy’s law: that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
If Subramanian Swamy did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. He is a multifaceted intellectual dynamo. He has been elected to the Lok Sabha six times and Rajya Sabha three times. He earned a PhD from Harvard University standing first. He also taught at the university.
During Emergency he became the Indian Scarlet Pimpernel. An arrest warrant had been issued against him. Regardless, he turned up at Parliament House, signed the Rajya Sabha attendance register and eloped.
We meet from time to time. Last week he came to my house in Jor Bagh for a tete-a-tete and presented me a copy of his latest book, Himalayan Challenge: India, China and the Quest for Peace, with a highly undeserved, generous inscription of the non-existent qualities of yours truly.
Subramanian Swamy is a China expert. Speaks Chinese fluently. For this book he has consulted recently declassified documents on the 1962 Sino-India war, in Peking, Harvard, Washington and the Nehru Memorial Library in New Delhi.
He could not lay his hands on the Henderson Brooks-P.S. Bhagat VC Report on the 1962 debacle, for which Nehru, Krishna Menon and senior military officers were responsible—Thapar, Sen and Kaul. The report has not been made public, although Neville Maxwell in his book, India’s China War has quoted from it.
Swamy is unsparing of Jawaharlal Nehru and the odious Krishna Menon. He is rightly critical of Nehru’s Forward Policy in the Eastern Sector. Swamy writes, “…it is highly puzzling that Nehru publicly postured to befriend China, but his confidential minutes, notes and memos postured aggressive intentions which were, paradoxically, not preparedness and adequate defence expenditure.”
Swamy reveals how ill-equipped our Army was. “From the logistical point of view, the army was unable to supply its soldiers with suitable equipment and provisions of Himalayan conditions.”
In Appendix VI, we read a hilarious exchange between Nikita Khrushchev and Chinese foreign minister, Chan Yi.
Khrushchev: “If you consider us time-servers, Comrade Chen Yi, then do not offer me your hand. I will not accept it.”
Chen Yi: “Neither will I. I must tell you I am not afraid of you.”
Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai were present on the occasion. The meeting was held in Peking on 2 October 1959. Swamy got the documents from The Woodrow Wilson Cold War Archives in Washington.
The judgements in this book are measured, the documentation impressive. On a subject so often chronicled, the last word can seldom be said. This book is unlikely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future.