Articles

ASIA

The turbulent millions of Asia may fight for their independence but it’s unlikely they’ll help preserve ours. If we really want allies in the Easst it's at race against time to win them

BLAIR FRASER February 15 1951
Articles

ASIA

The turbulent millions of Asia may fight for their independence but it’s unlikely they’ll help preserve ours. If we really want allies in the Easst it's at race against time to win them

BLAIR FRASER February 15 1951

ASIA

The turbulent millions of Asia may fight for their independence but it’s unlikely they’ll help preserve ours. If we really want allies in the Easst it's at race against time to win them

BLAIR FRASER

WESTERN friends in there and democracies have no reliable all Asia today. We need friends we may be able to win them, but

we have none now.

Militarily, of course, we haven’t a hope. The continent is dotted with lamentable proof of this. Korea, Malaya, Indo-China all demonstrate that the Asian may fight to change the status quo, but will not fight to defend it.

The seeming exceptions hardly bear scrutiny. Chiang Kai-shek’s 620,000 troops may be useful auxiliaries if war with Red China is both inevitable and imminent. If war can be averted or even postponed they are considerably worse than useless.

In Macao, the tiny Portuguese colony down the coast from Hong Kong, I got a glimpse of Chiang’s standing with the Chinese. Chiang has a consul there, a wizened little grey man named Kuo. Mr. Kuo lives in such daily terror of assassination that he won’t even answer his own doorbell.

We rang for 10 minutes, outside a massive barred iron gate, before anyone came at all. Then a little

coolie who spoke no English informed our guide that Mr. Kuo was out, out to lunch, wouldn’t be back for hours. He had gone home, a long piece away, and he had no telephone there.

‘T know Mr. Kuo,” said our guide. “He lives right here, upstairs. We’ll keep trying.”

More conversation in Chinese, while we showed various official-looking documents. Finally we got into the entrance hall and then, after a long silence upstairs, Mr. Kuo himself appeared. We noticed that even in Chiang’s own consulate, Chiang’s picture no longer hangs. It has been replaced by that of Sun Yat-sen, a hero common to every Chinese since 1911.

“Mr. Kuo is very timid,” said our guide as we came away after a short and fruitless discussion. “He does not go out at all. He is afraid he will be killed.”

In British Hong Kong, a more orderly town, you

don’t find open terror. The 2 million Chinese are docile enough under the rule of 20,000 whites and 30,000 British regulars. But no one—not even among the hopefuls who tell you Hong Kong can be defended against “any attack short of World War III”—pretends that these swarming slum dwellers would fight in defense of the colony. They’ll take what comes.

All these toe holds on the edge of Red China will be held, if they are held at all, by Western power virtually unaided; in other words, by white soldiers. For friends in Asia we must look elsewhere, to either end of the continent—83 million Japanese, 400-odd millions in India and Pakistan.

Even there we need not look for allies, except in case of direct attack. India and Pakistan each regard the other as the real enemy; both are resolved not to be dragged into the quarrels of Europe and America. As for the Japanese, they got total disarmament written into the constitution dictated by their conquerors. They won’t willingly take it out to fight in their conquerors’ war.

But if the war should cool down again into the political conflict we have known for five years the West can win friends in Asia, firm useful friends who will hold what is left of the continent for freedom and democracy. We can win them, but we haven’t done it yet. We haven’t even started doing it.

Japan, the ex-enemy, is perhaps the nearest thing to an ally we have now in Asia. Japan was helped enormously by the United States—$2 billions in five years and the Japanese seem genuinely grateful. Temperamentally, at least, they are on our side.

Economically they can’t be, not as we seem to want them to be. Any Japanese, be he Right, Left or Centre, will tell you “Japan cannot live without China. We must trade with China or starve.”

Japan will be near enough to starving anyway, with 40% of her land area gone and 40%, of her capital assets destroyed. U. S. occupation authorities forbid her to trade with China now and make up the gap with direct dollar aid. If we are in for an immediate full-scale war with Red China, Japan can probably make a fair living as a friendly neutral or even as a passive co-belligerent.

One day last summer a friend of mine had dinner with a leading Japanese politician, a man noted for pro-American sentiments. His young daughter, with tactless but revealing candor, said, “This war of yours in Korea is providential for Japan. We hope it goes on and on.” Continued on page 39

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That was her unsentimental reaction to the fact that although a lot of Americans were being killed, never mind, Japan was earning lots of dollars. It seems realistic to assume that the moment U. S. occupation and U. S. dollar aid are withdrawn Japan will resume trading with Communist China.

That wouldn’t have to mean Japan going over to the enemy. By inclination, as I said, the Japanese are in our camp. But if we insist on dividing the world into watertight compartments, if we proclaim that “those who are not with us are against us” and damn all “trading with the enemy,” if in short we try to fight the political war as if it were a military war, then we leave the Japanese no choice. They must trade with China. If that be treason, we shall have to make the most of it.

In India there’s a similar situation, but here we have even more ground to make up. India, that great free democracy which ought to be our best friend in the East, is today more inclined to be hostile.

One evening in New Delhi I was talking around the dinner table with a group of fellow Westerners about the

use and likelihood of dollar aid to India. An American who lives there said bitterly, “No matter what we do and no matter how much we spend we’ll never gain the good will of this country.”

That was an overstatement, I hope, but he had some ground for it. Prime Minister Nehru had held a Press conference the day before. We were amazed to see how our Indian colleagues bristled and sputtered with anti-American feeling. It wasn’t personal (American reporters were made as welcome as anyone else) but it was intense. Here, for instance, is one question put to Nehru:

“Don’t you think the attitude of the U. S. toward this country, and Asia generally, is more and more bumptious, arrogant and insolent?” Nehru brushed it off: “It seems to me some of you gentlemen are not lacking in these qualities.”

At a meeting in Lucknow the week before an Indian professor had given this answer to an American colleague: “You say the Soviet Union is fomenting trouble in Asia; perhaps so. But we think you Americans with your dollars are doing exactly the same thing. We don’t see any difference between you.”

That man was not pro-Communist, and neither is India. But Indians above all and before all are antiimperialist, Asian nationalist. When Communism and Asian nationalism

are on one side and old-fashioned Western imperialism on the other, the Indians side with Communism.

Indo-China is the best contemporary example. Indians regard Emperor Bao Dai as a French puppet and they have no use for him. They may regret that the nationalists are led by Communist Ho Chi-Minh, but they still back nationalism against imperialism.

Americans regard this attitude as little better than fellow-traveling, and this annoys Indians beyond measure. They think, as one of Nehru’s advisers put it, that “Americans are completely obsessed by their fear of Communism. They are quite hysterical about it/’

People “Losing All Hope”

This naturally heightens Indian suspicion of Western intentions and fear of being dragged into Western quarrels. India desperately needs financial help, but Indians are all too ready to believe that the motive of dollar aid is to buy foot soldiers for World War III.

On two different occasions intelligent and responsible Indians told me quite seriously, “India has refused an American offer of dollar aid. The terms were unacceptable; they wanted military bases in our territory.”

I repeated this fantastic story to Loy Henderson, U. S. Ambassador to India, and he was shocked. The tale is completely untrue. No such offer was ever made or even discussed.

But the ambassador may not have realized why such a rumor would be widely believed by intelligent men in India. There has been so much big talk in the past two years—President Truman’s “Point Four,” the Commonwealth’s “Colombo Plan”—that Asians cannot believe the simple truth: No firm offer of help has been made at all, by anyone, on any terms. So far it has all been talk.

But Indians do know that, whatever the reason, no help has come; and they resent it. (Indians are no more consistent than the rest of us—the same man who speaks angrily of “dollar imperialism” will ask with equal indignation why India isn’t getting more dollar aid.)

Japan, the foe that sank part of the U. S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, gets dollar grants averaging $400 millions a year. India, a fighting ally which (with Pakistan) put a million men in arms on our side, had to argue for 18 months to get a loan (not a grant) of only $24 millions.

Awareness and resentment of these things are not limited to the officials, or the small highly educated class. You hear them discussed everywhere with passionate indignation. A little shopkeeper in New Delhi brought every one of these points, including the nonrecognition of Red China, into a conversation that lasted only 10 or 15 minutes.

Strengthen the Plow Arm

He was a pathetic figure, that shopkeeper. I never did learn his name or he mine, but he delivered a small purchase to my hotel room one evening. He brought it himself because he wanted a chat with a foreigner, any foreigner, about the plight of India.

“Our morale is very low, sir,” he said. “Our people are losing all hope.”

At Lucknow an Indian economist had put it even more strongly: “You Westerners may think India is ‘safe,’ that there is no Communist threat here because our Communist Party is small and weak. I tell you, if we can’t solve our agrarian problem I don’t know what may happen in India.”

India today has about half as much

to eat as she had 50 years ago—14 ounces of grain per person per day compared with a pound and a half in 1900. The population is rising by about 4 millions a year. Food production in 1950 was equal to that of 1938. At present 133 million people are living on a daily ration of 12 ounces of grain, barely enough to keep a human being alive.

What can be done about this desperate situation?

Quite a bit, given time and money. A few well-located dams on the great rivers of India and Pakistan would have a threefold effect. They’d make for flood control; floods last year destroyed millions of bushels of food in the Punjab, in Kashmir and elsewhere. They’d provide electricity for industrial development. They’d permit largescale irrigation to reclaim millions of acres which are not now being cultivated at all.

Improved farming methods have worked wonders in some places. On individual demonstration farms the yield has been doubled by using the right fertilizers, plowing deep with tractors, irrigating, and so on. It has been estimated that good seed alone, supplied to every farmer, would increase crops 10% and thus offset the drop in nutrition standards since 1940.

However, none of these steps is as simple as it may sound. It’s idle to talk of providing tractors where there are no mechanics, no fuel supply, no drivers and no money. Even to replace the ancient, shallow wooden plow with a deeper iron plow would be a change requiring all sorts of unexpected corollaries.

You couldn’t introduce the iron plow without expanding public health services to wipe out malaria. Why? Because malaria is endemic in central

and southern India and it saps the strength and vitality of the people. A man sick of malaria isn’t strong enough to hold a heavier plow in the furrow. He has a hard enough time scratching the topsoil with the ancient instrument he’s using now.

Complex as they are, these problems have to be tackled. “Otherwise,” said a European who has lived in India for years, “I predict a revolution in this country by 1956. It may or may not be Communist, though I should think the Communists would take it over by default. In any case it would smash the Congress Party (the present democratic government, and the only one in sight) beyond hope of salvation.”

He didn’t even mention anothur revolutionary force in India, perhaps even more dangerous than the starving masses. This is the group, small in number but potent in leadership, vchich has education without employment— the educated poor.

The Terrible Social Strains

Statistics in India are not very reliable, but it’s estimated that there are about 100,000 university graduates in India competing for 25,000 jobs. In a land where health conditions are among the worst in the world, doctors with double degrees are unemployed. Teachers, when they can find work at all, are paid less than the miserable wage of a Bombay textile worker; many of them literally have to beg extra food from their pupils. One reason for the remarkably high standard of writing in Indian newspapers is that a good many reporters, earning $40 a month, are graduate lawyers or Oxford M.A’s.

I had lunch one day in New Delhi with Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the

gracious and charming woman who was Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary for 19 years, and is now India’s Minister of Health. (“Rajkumari” is a title, like “princess”; she comes of a long line of hereditary rulers, but her father gave up his title when he married a Christian.)

She was talking of the terrible health problems of India—“2J^ million people dying of tuberculosis, 5 million known to be suffering from it, yet I started out with only. 6,000 hospital beds for them in all India.” But when I mentioned this problem of the educa-

ted poor she said without hesitation: “Yes, that is unquestionably the most dangerous situation in India today.”

Generally speaking, Pakistan is in the same fix. There are many differences of detail—Pakistan is a food exporter, for one thing, and hasn’t India’s desperate food problem—but in the broader sense her plight is similar. Pakistan has almost no industry, almost no outlet for other than agricultural workers. Both countries need help and need it urgently. Even the present tension and hostility between them, so dismaying and discouraging to outsiders who want to be friends with both, may not be unconnected with the social and economic problems faced by each.

India’s Minister of Defense, himself a Sikh from the Punjab where the biggest displacements and massacres occurred, said, “I don’t think Pakistan will ever settle down to real peace with us until her internal troubles are solved. They have terrible social strains over there—90,000 people own 90% of the land. The Government needs the pressure of an external enemy to keep itself in power.”

“The Pakistani might say exactly the same thing about you in India,” I said. He admitted this was true.

Maybe both sides are right. Certainly it would be easier to get a reasonable response from both these countries if each had a viable economy and a sound future.

But can we in the West give them any such thing? Is it in our power to set a whole sub-continent on its feet?

An American in New Delhi gave this opinion: “1 doubt very much if we can do enough to make much difference. I figure $200 millions a year is the very most you could get through Congress for dollar aid to this area. Can we possibly raise the standard of living here with $200 millions a year? And if we give help and if the standard of living still continues to fall, won’t we just be blamed for the fact that it does fall?”

He was probably right. The lowest figure I’d heard from anyone else, for aid that would be really effective, was $500 millions a year, just the amount

contemplated by the Commonwealth’s Colombo Plan. He was probably right, too, in thinking $200 millions is an outside limit for what Congress would appropriate. Uncle Sam must be getting tired playing Santa Claus to the rest of the world.

It seems, then, that if the West is to rescue the democratic East other countries, including Canada, will have to put up some of the money. We may not be rich by our own standards, but the poorest country in Europe is richer than India or Pakistan.

So far Canada hasn’t appeared very eager. Canada took a major part in preparing the Colombo Plan for aid from Commonwealth countries to South and Southeast Asia. The plan proposes aid totaling $3 billions over the next six years, or about $500 millions a year. Nothing has been published on the sharing of this burden, how much each country should pay, but unofficially we’re told that the United States might put up half of it, the Commonwealth split the other half. Canada’s share would probably be something like $30 millions a year.

When the Colombo Report came before the Canadian Cabinet in November it got a lukewarm reception. The sentence “This report has been approved by member governments” was taken out: Canada didn’t want to be committed even as firmly as that.

Our government will probably be shamed into doing its part in the end, provided everyone else (including the U. S.) goes along. Douglas Abbott, who normally guards the shekels as stingily as any other finance minister, said in effect, “We can’t back out now.” Abbott was against our sending a delegation to Colombo in the first place, except perhaps as observers. But he felt, that having taken a full and active part in drafting the Colombo Plan, Canada could hardly drop out when the time came to pay the bill.

Evidently, however, the scheme will take a bit of selling to parliament and the people. If we do put up the money, what can we hope to get for it?

In the immediate future, nothingnothing tangible, that is. Asia is already profoundly suspicious of “saviours” who bring not peace but a sword. If we tried offering dollars in exchange for military bases or military alliances we’d get nowhere.

In the longer future (if the Communists let us have one) we’d get more than our money’s worth.

Friendship itself is worth a good deal. We think it worth while to spend millions of dollars and thousands of lives to prevent Asia from being conquered by the Communists. Their conquest will be only a little slower, and a great deal surer and cheaper, if we let Asia sink into hopeless economiccollapse and leave the Communists to reap the political harvest.

Asia is the biggest challenge in the world to our belief in a free economy. Communism is trying to make a going concern out of China. If the Reds fail, and the free world succeeds in India and Pakistan and Japan, the result will speak for itself. But the converse is equally true.

There’s another advantage, for the long run, which it’s no longer fashionable to mention. India’s a country where a culture 4,000 years old, and still living, has produced a most likeable people—gentle, kind, gracious. They may be poor and illiterate and ridden by disease, but they have a dignity which is evident in the mud huts of villagers as well as in the palaces of maharajahs.

It might be worth something to us, for all our devotion to dollars and cents, just to keep an ancient and splendid civilization alive. -¥-