Sixty-eight years have passed since the Father of the Nation of India, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948, but his principle of nonviolence still influences present-day India, said his grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, during his first-ever visit to China.
Most people around the world have come to know Mahatma Gandhi through their history books as a man who led a “nonviolent” and “non-cooperation” movement against British rule in early 20th century colonial India, although some have alleged that nonviolence itself was a reflection of Gandhi’s weakness and was a reason for the man’s partial failure in the end.
But Rajmohan, Gandhi’s grandson and a biographer and a research professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States, insists that “nonviolence was a great success,” in that Gandhi planted a nonviolent tradition in the hearts of Indians, who learned to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation.
“If India had adopted violence, more and more violence would have taken place. There are so many ways Indians can fight against each other, but one reason India has remained a united single country after 70 years [since independence] is nonviolence,” said Rajmohan Gandhi on May 2 in Beijing.
In other words, had guns been employed to resolve differences in the early 20th Century, then guns would have had to rule India afterwards. Had that happened, India would not have become a democratic country but a military dictatorship, said Prof. Gandhi, citing his grandfather’s two biggest successes as democracy and the unity among different religions in India.
But the division of Pakistan was Gandhi’s biggest failure, since he was unable to unite the country’s Muslims leading to Pakistan’s creation alongside India’s independence in 1947, according to Rajmohan.
Mahatma Gandhi was once the most beloved person in India and his death sent the whole nation into a deep shock. Sixty-eight years on, Gandhi still enjoys an exceptionally good reputation. He is on the Indian currency, his portraits and pictures are seen across India and both his birth and death are observed nationwide.
In Rajmohan’s view, Mahatma Gandhi’s unity-minded holistic principles should apply to India’s peripheral diplomacy, particularly in its ties with China, another populous country as well as a major power and growing economy.
China has replaced the United States as India’s top trading partner. In 2015, India-China bilateral trade volume reached US$70.83 billion; as of January of this year, China is India’s largest source of imports and the sixth largest market of exports, according to the statistics on the website of China’s Ministry of Commerce.
While demonstrating to the world their presence and influences, India and China have inevitably run into tensions and conflicts, such as those regarding border issues and maritime rights. Rajmohan, who is a specialist in South Asian studies, advised that the two countries “should keep the planet in mind.”
“Although China and India have a border and a recent history of conflict and tension, both countries should look at each other in the context of the planet, thinking about what we can do together for the world. We should realize that our differences should be resolved, instead of letting them get in the way of cooperation and partnership,” said Rajmohan, explaining how his teaching in the United States may have improved his perspective on the issue.
Former Chinese Ambassador to India, Zhou Gang, supported Rajmohan’s suggestions. He pointed out that mutual understanding has been improving in recent years between China and India, adding that the China and India should strengthen ties, not only bilaterally, but regionally and globally as well.