New Delhi: India is still in two minds about participating in China’s World War II commemorative parade to be held next month. The anti-Japanese sentiment implicit in this Chinese remembrance has put New Delhi in a dilemma given its blossoming ties with Tokyo.
Official sources confirmed India received an invitation to attend the mega parade at Tiananmen Square on September 3, 2015. This is the first time ever that China is holding a big military parade to mark the victory of Allied powers in 1945. It will also be the first time that President Xi Jinping will supervise a military parade since his elevation to the top job.
The invitation, of course, arrived much earlier last month, but no decision has been made in South Block yet. “We got the invitation, but have yet to decide on our level of representation,” said a source.
Beijing has been turning the spotlight on Japan’s wartime legacy, arguing that Tokyo never faced up to its actions as it occupied large parts of East and South-east Asia.
The parade will certainly serve as a reminder of the millions of Chinese lives lost during Japanese occupation from 1937 to 1945. Japan’s worse war-time massacre took place in Nanking, then capital of short-lived Republic of China, where estimates of dead range from 50,000 to 300,000.
While communist and nationalist forces together resisted the Japanese, most military historians believe that the Kuomintang, who fled to Taiwan, did most of the fighting. Chinese nationalist soldiers were brought to India to be trained by Americans.
Japan signed a formal surrender on September 2, 1945, which was celebrated by China the next day with victory celebrations.
For this year, Chinese communist party also declared September 3 as a public holiday to allow for “broad participation of the entire nation”. The official name of the public holiday is “The 70th anniversary of Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War and the World Anti-Fascist War Victory Commemoration Day”.
China has been extremely coy about revealing the names of the foreign countries who have been invited to attend as well as contribute troops for the parade.
According to media reports, western countries are also in a dilemma about attending the parade, which taking place at Tiananmen Square will be pregnant with symbolism.
Perhaps anticipating such reluctance, China Daily had in a commentary said, “China has no intention to taunt Japan by showing off its military mighty, even when Japanese politicians’ words and actions intensify tensions in the East Asia”. This was published on June 23 when China unveiled its plans for the parade.
“This is essentially propaganda, as the Chinese try to score a victory just like AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and to see how many will bite,” said Jabin T Jacob, assistant director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.
As China has flexed its muscles militarily and aggressively, Japan has courted India intensively, both economically, politically and increasingly with cooperation on the defence side.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi having forged a personal rapport with prime minister Shinzo Abe, Japan would certainly be hoping that India’s presence at the parade is not at a very high-level.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is scheduled to give a speech on August 15, where he is expected to express remorse, but stop short of an full apology, which will certainly rankle China and South Korea, who have alleged that Japan has never been contrite enough.
It is learnt that just before the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Ufa last month, Japan had approached India to help tone down any phrase in the summit declaration related to the World War, especially on Japanese militarism. New Delhi had to remind them India is still not officially a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member.
During Modi’s visit in September last year, Japanese PM had specifically mentioned that Justice Radhabinod Pal was the only judge at the war tribunals who refused to find Japan guilty for the Second World War.
“India’s decision will be dictated by its national priority,” said Jacob. He noted that even if attendance at the parade was thin from foreign countries, it “will not necessarily be a loss of face (for China) as propaganda is also for domestic audience”. “With Chinese and Russian troops parading together, it could be good enough,” he added.
Indian troops, of course, played an important role in both the world wars, as they fought for the Allied powers in remote parts of the world. But, there is also the bequest of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, which fought alongside the Japanese army in its aborted invasion of British India in the Battles of Kohima and Imphal.