Friday, April 12, 2013
India: Intolerable Goa Friday, Dec. 22, 1961. Time Magazine
India's Jawaharlal Nehru is like a man who is simultaneously being trampled by an elephant and needled by a mosquito—and goes for the mosquito. While doing his best to ignore Communist China's latest incursions in a vast (50,000 sq. mi.), disputed area on northeastern India, Nehru declared recently that Portugal's lush, Rhode Island-sized colony of Goa on India's west coast was becoming increasingly "intolerable." Last week, for all Neutralist Nehru's past protestations that India would never use force to eject the Portuguese from the last European colony on Indian soil, his armed forces were building up on Goa's 180-mile border, and Nehru himself announced that he was "on the verge" of military intervention.
Nehru has been trying to get Portugal to pull out of Goa (pop. 700,000) since the British withdrew from India in 1947* Unlike France, which reluctantly quit its last Indian possessions in 1954, Portugal's Strongman Antonio de Oliveira Salazar insists that the 451-year-old colony, like his country's other overseas possessions, is a Portuguese "province." After breaking off diplomatic relations with the Portuguese in 1955, Nehru declared loftily: "History will remove them."
But pressure to nudge history along has been mounting in India during recent months. In the U.N. last week, India accused Portugal of "wanton attacks" on Indian shipping and fishermen, charged that "heavy reinforcements of Portuguese troops and mercenaries" have been rushed to Goa. In addition, said Nehru, frontier violations, "bad cases of torture," and political "repression" pose "a direct challenge to India." Portugal dismissed India's charges as "barefaced falsehoods," declared that frontier "violations" were simulated by Indian troops who sneaked across the border and came back firing toward their own lines.
Goa probably has no more than 5,000 soldiers and few if any aircraft. According to most observers, Nehru's "Liberation" would take at most a few days. Up to 30,000 crack Indian troops were deployed on Goa's forest-guarded border. Indian jet fighters screamed over the heart of Goa, and its only aircraft carrier cruised off the Goanese port of Marmagoa, Asia's finest harbor. Said a government statement: "Nationalists and underground circles in Goa are openly jubilant, waiting to welcome the Indian army."
Twice last week U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith pleaded with Nehru to settle the dispute by mediation, but the Indian's insistence that Portugal would first have to announce its intention to withdraw from Goa clearly ruled out any likelihood of negotiations. Goa's governor general calmly ordered the evacuation of women and children. Said he: "If necessary, we will die here."
*But if Goa is attacked, Britain is technically obliged by a 600-year-old treaty to aid the Portuguese with "troops, archers, slingers, galleys sufficiently armed for war."