Wars, although destructive in nature, possess the unique ability to rejuvenate and conciliate nations. The memory of war wipes away divisions within the collective that experienced it and leads to the creation of what Eric Hobsbawm refers to as “invented traditions”. Remembering war binds citizens together; mothers no matter which ethnic, religious or dissenting group they belong to mourn the loss of their sons in battle and fathers stand together as their chests swell with pride at the honour their sons brought to the country. Therefore, within a collective of different people, a shared cultural edifice is formed.
So, remembering war is good for the people of the country psychologically. The parade in China today, however, is marked in a very different hue. It was more boastful than mournful. It was a show of strength, not an opportunity to mourn. The world has been invited to watch as China flexes its militaristic muscle in a ring in which it is the only player. China’s message is simple and clear: I am powerful. Look at my helicopters and missiles. Look at my allies marching with me. I am at the forefront in Asia. Look at everything I have. Japan, are you watching? America, can you see this? India, who’re you kidding… Under the guise of inclusion, this is a clear affront to Japan; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not attend the spectacle. Not only did this make Japan uncomfortable, it was a difficult situation for the West as well because it felt that the parade was a self-serving political act. What is particularly peculiar is Pakistan’s enthusiasm in the whole thing. Although Pakistan has protested against India’s plans to organise a carnival in the name of the 1965 war, it underwent no hesitation in being part of China’s glorification ceremony.
Two different wars, same sentiment. Open your eyes, Pakistan.
Does no one remember how the Second World War ended? I’ll remind you. With Hiroshima and Nagasaki being bombed into oblivion. That episode is the only instance of nuclear weapons being used for warfare in history. Do we really need to parade around in tanks, fighter jets and missiles in remembrance of the lowest point in human history? Why did no one cry for humanity today in Beijing? Why did no one reflect on the miseries of war? Why were weapons worshipped like gods?