International Affairs

I am honoured, Mr. President, by your kind invitation to speak at the Fudan University. This is one of the premier academic centres of China with which my country has had very close relation. India’s links with the east coast of China go back into history. It was the major route for trade and travel between out two countries across the seas. It was from these shores that Admiral Zheng Ho set sail in the fifteenth century on his epic voyages and visited my native State of Kerala on the west coast of India years before the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut.

Standing before this illustrious audience today my mind goes back to the early days of creative interaction and exchange of ideas between out two ancient civilizations. Referring to the spread of Buddhism it has been said that in those days China was, probably, more influenced by India that India by China, which according to Jawaharlal Nehru was, I quote “ a pity because India could have well received with profit to herself, some of the sound common sense of the Chinese, and with its aid checked her own extravagant fancies.” As a matter of a fact it was not a case of one-way cultural traffic. India also got several new ideas from china and also certain products like silk, sugar and tea which were in a real sense “seeds of change” which transformed the habits and living styles of people all over the world as profoundly as religious and philosophical ideas. Besides it must be remembered that Buddhism itself got assimilated and Signified making it almost indistinguishable in the Chinese cultural milieu. As Tagore said “The truth we received when your pilgrims came to us in India and ours to you - that is not lost even now. “ It is thus that we can still appreciate the role played by the great pilgrim-scholars like Xuan Zang, Fa Xian, Kumara Jiva, and Bodhi Dharma in the cultural cross fertilization between India and China.

One significant feature of the encounter between Indian and Chinese cultures was that it was not a merely bilateral process but one that encampassed almost the whole of Asian, especially South East Asia. It was an encounter which did not result in a cultural clash but in peaceful co-existence and a degree of interpenetration. On India Tagore once asserted that “here in India history is trying out a ceaseless experiment of uniting humanity together.... We can refuse none, we shall accept all, even those who might have come to over-run and conquer us”. May I here point out a historical fact. Except for the upheaval following the partition of India, an upheaval that was tragic but transient, and occasional communal clashed here and there, millions of people belonging to different faiths, racial origins and speaking different languages lie, by and large, peacefully and harmoniously in out cast country. There has never been in the long history of India any religious wars like the Crusades and the Thirty Years War as in European history. So have India and China lived in peace and good neighbourliness for thousands of years except for a very brief but unfortunate and unnecessary conflict in the recent past.         I have recalled ancient history in the spirit of the Chinese saying “Use the past for the present”. Before our independence Nehru once said that the friendship between India and Chine was “very precious to us, not only because of the thousands of golden links that have bound us in the past, but of the future that beckons to both of use”. And after independence he remarked that we were harking back to our old friendship in order to promote understanding between the two countries helped by “the wisdom of the past”.

During the long, dark night of colonialism India and China were separated from each other. But the leaders of India’s freedom movement and China’s liberation struggle reached out to each other across the colonial barrier. The first significant contact between the representatives of the Indian and Chinese nationalist movements was when Jawaharlal Nehru met the members of Chinese delegation at the Congress of the League Against Imperialism at Brussels in 1927. Nehru was impressed with the Chinese delegates and wrote: “ I was led regrettably to wish that we in India might also develop some of their energy and driving force at the expense, if need be, of some of our intellectuality. “ At Brussels the two delegations issued a joint declaration. From Brussels Nehru had urged the Indian National Congress to start a strong agitation in support of China’s struggle and also for the withdrawal of Indian troops the British had sent to China.  

The mass rallies and agitation conducted in India for the Chinese cause had reached the ears of the Eight route Army. In the 1930’s there was some exchange of correspondence between Nehru and Mao Zedong and Marshal Zhu De. There was a letter dated November 26, 1937 from Zhu De to Nehru thanking India “in the name of the Chinese people and in the name of the Eighth Route Army in particular” for the mass rallies held in India is support of Chine. It was in this letter that the suggestion was made that the Indian National Congress might despatch a medical mission to China which was promptly organised by Nehru. The heroic story of Dr. Kotnis in the service of the Chinese people and in the cause of India-China friendship was thus a wonderful manifestation of people-to-people relations between out two countries when we were still a subject nation and you under imperialistic attack on your freedom and independence. Marshal Zhu De stressed this anti-imperialist solidarity in his letter when he stated that the Chinese were “fighting the battle of Asia... Our Struggle is your struggle.”    On her part Chine had extended strong support to India’s struggle for independence from Britain.

China pleaded with the Allied powers for granting freedom for India. The leaders, the press and the people of Chine expressed their support of India’s movement for independence under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. When Nehru was arrested by the British the Chinese Communist Party in a joint telegram to him from Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Ye Jianying and other Chinese leaders said: “The Chinese people have been grateful for your warm kindness in campaigning for support for their cause of war against Japan. We deeply believe that you and the national leaders who have been struggling for the Indian people’s liberation with soon be released and carry on your struggle now that all the people of India and the progressive personalities of the world are demanding your freedom.”

It was this anti-imperialist solidarity, this concern for Asian liberation and world peace that expressed itself in our respective international policies after Indian independence in 1947 and China’s liberation in 1949. That India was the second and not the first country to announce diplomatic recognition to new China was only because U Nu of Burma conveyed to Nehru that his country would like to be the first to announce it recognition. Today all of us look back upon the 1950’s as some sort of golden age I Sino-Indian relations. It was the period when the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence were proclaimed jointly by our two countries which have now been accepted as the just and correct basis for regulating relations among nations. Premier Zhou Enlai’s visit to India in 1954 and Nehru’s visit to China the same year, and the co-operation between them at the Bandung conference in 1955 exercised a distinctly new influence on Asian-African as well as international relations.

Writing in July 1954 Nehru observed: “The coming together of India and Chine, in spite of their differences, was a major even in Asia and perhaps even for the world,” The leaders of China, I believe, had the same perception. However, it was a period when the cold war was breathing its hot air on both India and Chine. Nehru once gave expression to his feeling that the coming together of India and Chine was not to the liking of the great powers . I is interesting to recall that many years earlier Rabindranath Tagore with his poetic insight into politics observed that as China’s strength grows and “when such a great strength as this obtains possession of the vehicle of the modern age -- that is when it obtains mastery over science --then what force will stop it? ... So it is with good reason that the nationals who enjoy wealth and abundance are afraid of the evolution of china and attempt to hold her back.” Perhaps that approach prevailed to some extent with regard to India also which was the second populous country in the world and to the relations between the two countries in the colonial as well as in the cold was period. The world has now happily come out of that era and today it is up to us to determine our own destinies and fashion our relationship in a world that is essentially pluralist and peaceful, not in any narrow and exclusive manner, But in full and free co-operation with all the nations of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

Before I leave the age of cold war tthat is no more, let me recall a small but meaningful event of that time. As we know Chine was kept out of the United Nations during that period. I happen to have come across in the writing of Nehru that at that 10th anniversary of the United nations at San Francisco in 1955 the question of Chine taking its place in the UN was discussed. In his letter to the Chief Ministers of Indian Sates dated 20th July 1955 Nehru wrote: “Informally suggestions have been made that China would be taken into the United Nations but now in the Security Council, and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot, of course, accept this as it means falling out with chine and it would be very unfair for a great country like Chine not to be in the Security Council. We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for Chine to take her rightful place, and then the question of India might be considered separately”.* This is relevant today when the question of the expansion of the Security Council is on the international agenda to provide adequate representation to the counties of Asia, Africa and Latin America.     

The cold war had clouded and distorted the vision of most countries in the world. Now that we are out of it we have the responsibility to play a new role. In the discussions with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on December 21, 1988 His Excellency Deng Xiaoping said: “China and India share a common responsibility to mankind”.** Chine has today forged ahead in economic development in a spectacular manner. It is one of the most important and dynamic economies of the world thanks to its audacious but careful experiment in “Socialist market economy”. We look upon this development with admiration. India too has been pursuing a bold policy of opening up and liberalisation of its economy under the leadership of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. During the brief period of three years it has yielded substantial results and attracted the attention of the world. The policy is to provide free play to productive forces and to entrepreneurship, open up to the world, attract foreign investment, remove bureaucratic shackles on the economy, and apply science and technology to the developmental process, all within the framework of the democratic system with special emphasis on the needs of the masses and the demands of social justice.

*(Jawaharlal Nehru - Letters to Chief Ministers, Vol.4, Page 237)

**(Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping Vol.III)

At this new and exciting stage of the economic development of our two countries there is great scope for us to exchange experiences, learn from each other and engage in cooperation on a scale that is unprecedented. In the thousands of years of our friendship and cooperation, cultural and political dimensions had dominated our relations. It is time we put some concrete and substantial economic and scientific - technological content into out historic relationship. During the last few years we have explored seriously and quite comprehensively the prospects of economic cooperation. Out trade is now reaching one billion dollar mark. But all this is not enough considering the sixe and the population of our two countries and our capabilities and potentialities. In my view greater priority has to be placed on the development of economic relations. That woule be of benefit to both our countries, to the Tird World and also the developed countries which are goaded by the lure of our immense and expanding markets. 

May I be permitted to quote agains from His Excellency Deng Xiaoping. In December 1988 he observed during his conversation with the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi:   “ 

In recent years there has been comment about the next Century being the Asia Pacific Century.... I do not agree with this view point ... enen if the far eastern region of the Soviet Union and Western part of the United States and Canada are included, their population still comes to only about 300 million, whereas the combined population of our two countries is 1.8 billion. If China and India fail to develop, it cannot be called an Asian Centure”. This is the responsibility that we owe to Asian and the world. Since 1988 China has developed further and fast and is a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. Can the next Century be that of the Asia Pacific without the now fast developing India with its 900 million people?

Mr. President, I have had the privilege of coming to chine for the first time in 1976. I was the first Ambassador of India here after a lapse of 15 years. I recollect that on presenting my credential to the then Vice Chairman of the national People’s Congress, I handed over to him the letter of Recall of my predecessor, Mr. G. Parthasarathi, saying that there has been a slight delay of 15 years in sending that Letter of Recall. I added that perhaps 15 years were a very short time in hisotry of the 2000 years of India-Chine relationship. I am glad to say that since 1976 our relations have developed gradually but steadily, gathering in the last few years a new momentum. High level exchanges have been taking place in rapid succession.

In 1979 the then Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee came to China. In 1988 the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited opeig a new chapter in our relations, particularly in the discussions of the border question. The then President of India, Mr. R. Venkataraman, paid an official visit in 1992. The present Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao, visited Chine in September 1993 when several cooperation agreements including the important Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement were signed. From Cine also important personalities and delegations have visited India including His Excellency the prime Minister mr. Li Peng, Mr. Li Ruihuan, Chairman CPPCC, Vice Premiers, Huang Hua and Qian Qichen, and the Minister of Defence, Mr. Chi Hao Tian. May I recall here that even in the most difficult days the leaders of our two countries have held before them the vision of friendship and cooperation between India and China. On October 24, 1962 Premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Prime Minister Nehru: “I think we should liik ahead and we should take mearures to turn the tide” And Nehru wrote in response on Octobe 27, 1962 “I agree with you that... we should look ahead.... and make a serious attempt to restore the relations between India and China to the warm and friendly pattern of earlier days and even improve upon that pattern.” 

During the last few years both our countries have been engaged in serious attempts to develop our relations over a wide field -- economic, cultural, technological, political and international. It is my perception, Mr. President, that India-Chine friendship and cooperation could be a notable feature of the 21st Centrury. It is new world in which we are living, a world thatis basically multi-polar and pluralist, a world in which there is a new system of modern States in this ancient continent of Asia, and in which the centre of politics and economics has been shifting to Asia and the Asia-Pacific. It is a favourable environment in which India and China can cooperate with each other, not in any sort of narrow and exclusive relationship, but in the context of world cooperation and world peace, and in acoordance with the Five Principles and the Principles of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence.

Mr. President and distinguished friends, I understand that the Fudan University was named after a sying from Confucial classic which reads:-

“Brilliant are the sunlight and moonlight, 

Again the morning glory after a night.”

I can see the streaks of the morning glory in the eastern sky. Rabinranath Tagore said in one of his poems.          “In front lies the Ocean of Peace”  Into that ocean of peace, my friends, let us launch our boats. 

Thank you

Jai Hind