International Affairs



Your Majesty, Vice Chancellor Dr. Kamal Krishna Joshi, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured by the doctorate of Letters honoris causa conferred on me by the Tribhuvan University. I should like to thank Your majesty, as Chancellor of the University, for this special privilege. I should also like to convey my appreciation to the Vice Chancellor and to his distinguished colleagues in the University for this gesture.

May I at the outset, Your Majesty, pay tribute to the eminent personality after whom this University is named. The late King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev was a close friend of India. He was regarded by India's leaders as an enlightened and farsighted statesman. Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, held King Tribhuvan in very special and affectionate esteem. In a moving tribute at King Tribhuvan's passing, Pandit Nehru said in the Lok Sabha, our House of the People, on March 14, 1955 : "King Tribhuvan was an unusual kind of King - a King who became the leader of a liberal movement, which is very unusual for Kings to do."

The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other stalwarts were fighting not only for the freedom and independence of India, but of all the "oppressed" and the "exploited" peoples of the world. It identified itself with the struggle against colonialism by the people of Asia and Africa and extended its enthusiastic support to the people of China in this "fight for the emancipation of their people" and declared that the Chinese people were "Comrades of the Indian people in their joint struggle against imperialism". In his "Discovery of India" Pandit Nehru made this approach clear in the following passage.

"Our struggle was but a part of a far wider struggle for freedom; the forces that moved us were moving millions of people all over the world and driving them to action. All Asia stirs from the Mediterranean to the Far East, from the Islamic West to the Buddhist East...".

The Indian Nationalist movement had thus perceived liberal and liberating movements in Asia, and elsewhere as kindred movements.

It was against this background that on becoming the Vice President of the Interim Government of India, Nehru began to work towards an Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi. Being a non-governmental conference, Nehru had to make all the arrangements including the raising of finance for it. It is interesting to recall to-day, that one of those he approached for financial help was, His Majesty King Tribhuvan of Nepal. Nehru wrote to the King on February 24, 1947 seeking "a generous contribution from you to meet the expenses of the Conference", and His Majesty made a handsome donation. The Conference took place in Delhi five months before India's independence. Nepal sent a delegation of 8 persons including academics such as Professor Ratna Bahadur Bisht and Principal Rudra Raj Pandey, and a journalist Mr. Surya Prasad Upadhyay. Nepal had been supportive of the moves towards Asian co-operation even from those early days.

Standing on the Himalayan heights of Kathmandu, it is appropriate to take a bird's eye view of how Asia, our continent, has been shaping itself since those days. At the Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi in 1947 Jawaharlal Nehru welcoming the delegation declared : "For too long we of Asia have been petitioners in Western courts and chancellories. That story must now belong to the past. We stand on our own feet and co-operate with all others who are prepared to co-operate with us. We do not intend to be the play things of others."

It is this clarion call that India has been following since 1947, and most other nations of this continent have followed with varying degrees of determination. A new Asia had arisen; but as a historian has pointed out old powers on the decline often exercise greater influence in the world than new powers on the rise for a considerable period of the transition. The rise of Asia has, therefore, taken a longer time and with much zig-zagging during the last fifty years. Even to-day the old great powers enjoy entrenched positions in Asia, while the rising Asian powers are still struggling to find their feet firm on their own ground, not to speak of getting acceptance of their rightful place in the international order. Of course, a few of them have succeeded in breaking through the barrier, but they seem to find it more comfortable in the company of the established powers.

After 1947, the struggle against colonialism continued in Asia, especially in Indo-China, Indonesia and in Malaya. India's independence had its impact on all these struggles. The Conference on Indonesia called by Pandit Nehru in New Delhi in 1949 exercised a decisive influence on the final outcome in Indonesia. The Indo-China situation, in the meantime got bogged down in the cold war conflict and together with the Korean conflict the world was brought to edge of a war. India had the privilege of playing a peaceable role in both these situations, while the spectacular success of the China's liberation war and of the revolution, introduced a powerful new factor into the Asian scene. That again got mired in the cold war contest in the world. India under the visionary leadership of Nehru took a clear and bold line in this critical moment in Asian and world history. He pleaded for the acceptance of China by Asia and the world, and took the initiative in forging a new and friendly relationship between India andChina. The Tibet Agreement between India and China, and the joint declaration of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence by Zhou Enlai and Nehru, promised to open up a new relationship between not only the two largest countries of Asia, but a new order of peace, progress, freedom and independence in the whole of Asia. Besides, it had a profound impact on the world itself.

It was in this context that the Bandung Conference took place in 1955 in which India, Indonesia and Burma worked together with China to project the emergence of Asia and Africa as an independent force in the world. Your Majesty, Nepal played its part in this historic Conference. However, very soon cracks appeared in the impressive unity of Asian-African nations. At the core of this crack was a rift in Asian unity, a crack that was cleverly exploited by the great powers of the world.

Perhaps, the next stage in Asian development was marked not so much by the resurgence of the spirit of Asia and the further advance of Asia as a whole in power and prestige, but by the rise of individual powers or of groupings of nations. China emerged as a great military and economic power. Japan recovered from the ravages of war and became a great economic power wielding much political influence. Regional organizations cropped up in Asia - ASEAN, APEC, SAARC, etc. SAARC so far has not become an effective grouping. But ASEAN has established itself as a major and most successful regional co-operation organisation. APEC is advancing as a vast grouping of immense potentialities. One notable feature of these groupings is that none of them claim to represent and stand for whole of Asia. Another feature of considerable strategic importance is that great powers of the world are either members or deeply involved in them projecting their world economic and strategic conceptions into them. And another significantfeature is that all these organizations are to some extent sub-regional and seek to keep out some of the countries of Asia. India and South Asia are not included in them, though India is closely associated with one of them, viz. ASEAN. And on the wider scene in the new encounter between Asia and Europe that is being planned in the institution of the Asia-Europe Summit, the South Asian subcontinent has been so far excluded. In the historic meeting of Asia and Europe or rather Asia and the West, it is not necessary to point out the prominent strategic role that South Asia had occupied. Besides, one can only say that it is a supreme irony that a country like India, an ancient civilization, with its economic and technological potentialities and with a population of one billion people, is kept waiting to be admitted to APEC and to the Asia-Europe Summit. It was Nehru who articulated a new, independent relationship between Asia and the West at the Asian Relations Conference and proposed at Bandung the need for a revision of the established old equation between the two. The policy of non-alignment, of which he was one of the principal architects, envisaged a more equal and just world order in which no nation dominated or exploited another, and in which Asia, Africa and Europe co-operated with one another to promote a balance of co-existence in the world.

Looking at the world from the Himalayan heights one sees the existence of two major set of facts prominently in the world situation. One is the enlargement of freedom and co-operation in the world and the spread of democracy in the relations among nations, the concept of equality and justice being accepted, along with freedom and liberty, as the goals towards which mankind is moving. But underneath these one could see the hard rocks of inequality lying hidden at the heart of the international order. These rocks are represented by the economic, technological and the military supremacy of the developed nations of the world. The developing and the non-aligned world, on critical issues and in critical situations, comes up against these hard hidden rocks of inequality. For their own safety they shun from knocking their heads against these rock formations in the international order.

I believe that the economic crisis in South East Asia and East Asia will pass. I am bold enough to say that the recent confusion and the sound and fury caused by the technological demonstrations of military significance by some Asian countries, will also pass and the normal processes of peaceful dialogue that has been ongoing in the region as well as internationally will go on. After all, Europe is to-day marching towards economic and political union, and in the wider world the United States, Russia and China, are engaged in working out co-operative relations with the full knowledge that they possess nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in their armouries. There is no reason why such processes cannot go on in Asia. We are keen, and indeed determined, to go along this process of dialogue, reconciliation and co-operation with China even further than hitherto. So also in South Asia we had initiated a new policy of improving relations with all neighbours, and SAARC has been advancing steadily step by step towards a system of co-operation pregnant with immense constructive possibilities. If this can be achieved in Europe I do not see why this process cannot go on in South Asia. I believe this ancient continent of Asia, while asserting its right to grow to the full potential in economic and technological terms, has the political wisdom to cling tenaciously on to its ancient tradition of peaceful co-existence. But India's objectives and efforts have been to bring complete and comprehensive disarmament in the world including the elimination of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. I believe that by acquiring nuclear capability we can exert our influence more effectively in bringing this about.

Your Majesty and Mr. Chancellor, I believe that in the relationship between India and Nepal there lies a clue to the practicality of such peaceful co-existence and constructive co-operation. In our relationship are inherent wider possibilities of co-operation in the South Asia and in Asia as a whole.

Jawaharlal Nehru once said about the importance of the University in life. He said : "A University stands for Humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives." I am confident that the Tribhuvan University will pursue this onward march of the human race towards higher objectives. I am honoured to be awarded an Honorary Degree from this University.

Thank you

Jai Hind