International Affairs


Mr. President,

Distinguished Guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at this renowned centre of learning. The Peking University has been a bridge between India and China, between their scholars, writers and thinkers. I am therefore particularly happy that I am visiting it during the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the People's Republic of China. A quarter of a century ago, when I was Ambassador of India to China, I had occasion to visit this University and savour something of its lively atmosphere. The Peking University occupies a unique position in the academic life of China and its teachers and students have made notable contributions to the intellectual, political and social advancement of China and to its transformation.

As I said a moment ago, my country has had a long association with Peking University. It was at the invitation of the University Association, Peking, that the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore visited China in 1924 reviving the age-old friendship between our two countries. Welcoming Tagore on that occasion the President of the University Association, Prof. Liang Qichao, observed that the poet was coming from "the nearest and the dearest neighbour of China - India". He added that both India and China were "devoted to the cause of universal truth" and said that as "we set out to fulfil the destiny of man, we felt the necessity of co-operation". Tagore, in his turn, reminded his distinguished audience that: "There was a time when India and China stood very near, when they joined their hands and hearts in one common homage to the spirit of love and reunion". Indeed our two countries have been cultural brothers for over 2000 years. Philosophers and scholar-pilgrims like Kumarajiva and Bodhidharma from India, and Xuan Zang and Fa Xian from China, undertook hazardous journeys in those days, not just discovering geographical regions but also continents of the mind and the spirit.

The American poet Carl Sandburg has written that "the past is a bucket of ashes, and the future is an ocean of nothingness". Heirs to ancient civilizations, we in China and India, cannot take such a view of human history. I believe with the late Chairman Mao Zedong that, "We cannot separate our history from us" -- we should on the other hand use the past to serve the present. There are sparks slumbering among the ashes of the past that can burst into flame and light up the unknown paths of the future. China and India have made immortal contributions to human civilization. Where would be the scientific-technological civilization of to-day without paper, the printing, the compass and the gun powder invented by China, besides, the ethical values and the way of life contributed to the world by the Chinese civilization. Likewise, what human advance could have been possible without the concept of "the zero" and the decimal system invented by ancient India, apart from its great philosophical ideas?

The fascination for each other by India and China was not only in the realm of philosophy, scholarship and religion but in respect of human action as well. The friendship between India and China is deep-rooted and has an intellectual, aesthetic and human basis. Though we were separated from each other by colonialism and imperialism we had reacted to each other in critical periods of our history. In 1857 when the first great rebellion against the British rule in India broke out --- we call it India's first war of independence -- the Chinese people rejoiced in the news of the daring acts of Indian soldiers against the British. This rebellion had some indirect repercussion on China, because in panic, the British stopped their troops from proceeding to China, for the time being, to start the second Opium War. Another expression of friendship between the Indian and the Chinese people was during the Taiping Rebellion when some Indian troops under the British in China turned their guns against their British masters and fought shoulder to shoulder with the Taipings. Again when the notorious opium trade was inflicted upon China by the British, there was strong condemnation of it by the newspapers and leaders of the Indian nationalist movement.

In 1905 there was a boycott of American goods by China provoked by the U.S. attitude to the renewal of the Sino-American Immigration Treaty. Almost at the same time, there were mass demonstrations in India against the British decision to partition the province of Bengal. Newspapers and political leaders of India were telling the people "American goods were boycotted by China, so should India do in the case of England". Some Chinese merchants had participated in the meeting at Calcutta which took the decision to boycott British goods. When the news of these developments reached Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, he wrote exhorting Indians to show the same sort of unity as the Chinese did in the boycott of foreign goods and that "we must admit that our people learned these tactics from the Chinese." Thus the boycott of British goods by India and the dramatic bonfire of foreign clothes that Gandhi made later in Bombay and the swadeshi movement he launched owed their inspiration to China.

It was in 1916 at Hong Kong on his way to Japan that Poet Tagore came across Chinese people for the first time. I should like to quote what he has written about this first encounter:- "One of the first things that caught my eye was the Chinese labourers at work at the quay. Their bodies were bare except for a pair of blue jeans. Never before have I seen so perfect an instrument for physical labour-spare, perfectly moulded frames without the slightest superfluity, oozing vitality. Their muscles rippled to the rhythm of their labour. The ease and speed with which they handled weighty loads was sheer delight to watch. They worked with a will and without any trace of lassitude. They needed no prodding. Work flowed out of their limbs even as music from the veena...The spectacle of such concentrated strength, skill and joy at work helped me realize what vast power lay stored in this great land...When such immense power happily be harnessed to modern science, what power on earth will be able to resist it? Then will China's native genius for hard work be equipped with the implements of science, and there will be that perfect wedding of this willing hand, with the compliant tool". Thus by sheer poetic insight he had seen China's future -- the day when "China stood up" in 1949 and to-day when China has become a world power to be reckoned with.

A similar fascination with the human quality of the Chinese people had attracted Nehru when, for the first time at the Anti-imperialist Congress at Brussels in 1927, he encountered the Chinese delegation. He wrote : "I envied the energy and forward outlook of the Chinese and wished we in India could imbibe some of their energy even at the cost of something of our intellectuality."

During the struggle against imperialism the solidarity between the Chinese and Indian peoples expressed itself most clearly and forcefully. At the Anti-imperialist Congress at Brussels in 1927 the Indian and the Chinese delegations forged a common stand and issued a joint declaration. From Brussels Pandit Nehru urged the Indian National Congress to launch an agitation in support of China's struggle, and also for the withdrawal of Indian troops from China. In 1937 Marshal Zhu De wrote to Nehru thanking the Indian National Congress for the mass rallies held in India in support of China. It was in this letter that the suggestion was made that Indian National Congress might send a medical mission to China. Nehru organized a Mission headed by Dr. Atal, including Dr. Kotnis who became famous as the most dedicated and unselfish friend of the Chinese people. In 1976 as Ambassador of India I had the honour of going to Shijiazhuang to pay homage to the memory of Dr. Kotnis or Ke Tihua Daifu as he was known in China. The most remarkable thing about Dr. Kotnis and the Indian Medical Mission to China during the war against Japan was that it was sent by a country in the midst of its struggle for its own freedom to another country that was fighting against foreign aggression. It is not so well-known that Mahatma Gandhi had close association with the Chinese people from his early days in South Africa. In 1947 Gandhiji claiming himself to be 'a Chinese' revealed that in South Africa he had lived among the Chinese immigrants and many of them were with him in jail during his passive resistance movement against racial discrimination.

I should like to clinch the historical part of this talk by quoting what Rabindranath Tagore wrote in a letter addressed to the Sino-Indian Society in 1934:- "The truth we received when your pilgrims came to India and ours to you - that is not lost even now. What a great pilgrimage was that! What a great time in history!" Tagore went on to say, "It is our duty to-day to revive the historic spirit of that pilgrimage following the ancient path which is not merely a geographical one but the great historic path that was built across difficult barriers of race differences, and differences of language and tradition reaching the spiritual home where man is one in bonds of love and co-operation".

The independence of India and the liberation of China came about when the blasts of the Cold War were blowing over the world. Unfortunately the cold war had the effect of distorting the outlook of nations and peoples everywhere sowing distrust and suspicion in their minds. Nonetheless India, true to its ancient friendship and true to the foreign policy of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence it evolved after Independence, extended the hand of friendship to China when it emerged as the People's Republic of China from the heroic liberation struggle. Even before the liberation war had ended and shortly after the People's Republic was formally declared, India announced the diplomatic recognition of new China and soon thereafter Ambassadors were exchanged between the two countries. The period of friendly co-operation that followed between India and China is considered as the golden years of our relations. India and China worked closely together in the international field making an impact on world developments. We jointly formulated and presented to the world the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. At the historic Bandung Conference we worked together with other Asian and African nations giving direction and cohesion to the third world. At the Geneva Conference we co-operated in finding an end to the colonial war in Indo-China. India during this period untiringly raised her voice pleading for the international recognition of New China and the restoration of its seat in the United Nations.

Ever since, we followed a principled one-China policy without any sort of reservation or equivocation. We believe that had the world listened to that voice much of the tension and conflict that afflicted Asia since could have been avoided. The misunderstanding between India and China that arose in late 50's and early 60's was also perhaps a by-product of the psychology and the circumstances of the Cold War in the world.

Now that Cold War is over and a pluralistic world is emerging, India and China have the opportunity of regulating their relations in the tradition of their age-old friendship and brotherhood. I feel proud that I was chosen by my Government to represent India in China as Ambassador in 1976 thereby upgrading and normalising our diplomatic relations. To-day both China and India are in a new stage of development, and the world is in a new historical period. Through their economic policies of liberalization and by opening up to the world, both countries have achieved substantial developmental successes. The Chinese economy has witnessed the miracle of spectacular growth and is now recognized as one of the forward economies of the world. The Chinese people are enjoying the fruits of unprecedented prosperity. India also has taken the route of liberalizing and opening up and has achieved substantial economic progress.

It has been said that the 21st century will be the century of the Asia Pacific. I should like to quote what the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said about this in December 1988: "In recent years there has been comment about the next century being the Asia Pacific century. I do not agree with this view point. Even 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, where as the combined population of our two countries is l.8 billion. If China and India fail to develop it cannot be called an Asian century". Deng Xiaoping's words ring truer to-day, when our combined population is over 2 billion, comprising two-fifth of humanity. Thanks to the economic reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping and pursued vigorously by His Excellency President Jiang Zemin, China has advanced a long way towards development that has filled the world with admiration. India too has broken out of stagnation and become a moving, changing, progressive economy. At this new stage there is much that India and China can exchange with each other, learn from and co-operate with each other. Along with other countries of the region developing fast, that co-operation would usher in the true Asian century that Deng Xiaoping had visualized, and that our leaders dreamt of in the 1950's. With China and India the new century will be walking steadily towards the Asian destiny. That is why I hold that in the new century co-operation between India and China is a historical necessity.

The present world order has been described as a multi-polar world order with a unipolar predisposition. Theories have been advanced of globalisation extinguishing national sovereignties and the exciting diversities of the world, creating some kind of uniform monolithic system. These theories are unsustainable and destructive of a democratic world order. Globalisation should not become the world-wide manifestation of the highest and the subtlest form of capitalism, but as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru visualized "a federation of friendly inter-dependent nations" where no one dominates or exploits another. The appropriate code of conduct for a globalized world would be the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, jointly offered to the world by China and India, and not overlordship by any one nation or group of nations. The United Nations will be at the core of this new order. There is a pressing need for the United Nations to be democratized and reformed reflecting the contemporary realities of the world. For this purpose we believe the United Nations Security Council should be expanded and made more representative so that the aspirations of all humanity can be effectively accommodated and realized. I believe that India and China could closely work together to bring about such democratic transformation of the world body to serve the interests and the aspirations of mankind as a whole.

There are new threats that the international community face to-day. The scourge of narco-terrorism is casting a dark shadow across many parts of Asia and the world. India has taken initiative at the United Nations for an international convention to counter this threat. We believe that it is in the interests of all nations, including India and China, to work together to eliminate the threat of international terrorism.

Distinguished friends, I believe that in the world as it is emerging, there is an area of larger issues on which India and China can co-operate in the international field, for peace and stability in the world, for equality and justice for the developing countries, for an equitable world trade order, in short for implementing the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.

India seeks good relations with all its neighbours. China is our biggest and most important neighbour. It is perhaps inevitable that there would be some differences between neighbours. Between India and China too there are differences. That does not mean that these differences cannot be resolved. Our two countries have been engaged in a dialogue in resolving these differences. As Pandit Nehru said in 1951 "We, in India, have 2000 years of friendship with China. We have differences of opinion and even small conflicts but when we hark back to that long past something of the wisdom of that past helps us to understand each other". Apart from this, the compulsions of the present and the vision of the future drive us towards co-operation. It is in this spirit that we should persevere in our joint efforts to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question within the framework of national interests and sentiments of both our peoples. The Agreements concluded in 1993 and 1996 have, together, provided an institutionalised framework of peace and tranquillity and promotion of confidence-building measures in the border areas. We should strive together to make the border one of eternal peace, friendship and co-operation.

Over the years, the political level dialogue between our two countries has contributed to promoting friendship and enhancing understanding. There is growing functional interaction between the two countries in a wide range of areas including in agriculture, bio-engineering, remote-sensing, space, civil aeronautics, iron & steel, coal, petroleum, labour, civil services personnel management, health, environment, audit, maritime transport and in numerous other fields. We have wide-ranging cultural exchanges. Exchanges between parliamentarians, journalists and between political parties have grown in recent years.

There is great need to promote exchanges and to enable the people of the two countries to acquire an appreciation of the bonds that unite our ancient Asian civilizations. We need to strengthen our cultural links and ensure that our people are exposed to the richness and diversity of the art, music and dance forms which have evolved in our respective countries over the millennia. It is our deep-rooted cultures that can withstand the all-devouring uniformity of the globalising cultural patterns that threaten to overwhelm us from the West. Cultural pluralism should be the basis of a sustainable multipolarity in the world.

Relations between India and China have been founded on solid understanding of the affinities of the cultures and the civilizations of the two countries, and the imperatives of peaceful co-existence and close co-operation between them in the post-cold war world. I believe that India-China friendship and co-operation could be a shining example of concord and harmonious relations between two ancient civilizations and the foundation for a just, stable and peaceful world order.

I would like to conclude with the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "I long for the real friendship between China and India based not on economics or politics but on irresistible attraction. Then will follow real brotherhood of man". Fortunately, economics and politics are converging to-day to provide a firm material foundation for our co-operation, and in the words of President Jiang Zemin "we, the two great nations of broad-mindedness and wisdom that pioneered human civilization, will surely bring a co-operative and constructive partnership into the 21st century".

Thank you

Jai Hind