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ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP

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Indian Leaders' Speeces in Chinese University

Vice-President K R Narayan at Fudan University, shanghai

OCTOBER 27, 1994

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I am honored, 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 relations. India’s links with the east coast of China go bade into history. It was the major route for trade and travel between our two countries across the seas. It was from these shores that Admiral Zheng He 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 our two ancient civilizations. Referring to the spread of Buddhism it has been said that in those days China was, probably, more influenced by India than India by China, which according to Jawaharlal Nehru, was “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 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 Fa Xian, Xuan Zang, Kumarajiva, and bodhidharma 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 encompassed almost the whole of Asia, especially South East Asia. It was an encounter which did not result in a cultural clash but in peaceful coexistence and a degree of interpenetration. Of 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 clashes here and there, millions of people belonging to different faiths, racial origins and speaking different languages live, by and large, peacefully and harmoniously in our vast 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 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 China 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 us’. 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 the Chinese delegation at the Congress of the League Against imperialism at Brusseis in 1927. Nehru was impressed with the Chinese delegates and wrote: “I was led regrettably to wish that we India might also develop some of their energy and driving force at the expense, if need be, of some of our intellectuality.” At Bruseels 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 agitations conducted in India for the Chinese cause had reached the ears of the Eight Route Army. In the 1930s 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 Eight Route Army in particular” for the mass ralies held in India in support of 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 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 China 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 China expressed their, support to 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, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlal, 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 the national leaders who have been struggling for the Indian people’s liberation will 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-imp0erialist solidarity, this concern for Asia 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 its recognition. Today all of us look back upon the 1950s as some sort of golden age in Sino-Indian relations. It was the period when the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence were proclaimed jointly by our two countries which have now been accepted as the just and correct basic for regulating relations among nations. Premier Zhou Enlal’s visit to India in 1954 and Nehru’s visit to China the same year, and the cooperation between them at the Banding 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 China, in spite of their differences, was a major event 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 was breathing its hot air on both India and China. Nehru once gave expression to his feeling that the coming together of India China was not to the liking of the great powers. It is interesting to recall that many years earlier Rabindranth 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 nations 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 to two countries in the colonial as well as in the cold war period. The world has now happily come out of that era and today it is up to us to determine our own destinies and raising our relationship in a world that is essentially pluralist and peaceful, not in any narrow and exclusive manner, but in full and free cooperation with all the nations of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

Before I leave the age of cold war that is no more, let me recall a small but meaningful event of that time. As we know China was kept out of the United Nations during that period. I happen to have come across in the writings of Nehru that at the China was kept out of the United Nations during that period, I happen to have come across in the writings of Nehru that at the 10th anniversary of the United at San Francisco in 1955 the question of China taking its place in the U.N. was discussed. In his latter to the Chief Ministers of Indian States dated 20th July 1955 Nehru wrote: “Informally suggestions have been made Security Council. We cannot, of course, accept this as it means ralling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China 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 China 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 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The cold was had clouded and distorted the vision of most countries in the world. Now that we are out of it we have 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”. China 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 system with special emphasis on the needs of the masses and the demands of social justice.

At this new 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 scientific-technological content into our historic relationship. During the last few years we have explored seriously and quite comprehensively the prospects of economic cooperation. Our trade is now reaching one billion dollar ark. But at all this is not enough considering the size 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 would be of benefit to both our countries, to the Third World and also to the development countries which are goaded by the lure of our immense and expanding markets.

May I be permitted to quote again 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…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 3000 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 Century”. This is the responsibility that we owe to 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 China 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 credentials 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 slight delay of 15 years in sending that Letter of Recall. I added that perhaps 15 years were a very short time in history of the 2000 years of India-China 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 Bihari Vajpayee, came to China. In 1988 the late prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited, opening a new chapter in our relations, particularly official visit in 1992. The present Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao, visited China in September 1993 when severeal cooperation agreements including the important Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement were signed. From China also important personalities and delegations have visited India including His Excellency the Prime Minister Mr. Li Peng, the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defence. 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 look ahead and we should take measures to turn the tide”. And Nehru wrote in response on October 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-China friendship and cooperation could be a notable feature of the 21st Century. It is a new world in which we are living, a world that is 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 accordance with the Five Principle and the principles of non-alignment and peaceful coexistence.

Mr. President and distinguished friends. I understand that the Fudan University was name after a saying from a Confucian 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 estern sky. Rabindranath Tagore said in one of his poem :

“In front lies the Ocean of Peace.

Into that ocean of peace, my friends, let us launch our boats.”

 

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© 1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi

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