I shook hands with Chouc-En-Lai!

PM’s moves and priorities won’t help the Congress!
Prime Minister’s asking China’s co-operation to help India in the civil nuclear power programme looks a bit untenable. USA might help India because of strategic advantages. But will China help? And, pray, is the Prime Minister right in pushing for nuclear power that leads ultimately for weaponisation? Has the country debated the PM’s twin strategy of asking both the US and China to take India into this unknown territory?

And what advantages the Pm brings to the Congress party in the mid-term elections?
Certainly, the PM’s advisers are leading him nowhere? It looks like that.

The Congress party needs to take a second look at the PM’s further moves as these have no relevance for the coming elections.

Yes, the Prime Minister’s China visit has come after a long delay. China is a great country and a country with which India has a long and a complicated history. The 1962 war with China had created a more complicated situation.

I am not sure of how much the UPA government headed by Singh has understood the China problem. Neither the constituent parties of the UPA   nor Dr.Singh in particular, nor the Congress party are likely to know much about the issues in India-China relations.
As for me I have some special claims. I studied at Santiniketan in the late Fifties of the last century when at Cheena Bhavan at Visva Bharati university there was Prof.Tan Yun Shan, who established the Cheena Bhavan in 1920 or so when Tagore was alive to promote India-Chinese studies. Prof.Tan was a colleague of the Komintang leader, Chiang-Kai-Sheik and also   the late Mao Tse Tung, when the Communist leader was still, I think, training for his teacher’s training.

I have a two volume commemoration book on Prof.Tan, which was edited and brought out by his son, (Prof.Tan Chung) my close Santiniketan companion and friend of longstanding. I haven’t referred to this volume now but I remember there are some reminiscences of Prof.Tan’s old colleagues and friends who recall the same or nearby villages from which Tan and Mao come from.

Yes, I know for sure that Prof.Tan used to tell us, students in his Chinese language class, all about his old friendship with Mao and much else. Till the coming of the Chinese revolution in 1949, it was Chaing Kei Sheik who was supporting the Cheena Bhavan and after the Communists took over there was a break. Indian readers of this generation might not know that Chiang was the great leader of China, a great nationalist and whose life and his equally distinguished wife’s family, the Songs, were at one point of time, were great friends of India and Pandit Nehru, also I think, of Mahatama Gandhi.
Anyway, after the Communists took over there was this lull. Tan became lonely and was cut off from China. After the Indian freedom and when India championed China’s entry into the UN, relationship renewed and during the heyday of India-China friendship, Chou En Lai came to India and on one such visit Nehru sent him to Santiniketan where he was conferred a hon. degree at Amarkung, the famous mango-grove platform where such honours were given earlier even to Mahatama Gandhi during Tagore’s time!

On this visit Chou En lai, naturally, came to visit the Cheena Bhavan. The highlight of the visit was the great man was introduced to us inside our Chinese class room; there is a photo somewhere in my album of Chou shaking hands with us, students! It was a great and rare moment for me! Chou was a charismatic personality, full of warmth and sweet smiles. He clasped our hands with such familiarity and we were all blown out by that impressive show and demonstration of friendship for India! Chou asked some students questions and incidentally when Prof.Tan’s daughter’s turn came he was told that Tan Wei (her name) was not just a student of Bengali literature course she also topped her class! Beating all the Bengali students! Chou instantly offered to take her to China and put her in charge of the Bengali section at the Beijing radio!

After the visit Prof.Tan was invited to China and he went with a large delegation. Soon afterwards and we were all offered scholarships to study in China. I, being the best student of Prof.Tan, he was very keen I should go to China. However, I chose to go west to Oxford. But most of my Chinese language class-mates went to China.

But then came the 1962 war and changed all that.
This is a painful story and this war literally shattered Nehru and he died in 1964 as a disappointed idealist. I can narrate so many instances how Nehru reacted to the Chinese “betrayal”. Prof.Tan, I also know personally, also became a changed person. He used to literally shed tears, visibly moved by the turn of events and, why, the entire Tan family, paid a heavy price for their total dedication to the Indo-China cause.
This “betrayal” still rankles inside me; I   am   yet to come to terms with the current realities on the Indo-China questions.

The Tan family members are now dispersed, most of them settled in the USA and Canada and only one member lives in India, married to my another friend, an artist of renown!

So, what is the outcome of the PM’s China visit? I am not sure.
From the PM’s own comments, it is not any resounding success, given the border issues and also Indian government’s own perceptions of what India wants from China.

As for me, I am not at all happy with the way the visit was arranged. For one thing, it looks like a visit just arranged by the bureaucrats as they saw it. There is a write-up in a Kolkatta-based daily and that sums up in a way my own feelings.

The PM should have taken with him a large delegation, this being his first visit to an unknown and unfamiliar “territory” and  our Prime Minister must have taken a delegation consisting of academics and scholars and even artists, certainly a contingent from Cheena Bhavan for what it is worth. After all, the Pm would have got an opportunity to impress his hosts about the long-standing links in the India-China friendship.

Also, as the newspaper article has pointed out that now India has 200 Indian companies, most notably the IT companies. As such the CEOs of such high profile companies in the PM’s delegation might have contributed to the lessening of the stiffness one notices in the outcome of the PM’s expectations. There are also some 50 Chinese companies in India. Some from these companies might have led to some ease in the relationships. There are so many young Indians working in China. In fact, one who studied at Santiniketan and now employed by a Hyderabad-based company working in China came to see me recently!

There was no public display of warmth from either side and this has been commented upon.
China is still a distant country for India as far as their intentions on our borders are made clear. This is a complicated topic. The Indian public must know that China is our neighbour and there is no way we can take things easy. We have to engage China in whatever manner possible. There is a great deal of mutual suspicion. That also we can’t wish away.
So, the best thing to do is to draw up a long and short-term startegy. Also broaden the approach to include non-strategic, on-political and people-to-people movement of ideas and minds.
Our universities can do a lot, exchange students and scholars and build mutual understanding and mutual dependence for a war-free world.

India has so many advantages, our democracy, open society are our great assets. At the same time, China is a highly sensitive country, very touchy about its past greatness and also about its present perceptions. So, it is neither easy nor wise to ask China for help to make India a nuclear weapon power!  PM’s perceptions and his strategy, if it can be called so, seem to be basically flawed.

Why China didn’t respond when the PM asked for help? It should be obvious that the Indian request is naive, to say the least!

It is plainly disappointing to see the PM coming back with no clear indication form his hosts!
 What sort of visits it is this high-level visit? PM’s China visit has raised many questions, rather than providing us any clue to the future of our relations with our big neighbour.

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