Home > Kalākośa > Kalāsamālocana Series > List of Books > Across the Himalayan Gap > 

ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP

[ Previous Page | Contents of the Book | Next Page ]


Introduction

 

This book partially fulfils the target of our two-year old project entitled “India and China Looking at Each Other”. The inspiration behind this project is the now well-known idea propounded by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Academic Director of IGNCA, in the fall of 1990 at the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, China, that Indians and Chinese stopped trying to know each others country’s, politics, culture, history, society, etc, through the prism of the Western hemisphere. Instead, they should look at each other directly. At that time, the leaned circles in India had very little access to the Chinese scholarship particularly in the field of her culture and arts. Under the vigorous drive of Dr. Vatsyayan, IGNCA brought the Director of the Dunhuang Academy, prof. Duan Wejies, and his senior colleague, Pro. Shi Weixiang, to India, utilized their presence in New Delhi to hold an international seminar on “Cave Art of India and China” in 1991, and mounted an impressive exhibition of the Dunhuang paintings in the premises of IGNCA in 1991-92. Subsequently, we brought out the book Dunhunag Art Through the Eyes of Duan Wenjie in 1994 which has helped scholars to peep into Chinese scholarly efforts in studying the marvellous Dunhuang art treasure.

Quite some water has flowed down the Yangtse and Ganga since Kapila Vatsyayan made the looking-at-each-other call eight years ago. However, academic endeavours are always behind the rapid changes in the world scene. Today, not only the India-China relalkjtionship has entered a new phase of construdtive cooperation, but the internantional development portends an urgency that the two ancient and modern civilizations of India and China become more pro-active in uniting Asia, if not the world, in their endeavour of builoding up a harmonious and just world order while humanity marches into the 21st century. With such a situation in view, we launched the project of “India and China Looking at Each Other” to help accelerating the process of promotion of mutual understanding between India and China. We held a four-day seminar in November, 1995 on “India and China : Looking at Each Other”, and a one-day seminar in September, 1996 on “Indian Diplomats’ Reminiscences on China”. The present volume can be viewed as a harvest-gathering - not only of crops sowed by these two seminars, but much more gleaned from the vast intellectual fields of a total of 40 Indian scholars and experts.

I must hasten to add that much as we would like to bring out a book which should represent the pinnacle achievement of Indian research on China, we know our limitations on two counts. For one thing, to do an extensive research on the past and existing Indian studies on China would take considerable time (at least a couple of years) which will unduly delay the publication of this book, and deprive us the advantage of timely gathering feedbacks-like the Chinese saying goes: without erecting the pole you won’t see its shadow. Another factor is our mixed experience in knocking at the scholarly doors -and many, many times at some of these doors - to beg for treasurable intellectual properties. What is brought out before our readers is the maximum extent to which our persuasion has reached. Apart from such handicaps, we also wish to make the present volume a basic reference book so that it presents, in a nutshell, various dimensions of Indian scholarly interest on China. Thus, our emphasis is on inclusiveness, not selection and elimination. The immediate need in India and abroad, we think, is an overview about the Indian studies on China. The reference value of this volume has been strengthened by the important speeches made by Indian government leaders in China, by excerpts from the writings of the past Indian savants who have said many important things about China, all these which may not be readily available to the interested general public and research scholars. So, this volume has become a kind of parade, a kind of monitor about India’s researches, perspectives, opinions, etc. on China. To both the Indian and foreign readership this volume might provide a mirror of the Indian thinking from various angles about her most important neighbour - China.

But, this volume is more particularly targeting at the Chinese readership. Presently, there is an increasing number of Chinese intellectuals who can read English. When there is something informative or worth telling the Chinese public, there will be interested experts to render them into Chinese and place them under the purview of the wider readership in China. We very much hope the contents of this volume, wholly or partially, be communicated to the Chinese intellectuals, to the Chinese thinktank through whom even to the Chinese political leaders. We know that there is a desire on the part of Chinese high-ups to understand India, Indian psyche and Indian attitude towards China, but have not had enough feedback. Doubtlessly, without knowing India well even if China wishes to be India’s best friend she will not know how to become. Understanding is the fist step towards confidence building measures.

The same will be true for India to befriend China which cannot be achieved by mere goodwill and blind enthusiasm. In fact, it was this blind enthusiasm in the 1950s that has blown up the magnificent bubble of “Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai” and led the Indian mood onto the arena of illusion and miscalculation. A true India-China rapprochement cannot and should not return to the “Bhai Bhai” days, and let sentiments once again overwhelm rational thinking and cold calculation. Hence, the Indian ruling elite and policy-makers need to know not only how China marches towards her future goals, but also how China and her elite think of India. We notice that although mutual understanding between the two countries has improved substantially, a wide gap between the mental reconstruction and ground reality still exists. In order to bridge this gap we need to supply the Indian perspectives on China to the Chinese, and collect the Chinese perspectives on India and make them available to the Indian intellectual public. This two-way flow of information is what exactly our “Looking At Bach Other” project aims at. Thus, after this volume hits the stand we shall try to see it circulated in China. After it is read by Chinese intellectuals there is bound to be reactions and rejoinders etc. Our next agenda is to collect the feedback and bring out its companion volume which will be the “Chinese perspectives on India”.

To this volume we have given the title “Across the Himalayan Gap”. We hope that when we bring out its companion volume to reflect the Chinese perspectives on India such a title will appear outrightly outdated. We hope we shall be in a position to declare the disappearance of the “Himalayan Gap” when we christen our next volume. Actually, even in the present volume, we see many Indians, past and present, already flying across the Himalayan gap of Sino-Indian understanding. Resorting to this title actually reflects three things: (1) our strong wish that this gap should be bridged, (2) our bringing out this volume to try to bridge this gap, and (3) a scaffold of the bridge already emerging in this volume. General Banerjee, one of our contributors, has suggested that when we “look at each other”, we must not look “merely with our two open eyes, but also with our inner eye”, i.e. the eye that “provides a deeper view and a degree of understanding”. This summarizes our intention and hope. Of course, we are conscious of the probability that the perspectives reflected by this volume is a one-side view, looking at Chinese developments, historical and current, and also India-China relations only from the Indian vantage position and reflecting only the Indian psyche. It is for the Chinese readers of the volume (and readers all over the world also) to point out the gaps of understanding and what is missing from this volume. I am sure, after we gather the feedback from China (and abroad) many of our authors of this volume would like to re-respond to the Chinese (and other foreign) responses, would like to revise their opinions and conclusions, would like to argue, to debate. Then, intellectually, the relations between India and China would be enlivened, filled with candid exchanges of opinions, trading criticisms, learning how to understand each other with empathy and sympathy. Trading arguments and criticisms to the extent of exhaustion can preclude future trading of blows, and hammering misunderstanding can forge true understanding.

Through the process of doing this volume we have gathered some thoughts. Fist of all, we don’t live in a static and changeless world. As Prime Minister Rao said in China in 1993 that “we are at the threshold of a new century.” Of course, our concept of time need not be tied up with the round figures of the’ Christian calendar which we call the “Common Era”. It is legitimate to argue that the year 2000 or 2001 will be as ordinary as any other year, and there is literally no threshold or gate for us to enter into the 21st century. However, from a general historical viewpoint, we see human evolution already arriving at the crossroad whether we acknowledge it or not. On one plane, the world has completed its journey through the course of Western domination that had begun two or three centuries ago. Even without conceiving any “Asian Century” there is no gainsaying that the Eastern Hemisphere has already wrested a lot of initiatives and dynamism from its erstwhile “better half" - the Western Hemisphere. The universal belief that the West is the upper limit of cultural, in particular, scientific and technological achievements is no longer sustained. The upcoming Eastern countries are contributing greater and greater to the material life of the world that is progressively reducing the human dependence on the Western, especially European industrial output. On another plane, along with the diminution of Western domination there is a change of cultural atmosphere with containment giving way to engagement, rivalry giving way to cooperation, nationalism giving way to globalization, superpower politics giving way to economic interface and synergy. Such a new phenomenon helps us to replace, once for all, the East-West-never-meet scenario by the holistic perspective of East-in-West and West-in-East scenario. Moreover, we are already inside the threshold of the third Revolution - Information Technology. Civilization and culture have become softer and softer despite the spectre of “Clash of Civilizations” courtesy of Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington. Further more, human resources have become more precious than money and machine. Far-sighted seers have begun to attribute non-materialistic elements, like spiritual culture, ethos, dedication, morale, purposiveness, the spirit of sacrifice, and other qualities of the people as vital inputs to progress and economic growth. Considering all this epoch-making development at this crucial juncture of century/millennium-turning we must ask the questions: where will India and China stand? Any new challenge and new roles for the two nations to play on, the global stage in the coming years?

When we stand at the threshold of a fast moving world we are reminded by what Jawaharlal Nehru said in 1952 that we should “look at the long perspective of history and try to peep into the future, ignoring for the moment our present discontent,” and, then, see “the importance of India and China functioning with a measure of cooperation”. This volume has provided us with an opportunity to review what Tagore and Nehru have said about the future development of humankind. Our contributors, particularly those who look at India-China relations from a global and futuristic perspective, have echoed in their writings that a new era has dawned in the horizon. Those who have focussed attention on historical developments have also shown a dynamic spirit, and we see their observations vibrating with excitement, reflecting a yearning for new concepts and refreshing perspectives. All this becomes a clarion call to us not only to partake in the excitement and ecstasy of threshold-entering, but to contribute our mite in fuelling a refreshing perspective on India-China relationship.

Secondly, as Ambassador Ranganathan has written in this volume, there is “need for Indians to develop the habit of an independent assessment” while we study China, “rather than depend on borrowed judgements made from different strategic viewpoints.” Those of us who teach China or guide research on China in India have long felt the inadequacy of the international scholarship which was dominated by the US campuses. We were yearning for alternative perspectives and also started nursing them. Experience shows that apart from bias and prejudice (which have always been more developed in the developed world and stronger in the strong Western powers than in other countries and areas), it has been disadvantageous to look at Chinese developments from the Western cultural viewpoints than from the Indian.

While doing this volume we are all the more convinced that the time has come for us to develop either an Indian perspective or a Sino-Indian perspective in studying China. By Indian perspective we are translating Kapila Vatsyayan's advocacy into practice, we are taking a direct flight to China, not travelling via the Western Hemisphere. That is to say, we don’t carry the extra burden of prejudice emanating from other quarters. This should not be construed as an anti-Western attitude, nor do we intend to exclude the Western Hemisphere from our academic pursuit even if it deals only with India-China interface. The Western Hemisphere has been, and will always be a great source of information and wisdom in all branches of scholarship, not excluding Chinese studies. This proposition, however, does not preclude establishing an Indian perspective on China. The absence of such a perspective, so long, has not only weakened an indepth Indian understanding of China, but also hampered further promotion of mutual understanding between India and China.

In conceiving and delivering this volume we have already experienced the birthpang of creating the Indian perspective on China. We already see Indian scholars, like Prasenjit Duara and his contemporaries in the USA, and Manoranjan Mohanty and a number of others in India, taking a lead in building up the Indian perspective - or a refreshing perspective with a dynamic Indian mind behind it. Prasenjit, in fact, is in an avant-garde position, and he has many decades to shape himself as a new tide in Chinese studies. His writings are an inspiration to those of us who have taught him at Delhi University, and will always be a guiding light and landmark for the younger generations of Indian (also foreign) scholars.

I have used the term “Sino-Indian perspective” which has found echo in this volume from other contributors as well. Readers may discover that when terms such as “Indian perspective” and “Sin0-Indian perspective” enjoy limelight, there is always the “Western perspectives” lurking in’ the dark. Never mind the misnomer of “Western perspectives”, its presence here as a kind of whipping boy only shows how eager on our part to blaze a new trail in Chinese studies in India. The whipping boy should not have figured if it had not come in our way. I have no intention to cast any aspersion on Western or US scholarship on China. If there is a situation of someone more equal than others, the others should be equally blamed than someone. Learning from other quarters is not the same thing as surrendering one’s own judgement and, worse still, getting into the straitjacket laid by others. Indian scholarship on China can never prosper if it remains a faded carbon copy of the Western scholarship.

By “Sino-Indian perspective” we mean to take cognizance of the Sino-Indian interface from a holistic perspective Jawaharlal Nehru has reminded us that even when Sino-Indian relations are not what they should be we still should see the “golden links” lining up the Indian and Chinese civilizations through history. Had such a Sino-Indian perspective commanded the governments of India and China and their ruling elites in the past the deterioration of India-China relations in the 1960s would not have taken place. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in his 1988 address, said significantly: “We are summoned by our past to the tasks which the future holds. We have a mutual obligation to a common humanity. India and China can together give the world new perspectives on a world order. ..” It is from such a height that we emphasize on the adoption of the Sino-Indian perspective, that the two peoples recognize each other as their cultural cousins, that they view each other with a serious indepth understanding of each other even at the time of hostility. Our diplomat-authors have given us a ‘treat of their valuable experiences while serving in China or dealing with China in the Foreign Office in New Delhi during the overcast days. Some of the scenes are very moving conveying the truth through their anecdotes that the two great civilizations would never lose this Sino-Indian perspective-this tender feeling towards each other.

Thirdly, I think all the contributors in this volume agree with me that we are quite conscious of what we have put in black and white being always overtaken by fast developing events and fast changing perspectives. In order to avoid being judged out-dated we are always ready to revise and update our writings even if they have been well-researched with a lot of indepth and mature deliberation. Those who have joined in the discourse in this volume on India-China relations have amply suggested that the want of a dynamic perspective on the problems facing the bilateral relations in yesteryears may have jeopardized past relationship, and even when India-China discomfiture was stalemated there were initiatives on both sides to break the ice. Today, a sea change has taken place from the icy scenarios the 1960s and 1970s. And with every passing day something new is coming up in the internal developments of India and China as well as the international environment compelling a forward mood in the bilateral relations between New Delhi and Beijing. Moreover, the fleeting scenarios between Moscow and Beijing, Washington and Beijing, all the more foreclose any everlasting concepts/misconcepts, and unchanging mentality between our two capitals.

Often, Chinese diplomants and journalists who have been closely, following reports and comments published in the Indian media, are joined by Chinese academia to nurse a feeling, if not misgiving, that even today the criteria of the 1960s and 1970s are still being applied to gauge Chinese motivations and schema. Such a feeling may get mitigated after reading this volume. For, the following pages do give to the Chinese and world public a glimpse of what we may describe as the matured views on China on the part of various Indian intellectuals. We hope that all the readers, particularly the Chinese readers, can give cognizance to this maturity, and the balanced approach in most of our entries. Wherever deficiencies still prevail they are due to the want of adequate information rather than a misunderstanding culture. When an Indian and a Sino- Indian perspective grow from strength to strength, and when perspectives and insights can keep pace with the fleeting scenarios, such deficiencies may get eliminated automatically. If this volume gets wide publicity in India and is being seriously read by all those who may, in future, be asked to report or comment on China they will no longer linger in the misunderstanding culture, and a facelift will appear in the China reportage in the Indian mass media. Yet, one must reconcile to the reality that by not looking at each other for a long time, the prevalence of the misunderstanding culture was but nature And we have to allow a transitional course of transforming it into an understanding culture. This, once again, underlines the intention of bringing out this volume.

Fourthly, when we talk of the fleeting scenarios and impermanency of policies, equations, perspectives, and opinions etc., we know something will remain permanent and unalterable by any force of the world. Apart from truth, humanism, the logging for peace, the desire to befriend, the entities of India and China will remain on earth for as many, millennia in the future as they have travelled in the past. While India and China’s existence is permanent, so is India-China interface and synergy - never mind temporary set backs. In our volume we see current thinking echoing past wisdom of the savants on this point. As I pen these words, I read the new Indian Defence Minister, George Fernandes, quoting Edgar Snow that “the moment India and China become friends, the two would change the course of history,” (The Hindustan Times, April 17, 1998, p. 12). The Minister has taken many by surprise, hence his observation is weightier than tons of positive assurances from known Indian friends of China. We feel greatly encouraged by the prospect that whatever conflicting ideologies and difference in political subjects, there is universal recognition of the importance of India and China coming together for the good of humankind. This is exactly what this volume is firmly committed to.

To return to Edgar‘ Snow courtesy of George Fernandes, India and China were still to get a rightful berth in the commity of nations. Today, not only both the countries are celebrating (and about to celebrate) the golden jubilee of their Independence/Liberation, but our globe has already shrunk in size with many dominant powers of yore in shrunken strength and stature. India and China which are already “population supper powers” are only one step away from preeminence-dropping the prefix ‘population”, i.e. converting population burden into valuable assets. The agenda of unity and comrade- ship between the two countries has already emerged by itself, and the earlier it is taken up the better for both the people and humanity as a whole. It is all the more reason that this book should be read by all sensible and forward-looking Indians and Chinese who will, then, turn this spark into a prairie fire-in constructive sense.

If the book can be likened to a feast, it is served in 8 courses. In the first course we have reproduced the three speeches made by different Indian leaders in different Chinese universities: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s at Qinghua University, Beijing, in 1988; Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s at Beijing University, Beijing in 1993; and Vice-Preside (then, and now President) K.R. Narayanan’s at Fudan University, Shanghai, in 1994. I need not remind our readers that, like other such speeches delivered in India and abroad, these contain a large dosage of input from the Ministry of External Affairs,. thus reflecting the Indian government’s policies vis-a-vis China. A careful reading of them will get an insight into the basic attitude of the Government of India towards China: harking back to historical amity and cultural intercourse between two great civilizations, and looking forward to the days of future interface and synergy. Students on India-China relationship can read these speeches along with what Jawaharlal Nehru had said about China (which are quoted quite substantially in the second section of this volume) and see that India-China relations have been guided by a friendly approach, by and large, while the border dispute, the 1962 war, and the post-1962 India-China unpleasantry look like just an aberration.

In the second course, we try to exhibit the gems from the wisdom of India on China. Due to the constraint of space, the quotations are far from exhaustive, and what we have gleaned are titbits from the ideas of only six famous persons: Rammohun Roy (1772-1833), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), M.K. Gandhi (1869-1948), Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), AK. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), and P.C. Bagchi (1898-1956). These six savants either had a keen interest in Chinese history, culture and modem developments, or played a role in promoting India-China understanding. Many of the observations of these savants are sagacious and insightful. We have served on a silver platter the chopsuey of delicacies which are not available in ordinary restaurants.

Rammohun Roy’s satire about “three Chinese converts” is pungently delicious. It was written apparently with a caricature of the want of sophistry on the part of Chinese intellect, but, after reading it carefully, one finds it, in reality, a sharp exposure of the Western prejudices against the Eastern peoples. While an angry Christian missionary calls names such as “astonishing depravity”, “the depth of Satan”, “benighted creatures”, a smiling Chinese coolly quotes Confucius to teach the learned Westerner that “bad temper always turns reason out of doors”. The concluding paragraph brings out the Chinese (and Eastern) contempt on the ideas that the bearers of White Man’s Burden wish to impose on the oriental mind. Rammohun’s satire, thus, has a close reference to the ideological encounter even today.

The quotations from Tagore are mainly from “Talks in China” in 1924, and the entire recorded speech that he delivered on the Bengali New Year Day, April 14, 1937 while inaugurating Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana. Both his lecture tour to China and the founding of Cheena-Bhavana were great events in the annals of India-China relations. The importance of Tagore on India-China relations is not confined to what he said and wrote, but his spiritual influence on the Indian political leaders, particularly, Jawaharlal Nehru. When we review what Nehru said and did vis-a-vis China up till the surfacing of the border dispute, we see unmistaken inspiration of Tagore.

"I consider myself a Chinese" said Mahatma Gandhi in 1947. Before he plunged into the Independence Movement in India he had been an active lawyer in South Africa, mainly taking up cases for Indians and Chinese against the apartheid regime. On the other hand, the name “Shengxiong” (literally “holy hero”, the Chinese translation of ‘Mahatma”) commanded universal love and admiration in China. A section of the Chinese political activists in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s might not approve Gandhi’s approach of “non-violence” in the freedom struggle, but even they joined others to willingly receive inspiration from the Mahatma in their own struggle for a free and liberated China. Gandhi’s preoccupation with the domestic affairs of India prevented him from paying more attention to China. As he himself often expressed: his fighting for the independence of India was also for the freedom of China, and a free India would do; all she could to render help to China’s freedom struggle. Gandhi would honour his promise under any circumstance. Unfortunately, things went out of his control at the crucial juncture and his life, his inspiration and promise were cut short by the assassin’s bullets in 1948.

Yet, the Mahatma did have important interactions with the Chinese leaders and others. He and Nehru had separate important discussions when the Chinese head of state, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, visited India in 1942 with a specific purpose of talking to them. After the talks, Nehru and Gandhi discussed between themselves intensively about India’s support to China in the latter’s life-and-death anti-Japanese struggle, which resulted in Gandhi’s solemn pledge to China (conveyed to the Generalissimo by his own writing) that even when he (Gandhi) was launching his anti-British agitations, he would see to it that they would not harm the interest of China. I think, this is not only a historic event, but symbolizing the fond affection of India for her neighbour and cultural cousin-China.

Quotations from Nehru on China is not an easy task. Few, if any, non-Chinese statesman in human history have spoken and written so much about China as Nehru did. This very fact proves that Nehru was a Sinophile. One cannot over- emphasize the point that historical events were unkind to Nehru, that not only his dream about a close comradeship between India and China after the Independence was destroyed by the cold war which placed India and China on opposite camps, but the 1962 war further destroyed his robust health, and cut short of his outstanding life and career. Objectively, it may be argued that Nehru himself should share a part of the blame for the deterioration of India-China relations as he was the sole China-policy-maker of Government of India. But, an indepth understanding of Nehru can convincingly conclude that Nehru was more sinned than sinning.

In this abstract section, we have also included some observations of Dr. PC. Bagchi, India’s greatest sinologist, and Dr. Coomaraswamy who has left behind a rich legacy on culture and art which is specially endeared to IGNCA. The quotations reflect the fairly deep interest and understanding of scholarly minds .a couple of generations our senior.

Coming to our third course, i.e. the “Perspective” section, we are both gratified and disappointed for what we have obtained and what we have not. We were almost on the verge of getting some leading lights of academics and strategists to enshrine in our volume, but circumstances snatched away what had looked surely coming. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan’s contribution could have been much weightier if we could devise a system to record what she had already said and what she would be willing to say about Chinese culture and art from her insightful vision and abundant knowledge and information. We hope to make up this in our future publications as she continues to guide our work and academic pursuits.

We have already mentioned about Prasenjit Duara who is more than generous to let us have a piece which is going to be a chapter in his latest book. Again, we should have highlighted him more as his scholarship is truly epoch-making The next joint article authored by Ravni and me is actually inspired by Duara, and an attempt to travel along the course in which he has taken the lead. It serves as a footnote to what Duara has done both in this volume and elsewhere, particularly in understanding India and China’s response to the Western cultural influence and challenge in modem times. I hope these two articles will stimulate a wide scholarly participation in this discourse.

To Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea, Mahatma Gandhi and Chairman Mao are not just a historical phenomenon, but worthy of being placed on a much higher pedestal. Both Indian and Chinese civilizations have not only produced great saints, but also preserved a saint-worshipping culture. What she has said about Gandhi and Mao are not just the signals of her mind, but the flowers from her heart. Patricia, on the other hand, looks at Mao with a pair of pathologist’s eyes - a kind of laboratory examination with sophisticate sociological expertise. She has also selected an unusual tissue from the now much reduced colossal Mao image for her biopsy. Both the materials and methodology of Dr. Uberoi are unique and refreshing.

The two pieces thereafter by Tan Chung and Haraprasad Ray tread on identical grounds of cultural studies which have not attracted enough attention from Indian scholars so far. Ray has highlighted the famous Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang, to illustrate the Sino-Indian cultural interface that Tan Chung paints on a larger canvas, and both have under their employment the Sino-Indian prism. The two articles may be treated as tutorials for the inculcation of Sino-Indian perspective.

Hemant Adlakha is a young up-coming scholar whose passion lies in reaching an indepth understanding of China and promoting it among Indian academics. He picks up a current Chinese parlance of building up socialism with "Chinaese characteristics”. Though this very complicated and difficult topic might frighten away veterans, Hemant, in his relatively young experience and scholarship, has dared to crack the hard nut.

Through these eight articles we hope to initiate a discourse which focuses more on perspectives than on concrete issues. To quote the Chinese saying: “Zuiwengzhiyi buzai jiu” (The boozer’s real enjoyment is not in the liquor) -inebriation brings in greater pleasure than the intake of alcohol. We are not just ‘perspective” drunkards, but it is the “perspective” which leads us into pastures and wonderlands that have not heen frequented. There is so much between India and China which deserves scholarly attention, while the eight articles have not covered even a small comer.

Coming to the Fourth Section, the theme is “culture and art”. We put it in priority to other sections not just to remind our readers that this volume is the creation of an institution dedicated to the enquiries of culture and art, but we have a mission of attracting our readers to such fields before they are drawn into geo-political, gee-economic and geostrategic considerations without sufficiently inhale the fragrance and fed with the beauty of civilizations. Today, humanity is trying to put the cold war discourses on the back-burner while the cold war mentality is hard to be laid to sleep. There is a vacuum in the mind which should be filled up by the glittering gems of civilizations. To reiterate what Kapila Vatsyayan has penned in her “Foreword”, we cannot get international (particularly India-China) understanding crystalling in our mind, if it does not “spring from the heart”. And “culture and art” is a heart-warming course before practical issues engaging our minds.

Prof. M.C. Joshi, is a depository of information of art subjects, and after his visit to China in 1996, has shown enthusiasm in comparing details between Indian and Chinese, particularly Buddhist art. This is his first attempt in comparing Indian art with its Chinese counterpart in a small way. The same is the case of Prof. M.N. Deshpande whose information and insight about art and culture are without match. He was very kind to let us have a short account of his impressions about China even when he had many other assignments. Prof. Lokesh Chandra who is a living monument of Sino-Indian studies and cultural contacts has honoured us with an article to let our readers have a glimpse of his profound scholarship. Then, we have Prof. D.C. Bhattacharyya’s article on cultural linkage with profound discusssion while Dr. Arputh, arani Sengupta’s piece on Chinese Buddhist art has covered a vast canvas, bringing the Chinese scene under the purview of an Indian Prism. We are also fortunate to include an article contributed by Dr. Priyatosh Banerjee. As an octagenarian he is academically as active as people several decades younger. Both Bagyalakshmi and Radha Banerjee are closely associated with the East Asian Programme of IGNCA. Bagya gives a summary of what she is currently engaged in - preparing a comprehensive book on Guanyin, the East Asian symbol of supreme power of Kuruna (compassion). Radha’s article unfolds a religio-cultural movement which, though died down in the estern Hemisphere in a course of three centuries, had not only gathered inspirations from Buddhism on its way form West Asia to China, but also integrated in the popular “struggle ethic” in coastal China for more than a thousand years until yesterday.

The fifth course in this volume falls into four sub-divisions. In the “Socio-political Institutions” section, we have Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty discussing a very important issue of the relative growth between economic development and political democracy. Dr. Kamal Sheel chooses to investigate into the Chinese social phenomenon of “guanxi” (connections) and its influence on Chinese politics. In the section on “Economic Development”, we have two pieces by Prof. Utsa Patnaik, and Dr. S.P. Gupta, both knowledgeable about the Chinese economic development among our leading academia. Gupta's was the paper for .our 1995 Seminar without updating, Patnaik’s was originally a paper for a seminar in the Institute of Chinese Studies even earlier. But their basic perspectives and insightful projections are always valid and instructive. Prof. Patnaik’s piece, in particular, echoes with Prof. Mira Sinha’s discussion on Mao as a visionary. The two Indian academician's great admiration for a past Chinese revolutionary is itself a significant international phenomenon judging the intellectual trend in China today, trimming short historical memories to an un-Chinese extent.

We have three pieces on the “Gender” issue by Dr. Ravni Thakur, Dr. Bidyut Mohanty and Dr. Shreemati Chakrabarty. The vitally important topic relating to the conditions and fate of one fifth of humanity, i.e. the total number of women in India and China, has been focussed upon in these three articles.

Our sixth course on “History and Literature” is again divided into four sub-sections. First, there are two articles on “Tagore and China” by the Tagore Professor of the University of Delhi, Prof. Sisir Kumar Das, and myself. Originally, we were planning to jointly bring out a book on this topic. While that did not workout, we have this opportunity to put our writings together here which highlight Tagore’s importance among Chinese intellectuals and writers. Tagore, as we have seen, is an inspiration to all of us who have adopted a Sino-Indian perspective in our discourses on India and China. The more Tagore is truly understood, the better will be the development of India-China relations.

In the next sub-section we have Prof. Giri Deshingkar’s discourse on military strategy in the two countries, in addtion to Lieutenant General V.R. Ragavan’s rejoinder. The two pieces form a part of the proceedings of our 1995 seminar in which Prof. Deshingkar was the paper-presenter, and General Ragavan was the discussant. Since the philosophy of defence is almost absent in modern India (so also in China to a lesser degree), these two entries should arouse interest from more scholars and strategists of the two countries to continue this discourse.

In ‘Modern Chinese Literature”, we have gathered two articles which are parts of the Ph.D. dissertations of Dr. Manik Bhattacharyya and Dr. Sabaree Mitra. Manik has initially given us a very long piece as he has had so much to say about Lu Xun, the cynosure of his eyes, Although he has to reduce the length after so much “ge’ai” (cutting off the parts which are endeared to himself), it is one of the finest appreciations and appraisals on Lu Xun which any Indian student of Chinese literature can pen. Sabaree’s piece on a more current phenomenon in Chinese literary scene is informative and useful to literature-lovers.

In the last sub-division “India-China Relationship”, we have selected two essays. ‘The first is by, once again, Prof. Mira Sinha, who has placed Sino-Indian relations within the macro of Chairman Mao Zedong’s world strategy. In the second article,. Prof. Deshingkar, focuses on the Indian leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his impact on India-China relations. Both these articles were penned more than a decade ago. Their perspectives are, none the less still refreshing. The third article, written by a retired Indian diplomat, Ambassador S.K. Bhutani, is a very interesting account. That we have not put this article in section VII to which it also can belong is because of the special historical value provided by Bhutani.

In addition to Ambassador Bhutani, a good number of diplomatic friends have obliged us in sending in their contributions which is spread in both section VII and section VIII. In fact, the most delicious part of our “feast” lies here. I am immensely grateful to the contributors - or, should we say, the chefs of such delicious food for thought. Here they are: former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador K.P.S. Menon, Ambassador A.K. Damodaran, Ambassador Brajesh Mishra, Ambassador C.V. Ranganathan, -Ambassador S.K. Rana, Ambassador Vinod Khanna, in addition to Ambassador Eric Gonsalves and Ambassador Salman Haidar, each of whom were, at one time or another, important actors in India-China relations. Years later when all the internal reports of the Ministry of External Affairs are throw open, the public will find how these names have been pro-active in India’s tryst with China. All of them arrived on the stage when there were enormous misgiving, distrust, and unease on the diplomatic front between the two countries. But, after reading what they have penned after retirement with a hindsight, we are greatly impressed by the inner strength of the two great civilizations in enduring temporary discomforts, in seeing the bright sun behind the dark clouds.

In the “Reminiscences”, we see the memory lane of Mr. K.P.S. Monon (I should have described him as “Menon Junior”, because his illustrious father of the same namesake was India’s first Ambassador to China before and after Independence; Menon senior was also Nehru’s close advisor on foreign policy as he was appointed to the Foreign Office as a special secratary having a higher rank than the secretaries) which covered the territory of two generations of India diplomatic career in China. In time scale, the two generations trace back to the War capital Chongqing (Chung-King) in mid 1940s down to Beijing in the end of 1980s. Ambassador Menon returned from China just in time to be the Foreign Secratary to prepare for Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandhi’s historic visit to China. His talk and article included in this volume have substantial historical values. In this section, we have a range of remembalance and anecdotage that begins with K.P.S Menon’s vast canvas and ends with Vinod Khanna’s very personal reflections. To become an IFS officer during Vinod’s time was like to qualify for Imperial Examinations in China in yesteryears. In Ambassador Khanna’s diplomatic career we see an Indian youth’s determined destination for China during the Nehruvian Era. Vinod’s article will surely be the social-historian’s delight. No, I should stop scanning the menu now so that our readers are keen to taste the delicious food themeselves with a sense of hunger.

While delicacies abound in this course awaiting the connoisseur, I must at least serve one on a platter as an appetizer. Ambassador Brajesh Mishra relates how he used to walk out from the Chinese banquet halls after enjoying all the courses, even the desserts. This was the period after the Bangla Desh Operation and Chinese leaders invariably showed solidarity with Pakistan by criticizing the Government of India, hence the walk out by India’s Charge D’affaires. Premier Zhou Enlai (or some other Chinese leader) who always had a human touch thought that such unpleasant drama should not hurt the Indian diplomat’s gourmet humour, so the speeches which had earlier been fixed between the second and third course was thought-fully rescheduled to the end of feasting. Quarrelling for quarrel’s sake should not intervene in the get-togethers of international community is the message that comes out so vividly from the reminiscences of ambassadors Mishra, Damodaran, and others.

Incidentally, Mishra was also the recipient of the historically famous “Mao Smile” in 1970. I remember, soon after that my father, Prof. Tan Yun-shan of Santiniketan, visited Delhi for some work, and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received him in the Parliament House. I was present at the audience. Both Mrs. Gandhi and my father were not the talkative type, and silence always punctured their conversations on many, many occasions. This time, Mrs. Gandhi surprised us by eagerly asking about Chairman Mao’s style, obviously wanting to know how serious was the “Mao smile” towards Brajesh Mishra. My father, then, explained the long Chinese diplomatic tradition of sending proper messages on selected occasions. I think, Mrs. Gandhi got the assurance from my father that it was a very serious and sincere “smile”, and the opportunity should not be lost. I narrate this to supplement what Ambassador Mishra has said at our seminar which will he remembered as a valuable reference material. On the whole, the eight “reminiscenses” add up to a vivid recapitulation of the lifestyle of Indian  diplomacy with special focus on the Beijing scene. It is a pity that none of them has brought out their memoirs to unfold the great treasuries of information and insight as the titbits of their reminiscences have assured us about this richness. Only Ambassador Ranganathan, has served the wrap-up of his tenure as the Indian envoy-extraordinary in China-a very fruitful fulfillment of diplomatic mission and India-China Mendship and understanding with the crowning glory of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s historic visit to China. Incidentally, his was the first Indian embassy manned by 100% Sinologue officers in Beijing which is quite a record. There is another record created by him as the first Indian ambassador delivering a formal address in a Beijing conference (of the Chinese Association of Dunhuang and Turpan Studies) in 1987 in eloquent mandarian (and I am eyewitness to it). All in all, the historical value of these reminiscenses will grow when their occurrences recede to the background in the passage of time. This, in turn, adds value and weight to our volume as a reference book.

We have designed our last section as the Finale which would have a couple of more contributions from eminent quarters had there not been circumstances in our disfavour. The ten contributions we have fortunately obtained are penned by two categories of authors: diplomats who have retired and strategists who never retire. To the first category belong Ambassadors V.V. Paranjpe, C.V. Ranganathan, Eric Gonsalves, Salman Haidar. To the second belong Major General Dipankar Banerjee, joined by his senior Lieutenant General Ragavan, Mr. Swaran Singh and Mr. Sreedhar, both from the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. Last but not least, we have Prof. Surjit Mansingh who had a diplomatic career but is an academia now in a premier university specializing in international affairs including strategy.

Paranjpe is a retired IFS officer who used to do English-Chinese interpretation for India’s first Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, when he talked to leaders like Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. This article of his was published elsewhere, but, on public demand, we have included it in our volume. It not only contains valuable historical information that has been left out by official documentation of both governments, but gives valuable tips about improving India-China understanding.

I am always tempted to quote the important episode revealed by Paranjpe about Mao’s farewell words to Nehru in 1954. Seeing Nehru off to the car after treating him to a private dinner, Mao held tight Nehru’s hand and quoted ancient Chinese poet, Qu Yuan:

“0, sadness can’t be sadder

Parting company in life time;

And gladness can’t be gladder

Meeting with a new friend. ”

The two pieces written by Ambassadors Ranganathan and Gonsalves, are weighty materials that not only reflect the Indian perspective on China’s development, but also the problems faced by the Government of India in dealing with China, pointing to the right direction for improving relations with China. Ambassador Salman Haidar’s piece is the record of his talk to our 1996 Seminar when he was Foreign Secretary (the head of Indian Foreign Service). It is in the nature of spelling out India’s policy by its chief executive, hence with self-explanatory importance. Both Generals Banerjee and Raghavan are ex-fighters in the China front who now turned into experts on Indian defence strategy including its China dimension. The have approached the topic from both a historical perspective and a future prospect.

Gen. Banerjee opened with a scene in the India-China front in the 1960s. “A blanket of snow covered the earth below my feet as I drudged slowly to the observation post,” he wrote. Today, the retired general sits in an air-conditioned office to offer advice to “sane strategic planners” while tranquillity prevails where the general’s footsteps have been buried by snow for three decades. Swaran Singh’s two pieces are related to each other which can help understand the India-China task in building up the CMB (Confidence Measure Building) pertaining to the treaties signed between the two government Sreedhar’s piece voices a genuine Indian concern which, if brushed aside, would stand in the way in the long-term engagement between India and China. We would wish Chinese responses to the issues raised in this article. Prof. Mansingh has written the last word for our volume, bringing out the importance of understanding China on the part of Indian specialists and general public. She has correctly pointed out the deficiencies in India’s Chinese studies along with suggestions on their improvements.

On this constructive note, we now leave the readers to leaf through the book. It is a big meal with uneven portions, some sweet, some sour, some easy to digest, some difficult to swallow, some tender gravy, some hard substance. The book has a vast coverage of time and space, different facets, various disciplines, inter-and cross-disciplinary narratives and discourses. It tries to address to issues, appealing to beliefs of as wide a range as possible, yet weaving around a central theme - understanding between nations, particularly between India and China. It is a volume of paper and words that has the ambitions of the monkey-king, Hanuman (or his Chinese reincarnation Sun Wu Kong), to fly beyond Himalayan peaks, to reach the hands and hearts of as many Indians, Chinese, and other nationalities. We would be happy if its readership swells into five, six, seven digits. But, even if only a fraction of our dream is fulfilled, we shall deem our labour, as we look at the salt stains on our shirts, worth its salt.

TC

New Delhi

April 25, 1998

Postscript

On page xx, I have written that we were mentally prepared for the deliberations in this volume being overtaken by events. Merely two weeks after these words had been penned there arrived the Era of Pokhran II. The new turn of India-China relations makes it all the more obvious that the present volume should immediately meet its target readers and join other efforts from various quarters to bridge the Himalayan gap of understanding between India and China. Since there was already a delay in bringing out the book (which was originally meant to be a new year gift), we have decided against sending the contributions, particularly those that have a strategic angle, back to their authors for updating. Pokhran II has not only endorsed the purposiveness of our Project of “India and China Looking At Each Other”, but even urges us to go ahead and complete our Mission Part II, i.e. gathering the Chinese perspectives on India to make our next presentation to our readership. We shall be getting busy for that. I personally feel that whatever dismay and suspicions existing, it would be easier and healthier for the Sino-Indian understanding of each other now that India and China are nuclear twins. But, this can be

discussed only in another book.

Auguest 17, 1998

TC

 

[ Previous Page | Contents of the Book | Next Page ]


HomeSearchContact usIndex

[ Home | Search  |  Contact UsIndex ]

[ List of Books | Kalatattvakosa | Kalamulasastra | Kalasamalocana ]


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

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced any manner without written permission of the publisher. 

Published in 1998 by 

Gyan Publishing House

5, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj,

New Delhi - 110 002.