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Indian Leaders' Speeces in Chinese University

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Qinghua University, Beijing

 (DECEMBER 21, 1988)


I am delight at this opportunity to visit this renowned university. It is a symbol of what modern China has achieved, a symbol of the Chinese pursuit of excellence.

Thirty four years ago, my grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, came to China as a messenger of peace and goodwill and found here a spirit of both peace and goodwill. Between India and China the spirit is now being rekindled.

The coming together of India and China in the early fifties was a development of historical international importance. Not only did it presage friendship between the two most populous nations of the world, counting between them a third of all humankind, it represented what was for the time an almost unique example of two great nations, with two totally different economic and social systems, coming together to give a practical demonstration of peaceful coexistence among different systems. place in the context of the epochal change brought about in the world by the independence of India and the liberation of China, among the most important events of the mid-point of the twentieth century, the friendship which Jawaharlal Nehru sought with China was a friendship that could fundamentally affect the destiny of humankind.

 Apart from the for world peace and cooperation implicit in peace and cooperation between India and China, there was also the imperative of facing together the common problems with which both countries were confronted. We were both ancient civilisations, with memories going back into the deepest recesses of the distant past, who had both undergone a prolonged period of national trauma caused by the strangling of our freedoms, the parceling out of our economies, the stultification of our social and moral progress. We both saw the liberation of our nations not so much as the culmination of a struggle but as the beginning of an opportunity to serve our people, build our economies, transform our societies and take our countries forward.

Through the period of our struggle for freedom and your struggle for liberation, India and China viewed developments in Each other’s countries with deep sympathy and understanding. Our great national poet, Rabindranath Tagore, started a Cheena-Bhavan  (the House of China) at his Universal University, Visva-Bharati, at Santiniketan, of which I now have the honour to be Chancellor. Our involvement in your liberation struggle found expression in the immortal mission which Dr. Kotnis led to China. Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged friendship between India and China as a major pillar of the post-colonial world order.

India and China worked together for peace in Asia and the world when they first emerged from the thralldom of imperialism. Together we saw that the world order was vitiated by confrontation, by a lack of respect for the sovereign equality of nation, by intolerance of alternative national systems for the organisation of political, economic and social life, We saw that our newly won independence would be secure only in a world which had liberated itself from the assumptions and prejudices of the past.

A striking example of the persistence of past prejudice was the refusal to recognise the People’s Republic of China, the culmination of the great revolution which had swept China. India was among the first to recognise the great and welcome change that had burst upon your country. Those who refused to recognise that the China of the Opium Wars had been consigned to the pages of history began menacing the new China from different directions and in different ways. Through this period of tribulation. India stood by China.

Another manifestation of the persistence of the old ways into the new era was the attempt which was made to restore the colonialisms that had crumbled during the Second World War. The attempt was doomed, but not before hundreds of thousands had perished in this dangerously reactionary endeavour. The agony was most long drawn out in indo-China. India and China, representing the resurgent voice of resurgent Asia, worked towards ending colonialism everywhere, taking the world from under the shadow of the past into the sunlight of the new era.

Together, india and China articulated a new philosophy summed up in the Panchsheel, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-aggression; non-interference; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence.

There have been many momentous events in the three and a half decades that have gone by since we jointly adopted these principles. We have had serious differences among ourselves, leading at one stage even to armed conflict. We have not always been of one view of international issues.

In contrast to warmth of our friendship and a shared sense of purpose which marked our joint endeavours in the early years, the last thirty years or so have been a period of estrangement. Contacts between us have been sharply reduced. Information about each other has become the preserve of scholars instead of being the knowledge of people. A sense of persisting differences prevailed over the early sense of common perceptions and common goals. Despite this, india and China held similar views on a number of matters of international importance and India continued to support China on such crucial issues as the restoration to China of its rightful place in the United Nations system.

We have seen vast progress in each of our countries. Where once there was China of famines and shortages, now there is a China self-reliant in feeding its people. Where once there was a China with bust nascent industry, now there is a China looking with conviction and confidence towards becoming one of the world’s major economic powers in the 21st century. At one time, China suffered from low levels of literacy, backward-looking social practices and rapid population growth. Now there is a China respected the world over for what it has achieved in giving education to its people, promoting social progress in different spheres of human endeavour, and making a remarkable effort and population planning.

India to has undergone a major structural transformation. We too have overcome our vulnerability to famines and food shortages and are now self-sufficient in food grains production.

Our industry has developed from its earlier fledgling stages. Today, we have a broad industrial base with a highly diversified industrial structure. In education, we have steadily increased our literacy rates and we aim at universal elementary education by the beginning of the next decade.

Social progress has been evident in such areas as the removal of untouchability, affirmative action in favour of disadvantaged sections of society, education for girls and the integration of women into the mainstream of the nation’s progress.

Both our contries have given priority to the development of science and technology. Your achievements in space are truly remarkable and justly admired. You are doing important work in frontier areas of superconductivity, medicine and biotechnology. We in India are also working in these areas. We are among the few countries which have developed remote sensing satellite electronics and material sciences. In telecommunications, we have developed our own digital switching system. Both of us have significant capabilities in the field of software development including work in the most sophisticated areas. There are possibilities of India and China undertaking joi8nt research in critical areas of electronics.

While there is comparability and complementarily between that we have achieved, it is interesting that we have achieved what we have in ways that are remarkably different, one to the other.

The three pillars of India’s modern nationhood are parliamentary democracy, secularism and socialism.

We have a multiplicity of political parties and elected legislatures at the Central and State levels, in addition to elected local bodies. Government are formed by the party or combination of parties constituting a majority in the legislature and are, in turn, responsible to the legislature. At periodic intervals, normally of five years, the electorate renews or changes its mandate. Our system allows for different parties to come to power at different levels at different times. It also allows for different parties to rule at the Centre and in the States and in the local bodies at the same time. Equal rights are guaranteed by our Constitution and assured by our democratic process to all minorities, religious, ethnic, linguistic. Our judiciary is independent of the executive. Our press is free to report, comment and criticise. We believe that freedom of expression and the free exchange of views are not only intrinsically valuable but have also promoted stability in our society by furnishing safely values which forestall social and economic pressures before these trigger of an explosion. Democracy has enabled us to maintain a steady course through four decades of rapid change.

The second pillar of our State is secularism. It is a word with different connotations in different languages, We mean by secularism that the State in India does not interfere in the religious practices of its citizens, nor does it encourage the mixing of religion with politics. The State has no religion. At the same time, our State respects the religious sensibilities of our people, values the spiritual and cultural strength which religion imparts, and ensures full freedom of worship and propagation for all religions. Nearly twenty per cent of our population belongs to various religious minorities, the largest of these being the Muslims. All our religious groupings have a high and honoured place in our society, with the assurance that no section of our people will be discriminated against on grounds of religion. Special programmes have been put in place to assist minorities in need of special assistance.

Socialism in India is indigenous to our experience and our conditions. It is not a dogma. It is responsive to changing circumstances. It has had the resilience to develop with time. The focus of our socialism is the uplift of the poor, succour to the weak, justice to the oppressed and balanced regional development. To attain these ends, we believe the State must control the commanding heights of the economy, and that self-reliance should be the first principle of development. We stress that the pattern of progress must be so designed as to give all parts of the country equitable opportunities of growth and all sections of our people an equitable share of the fruits of development. Our emphasis on balanced regional growth and our accent on the reduction of social disparities have meant leavening the imperatives of growth with considerations of equity. Our socialism sees the thrust of the development effort as growth with social justice.

Our development strategy is one of planning for a mixed economy. The State sector is predominant in core and heavy industry and also in much of infrastructure, but most of light industry and all of agriculture is in the private sector. Our development objective is the modernisation and transformation of our economy with an overriding priority to the elimination of poverty, Planning in a democratic framework necessarily places great importance on evolving a consensus on goals and instruments, At times, this imposes constraints in the larger interest of democratic consensus and participation.

This strategy has served us well. We have succeeded in setting our economy on an accelerating growth path, Agricultural productivity and production have increased steadily and the vulnerability of agriculture to the weather has been reduced. Industry is now growing rapidly. We hope to accelerate our growth further in the next decade. Fcodgrains output will be doubled over the next ten to fifteen years. Our Perspective Plan envisages the eradication of poverty and unemployment by the end of the century.

But many problems remain. Our rate of growth of population remains too high. While impressive increases in foodgrains production have been recorded in many parts of our country, the task ahead is that of spreading this Green Revolution to new areas and to new crops. We have to make our industry more efficient and competitive, with better products and higher quality. We believe that much sharper domestic competition is necessary to ensure this. It is also necessary, progressively, to open up our industry to the pressures of international competition.

To tackle these problems, we in India have taken, as you in China have done, new steps and new initiatives in economic policy, while remaining true to our basic principles. We have embarked on a process of planned liberalisation giving much greater autonomy to our public sector enterprises and greater flexibility to our private sector to invest, expand and upgrade technology. Indian industry has reached a stage where it must increasingly integrate with the world economy in terms of technology, quality and cost competitiveness. We are encouraging foreign investment where it can help our efforts to modernise. We are also trying to decentralise planning and decision-making to secure better results, This is especially important for our strategies of rural development. A key element of this strategy is increasing people’s participation in the planning process.

In this context, your own bold experiments in economic reform are of special interest to us. They have already produced rich dividends for China. We believe we have much to learn from your experience. Some of what we are doing in India may also be of interest to you. No two developing countries are more similarly placed than yours and ours. Despite differences in philosophies of planning and methods of management. India and China can give and take a great deal from each other. We believe you share this view.

I represent a new generation in India. I was but a boy in the heyday of India-China friendship. I was still a young man when differences were converted into conflict. I have grown in a world which has not benefited but only been disadvantaged by estrangement between India and China. I have come to office with the firm conviction that, between ourselves, we must make a new beginning. I am heartened that the Chinese leadership is more than prepared to put behind us past rancour and past prejudices. I am heartened that we are both prepared not to be mired in the past. As we enter the last decade of this century. India and China are called upon to look forward, not behind, to reach out to new horizons, to seek new vistas of friendship and cooperation, to explore new paths of benefit to each other and of benefit to the world.

I do not believe our joint advocacy of peaceful coexistence was either a coincidence or a accident of history. It arose out of certain perceptions which had grown out of our historical experience. I would like to dwell a little on this.

The distinguishing characteristic of the civilisations of India and China is not so much their antiquity as their continuity Nevertheless, specific interactions between our civilisations have not been continuous despite the thousands of years that our respective civilisations have run a prallel course of continuity. The exchanges were, perhaps, at their most intense during the period of the Three Kingdoms in China when there was much trade and travel between India and China, when Indian art influenced Chinese art, when the artifacts and products and technology of China came to India. For centuries, Indian ports were a regular point of call for Chinese ships. The prosperity of the Chola empire in southern India was largely based on their trade with China. Till today, the fishing nets of kerala, on the south-west coast of India, are called Chinese nets and designed on the Chinese pattern. This phase in our mutual exchanges was bracketed by the accounts left behind by two of the greatest Chinese travellers to India: Fa Xian in the 5th Century, who visited our University at Nalanda, which housed a large Chinese community, and Xuan Zang in the 7th Century A.D. who was a guest at the court of our last great Buddhist Emperor, Harshavardhana.

It was the message of the Buddha that led to an awakening of awareness and an intensification of exchanges between our two great civilisation. It has given us insights into the human condition which are more profound and long-lasting than would be indicated by a mere cataloguing of when Bodhidharma sailed to Canton or Yi Jing came to India. Drawing on these insights, Jawaharlal Nehru declared here in Beijing thirty four years ago:

“Fear and hatred and violence have darkened man’s horizon for many years. Violence breeds violence, hatred degrades stultifies, and fear is a bad companion”.

It is perhaps such insights which enabled our two contemporary systems, so different from one another, to formulate common principle for the sustenance of the new world order which, together, we sought.

Another characteristic of our civilisations which perhaps led us towards the concept of peaceful coexistence was our millennial experience of synthesis. It helped us recongnise that the modern world demanded understanding and respect for the diversity of political and economic systems the world over. While others sought to impose uniformity by persuasion or force, India and China spoke up for coexistence among different social and economic systems. It was an affirmation made by two ancient civilisations, now turned into two modern states, but following very different social and economic systems.

I am conscious of the fact that, although India and China were the architects of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, our own relations have not always conformed to these principles. We have had differences of perception and differences of opinion. Yet what must not be forgotten in a listing of differences is a listing of commonalities in our world outlook. There has been significant parallelism in the views expressed by India and China on a wide range of issues relating to world security, the international political order, the new international economic order, global concerns in regard to the environment and space, matters of momentous significance such as the Law of the Sea and the Antarctic Treaty, information and communication, culture and art. There are and have been differences but, considering the fact that India is a member of the Non-aligned Movement and China is not, that India is a member of the Group of 77 and China is not, that India is not a nuclear weapon power and China is, it is significant that there is such a wide area of commonality between our points of view and so much scope for further dialogue for the attainment of shared objectives.

Now, as the spirit of the mid-fifties is rekindled, the time has come to end our estrangement and make a new beginning. We must find an acceptable solution to the boundary question within a realistic time-frame. This can be achieved in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and mutual confidence. The border issue is a complex one, touching as it does upon the emotions and sentiments of our people. These aspects have salience in China too. We need patience, wisdom and statesmanship to resolve the issue to the mutual benefit of our peoples. The core of any solution that may emer4ge is mutual acceptability. We should jointly endeavour to find such a solution in order to put relations between India and China on a soled basis. We are determined to move in this direction. It is important that while we search for a solution, peace and tranquillity are maintained in the border areas. I have every hope that during this visit we will, together with our Chinese fiends, build a better political climate for the solution of the border question.

Cooperation between India and China should be expanded significantly. Trade between us is far below the potential of our economies. Cooperation in science and technology is still to take off. I believe that economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation between the two countries will greatly contribute to better understanding between our peoples and our governments, and will indirectly help us in solving complex problems.

We are at an important conjuncture in world affairs. There is a palpable relaxation of dialogue replacing confrontation.

The people of Namibia are at long last on the verge of securing their freedom. Their struggle for independence has been a saga of courage and dignity. However, in South Africa, the abomination of apartheid persists. We demand comprehensive, mandatory sanctions against Pretoria under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, failing Charter, failing which we apprehend an unprecedented bloodbath in the struggle to end this iniquity.

There has been a radical turn of events in West Asia. A Palestinian State has been proclaimed. It has been recognised by both China and India and other peace-loving countries the world over.

We are glad that dialogue has begun between the United States and the palestine Liberation Organisation. We extend our whole-hearted support to the three-point Palestinian Peace Initiative put forward by our brother, Chairman Yasser Arafat. The spirit of tolerance which he has evoked is in keeping with the traditions of Asia and the aspirations of our continent.

In Kampuchea, a solution appears to be emerging which could both end the conflict and forestall the resurgence of the force of genocide. We would welcome cooperation among all concerned in fostering a just and equitable settlement in Kampuchea which will ensure the independence, sovereignty and nonaligned status of that country, free of outside interference and Intervention.

In South Asia, a new dawn is breaking. South Asian regional cooperation has made a good beginning. Recent changes in Pakistan, with the emergence of a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, have opened up encouraging prospects for enduring prospects for enduring friendship and goodwill between our countries, reflecting the natural affinities and affection which the people of India and Pakistan have for each other. In Sri Lanka, the Accord which I signed with President jayewardene guarantees the unity and territorial integrity of that country and has brought respect, recognition and a meaningful devolution of powers to the Tamil minority. In the Maldives, our immediate response to the cal for assistance from a friendly neighbour in his hour of need has ensured the triumph of the democratic will of the people of the Maldives against the forces of subversion and destabilisation. In Afganistan, we are persuaded that strict respect for the Geneva Accords will lead to the emergence of a government based on national consensus, which can ensure the independence, integrity and nonaligned status of the country, provided only there is a complete cessation of all outside interference and intervention in the affairs of the country.

At this crucial turning point in contemporary history, we must assess afresh the work that India and China can do, individually and together, in fashioning the new world order which is emerging from the chrysalis of the old.

The two major nuclear weapon powers have agreed in principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru recognised this in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It augurs well for the future of our world that this perception has now gained wider currency. We are encouraged that this principle has received practical expression in the form of a dismantling of intermediate nuclear forces and the initiation of a process designed to secure strategic arms cuts.

The moot question before us is whether these first ever steps of nuclear disarmament presage movement towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Or do these steps merely presage a marginal adjustment in global strategic deployment, perhaps even the shifting of the nuclear arms race into new and ever more dangerous dimensions?

In answering these questions, the task before us is not just to wait upon events but to influence them. India and China can together do a great deal to ensure that the moves which have now been initiated proceed in the only direction which promises sustained peace and sustainable development. To this end, our first step must be to resuscitate and revitalise our decades-old commitment to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

There are two basic arguments which sustain nuclear weapons. The first is that as such weapons have been invented, they cannot now be disinvented. The second is the doctrine of deterrence which holds that it is only your capacity to destroy your opponent which forestalls your opponent from destroying you.

The danger of universal destruction through the use of nuclear weapons arises not so much from the fact of their invention as from an international system which concedes their need and legitimises their possession and use. It is the old order which resulted in the invention of these terrible weapons. We cannot disinvent these weapons but we can certainly alter the world order which has given them legitimacy and tolerated their continued existence.

As regards the doctrines of deterrence, they have not worked in the past because the balance of power is an inherently unstable balance, which all the parties concerned are all the time attempting to upset in their favour and to the disadvantage of others. For deterrence to be credible, there must be commitment to the use of the instruments of deterrence. But, in the era of nuclear weapons, the use of such weapons will only lead to global holocaust.

Therefore, nuclear disarmament requires not only the dismantling of nuclear weapons but, even more importantly, the dismantling of the mentalities which go with these weapons. We need to evolve generally accepted principles of international security to replace doctrines of deterrence. We need to evolve systems of conflict-resolution which forestall the resort to arms. We need to promote thinking about the world order required to sustain a world beyond nuclear weapons. Advance thinking on these matters is essential. Otherwise, even after nuclear weapons are eliminated, the danger will remain of the world slipping back into the nuclear arms race. That alternative process of thinking could best commence from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence which India and China were the first to enunciate.

The alternative process of thinking cannot limit itself to security and the international political order alone. It must embrace economics, the environment, space and our common heritage.

As developing countries, India and China share common concerns about the functioning of the international economic order. The world economy continues to be charcterised by inadequacies and imbalances which hamper development in the developing countries. India and China have been hurt much less than many other developing countries but neither of us can afford to be complacent. Both in the area of international finance and in the areas of trade, there disturbing trends which weaken established multialteral institutions and mechanisms. The world pays lip service to interdependence and cooperation but commitment to these concepts in practice is less evident. These trends are dangerous for the North as well as the South. We must reconstruct a consensus on international economic forums to bring about a new international political order would be of little comfort, difficult to attain and impossible to sustain.

In the last decade, political and economic changes have been leading to the emergence of a multipolar world. The European community seems to be firmly set on establishing an integrated European economy by 1992, though unresolved questions still remain. Japan has emerged as a major economic centre whose decisions influence the rest of the world. The inherent strength and vitality of the American economy, and especially their advanced technology, remain crucial to the international economy. The Soviet Union is restructuring its economy with profound global implications. How these power centres will act and react on each other and how they will impact on the developing world are matters for serious analysis. The intertwining of economic power and military strength could create new security concerns. It is all the more important then that we actively work for a new internationa order where questions of peace and security are settled through non-violent means.

Another area of international action in which fruitful cooperation between India and China is indicated could be in regard to the environment. We have both suffered the consequences of environmental degradation. We have both worked on programmes designed to make conservation an integral part of the development process. We have both recognised that the cost of preserving the environment is an essential component of the costs of development because, if these costs are not recognised and paid for now, degradation will exact a much higher price than conservation. There is much work we can do together, many lessons we can learn from each other, and something we can add to the world’s repository of knowledge by conscious cooperation in the interests of sustainable development.

We are both comitted to the peaceful uses of outer space. We have both protested against attempts to misuse space for military applications. We both believe that nothing could be more dangerous than the shifting of the nuclear arms race into this new dimension. We are also both concerned at space being converted at space being converted into a garbage dump for the technology experiments of the advanced economies, Like the seas and the seabed, space too is a common heritage of humankind. It is a heritage which all of us must work together to preserve.

Between us, we are the ‘repositories of some of the most significant treasures of human inheritance. We believe in international cooperation to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of humankind. When UNESCO came under siege, India and chins were together on the same side in defending the organisation and asserting its vital role.

Now that the world is beginning to explore the possibility of coexistence in preference to deterrence, of cooperation in preference to rivalry, of interdependence in preference to beggaring the neighbour, of nuclear disarmament in preference to nuclear escalation, it behoves the original advocates of the Panchsheel - India and China - to set themselves up as an example to the world.

l see optimism in both India and China today; optimism about the progress our countries can make, optimism about realising our goals of development, optimism about the levels of cooperation we can reach, optimism about the work we can do together to restore our countries to their traditional position in the vanguard of human civilisation, optimism about the contribution we can make to rebuilding the world order nearer our hearts’ desire.

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 new world order, which will ensure peace among nations and justice among peoples, equity for each and prosperity for all, freedom from fear and freedom from want, a world where we live together in happiness and harmony.


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

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