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


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

Indian Savants' Obsrvations on China

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru


January 16, 1929

Unfortunately little is known in India of the present conditions in China. It is generally assumed that China has gained her freedom from Western imperialism. A resolution congratulating China was passed by the National Congress although some of us pointed out the true facts and opposed the resolution.

(Letter to Soong Chingling, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, henceforth, SWJN, Vol. 4, p. 85.)

July 3,1937

India and China -vast countries, but bigger than the size of these great countries are the problems that face them. Both are world problems of the first magnitude, and what happens ultimately in India or China is of great significance to the world at large. It is right, therefore, that we should know each other well and understand each other, for we may have much to do with each other in the future.

(Foreword for the Chinese translation of India and the World, J.N. Correspondence, N.M.M.L. i.e. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.)


July7, 1938

There are M two countries which have had so long and continuous a stream of culture...The world today, so advanced in many ways. is yet showing shocking deterioration of morality, and in arresting its spread, the countries like Chine and India with their great cultures have a mission.

(SWJN, Vol. 9, p. 56.)


July 31, 1938

All Asians are aware that the Heavenly Empire (China) is fighting for their common aim. The Indian sympathies for China are understandable, as China is nearest to us and our relations with her are thousand-years old.

(Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, pt. III sn 284, N.M.M.L.)


August 21,1938

India’s sympathy goes for China for a variety of reasons. Like China, India is aspiring and fighting for national freedom. The forces of national freedom in both countries extend to each other the hand of sympathy and support...India has a fourfold task to perform: (1) She must ceaselessly condemn the dispatch of Indian troops to China and demand their withdrawal as also that of Indian people attached to the British consulates in China; (2) she must organise an effective boycott of Japanese goods; (3) she must educate the people never to supply men and material to the British Empire in its wars; and (4) she must pay to China till it pinches. The ancient friendship of the two peoples of China and India must now be reinforced by the new camaraderie of the NO freedom-loving nations.

(SWJN, Vol. 9, p. 209.)


December 27, 1936

...we have had innumerable great demonstrations in favour of the Chinese people, and the whole of India has felt at one with them in their hour of trial. To send you our sympathy is a poor enough gift when you have to face great trials and privations, even an account of which makes us shudder....I have the fullest faith in China’s future and I am convinced that she will triumph over her present difficulties.

(Letter to Soong Chingling, SWJN, Voi .9, p. 632.)


August 5, 1939

The two formidable powers in the world today are Russia and the U.S.A.... The two would-be mighty powers of the world are India and China.

(SWJN,Vol. 10, p. 117.)


August 29,1939

The relation of China and India goes back to thousands of years. Many of our principles are similar and our gains and losses are complementary The time is ripe when we should join hands and proceed on the path of freedom and progress.

(Translation of Hindi broadcast, Chungking, J.N. Papers, N.M.M.L.)


October 13,1939

I wish we could do more to assist the China Defence League. At present however everything is in the melting pot here as elsewhere....in discussing the future of India and war aims and peace aims with the British Government, we have laid stress on a free China. We cannot expect the British Government to say anything which might create difficulties for them with Japan. But we do expect that they will not alter their China policy to the disadvantage of China.

(Letter to Soong Chingling, SWJN, Vol. 10, p. 552.)


January 17, 1940

In Kashmir I was not far from Chinese territory and my thoughts often went to China and what was happening there. There was Tibet, not far from us, and Chinese Turkestan, but mighty mountains stood as barriers between us.”

Letter to Soong Mailing

(JN Papers, Vol. 13, p. 16.)


February 21, 1940

The magnificent way in which China has stood up to Japanese aggression has won for her the sympathy and admiration of India and of people throughout the world....The Chinese people, engaged as they have been for two and half years in a life and death struggle, have yet paid a great deal of attention to...constructive activities....

A recent instance shows how these industrial cooperatives deal with major problems. The magnificent road that has been built from Kunming to the Burma border is now one of the main routes into and out of China. This road brings China very near to Burma and India and along this road, and the railway that is being built alongside, will no doubt flow merchandise and all manner of goods. The economic intercourse between India and China will thus grow and the bonds that unite China and India will increase to their mutual advantage.

(ibid, p. 561.)


December 23, 1945

It seems obvious to me that in the future India and China will necessarily come nearer to each other. By that I do not mean mere continuation of the ancient bonds, although they will of course be there. Taking an objective view of the world situation as it seems to develop, it seems inevitable that in their own interests, China, India and some other countries of South East Asia will have to hang together and develop together, not only culturally but economically as well, through the contacts of trade and commerce. They will not be able otherwise effectively to resist the aggression of the so called Western Powers. . ..A strong and united China and a strong and united India must come close to each other. Their amity and friendship will not only lead to their mutual benefit but will also benefit the world at large.

(Presidential address at the Fifth Annual General Meeting of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society, held at Santiniketan)



It was through Buddhism that China and India came near to each other and developed many contacts.

(The Discovery of India, Signet Press, Calcutta, 1946, p. 200.)

We have seen how the Chinese people, after seven years of horrible war, have not lost the anchor of their faith or the gaiety of their minds.

(ibid, 1946, p. 67.)

The ancient wisdom of China and India, the Tao or the True path, wrote Tagore to Dr. Tai Chi-tao (Dai Jitao), was the pursuit of completeness, the blending of life’s diverse work with the joy of living.

(ibid, pp. 86-87.)

In India, as in China, learning and erudition have always stood high in public esteem.

(ibid, p. 88.)

China and India have stood for certain ideals in human life for ages past. These ideals must be adapted to the changing circumstances of the world today. But they must remain to guide us in the future as they have done in the past. I trust that it may be given to our two countries to cooperate together in the cause of world peace and freedom and that neither of us, in good fortune or ill fortune, will lace our souls in the pursuit of some temporary advantages.

(JN Papers, pt I, Vol. 48, p. 55.)


January 20, 1946

The news from China that the civil war has ended and a basis of agreement arrived at to ensure the unity and the peaceful development of China has been received with the liveliest satisfaction in India. ...The major fact is that China has had the wisdom of compose its internal quarrel. This is a matter of major significance to India to Asia and to the world. We all look to China to take and lead in the regeneration of Asia. ...If China and India hold together the future of Asia is assured.

(SWJN, Vol. 3 p. 336.)


September 7, 1946

China, that mighty country with a mighty past, our neighbour, has been our friend through the ages and that friendship will endure and grow. We earnestly hope that her present troubles will end soon and a united and democratic China will emerge, playing a great part in the furtherance of world peace and progress.

(Broadcast over All India Radio, Sept. 7, 1946, ibid, p, 407.)


October 19, 1946

Although yet faltering like a patient getting up from the sickbed or a prisoner released from jail, India is today among the four great powers of the world, other three being America, Russia and China. But in point of resources India has a greater potential than China.

(Address to army officers, Oct. 19, 1946, The Hindu, ibid, p. 311.)


November 13, 1946

In the previous summary Russians, Chinese and other nationalities are put in a class apart to whom visas should not be granted without prior reference. This, as I have stated above, is discrimination against some nations which will naturally be resented. We are trying to develop friendly relations with China and it seems odd that we should prevent the Chinese from coming to India except on official or very special business.

(Instructions to External Affairs Department, SWJN, 2nd Series, Vol. 1, p. 211.)


March 27, 1947

China, that mighty country with a mighty past, our neighbour, has been our friend throughout the ages and that friendship will endure and grow.

(Inaugural speech at the Asian Relations Conference. New Delhi, p. 4.)

We welcome you, delegations and representatives from China, that great country to which Asia owes so much and from which so much is expected.

Inaugural speech at the Asian Relations Conference, New Delhi,

(Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches Vol. 1, p, 209.)


What more wonderful journey there can be than to follow the old caravan routes right across Asia or from India to China via Turkistan and Sinkiang? I am filled with regret when I think that perhaps I shall never have the time or the opportunity to undertake this long, arduous and yet leisurely journey. For many years I have gazed at the map of Asia and traced these routes traversed by famous travellers. I have read many books about these travels and sought to satisfy thereby my own wander lust. Asia fascinates me, the long past of Asia, the achievements of Asia through millennia of history, the troubled present of Asia, and the future that is taking shape almost before our eyes. Perhaps if I actually visit many of the places in Asia, about which I have read so much, I would be disappointed for the old glory has departed and often where a proud culture flourished only a backward desert now remains, It is more satisfying to see ruins which the imagination can fill as it chooses.

(Foreword to KPS Menon’s book: Delhi-Churtgking, in SWJN, Second series, Vol. 2, p. 406.)


July 3, 1948

It is more than 20 years since I had a glimpse of you in a Moscow hotel. Ever since then I had hoped and wished to meet you again, for to see you and meet you is to gain faith in the vital things of life, and sometimes one wants that faith very badly. You have been a beacon not only to China but to many people in other countries. I do not know if you would realise how much your radiant personality has meant to others. I wish I could come to China and meet you. for I fear you will not come to India. But why should you not come to India for a little while? It till be good for us and good for you also if I may say so. But whether we meet or not, I think of you often and the photograph you sent me long ago looks at me and cheers me up.

(Letter to Madam Sun Yat Sen, in ibid, Vol. 7, p, 661,)

(In her letter, to Nehru dated April 9, 1948, Soong observed : “India and China are like giant oxen, burdened with an irritating yoke of outside interference pulling against the weight,of feudalism and exploitation”. To this Nehru replied :We had more than our fill of trouble and perhaps you have had more than your fill.“--Editor.)



From a world point of view, probably the most important event is the success of the Communist armies in China. Undoubtedly this is affecting, and will affect more and more in the future, not only the entire position in Asia but in the world. For us in India, it is of the utmost importance.

(Letter to the Chief Ministers, Ad. 1, 1949, ibid, Vol. 10, p, 303.)

The policy of some of the Western Powers has been generally to suport the more conservative governments in South East Asia. This policy has failed. In China, even big scale suport by the U.S.A. has not succeeded in making any difference. Indeed, psychologically speaking, it has been a definite disadvantage. People in China have felt that the Chinese Government was becoming a stooge of foreign powers and have turned away from it. It may be said that the, victory of the Communists in China is due less to their inherent strength than to the disintegration of the Nationalist Government and its exceeding unpopularity with all classes of people. It could not learn the lesson in time and so it is passing into history.

(ibid, p. 305.)


May 14, 1949

What is happening in China is of course of major importance not only to Asia but to the whole world and every step that we might take in regard to it has to be most carefully considered. Our desire has always been and is to retain the friendship of the Chinese people and to cooperate with them as far as possible. That will be our guiding principle.

(Letter to the Chief Minister, ibid, Vol. 11, p. 269.)


June 3, 1949

The question of Hong Kong will then no doubt arise and this may give rise to a lot of trouble. Undoubtedly Hong Kong is Chinese and must, some time or other, revert to China. I supose the U.K. Government must realise this, although they have a perpetual lease of Hong Kong. No Chinese government, Nationalist or communist, can agree to any foreign power holding on to Chinese territory.

(Letter to the Chief Ministers, ibid, Vol. 11, p. 275.)


June 4, 1949

The Chinese revolution, as I have previously pointed out to you, is one of the biggest changes and upheavals in history and it is going to have very far-reaching consequences. Those consequences cannot simply be judged in terms of communism. This Chinese revolution has been said to be a continuation of the revolution that started in China in 1911 when the Manchu dynasty was thrown out. Since then, for these long years, China has been in great travail and her millions have suffered terribly, and essentially all these ups and downs of forty-eight years have been parts of a major agrarian revolution. No one can say what the future of China will be. The country will still take a fairly considerable time to settle down in any form. Standards are very low there and communism by itself does not raise standards, though a better organisation of the agrarian system does relieve the burden on the peasantry to some extent. Ultimately standards can only be raised by greater production as well as proper distribution.

Competent observers, well-acquainted with the Chinese scene, say that the leaders of the Chinese communists are certainly one hundred per cent Marxists, but their interpretation of Marxism is not always in line with the present Russian interpretation. Apart from this it is always made to fit in realistically with conditions in China. I think it may be said with truth that in spite of the sympathy that the Soviet Russia has for communist China, the former has not viewed with favour many developments in China. Only four years ago, Soviet Russia, in a sense, disowned the communists of China by making a treaty with the Nationalist Government. It is also, on the whole, true that the Soviet Russia has not helped with any supplies to communist armies of China. Their supplies had largely come from Japanese dumps left after the War and from capture of American material given to the Nationalist armies.

The Chinese communist armies, therefore, have gained their success not with Soviet aid but relying largely upon themselves. Therefore they are not dependent on the Soviets, as many communist parties and groups in Europe have been. They have shown this independence on various occasions. Their leaders are undoubtedly able men and they have twenty-five years hard experience behind them. Neutral and even hostile observers have stated that their solution of the land problem is for the moment effective and has given satisfaction to the peasantry. Also that their administration has compared very favourably, both from the point of view of efficiency and integrity, with the administration of the Nationalist Government in China. All this leads to the conclusion that the agrarian problem is first in priority in large pads of Asia, including India.

(ibid, p. 294.)


October 24, 1949

But there is one point about the Communist victory in China. It continues an agrarian revolution that has been going on for years all over Asia. In India we have been wiser. We have broken up the big estates and are bringing in a system of peasant ownership. We are giving compensation to the old owners at a tremendous cost because we think it is cheaper than violence. In China there are no concessions to this agrarian revolution which has been captured by the Communists. Whatever one thinks of the Communist victory, one cannot ignore this basic reality.

(Nehru’s reply at the Press Conference at Ottawa, Oct. 24, 1949, ibid, Vol. 13, p. 404.)


December 18, 1949

In common with other Governments we cannot ignore realities. The Indian Ambassador at Nanking had been recalled to New Delhi to confer on the question of recognizing Communist China. The basic problem of China is agrarian and the solution of that problem will better the course of developments in China. The same aplies to India. We are putting an end to the big landlord system gradually. Thus one of the major upsetting features of Asia has been controlled in India because of the Government’s policy of breaking up huge landlord estates and farming areas and distributing these among the individual farmers.

(Speech at the Verses Club, New York, Dec. 18, 1949, ibid, Vol. 13, p. 306.)


March 17, 1950

China is the country for which I have the greatest admirations. There have been big changes there. The honourable Member Mr. Hiren Mukherjee suggested that we emulate China. I will be glad to do so as far as I can but I would like to remind Mr. Hiren Mukherjee that till only a year ago, China was looked upon as a country where corruption, black marketing and every kind of evil prevailed. ...My point is that the situation in China today is not quite what it was a year ago. Perhaps the People’s Government of China is more effective that we are; let us by all means try to emulate them in this respect.

(Letter to Chief Ministers, Vol. 2 p. 25.)


December 7, 1950

...there are certain countries like India and China with pronounced national characteristics where history and tradition exert a profound influence on the course of events. I am sure there is a great deal of good in the tradition. We should have gone under but for that.

(ibid, p. 240.)


January 12, 1951

Great nations have arisen in Asia with long memories of the past they have lived through and with their eyes fixed on a future of promise, ...China has taken a new shape and a new form. But whether we like that shape and form or not, we have to recognize that a great nation has been reborn and is concious of her new strength. China in her new-found strength, has acted sometimes in a manner which I deeply regret. But we have to remember the background of China.... We, in India, have had two thousand years of friendship with China. We have differences of opinion and even small conflicts but when we hark back to that long past something of the wisdom of that past also helps us to understand each other.

(ibid, pp. 276-77.)


June 5, 1952

There is no reason, however, why we should not gradually develop these contacts with great nations like China and U.S.S.R. Both these countries are our neighbours and in the long run, we are bound to have greater dealings with them. Indeed, so far as India and China are concerned it becomes increasingly clear to me that the future of Asia depends very largely on our contacts and association. That does not mean that we should copy each other, to interfere with each other. It does mean a basic understanding that our association is essential for the peace of Asia and advantageous to both countries... If, however, we look at the long perspective of history and try to peep into the future, ignoring for the moment our present discontent, then the importance of India and China functioning with a measure of cooperation becomes obvious.

(J.N. Papers, Vol. 3, p. 5.)

Indeed it may be said that the three great world problems today are: the fate of capitalism, which means the fate of Europe and America, the future of India, and the future of China, and all three are inter-related.

(SWJN, Vol. 6, p. 12.)


November, 1954

I received an extraordinarily cordial welcome everywhere in China....I was greatly impressed by it. It was clear to me that this welcome represented something more than political exigency. It was almost an emotional upheaval representing the basic urges of the people for friendship with India.

Essentially our [Indian and Chinese] problems were alike that is vast countries and populations, cheifly agriculture, with low standards of living and the necessity to raise these standards by industrialization and agricultural reform. Even in regard to floods, we had similar problems. Our approach to the solution of these problems was not the same and yet there was much in common with it and we could profit by each other’s experience, provided always there was a friendly aproach and no interference with each other.

(ibid, Vol. 4, p. 65.)

Chairman Mao referred to the age-old association as well as to the new friendship between China and India. Both countries were struggling for peace. They had more or less common experiences in recent history and both countries needed to reconstruct their economies as both were industrially backward. The Chairman considered that India was industrially somewhat more advanced.

(ibid, p. 78.)

The major impression I got was of a country smoothly running with enormous potential strength which was being translated gradually into actual strength.

Another impression that I gathered was of the essential Chineseness of almost everybody I met, from leaders to the public....

(/bid, p. 86.)

I could not help feeling during my visit to China, even more than I have done before, how completely irrelevant was the idea that this great nation could be ignored or bypassed....The time has passed when they can be injured much by [isolating China and not allowing China to function in the United Nations]...it is the rest of world that is more likely to suffer from it.

(ibid, p. 87.)

China was not a threat to any country and wished to live in peace with all other countries. But the U.S.A. did not permit her to do so and even brought pressure to bear upon England, France, and other countries to prevent them from co-operating with China.

(ibid, p. 78.)

Chairman Mao dealt at some length with the past two World Wars and their revolutionary consequences. He pointed out that China had no atom bombs or any equipment of the latest type. But the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had both. Ultimately it was the people who would count and who would be the deciding factors. He pointed out that the experience of both the World Wars was that the countries who started the war were defeated and those who were on the defence won. Another consequence was revolution in some countries and the freedom of some colonial countries. Thus, if unfortunately another World War took place, disastrous as it might be, it would lead to the defeat of the aggressors and possibly other revolutionary changes might take place. He was not afraid of a war if it came, but he did not want it because of its disastrous consequences to the world and because it would come in the way of developing their countries. I was not fully in agreement with Chairman Mao’s analysis, but I entirely agree with him that war must be avoided and every step which might lead to war should also therefore be avoided.

(ibid, pp.80-81.)

November 15, 1954

I was particularly interested in what was happening in China and I say that the most exciting countries for me today were India and China. We differ, of course, in our political and economic structures, yet the problems we face are essentially the same. The future will show which country and which structure of Government yields greater results in every way.

(Letters to Chief Ministers, Vol. 4, p. 73.)


[ 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 in any manner without written permission of the publisher. 

Published in 1998 by 

Gyan Publishing House

5, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj,

New Delhi - 110 002.