Saturday, April 10, 2010

the panch sheel in diplomacy

i have read recently 'my china diary' written by k. natwar singh.

the panch sheel-the five principles of co-existence signed in 1954 is said to be the edifice of sino-india relations. the mention and reiteration of these principles are made, invariably, in all important meetings between china and india. natwar singh's book gave an extensive account of the visit of premier chou en lai to india in april1960. the relationship of 'hindi chini bhai bhai' came under 'grave crisis'. the visit of chou en lai was the turning point. the author who was closely associated with the visit as a young diplomat, with reference to these developments, says 'for the first time in fourteen years our prime minister was confronted with the darker side of the diplomacy.'

the panch sheel, as usual, found a repeated mention in almost all the meetings and negotiations during the visit of chou en lai. china appeared to be taking shelter under the lofty ideals of the panch sheel but the indian side was not impressed. morarji desai sermoned the chinese leader that 'panch sheel has now become one sided.' gobindballabh pant told chou en lai that the five principles of co-existence 'were not being followed.' jawaharlal nehru was not enthusiastic to refer to the panch sheel in the joint communique of the chinese visit. referring to this, as mentioned in the book, primer chou en lai said ' perhaps, according to your excellency, these principles have been shaken. but it is not so.' explaining the position, prime minister nehru told primier chou that ' as regards, five principles, we believe in them, even if they are not acted upon. but a reference to them in the present context will be criticised. the people will say that these principles have been broken and still we were talking about them.' anyway, the two big countries of the world and also neighbours moved on, in spite of huge difficulties. india and china understand each other better. diplomacy is at work.

the question which comes to my mind - is the panch sheel relevant in the changed scenario and the fast changing rules of the game called diplomacy ? a thought provoking assertion of dr. b.r. ambedkar on the subject is relevant. speaking at a gathering of students of the lucknow university on november 8, 1951, he said ' the governments foreign policy failed to make india stronger. why should not india get a permanent seat in the un security council ? why the prime minister has not tried for it ? dr. ambedkar disagreed with the policy on tibet. though ambedkar was one of the prominent buddhists yet he had a dig at the panch sheel signed between india and china in 1954. he said 'if mao had any faith in the panch sheel, he certainly would treat the buddhists in his own country in a different way. he elaborated that ' there is no room for panch sheel in politics.'

it is food for thought for the practitioners of indian diplomacy.  we need to adopt a pragmatic approach to deal with china, our big neighbour.

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