Friday, June 18, 2010


Recently, I have read the book ' India in the Mirror of Foreign Diplomatic Archives ' edited by Max- Jean Zins and Gilles Boquerat. Both of them are senior French academics. The book provides an interesting reading of the thought process of the French, British, the US and the Soviet diplomats and the political leadership of these countries in the early years of India's independence and formative years of Indian diplomacy. It also provides a good insight of the struggle India had to undergo to find a place and due space for itself in the comity of nations. Though the Indian side of the story is yet not fully available yet the archives of the other important countries bring out the flavour and essence and makes an informative and interesting reading.

The British left India in 1947, France was yet another colonial power in India in addition to Portugal. After the de facto transfer of the French settlements - Chandernagore, Karaikal, Mahe, Pondicherry and Yanam signed in October, 1954, these settlements were finally handed over to India on November 1, 1954. Initially, France tried to hold on. The dispatches of French diplomats said ' There was no need for France to be ashamed about its presence overseas in its dealing with Indians, who were known to be sensitive to questions of racial segregation. It was enough to remind them of the humanitarian principles that had inspired the colonial policy of the Third Republic. ' An interesting fact came to light. General de Gaulle came to power in France in 1958. It was not to the liking of Jawaharlal Nehru. He compared General de Gaulle, according to Dr. Sarvepalli Gopal, the biographer of Nehru, to Mussolini rather than Churchill. General de Gaulle, on his part, did not like the way India laid its hands on the French settlements in India in 1954.

The American achieves make an interesting and informative commentary on Jawaharlal Nehru and his foreign policy right from 1947 to the death of Nehru in 1964. It becomes clear that Nehru did not find much acceptance with the American leadership. Nehru's neutralism, on one side and his support to the Soviet Union and China, in the early years of India's independence, greatly annoyed the US. John Foster Dulles did not understand Nehru's ' soft spot' for the Soviet Union and China. Dulles termed the non-alignment policy of India as ' an immoral and shortsighted concept.' The Kashmir issue was first important engagement between India and the US. The comments of Ambassador Klahr Huddle, US Representative to the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP ) in 1948 on the Indian stand on the Kashmir issue convey all and I quote "self-righteous and intransigent stand". The first Ambassador of the US to India (1948-51) in a dispatch in 1949 before Nehru's visit to America cautioned that Prime Minister Nehru was ' a vain sensitive emotional and a complicated person.' At the same time Ambassador credited Nehru as ' an expert politician and a natural leader.' Nehru visited the US in 1949 and he was accorded a warm welcome by the public and media praised him as ' the hope for free Asia after the fall of China to the communists.' But the US officials were not impressed. The US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, after meeting Nehru during his visit to the US in 1949 commented 'Nevertheless, he was one of the most difficult men whom I have ever had to deal.' George McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State in 1949 found Nehru fuzzy headed and not a clear thinker. Krishna Menon offended Americans including Dulles and ' made them anti-India.' by his ' acerbic tongue and anti - American stance '. One more fact on the Kashmir issue has come to light which relevance even today. On the Kashmir problem, Nehru and Dulles agreed in 1953 that ' a plebiscite was not the best way to resolve the dispute and dividing the state would be the better way. Recalling the acrimonious and emotional votes in the inter-war Europe, Dulles looked with disfavour on plebiscites.' Dulles, however, backed off from pressing this approach in the face of the stiff opposition countered in Karachi when he raised this idea. It may be recalled here that some Indian leaders including Dr. B.R. Ambedkar also pleaded the same line of division of Jammu & Kashmir and plebiscite, if needed, only in valley. It has been reported that subsequently the issue came nearer solution, a few times, on the same lines of division or at least declaring the line of control as the international border but somehow could not be concluded. President Eisenhower was perhaps the only American in those early years who liked Nehru up to some extent but they ' disagreed on their appraisal of China '. The American archives also indicate that President Eisenhower had been impressed with President of Pakistan General Ayub Khan. Nixon in 1953, when he was the Vice President of India, disliked Nehru and described him ' the least friendly leader.' and made unflattering remarks 'the US should take a firm course with Nehru who often embarrassed the US.' President Kennedy, in spite of negative appraisals, in his State of the Union message in January,1961 ' lauded the " soaring idealism " of the Indian leader (Nehru), in spite his 'preachy neutralism'. The state visit of Nehru to the US in 1961 was ' a disappointing failure ' as per the US assessment. President Kennedy described the visit as ' the worst state visit that I have had ', according to the biographer of President Kennedy Arthur Schlesinger.

India has a long way since the early years of our her independence. The foreign policy of India is live and evolving with the changing times and the challenges. Both France and the US have now friendly and mutually beneficial relations with India as partners in development.

(To be concluded)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Some Diplomatic Titbits

I wrote about the autobiography of Hardit Singh Malik in my Blog of April 1, 2010 . Now I have glanced through the book. It is a fascinating story of ' the most distinguished sikh of his time ' as Khushwant Singh, the famous columnist and writer, terms it.

Hardit Singh Malik has made some pertinent comments on some of the diplomatic/political personalities of the time. These are interesting. Girja Shankar Bajpai was one of the distinguished diplomats in the early years of the Indian diplomatic interaction after independence in 1947. Malik has commented on a basic human trait, loyalty and dedication, which we all need to sail through in life. He writes about Girja Shankar Bajpai and i quote " The story went that when someone remonstrated with Panditji (Jawaharlal Nehru) pointing out Bajpai's reputation, Nehru remarked that he had always served his masters well, at one time the British and now Indians. " I have had the opportunity to work and interact with the two worthy sons of Girja Shankar Bajpai, Uma Shankar and Katyani Shankar, who followed their father's foot steps and rose to the highest positions in the Indian Foreign Service by their own right. It was particularly satisfying, though in a junior position, to work with Katyani Shankar Bajpai in Beijing when he was the Ambassador of India to China in the late 1980s. Hardit Singh Malik writing about his experience at the UN in 1948, has made some telling remarks on V.K. Krishna Menon and I quote " Some years later when our representative, V.K. Krishna Menon was making his marathon speech at the Security Council on the Kashmir question and earning much merit among his admirers and friends, the general impression at the UN, and among diplomats in general, was that far from winning over people to our stand on the issue, he had succeeded in making more enemies at the UN than any representative of India had ever done. " It is a known that Krishna Menon was close to Jawaharlal Nehru and enjoyed his trust.

I will write about two more points emanating from the book:

1) Hardit Singh Malik referring to Mohammad Ali Jinnah's efforts to win over the sikhs before the creation of Pakistan. The story of Prime Minister of Egypt Zaghlul Pasha, trying to win over the christian minority in 1924, is interesting. PM Zaghlul Pasha agreed to all the demands of the christian minority listed by them without even reading them. Jinnah told the sikh leaders ' that is how I will treat the sikhs.' Malik who was on the delegation of the sikhs questioned by saying ' God forbid, supposing you are no longer with us when the time comes to implement your promises.' Jinnah responded with all authority and said ' Mr. Malik, my word in Pakistan is like the word of God; no one will dare to go back on it.' Jinnah, I understand, was a man of calibre but an egoist to a fault. The subsequent events could not justify the misplaced confidence of Jinnah. Jinnah did the same with the dalits. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a dalit leader, was appointed as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly and the Law Minister in the interim Government of India. Jinnah in his zeal to match Indian arrangements appointed Jogindernath Mondal, a dalit leader of Bengal, as the first Law Minister of Pakistan. Mondal started his work in right earnestness but could not hold. Jinnah's scheme of things failed and Pakistan tended to be an Islamic state and not a secular and democratic one like India. Jogindernath Mondal had to resign in October, 1950 and opt back to India. Jinnah's over confidence could not be justified. Later, incidentally, I had the chance to listen to Jogindernath Mondal at a public meeting in mid 60s at my native place at Bootan Mandi (Jalandhar) when I was a young student. I vividly remember he spoke in English and Lahori Ram Balley, a leader of the then Republican Party of India interpreted his speech in Punjabi. i was impressed though, frankly, I do not remember the content of the speech.

2) Hardit Singh Malik returned to India on completion of his Mission in France as the Ambassador of India in1954. He was sounded to be appointed as the Governor of Maharashtra. But Morarji Desai who was the Chief Minister did not accept Malik. PM Nehru sounded Malik to go to Argentina as Ambassador. Malik wished to go back to Paris. Nehru said that it would be embarrassing as Malik had already said goodbye to the President of France. The agre'ment for the appointment of Malik's successor K.M. Pannikar had not come yet. Malik could succeed in reversing the orders and went back to Paris as Ambassador. It was a sort of diplomatic coup. It generally does not happen. But it makes a loud commentary on the rapport and support the Ambassadors enjoyed with the political bosses back home.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Contemporary Dalit Heroes - 4 - Justice K.G. Balakrishnan

Hon'ble Justice K.G. Balakrishnan (May, 1945 ) retired as the Chief Justice of India in May, 2010 after a chequered legal and judicial career. Justice Balakrishnan was, after his retirement, appointed on June 3 to yet another important post of the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. He practiced as the Advocate of the Kerala Bar Council before he became a Munsif in the Kerala Judicial Service in 1973 but resigned later to resume his practice in the Kerala High Court. From 1985 onwards, Justice Balakrishnan worked as Judge of the Kerala High Court and Judge and Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. He was elevated to the Judge of the Supreme Court of India in June, 2000 before becoming the Chief Justice of India in January 2007. Justice Balakrishnan is known for his integrity and human values along with his legal and judicial prowess.

Justice K.G. Balakrishnan belongs to a dalit family of Kottayam district of Kerala. His father was a clerk in a Munsif Court.Facing the caste hurdles of the society, Justice Balakrishnan came up through sheer hard work and occupied coveted posts in the judiciary of India. Commenting on his humble origin Justice Balakrishnanan said ' Really it is matter of pride for us, but what I have achieved is the result of hard labour and integrity '. Indian judiciary needs to develop a social philosophy which should be sensitive to the social aspirations of the masses. Even after more than 6 decades of our independence, only three dalits could rise to be the Judge of the Supreme Court of India - (i) Justice A. Vardarajan in 1980 ( ii ) Justice B.C. Ray in 1986 & ( iii) Justice A Ramaswamy in 1989 other than Justice K.G. Balakrishnan. The situation needs to be rectified through affirmative action even though there is no reservation in the higher echelon of the judiciary.

I have the honour to meet and interact with Justice K.G. Balakrishnan during his official visits to Belarus in April, 2009 and May, 2010. I found him an embodiment of simplicity. He would put the other person just at ease and could continue talking on matters of importance without any sense or hang up of a big man. He would not speak from the pedestal of authority but that of humility. It is a coincident that I had the good fortune to know and work with President K.R. Narayanan, who also belonged to native place of Justice Balakrishnan and also a dalit, in Beijing (China) when he was the Ambassador of India to the Peoples' Republic of China in 1977-78. President Narayanan also gave a few lessons on ' positive thinking ' while dealing with official matters. He was a great man. Justice Balakrishnan told me that his father and President K.R. Narayanan studied together and were class fellows. The life of Justice Balakrishanan is to be emulated by the younger generations particularly that of the dalit community. I have sent a congratulatory message to Justice Balakrishnan today on his high appointment as the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission which he earned and deserved.

मिटा दे अपनी हस्ती को अगर कुछ मर्तबा चाहे; की दाना खाक में मिल कर गुलेगुल्ज़ार होता है !

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Contemporary Dalit Heroes - 3 - Miss Pooja

हुन सारे कर लओ एका ; बेगुम्पुरा वसौ ना आं !

Miss Pooja, the singing sensation of the punjabi song and dance, has created ripples in the cultural life the punjabis not only in Punjab but through out in India and overseas. Miss Pooja with her debut album in 2006 did not see back and gained rural success with the catchy lyrics and high pitched voice. She is rightly called the ' Queen of Duets '. Miss Pooja is instrumental in reviving the culture of duet songs having partnered with the ' who is who ' of the punjabi singers to the full contentment and entertainment of her audiences.

Miss Pooja is the stage name of Ms. Gurinder Kaur Kainth ( December 1979) of Rajpura in Punjab. She is well educated and fully trained in with a Bachelors in Vocal and Instrumental and a Master's degree in Music. Miss Pooja was teaching music before she got acclaim as one of the best punjabi dance ( bhangra/Gidda ) artist and a dynamic singer with an impressive personality. She is by now is the best selling punjabi female singer.

Miss Pooja is the worthy daughter of Mr. Inderpal Kainth, a god fearing dalit family. She excelled equally in singing spiritual and community themes of the sikhs, Nirankaris and those of the great Guru Ravidass as a conscious punjabi. Miss Pooja stole the lime light with her album 'Begumpura Vasauna'. The whole philosophy of Guru Gobind Singh is captured in the line ' एक्स के हम बराक एको पिता बनौना आं ' she sang with an utmost flare and conviction - hats off to Miss Pooja. The whole punjabi community shall be proud of her. She deserves all recognition and appreciation in spreading the message of equality and fraternity of the great Guru Ravidas in the title song of her album ' हुन सारे कर लओ एका ; बेगुम्पुरा वसौना आं ! Balwainder Bhaura's lyrics are not only musical and poetic but also full of culture and tradition. Her popularity in the dalit community has sky- rocketed, if the Internet exposure is any indication. At the same time, it has been noticed that some semi literate fanatics have spoken against her in a foul and disgracing manner. But there is a saying that the dogs bark and the elephant moves on. Let us wish Pooja all the very best and further success in her chequered career for the benefit of the punjabi culture and the community at large.

It may not be out of place to mention that the dalit artists from Jamla Jatt to Hans Raj Hans and many more of equally high calibre have contributed considerably to the music and dance of Punjab - ' गाता बजाता पंजाब '. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that some of my fellow ' Bootanmandians ' in Jalandhar, like Pritam Ramdaspuri, Bibi Nooran, Hans Raj Bukha, Jai Ram Parwana earned a good name in this regard not only for themselves but also for the community. I learnt that even Ustad Puran Shahkoti used to live in Bootanmandi. His students -' चेला ' like Hans Raj Hans, Master Saleem and Sabar Shahkoti has made their mark on the cultural scene in Punjab.

अपना मुक़दर आप बनाते हैं एह्लेदिल ; हम वोह नहीं जीने जमाना बना गया !