Thursday, July 22, 2010


I wrote on June 18 on India and Foreign diplomatic archives with reference to France and the USA. In the second part of the blog, I will write on the erstwhile USSR, the UK and the China factor in India's foreign relations as perceived by the leading powers of the world in the formative years of India's international exposure.

The USSR was not much interested in India even after its independence in 1947 in spite of the fact that Pandit Nehru wanted to engage with the USSR. He sent important personalities like Vijay Lakshami Pandit, his own sister and Dr. S. Radhkrishnan as the Indian Ambassadors to Moscow to register India's interest and desire to be-friend the USSR to balance with the world powers. But it was not reciprocated fully, as the archives of that time indicate. The Kremlin leadership had 'mistrust of Indian leaders'. They had particular ' distaste ' for Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Purushotam Dass Tondon. The USSR leader Stalin even did not send a condolence message on the death of Mahtama Gandhi. The USSR attitude underwent a change after Stalin. By 1952, the USSR started supporting India. The soviet archives indicate that Jakov Malik 'supported India on the Kashmir problem so vehemently that Nehru was surprised and had to explain to the USA and Britain that he had not asked the USSR for its support'. Prime MinisterNehru was keen to visit the USSR and sounded Moscow to get him an invitation which was not spontaneous. However, Pandit Nehru's visit in 1955, as revealed in the archives, ' symbolised the beginning of a new phase in bilateral relation'. Later the USSR turned to be a friend in need and became an important partner of India, with the changing international geo-political and geo-economic scenario.

The British archives reveal some interesting information. The British policy was that ' India should be denied to the communists ', with regard to India's relations with China. The British were afraid of Nehru's ' naivety ' towards the communist threat. The Indian perception of China perplexed the British. The British diplomats were surprised to note that India was not prepared to contest the influence of China over Tibet, as emerges from the book ' India in the Mirror of Foreign Diplomatic Archives '. It is known that India, right from the beginning, tended to support China with regard to China's international engagement. The British diplomats were surprised by India's ' systematic efforts '; to act as an intermediary between China and the West on crucial matters like the unity of China, the Korean War and China's entry in the UN. According to the British assessment, India somehow developed ' fear of China '. The British policy makers thought' if India was officially and openly sympathetic towards China, it was not because it liked its neighbour but because it feared China mainly for geo-political reasons'. The archives reveal a telling comment on India's position in dealings with China as ' Nehru never envisaged seriously to negotiate ' with China. The information provides an interesting insight to Sino-India relations in the early years of India's independence under the stewardship of Jawaharlal Nehru.

In fact, China always remained a factor in the foreign policy of the big powers with regard to their policy and dealings with India. The USA, unlike the USSR, paid due attention to India even before her independence in 1947. The events pertaining to partition of India particularly the violence and bloodshed and tensions with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and also emergence of China under the communists generated fears of ' balkanisation and fragmentation ' of India in the US thinking. The US was supportive of India to ' control the influence of China ' in the first phase of relations before 1971. The US policy makers often argued that ' Nehru's policy towards China was unrealistic, somehow Utopian and was based on faulty assessment of real Chinese strength and intent '. The second phase in the US policy started with President Nixon's flirting with China and his and that of Secretary of State Kissinger's dislike for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and India's emerging relations with the USSR. India's Ambassador to the US in 1971 L.K. Jha, as the US archives reveal, made a feeble attempt to clear Indira Gandhi from criticism to sign the India-USSR Friendship Treaty by saying that the treaty ' had first been thought up long time ago by Dinesh Singh, the former Foreign Minister ' and even added ' he wouldn't be a bit surprised if Dinesh Singh actually received pay from the Communists '. L.K. Jha also named Foreign Secretary T.N. Kaul and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi P.N. Haksar ' were very much under the Soviet influence ' and that ' for both these reasons Madame Gandhi was under great pressure ' to sign the Treaty with the USSR. India-Soviet Union closeness was a sticking point for the 'union' of Nixon-Kissinger and Mao-Chao against India. The tone of the 'American- Chinese conversations was often plainly anti-Indian '. The US archives also indicate that China fully cooperated with the US to help both Pakistan and Iran in 1973 in suppressing the Baluchistan uprising. Max-Jean Zins conclude in his essay ' The Chinese Factor in the American Policy towards India ; Some clues from the US Archives ' with reference to Kissinger's talks with the Chinese, Kissinger and his Aide Winston Lord ' went to the extent of suggesting that Washington should give nuclear weapons to Pakistan to contain hegemonistic India '. Pakistan now has the nuclear weapons. The circle is complete. A couplet of Iqbal comes to mind:

कुछ बात है की हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी, सदिओं रहा है दुश्मन दौरे जमां हमारा !

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


All over the world, people have traditional mode of welcoming and greeting the guests. Belarus, my current place of stay and work, has a fascinating and dignified ' Bread and Salt ' ceremony which is generally performed to welcome an important guest. I have had the honour of getting treated several times at various places and occasions during the process of my diplomatic and social interaction in Belarus. I found the ' Bread and Salt ' welcome a most appealing to the eye and also most satisfying to the mind and soul. The young Belarusian girls, attired in traditional dress, greet and welcome the guest at the door steps and offer nicely baked and decorated bread along with a holder or a cellar of salt placed on the bread on a traditionally embroidered towel. It is a dignified gesture which gives the guest a sense of belonging and oneness apart from elation.

The ' Bread and Salt ' is a Slavonic tradition of welcome in Eurasia and Central Europe. In fact, sharing of bread and salt, going by my own experience in various places and societies, is a widely practised tradition to depict and register unity, friendship and oneness. It is a lofty ideal. In India, partaking or sharing of bread and salt is done at important ceremonies like weddings or religious discourses. At the marriage ceremony, the bride and the bride groom and also the parents and families share food which symbolises that their destinies are also shared now as हम नवाला ( shared morsel of food) and at religious places as लंगर ( community kitchen ) to strengthen bonds of brotherhood and fraternity. The social norm of रोटी बेटी का रिश्ता ( bonds of bread and daughter) and also the concept of नमक हलाल ( loyalty ) are still the accepted and recognised social values in Indian traditional society. I have also seen and enjoyed hospitality in the Arab world. The Arab tribal society attaches great importance to sharing of food. The host, sitting on the दस्तरखान ( carpet to eat food) , would pick up the best portion of the food (generally meat) and taste it and then offer to the honoured guest. It is considered one of the most friendly gestures to welcome the guest and make him at ease.

According to the Belarusian tradition, the young girls offer bread and salt to guest and he takes these offerings home. With a view to give an Indian touch to the ceremony, I accept the bread and salt and feed the girls as a gesture of sharing and appreciation. My local hosts tend to understand and appreciate and I feel happy. We have much to share as the citizens of 'one world'.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Education Loans to Dalit Students of Punjab

I have seen today (July 7) a news item in the Tribune that the Punjab Schedule Caste Land Development and Finance Corporation has given a loan to a dalit young girl Neerja to pursue her higher studies in a University in New Zealand. It is a welcome development. I think vide publicity should be given to these facilities so that more and more dalit students could benefit and get educated under these schemes. It will lead to their emancipation and empowerment a much faster pace. The Corporation raised the limit of the loans from Rs.40,000/- to Rs. 5,00,000/- recently. Under these arrangements, meritorious dalit students pursuing Medical, Engineering, MBA, MCA and Ph.D. programmes in India or abroad are eligible to avail of the loan facilities upto Rs. 5,00,000/- 0n 8% annual rate of interest. I have also recently noted that an other outfit named ' Ambedkarite International Coordination Society ' has also helped financially yet another young dalit girl Pooja Mattu by underwriting expenses of her higher studies. I wish some more institutions both in public and private sector, particularly the banks and educational institutions take cue and join hands in this regard. It would amount to an affirmative action to further integrate and empower the weeker sections of the society.

During my last visit to India in January this year, I had a chance meeting with Shri Pawan Kumar Tinu, Chairman of the Punjab Schedule Caste Land Development and Finance Corporation at the marriage of my niece Mamta in Jalandhar. He mentioned about his efforts to enhance the limit of educational loans. Tinu should be supported and congratulated for the good work he has done. I personally found Tinu a dynamic young and educated political and social leader of the dalit community. I think good people shall be recognised and commended and their work appreciated.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sufism - A Layman's Understanding

I have gone through the recent book " Sufism - the Heart of Islam " written by Ms. Sadia Dehlvi. I remember Sadia as a good actress acting in a TV serial on Doordarshan some two decades before. I did not know that she is fully engaged with Sufism. The Foreword of the book has been written by the renowned columnist and writer Khuswant Singh. The theme of the book is Islam and Sufism yet I would tend to agree with Khuswant Singh that " another important aspect of Sufi teachings was its impact on the saints of the indigenous Bhakti movement in northern India. It included saints like Kabir, Namdev, Ravidass, Tukaram, Nanak and the other Sikh Gurus. The Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs enshrines the hymns - गुरुवाणी of these saints. It is notable that the Sikh religion draws a lot from Sufism. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid by non other than a famous Sufi Mian Mir. The sufi mazars/dargahs are visited not only by Muslims but also by Hindus and Sikhs. Sufism made great impact on the Indian society at large. It was not the Muslim invaders who converted millions of Indians to Islam but the Sufi saints who brought them to the fold of Islamic brotherhood through their humane and universal preachings. While the rulers used their political and military power, the Sufi saints exercised their spiritual power and had a greater hold on people. The Sufi poetry of Garib Nawaz Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki and down the line Rehman and Rahim's verses confirm the fusion of Hindu and Muslim thoughts. Guru Ravidass whose Vani is listed in the Guru Granth Sahib said, in the sufi lore, ' मोहि तोही तोही मोहि अंतर कैसा, कनक कटक जल तरंग जैसा ' It is said that the 'Khanzadahs', the descendants of Lord Krishna accepted Islam only because of the Sufi influence. The famous composition of Amir Khusro - आज रंग है रंग है रि, मेरे महबूब के घर रंग है रि - is generally sung by the Hindus on the happy occasions like Krishnaasthami or Shivratri. The Punjabi Sufi poet Bulle Shah is an house hold name in Punjab in India and Pakistan. The contemporary Sufi poets and singers like Fateh Ali Khan, Reshma, Hans Raj Hans, Wadali Brothers, Kailash Kher and the Group called Sufi ke Sultan have contributed considerably to the Sufi music which is very popular among the masses.

One of Sufi saints have defined Sufism as ' you should posses nothing and nothing should posses you '. Nizamuddin Auliya said ' a man is his worst enemy when he considers himself good and pious '. Farid Ganj-e-Shakar said ' do not quarrel in a manner that leaves no room for reconciliation '. He also said ' if you desire greatness, associate with the downtrodden'. Another Sufi saint said ' the best way to atone a sin is to help the needy and the downtrodden'. Ibrahim Adham says ' we consign our parents to the grave and yet behave as though we are immortal. Yet another Sufi in 661 AD said ' there is no greater wealth than knowledge and no greater poverty than ignorance'. These are some of the quotes available in the chapter ' The Wisdom of the Sufis ' of the book of Sadia Dehlvi. It is amply clear that sufism is the road map of an egalitarian, humane and spiritual society. And this what I understand of Sufism as a layman.

ਮਕਕੇ ਗਿਯਾਂ ਗਲ ਮੁਕਦੀ ਨਹੀ, ਭਾਮੇਂ ਸੌ ਸੌ ਜੁਮੇ ਪੜ੍ਹ ਆਈਏ ;
ਗਯਾ ਗਲ ਮੁਕਦੀ ਨਹੀ, ਭਾਮੇ ਸੌ ਸੌ ਪਿੰਡ ਪਧਾਇਏ;
ਗੰਗਾ ਗਿਆਂ ਗਾਕ ਮੁਕਦੀ ਨਹੀ; ਭੰਮੇ ਸੌ ਸੌ ਗੋਤੇ ਖਾਈਏ;
ਬੁੱਲੇ ਸ਼ਾ ਗਲ ਤਾਂਹੋੰ ਮੁਕਦੀ ਜਦ ਮੈਂ ਨੂ ਦਿਲੋਂ ਭੁਲਾਈਏ !