INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: A SURVEY
R. V. R. CHANDRASEKHARA RAO
The Kosygin-Chou Meeting
The meeting of Kosygin and Chou En lai in Peking on September
11, is regarded as the most significant event in
recent times. Not that significant results are sure to
come out of it. That it was held at all is most surprising. The news took
diplomats at the United Nations by surprise and many even disbelieved it for a
while. One Western diplomat called it ‘astounding’ while Eastern European
officials called it ‘inconceivable.’
dramatic nature of the events only heightened the element of surprise. As is
well known, it was in Hanoi,
where all the Communist top-brass assembled to pay homage to the late Dr. Ho
Chi Minh, that the decision to hold the talks was taken. Yet the last moment
everything indicated that a meeting was not in the offing. Kosygin, to begin
with, avoided the route to Hanoi via Peking,
choosing the Delhi
route instead. As if returning the compliment the Chinese leader left Hanoi in a hurry just on
the eve of Kosygin’s arrival there. Then, after a five day stay, the Russian
leader left Hanoi for Moscow
And then, after stopping as Dushanabe he seems to
have decided to take a detour to Peking for
the talks. Thus till the last moment, not only was there no hint of an
impending meeting, but the parties seemed to have deliberately manoeuvred to avoid even a chance meeting.
course the real cause for surprise is that in the context of the brinkmanship
exhibited by Moscow and Peking
the leaders should now suddenly turn to talks. In this sense, the surprise
expressed by the outside world is a measure of the extent to which Sino-Soviet
relations have degenerated almost to the point of no return.
over a decade the Sino-Soviet schism has escalated into bitter animosity
manifesting of late in military engagements. What is even more ominous is the
fact that the itch to fight seems to have got the better of the urge to
negotiate. For example, after the clashes of last March on the Ussuri river in the Far East, the Russians and the Chinese arrived at an
agreement over the navigational rights in the river at Khabarousk
on August 8, and on the 13th of the same month a major armed clash occurred on
the Sinkiang border. The rhetoric on either side confirms
how psychologically prepared both sides are for a major conflagration. Of all
persons, a Soviet nuclear physicist was said to have told an American colleague
that the Soviet people are fed up with China and added: “When we go to war
we will not fight with our little finger like you Americans. We will be
fighting to death.” To this the Chinese response had been that “neither a small
war, nor a big war, nor a nuclear war can ever intimidate the Chinese people.”
is, then, the widely held view that the Russians had actually decided upon a
pre-emptive strike at China,
aimed, in particular, at the elimination of Chinese nuclear installations
situated in the provinces of Sinkiang, Kansu and Inner Mongolia.
As a matter of fact almost all of these are very close to the Russian and outer
Mongolian borders. And there is enough evidence to support the pre-emptive
strike theory. Ever since the Communist Meet in last June, Moscow
has been dropping hints of a possible action against China. Even more significant has
been the increasing Russian military build up in Outer
Mongolia. Mr. Harrison Salisbury of the “New York Times” in a
series of articles written after a visit to Outer Mongolia described it thus:
“There are other physical changes, quantitative and qualitative, measurable by
one who has been coming to Mongolia and Siberia over the past
decade: the emplacement of missiles and high-fidelity communication lines, the
dispersal over the Mongol steppe of fighter aircraft in field shelters and the
installation of radar detection networks.”
corroborative evidence is also forthcoming. A second secretary in the Russian
Embassy in Washington is reported to have
given U. S. officials a
flip-chart briefing on prospective Russian military moves against China. More
important is the instance of a letter written by Moscow to the Australian Communist Party in
which the Russians raised the possibility of a
pre-emptive attack. Add to all this the weighty
consideration that the Chinese are about to come out with their own
intercontinental ballastic missile in a couple of
years time. It is thus credible that the Russians may be considering a strike
at the nuclear installations before Peking
develops its own delivery system. The Chinese reaction also supports the thesis.
An order has been issued under the imprimatur of Chairman Mao to the cadres which has been described as a ‘virtual mobilisation order.’ Special indoctrination briefings for
Chinese military, state and party personnel are being held currently and the participants
are told that the gaseous diffusion plant at Lanchow
in the Kansu
Province and the atomic
test site at Lop Nor in Sinkiang, are probable
targets of Soviet attack.
view of this very grave deterioration of the situation, it should really surprise
no one that ideological allies, interested in averting a shameful war among the
senior members of the communist brotherhood, should try to persuade Moscow and Peking to talk
over things and thus first de-fuse the explosive situation. Even the parties concerned,
one should expect, might have been waiting for an opportunity to make a last
minute effort to avert an Armageddon. Mr. Sanzo Nosaka of the Japanese Communist Party and Mr. Ion George
Maurer, Premier of Rumania, are being credited with having successfully goaded
Kosygin and Chou to meet face to face. The latter, in particular, had met Chou
in Peking even before he arrived in Hanoi and
later worked up things with Kosygin in Hanoi.
The solemn and grave occasion of the death of Ho Chi Minh (who so successfully
managed to keep off the Sino- Soviet schism) must have offered the most
appropriate opportunity mediators to these mediators to press their point home.
The last will and testament of Ho contained an exhortation for communist unity
and not even communist leaders can escape its sentimental impact. These facts
should explain why the Russian and Chinese leaders met.
certain facts call for further examination of the event. It is agreed generally
that it was first the Russian leader who expressed willingness to meet his
Chinese counterpart. Reports say that he left Moscow
for Hanoi with a mandate from his Politburo for
talks with Peking. On the other hand the
hurried and unusual departure of Chou from Hanoi
(barely within twenty-four hours of his arrival) is indicative of his
reluctance to meet Kosygm who arrived in Hanoi the next day.
Further, while the Russians had stopped their anti-Chinese tirades
over the radio, Peking resumed its
vituperations immediately after the meeting. These facts raise important
doubts. If the Russians had decided upon a pre-emptive strike, why should they
be eager to talk at all? Again, if the Russian pre-emptive strike theory is
true one should have expected the Chinese to show, at least, equal eagerness to
confer with Moscow.
course it is possible that the Chinese have not got rid of their braggadocio. The graver the threat the more adamant their postures. Did
not Mao say, in the context of a possible war with America,
has no fear of even a nuclear war and that she has at least a few millions to
spare as cannon fodder? One can witness an echo of the same in the following
statement made by peking in
the context of the present Russian threat. It says that the
struggle against Russia
will not be halted, “not for a day, not for a month, not for a year, not for
100 years, not for 1000 years, not for 10,000 years.”
the alternative, it is also possible that the Chinese are putting on a show of
being cavalier and taciturn while really getting anxious within themselves.
There are some indications that at least Chou and his group are not averse to
resume a dialogue with Moscow.
experts like Victor Zorza of the Guardian clearly see
a struggle for succession already going on in peking between the extremist faction led by Lin pao and the moderates led by Chou En lai.
Though not even Chou can dare to advocate an unconditional reconciliation with Moscow, it could not be
that Chou met Kosygin most reluctantly and for nothing. “It
is not without significance that even before the Rumanian prime Minister, Mr.
Maurer, met Kosygin in Hanoi, he, (Mr. Maurer)
had talked to Chou in Peking
proposing that he should meet Kosygin. Mr. Maurer continued his efforts with
Chou again in Hanoi.
And even when Chou hurriedly left for home his Vice
Premier Li, was left behind to keep Chou informed of the progress of the
mediators’ efforts with Kosygin in Hanoi.
Further, when at almost Kosygin consented to the meeting he asked North Vietnam to contact Peking and peking’s green signal was conveyed
to him while his plane touched Calcutta on its
way to Moscow.
Then the Russian leader went to Dushanabe in Soviet Tadzakisthan where he received further instructions from Moscow to proceed to Peking
for the talks. Thus it could not be that China was forced against its will
to face the Russians.
most reasonable explanation of the affair seems to that neither Moscow nor Peking really
intends to set itself on a collision course and that the recent clashes, the
discreet hints even the troop movements were in the nature of deliberate probes
in sensitive areas. Moscow
might have dropped hints about a pre-emptive strike just in order to nettle the
Chinese. As the “London Economist” said “these Russian trial balloons may of
course be just nerve-testing ruses.” And the Chinese in spite of their brave
words could not have remained entirely unaffected by the Russian hints. Thus it
is most probable that the Russians themselves decided to take the first step in
consenting to the talks knowing full well that these are not unwelcome to the
Chinese either. In all this the fear that the deliberate probes might generate
unforeseen situation must have worried the parties and Moscow in particular. For it cannot be ruled
out that the Russians are taken aback at the hardening of the Chinese attitudes
over the border disputes, as the recurrence of clashes in Sinkiang
last August showed. Obviously there is the imminent danger of these probing
border areas being retaliated with more than commensurate Chinese repraisals, thus leading to an unforeseen escalation of the
clashes. It should be borne in mind that the Chinese are extremely sensitive
about the Sinkiang, Kansu and Inner Mongolian areas not merely
because their nuclear plants are located in these regions. Historically too,
these Inner Asian regions have been the centres of China’s attention and in fact of China’s expansionist
designs. Professor John K. Fairbank,
that very eminent authority on modern China,
has shown in a recent article on ‘China’s
foreign policy,’ in Foreign Affairs (April 1969) how Inner Asia is of
‘Strategic Primacy’ to China.
Thus the fear that these very regions have now become most vulnerable to Russian and Outer Mongolian
threats might only drive Peking to a desperate action. Given the extremist faction in Peking, Moscow could not have missed this dimension to Peking’s
policy. And as a more responsible power Moscow
might have decided to initiate talks.
It is difficult to prophecy the
results of the meeting. There are no firm indications that a thaw has already set in as a result of the meeting, nor, for that
matter, can one expect such an immediate change in the atmosphere. Yet there is
enough evidence to warrant the conclusion that the meeting did de-fuse the
explosive situation. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss border claims
and incidentally to explore ways of restoring trade relations which have touched an all time low.
As for the border talks it was
decided that talks on the border issues would start soon. On October 8, the New
China News Agency confirmed the talks, at Vice Foreign Ministers level, would be
held though no date has yet been fixed. The fact that these are
to be held at Junior Ministers level is an index to the persistence of
misgivings on both sides. Again the tone of the Chinese assertions about the
justness of their case apparently suggests that Peking
is not going to show any sudden conversion of heart. In a document released the
day after the announcement of the proposed talks, the Chinese have accused the
Russians of unjustly holding on to 1.5 million square kilometers of Chinese
territory that the hated Tsars had appropriated. Peking
ridiculed the Russian contention that the Chinese Emperors had also been
imperialistic as “a forgery of history in defence of
the old Tsars’ aggression.” Yet a slight change in Peking’s
stand is discernible. While demanding ‘equal’ treaties with Russia, it is
significant that the Chinese now say that they are prepared to
let the Russians keep these areas provided the present treaties
are confirmed as ‘unequal’. Thus Peking wants Moscow
to admit tacitly the past wrongs in return for its (Peking’s)
future acquiescence of the territorial arrangements. Peking
has realised the impossibility of changing the territorial
status quo and wants to make a virtue out of necessity. Is this not proof of
Chinese fears of border clashes escalating into full scale wars which might
give Moscow the
pretext for a larger pre-emptive strike? On the Soviet side also there is a
slight mellowing in attitudes. They are now anxious that the Brezhnev proposal
of last June should not be interpreted as one designed to encircle China with an
Asian security alliance. While they still talk of an Asian security system, the
Russians now deny that they have a defence pact in
their minds. It is significant that they should make this clarification to the
Indian External Affairs Minister, who had talks in Moscow immediately after the Kosygin-Chou
Negotiations for stepping up trade contacts have just
started in Moscow
but it is curious that the Chinese would not like these talks to be regarded as
follow up to the Kosygin-Chou meeting.
This type of curious behaviour is
indicative of continuing reticence on China’s part.
While prospects of a ‘detente’ anywhere in the world are to
be welcomed as good augury for world peace, it is still premature to say what
shape the Sino-Soviet relations assume in the future.
Rout At Rabat
The exclusion of India
from the concluding session of the Conference of the Islamic Heads of States at
Rabat is the worst
diplomatic humiliation this country suffered so far. The
magnitude of the shame far exceeds what we suffered at the abortive Afro-Asian
conference that was to have been held in Algeria in 1965. It will be
remembered that our own ‘Non-aligned’ friends like Indonesia,
Ghana and Algeria teamed up against us in playing to the Pindi-Peking manoeuvres of trying
to embarrass India at the Algiers conference. We
were, then, left with the shameful alternative of trying to postpone the conference
itself in order t oavert a major diplomatic rebuff.
affair is worse.
The agony of the situation is that
we ourselves filled the cup till nemesis overflowed. First we canvassed for an
invitation by high blood pressure tactics, then we pocketed the insult of being
physically prevented from attending the Plenary Session and then we returned home
in shame after being unceremoniously excluded from the concluding session. The
tragedy is that in spite of indications at various stages we allowed the
nation’s self-respect to be humbled .
It is not sufficiently explained what locus standi we have at a meeting of Islamic
Heads. In fact, it is a matter of debate whether we should partake in a meeting
of Islamic states. For, even if we have the third largest Muslim population,
and a population larger than the combined population of many Islamic states, should
not our secularism stand in the way of such participation? Indonesia largely
Muslim, had the courage to refuse to participate on the secular principle. Mr. Dinesh Singh, our
Minister for External Affairs, stated that long ago the Government decided that India should take part in all international Muslim
conferences. This in itself is no justification. For, the standing policy
itself is, then incompatible with our secular stand.
Two possible motives could have
influenced our decision-makers:
Perhaps they were eager to join the
other Muslim states in condemning the outrage on the Al Aqsa
mosque, to discuss which the conference was ostensibly convened. While that as incident
was in itself dastardly, yet why should we be over-enthusiastic in running to
the conference when the Islamic Heads were not anxious to have us?
The desire to please the Indian
Muslims must have weighed considerably also. But does the Government feel so insecure
with its secular image that it has constantly to worry about
Muslim misgivings about India’s
not joining each and every Muslim meet?
It was Pakistan
that started the mischief abetted actively by Morocco
and Jordan and partly aided
by Iran and Turkey. It is rumoured that General Yahya Khan
was compelled by India-phobes in Pakistan to
protest against the presence of the Indian delegation. The fact that even Pindi’s consent was obtained before the invitation was
extended to India
and that General Yahya later raised the flimsy
objection that some of the members of the Indian delegation were non-Muslims,
lend credence to the theory that the Pakistani President was made to change his
stand suddenly. It could not be denied that the Ahmedabad
riots lent support to Pindi’s invective against India. Even
granting all this, Pakistan’s
performance cannot but be called venomous to the core. There is a code of
conduct that can be expected of even sworn enemies and General Yahya Khan has outstepped these
limits at Rabat.
In the context of all this the pose of sweet reasonableness assured by the
Pakistani Information Minister during his talks with Mr. Dinesh
Singh at the U. N. after the Rabat
affair cannot be taken seriously. It is incredulous on the latter’s part to
read in the tone of the Pak Minister any real change in Pakistan’s
attitude. Pindi is only trying to impress the outside
world and thereby retrieve the prestige she may have lost as a consequence of
her cynical pursuit of melevolence at Rabat. Even if it is true
is now prepared for direct bilateral talks on all outstanding disputes, it is
doubtful whether we should simply ignore the insult we received and rush to
grab the olive branch now being shown.
The incident also discloses how effectively Pakistan could
exploit the religious bogey on the one hand and its pro-Peking contacts on the
other as it suits her convenience. It will be recalled that at Algiers
in 1965, it was the pro-Peking group that came to Pakistan’s help. Now at Rabat it is in the name
of Islam that India-baiting; was accomplished.
as the host, had an extra responsibility to be decent but she only showed added
zeal in hurting India.
The Moroccon Foreign Minister, it is reported, played
the leading role in pressurizing Mr. Fakhruddin Ali
Ahmed not to attend the session and to
top it all it was the Moroccan King who was reported to have launched a
tirade against India’s ill-treatment of her
Muslim population. The Moroccan King
subsequently denied having made any criticism
of India and this explanation partly implies a desire
to assuage India’s
feelings. Yet it is curious that only a few days later,
the king appointed his erring
Foreign Minister as his Prime Minister. Is this a reward for services rendered
to the cause of Pakistan?
active support to General Yahya Khan is in stark contrast
to our stout championship of the Arab demand for the immediate withdrawal of Israel from the west bank of the Jordan river. The behaviour of Iran and Turkey
in playing to Pakistan’s tune only confirms how solid the non-Arab Muslim group of
the middle-East is. Since a few years, we have been making sincere efforts to
gain the sympathy and understanding of Iran
Mr. M. C. Chagla, as the then Foreign Minister, took
particular pains in this regard. There was even talk of our gaining a
diplomatic break through in this area. Obviously we can never hope to gain the
sympathy of Tehran and Ankara as long as the Pakistani attitude
remains what it is.
India’s Immediate Reaction
India’s immediate reaction was to
persist in saying that it was
right of us to have decided to participate in the conference and even to
faintly suggest that we are looking forward to join the proposed conference of Islamic Foreign Ministers too.
Yet the immensity of the rebuff coupled with the magnitude of reaction in the
country made Delhi
decide upon some action to assert our national pride.
To begin with, our Ambassadors at Morocco and Jordan have been recalled. The
recall of Ambassadors is a very
serious act in diplomatic practice. But as observed the role of these two countries
at Rabat had been particularly nasty and the
severity of India’s
response is warranted. But then how are we to deal with Pindi
which engineered the whole show? New Delhi
explained a way with a mere shrug saying
that “we cannot expect anything
better from Pakistan.”
But is this profound discovery
justification enough to suffer gratuitous insults at international meets; does this not amount to letting
the main offenders go and catching the abettors? There is a more important implication too. If we are sure that
India-baiting is the constant factor in Pindi’s strategies, what earthly purpose is served in negotiating
with Pkistan? We must be able to insist that Pakistan gives up such obnoxious tactics
before it expects us to talk on anything. Of course there is a possibility that
General Yahya Khan is just wanting
us to take a hard line in order to launch an adventure across the borders. For,
has he not been replenishing his armaments, thanks to the generosity of both Moscow and Washington.
But this eventuality should not deter us from reacting to the incident the way
it deserves. We owe it to our honour to express our
condemnation of Pindi’s action in a firm fashion.
Need For Re-Appraisal of Basic Policies
Apart from these formal expressions
of displeasure the prospect of a re-appraisal of our policies towards some of
these Muslim states is also being mooted. It is significant that Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed himself demanded this. Yet in what
manner should we go about in this regard deserves very careful consideration.
One thing should on all counts be avoided. Any reaction in the shape of a
sudden change in our basic policies, effecting these
powers like our policy towards the West Asian problem might after all be
interpreted as juvenile. For, much of our West Asian policy is basad on the inherent justice of the Arab cause, based, in
particular, on the fundamental inequity of the West’s attempt at expiating its
guilt towards the Jews at the expense of the Arabs. Hence a temptation for a
change in this regard out of our pique should be resisted. Such temptation, it
should be admitted, is bound to be greater in view of Jordan’s role at Rabat. There are certain areas in which we
can make changes. At present, quite apart from supporting the Arab claims for
the return of their territories and for Israel’s discharge of
responsibility towards Palestinian refugees, we are moulding
our Israeli policy on lines identical to those of the Arab countries. Now this
can change. For example, why should we not start having a little more of
intercourse with Israel?
It does not necessarily mean any lessening of our commitment to the Arab cause.
Further, not even President Nasser now seriously demands the liquidation of Israel, and why
should we not take steps that normally follow when we recognize the existence of a State? In this connection
it is to be hoped that the recent meeting of Mr. Dinesh
Singh with Mr. Eban of Israel has some significance.