New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru never realized until it was too late that China can never be “a real friend to anybody except themselves”, according to late foreign secretary A.P. Venkateswaran.
Venkateswaran, whose tenure as foreign secretary ended abruptly in 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, was the deputy secretary looking after China in the external affairs ministry here from early 1962 till late 1964.
In a lengthy interview given to the ministry’s Oral History project now published for the first time in a book, Venkateswaran says that India should have woken up when the Chinese invaded Tibet.
According to him, Sumal Sinha, an Indian diplomat then in Lhasa and a talented Chinese scholar, messaged New Delhi: “The Chinese have entered Tibet. The Himalayas have ceased to exist.”
“Yet such a powerful telegram did not shake the Indian establishment as it should have,” he is quoted as saying in the book “Venkat Forever” (Konark Publishers).
“I think it largely reflects negatively on our idol who happened to be Jawaharlal Nehru and who continued to harbour very fond images of China and India leading Asia and the world forward.
“Nehru at no time fully comprehended that China was not a real friend to anybody except themselves.
“My own stay in China many years later in the 1980s convinced me further still that the Chinese cannot be friends of anybody.
“They are too full of themselves to be able to share anything including an idea with anybody else. That is why the Chinese call themselves the Middle Kingdom.”
Venkateswaran goes on to say that on the issue of China, which in 1962 fought a bitter border war with India, “Nehru was his own victim because Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel” wrote two warning notes to him on the subject.
“The Chinese have taken Tibet, he (Patel) said, and they are now our immediate neighbour and we have to take precautions against them. Nehru did not heed his advice.”
Venkateswaran felt that one of the men who contributed negatively to the situation leading to the war with China was V.K. Krishna Menon, then the defence minister.
“While V.K. Krishna Menon had many talents, I think he was primarily a hypocrite,” he said, recalling his own family’s long association with Menon.
Venkateswaran, who spent decades in the foreign service (he died in September 2014), says the Russians, during the Cold War, were more than nice to India but “I am afraid even today India has not shown enough appreciation”.
He recalled that once when India wanted to buy a second hand submarine from Moscow, the Russians said: “Why a second hand submarine? We will supply you a new one.”
He said: “They used to take out stuff from their own stocks to give to India, which no country ever does. I know of cases where the Russians went out of the way and took out stocks from their own supplies and sent those to us.
“We don’t show enough appreciation for that. Even today, the Russians have stood by India on the nuclear reprocessing which no other country has done.”