"If We Had Been More Bharat...": S Jaishankar On India-China Ties

S Jaishankar referred to historical records, citing exchanges of notes and letters between the first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on China

'If We Had Been More Bharat...': S Jaishankar On India-China Ties

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar delved into the ideological landscape of that period.

New Delhi:

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday reflected on India's relationship with China, and while shedding light on historical nuances, he provided a perspective on how a more Bharat-centric approach could have shaped the nation's view of its ties with China differently.

"If we had been more Bharat, we would have had a less rosy view of our relationship with China," said Jaishankar delving into India's historical perspectives on its relationships with China.

In an address at the launch event of his book 'Why Bharat Matters' in the national capital, Jaishankar asserted, "Regarding the three countries that I posited, Pakistan, China, and the US, were actually three very debated relationships in our early years."

The minister referred to historical records, citing exchanges of notes and letters between the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on China. He emphasised the starkly differing views expressed by the two leaders, shedding light on the complexities of India's early stance on its relationship with China.

"This is not something which is my fantasy. There is a kind of a record out there. There's an exchange of notes, letters between Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru on China, and they have very starkly differing views about it," said the EAM.

Mr Jaishankar highlighted Nehru's correspondence with Chief Ministers on the issue of China's place in the UN Security Council, emphasising that this historical context provided insights into the nuanced dynamics of India's diplomatic relations. "If one looks at even the whole UN Security Council issue, this is not something which someone is saying today. There is a letter which Nehru has written to Chief Ministers saying, first let China take its place in the Security Council," Jaishankar added.

Even during the 1962 conflict, Jaishankar pointed out that Nehru sought assistance from the United States, acknowledging the hesitancy in seeking aid during a time when India was under attack.

"When the 1962 conflict war was taking place, Nehru actually wrote to Kennedy saying, 'Look, I need your help'...I'm not putting his exact words...but more or less 'I was hesitating to ask you because I was not sure how it would look overall when your country is actually under attack'," the External Affairs Minister also said.

The External Affairs Minister delved into the ideological landscape of that period, noting a strong left-wing influence in China and an ingrained hostility towards the United States, acknowledging that the Americans had played a role in fostering that hostility.

"What happens is, in a sense there is a certain, I would say a kind of a left wing ideology which was very strong in that period, in China and similarly there's very ingrained hostility towards the United States the Americans did a lot to deserve it. But the fact is that the things which the Americans did we probably didn't deserve," he added.

Addressing the issue of distrust towards the United States, Jaishankar referenced Sardar Patel's views on foreign policy, suggesting a need to evaluate American relations based on India's own interests rather than through the lens of America's dealings with China.

"Again, it's an interesting issue where one of the last comments of Sardar Patel on foreign policy was, why are we sort of so distrustful of America? We should look at America from the viewpoint of our own interest, not from the viewpoint of how Americans are dealing with China," the EAM also said.

Earlier, in an interview with ANI, Jaishankar reiterated that India should deal with China on the basis of realism and asserted that the relationship should be based on the three mutual understandings-- respect, sensitivity, and interest.

Jaishankar also reassessed India's approach of engaging with China with realism in order to checkmate its aggressive measures, while also hitting out at the romanticism of the Nehruvian era with China.

"I argue for dealing with China from a basis of realism -- that strain of realism, which I feel -- strains all the way from Sardar Patel to Narendra Modi -- that is the strain of realism which I feel should allow us to have a certain approach," said Jaishankar.

In the same interview, the EAM also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his pragmatic approach on China.

"I would say that the Modi Government has been very much more and in conformity with a strain of realism, which originated from Sardar Patel," he said.

Explaining the difference in the approach of India's first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel and first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jaishankar highlighted the difference of opinion among the two stalwarts.

"Even when it came, for example to the UN Security Council seat, it's not my case that we should have necessarily taken the seat, it's a different debate, but to say that we should first let China -- China's interest should come first, it's a very peculiar statement to make," said Jaishankar while dealing with the approach of Nehru and Sardar Patel's realism.

Early into Nehru's tenure, Sino-Indian relations were characterised by what was perceived as friendship and cordiality that covered both bilateral and regional and international issues; however, India got a rude awakening when China launched a war in 1962 that gave decision makers in New Delhi a reality check on their China policy.

"It takes two hands to clap. I pose the issue in this manner if you look at the last 75 plus years of our foreign policy, they have a strain of realism about China and have a strain of idealism, romanticism, non-realism. It begins right from day one, there is a sharp difference of opinion -- how to respond to China between Nehru and Sardar Patel," said Jaishankar while responding to a question on whether the two nations will bury the hatchet in 2024.

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