A new book on G Parthasarathi, the multifaceted diplomat and policy advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had also served under Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi; Revealed that contrary to the prevalent perception, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was neither soft on China nor trusting of the Chinese. In fact, long before the Sino-Indian war of 1962, Nehru dealt with China only through trusted aides who were sworn to secrecy and bound to communicating with him alone. Nehru was particular that his Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon should not get so much as a whiff of what was going on (vis-à-vis the Chinese), and explicitly said so to his aides. Nehru sent GP, as he was known, as India’s ambassador to China in 1958.
Another claim in the book is that the Sino-Indian talks on border negotiations, initiated by Deng Xiaoping and Indira Gandhi, were “sabotaged” by a senior diplomat.
In one section, GP’s son Prof Ashok Parthasarathi, who himself was science and technology advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, quotes from GP’s notes of a meeting with Nehru on March 18, the day before his (GP’s) departure for Peking.
“So GP, what has the Foreign Office told you? Hindi-Chini Bhai-bhai? Don’t you believe it? I don’t trust the Chinese one bit,” is how Nehru began the meeting. “They are an arrogant, untrustworthy, devious and hegemonistic lot. Your watchword should be eternal vigilance. On important matters, you should send your telegrams only to me. You must ensure that Krishna (Menon) does not come to know of these policy guidelines of mine to you. This is because, although Krishna, you and I all have a common worldview — left of centre, non-alignment and close relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries — Krishna believes that no socialist country (read China) would ever attack a non-aligned country (read India).”
These notes, in Ashok’s possession, are being made public for the first time in the book titled GP: 1915-1995, scheduled for release later this month. It has a foreword by former president of India Pranab Mukherjee. In 1962, when war clouds were looming, GP was called to New Delhi for consultations. He stayed back and after the war, India-China relations went into deep freeze. Although ambassador-level relations resumed in 1976, an initiative that Indira Gandhi took on GP’s advice, there was still palpable hostility. In 1982, twenty years after the war, it was GP who cleared the decks to end the freeze, and paved the way for Rajiv Gandhi’s historic visit to China in December 1988. And there hangs another tale of GP’s role as a troubleshooter.
This book reveals some hitherto unknown and controversial details of GP’s 105-minute meeting with China’s “Paramount Leader” Deng Xiaoping in 1982. At this meeting, Deng mooted a “package deal” to settle the border dispute: China keeps the 50,000 sq kms (of India’s) that it had stealthily annexed through “cartographic aggression” over 15 years plus the 30,000 sq kms China had acquired as a result of India’s defeat in the 1962 war in the western sector (Ladakh and beyond); in return, India would keep the whole of Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector. According to Ashok, GP agreed with Deng, who said that he would “like the package to be formally proposed by our Prime Minister, Indiraji in a letter to Deng,” who would reply speedily confirming China’s acceptance. His letter would nominate a high official for detailed negotiations and he invited Indira to do likewise.
The ‘package’ approach and the nomination of their representatives by both sides was a ‘Great Leap Forward’. On his return home, GP briefed the Prime Minister, who agreed wholeheartedly. GP then drafted the PM’s letter to Deng. It was approved, signed and dispatched to Deng barely three weeks after, and Deng’s affirmative reply was received by the PM.
“A key issue on our side was who would be our negotiator. GP felt that instead of being sent as ambassador to France when his term as ambassador to China ended in a couple of months, A P Venkateswaran should be made Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and also our negotiator. This was approved by Indiraji. However, she told GP that he should guide Venkateswaran all the way.”
And, then Ashok concludes the tale with a twist that is sure to stir controversy: After six rounds of such negotiations, a senior diplomat posted in China told the Chinese that PM Indiraji “had lost interest in the proposal and the process of negotiation.” Ashok asserts that “this was totally untrue, unauthorised and hence a dastardly sabotage of the talks.”
By- Nikita Goel, Convener, Student Reporter Committee, INBA