C.V. Ranganathan, former ambassador to China, said that the Chinese, especially the media, looked at India as a junior partner to the United States which was playing the old game of encircling China. The single party (in China) has inculcated a spirit of nationalism which has found great resonance with the younger generation, he said.

There was no example of two neighbouring countries having a mutual peaceful impact from ancient days.

The two countries would have to be quite clear of the intersections from West Asia to East Asia through Central, South and South East Asia, to the benefit of both the countries he said emphasising that this would need a far better understanding of China from India's part.

I was assigned to Beijing for the second time in my career in 1987. My previous posting there was as First Secretary in the Embassy from 1965-68. I understood then what the proverbial Rip Van Winkle must have felt when he woke up to find his world transformed after a 20 year sleep!

The hundreds of portraits and statues of Mao Zedong had given way to just one at the Tiananmen Square. Some old messengers of the Embassy who joined in Red Guard demonstrations against us in 1967 received me warmly at the airport. Shiny skyscrapers overshadowed stodgy Soviet-style structures.

Air hostesses went out-of-the-way to make passengers comfortable instead of thrusting red-books at their faces. The last Indian diplomatic walk-out from a Chinese-hosted Reception receded more than a good 15 years. Many models of Japanese cars plied the streets where traffic jams were common. Foreign tourists crowded the Friendship Store. So many signs of a China which was so different from the sixties. While it was evident that China had changed, I had the confidence that things could also change for the better in Sino-Indian relations.

Two days before I arrived in May 1987, Mr. PN. Haksar came as special envoy of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi accompanied by Mr. V. V. Paranjpe. The evening of my arrival we were invited to a fabulous dinner by the late Prof. Wu Xiaoling, a close friend of Mr. V.V. Paranjpe and a great Sanskrit scholar. During the dinner Mr. Haksar and Prof. Wu Xiaofing recited verses from Kalidasa’s Meghdoot in Sanskrit.

Mr. Haksar had by then finished rounds of discussions with then Premier Zhao Ziyang and senior Chinese officials. The message conveyed by Mr. Haksar was that India was prepared to be forward-looking, that India did not consider China to be an adversary and that both countries must make efforts to put the past behind. A clear signal of India’s desire to work towards better understanding and improved relations with China and thus conveyed at an authoritative level.

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