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The East-East Conflict

K.N. Ramachandran

By T.N. Kaul
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 163, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

Diplomats, particularly those who have been in the spotlight, write memoirs once they have removed the mask of their pro­fession and hung them up for good. Retired Indian diplomats are no exception. In fact, some are more prolific than others. In the ‘veteran generation’, K.P.S. Menon is one who wrote a series of books—serious, anecdotal, funny or otherwise. T.N. Kaul, popularly known as Tikki Kaul, who belongs to the ‘senior generation’ is also one who keeps vigoro­usly tick-tocking with unfailing rhythm. He has authored three books in the span of two years. The book under review is the second to be published. It is a collec­tion of articles, reflections on recent events, and recollections from the diplo­matic years. The themes range from a homage to Nehru as an internationalist to a sketch of the tragedy of Kampuchea under Pol Pot and the hegemonism of Beijing. China's pursuit of great power post­ures and policies in the South and South­east Asian region constitutes one of the major themes in the book. Kaul rightly observes that the Chinese approach to the world is ‘narrow and ruthless’ when compared to the Indian approach. One may, however, add that the Chinese approach, which has traditional roots, was reinforced by the kind of international system which emerged in the post-War world. This system also had an impact in shaping Indian perceptions of the world. And Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a mix of idealism and realism to optimize India's advantages in that international order. Kaul aptly describes it as ‘Nehruvian resilience’—a strategy which continues to have considerable validity for India today. Kaul travelled to Vietnam and Kam­puchea in the wake of the Sino-Vietnam war. In Hanoi, he had a meeting with an old friend, Premier Pham Van Dong. The terrain of Long Son reminded him of his native Kashmir. His passionate sympa­thies are for the heroic Vietnamese who made the Chinese learn a lesson or two in the 17-day war of February-March 1979. The impressions of his May 1979 visit are juxtaposed with the experience of the fifties when Kaul was the Indian Chairman of the International Control Commission (1956-58). One incident cited by him adds yet another evidence to the determination of Hanoi to unify the country. In a conversation with Kaul, Pham Van Dong asserted in half English and half French: ‘We shall go to ...

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