March 19th, 2009 - 6:29 pm ICT by ANI  

I. Ramamohan Rao

Book Review. Dragons Shadow over Arunachal
By R.D. Pradhan (Rupa & Co) 192 pages

New Delhi: Tibetans in India observed in March this year the fiftieth year of the escape of the Dalai Lama from Tibet following Chinese occupation of Tibet. They have expressed the hope that the Tibetans, who are presently living in their homeland, would be able to live in peace and freedom.

It was perhaps, unintentional but timely, that we have a new book written by the first Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, R.D. Pradhan, entitled Dragons Shadow over Arunachal.

Not many gave credit to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 when he decided that the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), as it was then known, should be given full statehood with its own Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister and a full-fledged Governor. The general feeling was that the people of NEFA did not demand full statehood and one could wait.

Looking back, one realizes how right Rajiv Gandhi was. The first three years of Rajiv Gandhis Prime Ministership was one of the best periods in Indian history. The Government of India entered into the Punjab Accord with Sant Longowal, the Assam Accord was signed with agitators in the State who were becoming violent on the issue of immigrants from Bangladesh, the Mizo Accord was signed and elections were held there with rebel Laldenga heading the new government, and major initiatives were taken to give full-statehood to the seven sisters in the North-East.

Rajiv visited Bangladesh, which was hit by a cyclone, took major initiative to make efforts to settle the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka and convened the SAARC conference.

I recall having closely worked with the then Home Secretary, R. D. Pradhan, in projecting the decisions as Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. As one looks back, another good decision taken by Rajiv Gandhi to send Ram Pradhan as the first Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, even though he was initially reluctant to take on the responsibility after retirement.

During his assignment between 1987 and 1990 Ram Pradhan and his wife traveled all over Arunachal by road and air, met people of all the sixteen districts, each distinct from the other in their own way, painstakingly interacting with the tribal chiefs without patronizing them. He was able to carry forward the efforts of Sir Verrier Elvin and the Officers of the Indian Frontier Administrative Service, in instilling in the people with a sense of belonging to India.

He discovered for himself that many tribes from Arunachal, while having distinct traditions, had strong links with the rest of India. That there are temples associated with Bhishma, that Lord Krishna had married Rukmini — a Idu-Mishmi girl — and that every year on Makar Sankranti day on January 14, people from far off came to Parasram Kund near Tezu on Lohit river for a holy dip.

As Governor, Pradhan studied Indias border problem with China. Many have blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for having trusted China and entered into an agreement on Tibet in 1954 and helped China being ushered into the non-aligned meet at Bandung in 1955. Nehrus efforts were directed to make China a strong friend of India, even though he was skeptical of Chinese intentions.

That Nehru was skeptical about China is brought out in the remark he made to G. Parthasarathi, who called on him On March 18, 1958, just before left for China as Ambasssador: So G.P. what has the foreign office told you: Hindi Chini bhai bhai? Dont you believe it? I dont trust the Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that. The Chinese are arrogant, devious, hyprocritical and thoroughly unreliable. In fact, they have deliberately chosen to be anti-Indian. Your brief from me, therefore, is to be extremely vigilant about all Chinese intentions, policies and actions towards us.

R.D. Pradhan says that Nehru was not naive in his personal assessment of China. After the Longju incident in August 1959, in his letter to the Chief Ministers on 1 October 1959, he foresaw the tension erupting into conflict and warned the army. The author quotes Kautilya to say that it is left to the genius of a countrys leadership to make an ally or an adversary of a neighbouring State. Nehru made consistent efforts to turn China from an adversary to a friend. He failed.

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