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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘The Politics of History: India and China, 1949-1962’, 25th March, 2015 .


‘The Politics of History:
India and China, 1949-1962’


Ms. Nirupama Rao,
Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow,
New Delhi.


The period between 1949 and 1962 was a crucially formative period in relations between India and China, the impact of which is still felt. With the benefit of hindsight, the terrain of the relationship during that era is revealed with much more granularity today. Issues like Tibet, the crystallization of approaches to the boundary question, and the role of the bureaucracy, parliamentary and public opinion in generating policy responses (in India) and our reading of Chinese intentions have to be analysed with sharper focus in order to understand why solutions to the vexed questions that still cast long shadows on the relationship between these two Asian giants and neighbors still elude both sides. What is the value we draw from the history of that early era? History as Samuel Eliot Morison once said, is about the book of life. Between India and China, and in speaking of their complex, involute relationship, history is often refracted through the prism of the conflict of 1962 and permeated with judgments that are emotionally burdened with memories of bitter shock and humiliation. The politics of history involving the relationship between India and China in the period before the conflict of 1962 must ensure a sense of proportion of that history, distilling the meaning of the events that transpired and the key determinants in the evolving relationship between these two Asian powers in mid-century. How does that history connect to us, and how we shape our future? In this talk, the speaker will discuss these aspects which also form the subject of her forthcoming book on the subject.


Ms. Nirupama Rao was in the Indian Foreign Service from 1973 to 2011. After her retirement in July 2011 she was appointed Ambassador of India to the United States for a tenure of two years which ended in November 2013. Ms. Rao is currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow. She was also a Fellow at the India Initiative of the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University, USA and a Fellow of the Harvard University, (1992-1993).

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