M.L. Sondhi

April 4, 1967

I beg leave to speak on the motion on the President’s Address, but since this is the first occasion on which I am addressing this august Assembly, I beg leave to invoke the memory of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, who adorned this House and set precedents for speaking and deliberation and who can well be called the father of Indian democracy because he explained by his actions that Opposition is a necessary and a very responsible element in national politics. I invoke his memory and seek his blessings for all who like me have joined this House in order that they may serve the cause of democracy in this country.

I do, feel, however, that today there is afoot a mendicant mentality, a mentality of begging and this is evident both in national affairs and in international affairs. I fail to see any scheme, any idea, any projection of those ideals for which India stood, in the Address of The President. I recall that on the 26th January, he spoke and uttered words which comforted many of us in the hope that India had not lost that sense of direction, but the President’s Address fails to inspire us, to move us to accomplish any great venture in national politics. By contrast I would refer to the tradition of the Indian national movement and in that connection I beg your favour to express to the House the feelings which I had on meeting Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan on a recent visit to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

There is a man who brings to us a forgotten memory; there is a man who invokes in us those attitudes of mind which India had reached in the freedom struggle. And today I would say that that great man, Badshah Khan, is a beacon light to many of us who hope that India will recover her true national purpose.

But unfortunately, the whole outlook we find in the country today is one in which we are not prepared to accomplish a resurrection of the spirit. We take too often a view which I can call as the view of the status quo, status quo in national policies and status quo in our foreign policy.

The President’s Address refers with smug satisfaction, with certain complacency, to the position in international affairs. I wonder if this is not the result of wrong reports. I wonder if this is not the result of a certain blindness we have caused to ourselves by not looking at the world, by not looking at unpleasant facts and above all by not looking at fresh facts which can be discovered by analysis and research.

I submit that the External Affairs Minister has kept us in the dark regarding the issue called the Pakhtoonistan issue. We have been told that Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan is an old person living in exile, and that the Pakhtoonistan movement is largely a movement which has lost its fervour, that it is something which can be consigned to the dust-heap of history. I beg to say on the basis of my own impressions that Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan is in very good health, that he is a towering person and his movement is very well-organised. It is a movement with a political purpose, the political purpose being that which inspired our own national movement, that of political modernisation. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee sought political modernisation. The great giants of Indian national politics, Lokmanya Tilak and others have sought political modernisation, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan seeks above all political modernisation, because there is a condition in Pakistan which can be described as one which promotes medieval ideas. And amongst these medieval ideas is the idea of exterminating a whole people, what the Pakhtoons are facing today, what the UN Charter refers to as genocide.

Therefore, if we take our stand in supporting Pakhtoonistan, we take a stand which is in conformity with the ideals of the UN Charter. I would submit that lest it be said that I am being carried away by emotion or that being rather new to politics, I have been impressed too much by a visit to a foreign country, I would say that I speak with a sense of responsibility as one who has served the Government of India in the Indian Foreign Service and who would on no occasion betray the larger interests of the country in order to win any cheap political advantage.

To reinforce what I said earlier, I would, with your permission, quote from a book which will no doubt be listened to with respect across the floor, a book by Pyarelal, Secretary to Mahatma Gandhi. The book is entitled Thrown to the Wolves. This is a very important expression because whenever Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan meets anyone, he says and he repeats that he told Gandhiji ‘you are throwing us to the wolves’. And thereby hangs a tale.

I would refer you to page III of the book. This is Pyarelal recording:

“In answer to my question whether he could not plan a visit to India to woo public opinion in his favour, he said, ‘That would depend on the Government of India’s attitude’. “Besides he was very particular that he should achieve something worth while in Afghanistan first”.


“If India and Afghanistan co-operated fully with him, Badshah Khan felt the Pakhtoonistan issue could be settled without any outside help and without fighting. I asked him in what way India could help, and he answered: “By putting upon those concerned all the moral, economic and diplomatic pressure she was capable of”. ‘In conformity with the solemn pledge that Gandhiji had given them at the time of partition’, India was morally bound to do for them “all that she would do in an issue of vital concern to herself”.

Now, the point I wish to make is that there is a tendency on the part of those in charge of the affairs of the nation to always refer to moral duties, to always refer to religious duties. I am asking in the name of a modern outlook on national and international politics, let us leave the task of moral duty to saints and preachers.

Let us talk about political duties. As far as political duties are concerned, it is unfortunate that we do not learn nor do we forget anything, like the Bourbons of France. The essence of the matter is that we are living in a world which is a multipolar world, it is a world in which, if you wish to perceive external realities, you must perceive the movements of these cataclysmic forces of history which are working.

Therefore, as far as the issues concerning our neighbours are concerned, we cannot afford to forget that Pakhtoonistan is not a lost cause. It is a cause which is at the focal point of the politics of several countries of the world. It interests the Soviet Union, the United States of America, China, Britain, France and Afghanistan are also countries concerned with this issue.

Here I wish to pay my tribute to Afghanistan for looking after Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in such a fit and proper manner. They have made him a welcome guest, they have treated him with the honour due to that august personality.

I wish to refer to certain political points which are very relevant because the essence of the matter is that there is no status quo which has hardened in this area. What is happening is that there is a certain struggle for giving expression to the rights of the Pathans, and most countries of the world are prepared to look at the issue with clear and fresh eyes.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, from Prime Minister Daud to Prime Minister Maiwandwal there is an urgency which they give to the Pakhtoon issue. They cannot state it in words, but they are determined that the Pathans, Pakhtoons as they call them, shall get their say and shall be heard in the councils of the world, but unfortunately, as far as our own political expediency is concerned, we have not even cared to find out what the exact issues are at stake.

I wish to affirm on my part that I would advocate a policy of peace in the world. I believe we live in a thermonuclear age when talk of war must not be taken up as an issue which can be lightly treated, but I would urge you to consider that the key question of international politics is to find out whether any two countries are playing what is called in technical language a zero sum game or whether they are playing a positive-sum game. I believe it will be a positive sum game between India and Pakistan if India helps Pakistan to discover the limitations of blackmail diplomacy, if it helps Pakistan to discover the limitations of its own aggressiveness, which is actually the result of a cruel inconsistency between the lip service of Pakistan to Islam and their genocidal actions against the Pathans who are perhaps the most virile element amongst the Muslims of the world.

I wish therefore to underline here the very basic factors which are at stake. In respect of the question of Pakhtoonistan let us take a stand, let us start immediately a certain political dialogue, let us free ourselves from those frozen attitudes which have become the base of our policy. Lest I be misunderstood, I would again say that I am not talking of war, I am talking of the conditions for bringing about peaceful change, for bringing about a realisation of those rights which inhere in a free people. The Pathans are a free people, and certainly they have the right under the United Nations Charter not to suffer anybody to perpetrate the crime of genocide against them.

But more than that, may I request those who are concerned with the elaboration of foreign policy to look at the world in a slightly different context from that to which they are accustomed? I crave your indulgence to speak just on a final point. What I feel is this, that there must be an effort to achieve an understanding of the fundamental forces in world affairs. In external relations, if we are to uphold the dignity of our country, we must be prepared to conduct political dialogue with those new centres of power which are developing in the world. I feel that the Government of India does not have a policy towards Europe at all. It is so much fossilised in the Commonwealth relationship that it is unable to take into account the emergence of France as a factor in European politics and in world politics. Does it not occur to us, when we invite every Tom, Dick or Harry from abroad to extend an invitation to President Charles De Gaulle, and not only to formally extend an invitation, but to ensure diplomatically that President De Gaulle visits this country?

Because, that would give an opportunity for projecting India to these new centres of power which are developing in Europe. Similarly, I feel that with China the present situation is unsatisfactory. What we need is purposive diplomacy and a certain amount of political gamesmanship. Therefore, we must approach China and ask them about the rights of the Tibetan people. We must do this without fear or any expectation that we will offend the world because the world is waiting for India to express itself in a restrained, yet truly revolutionary language and idiom. I would also say that while we should strengthen our relations with the Soviet Union and the Soviet people who are our neighbours, yet it should be on the cultural level, a cultural dialogue between Russia and India. I greatly admire the Russianness of Russia, the Russianness of the Soviet Union because the world did not start for them in 1917; there was a grand epoch earlier. Let us not forget the famous Gandhi-Tolstoy dialogue. It is in that language that we should talk to the Soviet Union. As far as Eastern Europe is concerned, let us recognise the winds of change that have blown over Europe; let us have bilateral diplomacy with countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and the many other countries there which I am not mentioning now for want of time. These are countries which are feeling and breathing new ideas. With them we must establish solid and endurable bonds. Lest I should forget Latin America and Africa, I would urge that there again it is a certain type of bilateral diplomacy that must come up. We must remember that it is not the amount of legal quibbling that we bring to bear on international affairs which will mark out India’s image in world affairs; I would say that it would be the projection, in modern language, of diplomacy, but the spirit must be the spirit of the national movement, the spirit of Indian unrest which Lokamanya Tilak taught us.

Mr. Chairman: You must conclude now.

Shri M.L. Sondhi: I conclude by referring to the immortal words of Lala Lajpat Rai whose great statue in Lahore, I as a student used to contemplate, the words which he gave to the youth of India were words which may well apply to this august Assembly and to our diplomats also. The words were: “Think dangerously”. I would conclude on that note in all humility because although I do not have the time to speak at length this being my – what is called – maiden speech, I think the present situation in India requires above all an intellectual effort to restate our national values.
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