Friday, January 13, 2006

At that time

Wonder what happened a while later! [Link.]

On the topic of Brezhnev, the other day I saw an Ashoka tree planted by Brezhnev in our campus. His visit was in 1961, three years before he became the General Secretary of CPSU. Brezhnev was the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet at that time. Prime Minister Nehru had visited the USSR in September 1961 and this was Brezhnev's reciprocal visit. The plaque reads thus: Planted by / H.E.L.I. Brezhnev / Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of USSR / On 18 December 1961.

I was telling a friend of mine about Brezhnev's tree and I told him that the tree looked rather short for its 40+ years. "That's the planned economy growth. A free market tree would have touched the sky by now!", he said.

Of course something else was happening in India at that time. On the 18th of December 1961, the Indian troops entered Goa, thus ending four hundred years of Portugese rule. Nehru had repeatedly warned about using force in the preceding months. Tension escalated with the buildup of Portugese and Indian military stregths in Goa in November - December, and Portugal had appealed to the UN Security Council. On December 15, the UN Secretary General requested the prime ministers of India and Portugal not to allow the situation to deteriorate. And that was the day Brezhnev's fortnight long India trip began. On the 18th, when the Indian troops moved in, when Brezhnev planted that tree that I can almost see through the window while I type this (!), Portugal called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council. Portugal's friends in the West introduced a resolution calling for Indian withdrawal. The United States strongly criticised India. President Kennedy urged Nehru not to use any force. The Soviets stood by India. In particular, they vetoed the UN resolution.

By the way, my institute has an MoU with the state of Goa for almost five years now. The MoU envisages possibilities for collaborative activities in several areas including the development of facilities for providing e-communiation and internet acess in Konkani and Marathi languages, setting up of mechanisms for the upgradation of quality and level of technical education in Goa, and setting up of distance education and e-learning facility in Goa.

Brezhnev's tree has a lot of stories to tell!

P.S: The Goan crisis description is from A Study of Crisis by Michael Brecher and Jonathan Wilkenfeld.


At 2:06 AM, Blogger Rajagopal said...

Awww. How cute - "The Soviets stood by India". Thank god that Soviets didn't stand by us like they stood by Hungary and Poland and Romania and numerous other balkan states.

At 3:24 AM, Blogger pennathur said...


All of us know what happened a few months later in 1962 when India's other proletarian democratic neighbour China attacked us. The Soviet Union distinguished itself by coming to the aid and comfort of its communist colleagues in Mao's China. It is the US that helped India in that war. India's own "eminent and progressive" leaders in the Communist parties broke ranks with their patron Nehru and expressed support for China. That was the second time the Commies showed their colours, after their their betrayal of the Quit India movement. A very vocal minister in the Cabinet today who was a student in England then, organised a fund for China at his university.
India and the Soviet Union maintained cordial links all along until the break up of the USSR. India kept was silent when Soviet troops marched into Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. In turn the USSR threw its weight behind India at other times. All of which tells us that nations act in their own interest. This is ancient wisdom. Read the Arthashastra. Gandhi showed us a way out of this zero sum game. Someday in a few centuries when human beings acquire more humanity we will get there.

At 5:46 AM, Anonymous Anand said...

Rajagopal -- Cute or not, facts are facts. It's a fact that the Soviets stood by India in 1961. As Pennathur says in his comment, it's true that India and the USSR supported each other for a long time.

Pennathur -- Nations act in their own interest. I agree with you. The US position on India in general is well known, right? You must have seen this too, for instance.

At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Luis said...

Hi Anand,
As a Goan, I've heard many first-hand accounts of the events of Dec 19, 1961. It is variously described as "Liberation" or "Occupation" Day, depending on whom you talk to. But I do think Nehru was right, although he shouldn't have talked so much of nonviolent means beforehand. He ended up looking foolish as a result, & it diminished his international standing. Also, his promise to Goans that they would be given a choice, whether to join the Indian Union or not, was never honoured. It's all in the past, & it's difficult to conjure up the "what if..." options. I'm proud to be Indian, but December 1961 could have been handled a little better.
As regards the discussion re US & the Soviets & their "friendship" toward us, I hope we never ever have to rely on such fairweather friends.

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anand said...

Luis -- I'm glad to see your comment. I fully agree with what you say. Especially with the bit on fair-weather friends.

At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Vishnu said...

Ah, the tree. You're talking about the tree near LT (or PC Saxena audi.), right?

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anand said...

Vishnu -- Yes. I thought I was the first to notice that. :)

At 11:08 AM, Blogger pennathur said...


You are right!


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