Chairman Mao’s words spoken 57 years ago seem to resonate even today in a contentious global polity as Rashtrapati Bhavan digitally recovers some of the famous speeches of world leaders of an era bygone.

September 19 marks the 57th year of Vice-President S. Radhakrishnan’s visit to China, where Chairman Mao Tse-tung threw a banquet in his honour and affirmed China’s intent to maintain friendly ties with India.

Manmohan’s visit

The two countries can be expected to resurrect the same spirit of 1957 later this year when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to Beijing in October.

The year 1957 holds a special significance in the history of Sino-India relations as it fell half-way through Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic visit to China in October 1954 and the signing of the 1954 Panchsheel Treaty. It was the time when both countries renewed their commitment to remain good friends and good neighbours.

However, soon the bonhomie would give way to rancour as the Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959 and the war erupted in 1962.

The similarity of circumstances between the 1957 visit by Radhakrishnan and the coming visit of Dr. Singh does not end there.

In 1957, both China and India were strong defenders of Syria and Egypt that were then in the midst of the Suez crisis and fighting for their independence. Cut to 2013, Egypt and Syria are in the news all over again.

Syrian crisis

The Syrian crisis and the evolution of Egypt post the Arab Spring have grabbed the headlines internationally and it should not come as a surprise if the situation obtaining today in Syria/West Asia and Egypt/North Africa figures in one way or another in Dr. Singh’s talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, just as it was in 1957 when Mao gave his banquet speech in honour of Radhakrishnan.

The speech, which has been updated to the digital resource section of the Rashtrapati Bhavan library and is available on Rashtrapati Bhavan’s website, has Mao making a reference to the Syrian and Egyptian people’s struggle for independence.

“One of the characteristics of our times is the upsurge of national independence movements in Asia and Africa. The colonists are trying everything that they can to turn the tide; but as shown last year by the Egyptian people and now Syrian people before the whole world that all schemes and provocations of the colonial people will certainly meet the most disastrous defeat…”

In the same speech, Mao assured the people of Asia and Africa of the firm support of the Chinese people in their struggle for national independence.

For his part, Radhakrishnan said India had no doubt that under the leadership of Mao “socialism will become more democratic and humanistic.”

The digital resource section is one of the most visited sections of the Rashtrapati Bhavan website.

“The website was intended to generate a sense of history, of allowing the younger generation to look back at important developments like what our leaders said and the nature of discussions. It was also meant to create a flavour of the role of Presidents, how they functioned then and now. This archival material can also be used for research and to awaken knowledge in people. And by linking [digital resource section] it to the President’s website, this wonderful historic material is easily accessible to a large section of visitors and we are hopeful it will also draw more visitors,” said Venu Rajamony, Press Secretary to the President.