Monday, May. 02, 1955

Upset at Bandung

Lordly, India's Jawaharlal Nehru surveyed the gathering of delegates sipping their tea. He drew delicately on his black bone cigarette holder, waited for lesser delegates to approach and pay their respects. Nehru had the air of a man in undisputed command of the Asian-African Conference of 29 countries, and with his plans all laid. Red China's Chou En-lai was to be introduced to international society under his chaperonage, and shown to be a harmless fellow. Controversy was to be avoided, debate held to a minimum, only agreement sought. And what could they agree on? Why, the denunciation of that old villain "colonialism," thus improving Communist China's character by blackening the West's. From such a conference, Nehru would emerge as the spokesman for the world's colored races, the mediator between East and West, the apostle of peace, the leader of a mighty neutralist brood.

In Bandung's dusty streets, fezzes mingled with turbans, longyis with Bond Street suits. A swirl of exotic prophets, devious schemers and earnest advocates swarmed in from afar to urge their causes. Resplendent in a red tarboosh and black gown, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem materialized like a wraith from the past. There was a young Turkestani from Brooklyn to protest against the "tragic conditions of Moslems in the Soviet Union and China," a delegation from South Africa to urge condemnation of apartheid.

The Voiceless Ones. The men of many colors and faiths met in pride and excitement. "Our people have been the voiceless ones in the world," cried Indonesia's President Soekarno. "But the nations of Asia and Africa are no longer the tools of others and the playthings of forces they cannot control. Look! The peoples of Asia raised their voices, and the world listened."

The first surprise of Bandung was that they spoke with many voices and accepted no drillmaster. Nehru had underestimated the caliber and the character of his fellow delegates.

One by one, Nehru's careful plans tumbled around his ears. Pakistan's Mohammed Ali, arriving late, objected to Nehru's plan to avoid controversial questions and to skip opening speeches. Turkey's Fatin Rustu Zorlu said coldly that Turkey was not ready to accept decisions taken in its absence. "We have traveled a long way, and we want to be heard," said Liberia's Momolu Dukuly. Angrily, Nehru stalked out of the room, snapping, "The trouble with this conference is that there are too many people here with a U.N. mentality."

Message to Peking. China's Chou played his assigned role to the hilt. He was modest, retiring, spoke only when spoken to. turned away wrath with a soft answer. He let Nehru speak for him, only nodding his head gently in agreement.

In the big conference hall (appropriately, it had once been a Dutch officers' club), delegate after delegate rose to speak his mind. There were plenty to denounce French colonialism in North Africa, apartheid in South Africa, British colonialism in Aden. But some spoke plainly to the man from Peking. "Communism confronts the world with a new form of colonialism much deadlier than the old one." said Iraq's Fadhil Jamali. "Under the old form, there was at least some chance of hearing the cries of pain." As he sat down to a burst of applause, Pakistan's Mohammed Ali clapped him enthusiastically on the back while Nehru glowered.

"Do we fight to regain our manhood from Western colonial rulers only to surrender it to rulers among ourselves who seize the power to keep us enslaved?" demanded the Philippines' Carlos Romulo. Added Pakistan's Ali: "We [must not be] misled into opening our doors to a more insidious form of imperialism that masquerades in the guise of liberation."

Thailand's able Prince Wan pointed out that the Communists are busily training Thais living in China "for infiltration and subversion" in Thailand. "What does [coexistence] mean?" he demanded. "Does it mean live and let live?"

The Soft Answer. Through the onslaught, Chou En-lai aired himself briskly with a black lacquer fan. Finally he rose to reply.

"The Chinese delegation has come here to seek unity and not to quarrel," he protested. "China has no intention whatsoever to subvert the government of its neighboring countries. On the contrary, it is China that is suffering from the subversive activities which are openly carried out without any disguise by the U.S." Why didn't the delegates come and see for themselves? "We have no bamboo curtain, but some people are spreading a smoke-screen between us."

Grimly, Nehru struggled to get the balky delegates back under control. He arranged gatherings and dinners for selected delegates to meet Chou. His chief foreign adviser, Krishna Menon, acted as a kind of floor manager for Chou. Gaunt and spectral in his flowing white robes, Menon swooped from delegate to delegate like a chicken hawk over a smorgasbord, crying: "Isn't he a wonderful man?" But the delegates refused to be herded.

Nehru became more and more irritable. He stalked out of one meeting, twice insisted that photographers be cleared from the hall, once arrived at the conference hall announcing: "Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a car. This entrance should be reserved for delegates only."

The Man from Ceylon. Nehru's greatest irritant came from a restive member of his own Colombo powers, Ceylon's Sir John Kotelawala. While Nehru debated how to approach Chou over the Formosa question, Sir John plunged ahead on his own. Meeting Chou early in the week, he demanded cheerily: "Why don't we try to settle this Formosa problem?" Three times Kotelawala set up a luncheon meeting for Chou to discuss Formosa with the five Colombo powers and Romulo and Prince Wan. Chou begged off, once was whisked off to a dinner given by Nehru to which Sir John was not invited. Sir John lost patience.

Stomping into the conference room in his black coat and jodhpurs, he announced his own plan: withdrawal of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, abandonment of Quemoy and Matsu, a trusteeship for Formosa either under the U.N. or the Colombo powers.

Nehru was scornful. "Why under the United Nations?" he asked with heavy sarcasm. "I should think Ceylon would be quite enough."

Annoyed, Sir John furiously delivered himself of the conference's plainest talk. If Chou really believed in coexistence, said Sir John, why did he not call off the subversive activities of the Communist parties throughout Asia? (see box next page). From that moment on, any move at Bandung to denounce "Western colonialism" while ignoring Communist imperialism was doomed to failure.

Nehru, his carefully fostered illusions of coexistence rudely shattered, was furious. "Bloody fool," spluttered Krishna Menon. Demanded Nehru: "Why didn't you ask me before you did a thing like this?" Retorted Sir John: "Do you ask me for permission before you make a move?" Scowling, China's Chou rose and demanded an opportunity to reply.

That night the Indians assiduously passed the word that Sir John was not too bright and was overeager for headlines.

But next day Chou himself had thought better of his anger, dropped back into his role of the mild man of peace. He walked up to Sir John, grasped his hand, and said in English: "There are some constructive portions in your speech, and I support you." Sir John was speechless with surprise. "I desire to show a conciliatory attitude," Chou explained to the conferees.

Rebuttal by Nehru. Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Liberia, the Sudan and the Philippines joined in sponsoring a resolution condemning "all types of colonialism, including international doctrines resorting to methods of force,' infiltration and subversion." Pakistan's Mohammed Ali offered a substitute for Nehru's and Chou's "five principles" which included (as the "five principles" do not) the right to form alliances for self-defense. Turkey's Zorlu supported him. "If it were not for NATO, Turkey would not be able to attend the conference," said Zorlu.

Banging his fist on his desk, Nehru declared that NATO is "a powerful protector of colonialism," which has had the "gross impertinence" to hint to India that it would protect Portuguese Goa. "We should not take any sides in the cold war," said Nehru. "It is an intolerable humiliation for any nation of Asia or Africa to degrade itself by becoming a camp follower of one or the other of the power blocs . . . We will not join either bloc because that means losing our identity."

He refused to admit that Communist expansion was anything like colonialism. The European satellites "are sovereign nations in the United Nations. How can we consider them colonial territories?" And what about Guatemala? "Is that not an example of another kind of colonialism?" he demanded. "I am not saying that it is. How can we decide which country is subjugated and which is not?"

Soothingly, Burma's U Nu suggested a resolution wrapping up the "five principles" of coexistence with the U.N. charter of human rights. "There is nothing in this proposal which can be opposed by anybody," said Nehru approvingly. But Pakistan's Ali insisted stubbornly: "This conference will not be realistic if it discusses only one side of colonialism and not the other." There, with a pro-Western majority confronting Neutralists Nehru, U Nu and Indonesia's Sastroamidjojo, the conference deadlocked. (In the end, the conference agreed to denounce "colonialism in all its manifestations.")

With his plans in disarray around him, Nehru subsided into grumbling silence. It was the cue for Chou Enlai, in his most generous mood, to step forward.

During the week, while others were scoring debating points, Chou had worked quietly and dexterously. Moving softly from delegate to delegate, he had offered something for everybody. He teased Japan with talk of increased trade, supported India's claim to Goa, wooed Egypt's handsome Premier Gamal Abdel Nasser and the other Arab states by voting to condemn Israel. Most important of all, he concluded and signed an agreement with Indonesia on the troubled question of the dual nationality of 2,500,000 overseas Chinese—they had a year to choose whether to become citizens of Indonesia or Communist China, thus neatly excluding the possibility of their choosing Nationalist China.

Now, the next to the last day of the conference Chou, in simple, unadorned language, delivered a speech that was a masterpiece of diplomatic dexterity. Skillfully, he conveyed the impression of a man of candor with nothing to conceal, a man of principle who was not apologizing for his convictions but ready to admit other views were possible. If some delegates were wary of the term "peaceful coexistence" as a Communist phrase, "we can then change the term," said Chou, suggesting the U.N. charter phrase "live together in peace." China was opposed to "formation of ever more antagonistic military alliances," but he recognized others might want them. For instance, he said, he had talked to Pakistan's Prime Minister. "He told me that although Pakistan was a party to a military treaty, Pakistan was not against China. As a result of that, we achieved a mutual understanding although we are still against military treaties."

Some delegates had mentioned the Cominform. There were many other international organizations, said Chou, some of which the Chinese did not like. "We are displeased, for instance, with the network of the U.S. intelligence agency because we have been the victims of that agency." But since no one could agree on this question, the conference should not deal with it.* "There is fear of China on the part of our neighbors." Chou acknowledged. "There is Thailand and the Philippines. Since we lack mutual understanding, it is quite natural that they have this fear." But Chou had proffered assurances that "we will not make any aggression or direct threats against Thailand or the Philippines," and invited a delegation from Thailand "to visit our inland province and see if we have any aggressive designs against others."

Then Chou delivered his punch line.

Said he: "The Chinese people do not want to have war with the U.S. The Chinese government is willing to sit down and enter into negotiations with the U.S. government to discuss the question of relaxing tension in the Far East and especially the question of relaxing tension in the Taiwan [Formosa] area." This offer, he added, as an afterthought, "should not affect in the slightest degree the just demands" of the Communists to "liberate" Formosa.

If there had been any doubt about Chou's triumph, his offer clinched it. Though the U.S. promptly retorted that it would not accept negotiations in the absence of Nationalist China, even some of the most fervent anti-Communists were impressed. "A great move," cried Pakistan's Ali, and himself forwarded the proposal to Washington.

In a conference where only seven of the 29 participants recognized his government, Chou had clearly won friends and influenced nations. Said one Indonesian: "The so-called anti-Communist powers behaved like fanatics. Mr. Chou En-lai behaved like a gentleman, and we think he is one." It was an illusion that could prove disastrous, and had before. Not all delegates were so easily taken in. Said Iraq's Dr. Jamali: "When I hear Communist statements for peace and reduction of tension, I am never overcome with emotion."

The fact was that Chou's role, while cleverly played, had been forced on him. At Bandung last week, an era came to an end—an era when Asians and Africans as a group would admit no danger, feel no anger, and see no enemy beyond the primary enemy of Western imperialism. With independence and after bitter experience, they had learned that there was a greater threat to their freedom than a dying and embarrassed colonialism, and to an increasing number Chou En-lai represented that threat.

Unable to pull the cloak of anticolonial indignation over his shoulders, Chou had shrewdly switched tactics and done the next best thing. His meekness and semblance of affability were a measure of his failure to deceive—and of stirrings of awareness in the young-old nations of Asia and Africa.

* Radio Peking added a really disingenuous defense of the Cominform: for Moscow or Peking to disarm Communist movements in other countries would be an intolerable invasion of the internal affairs of these nations.