Friday, Mar. 06, 1964

Quid Pro Quo

Mrs. Solomon West Ridgeway Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Ceylon, is an exasperating handful for any diplomat, even Red China's peripatetic Premier Chou Enlai. As Chou's road show pulled into Colombo last week, it was clear that he had taken advance precautions to ease his confrontation with the formidable first lady. Included in his entourage for the first time was Soong Ching-ling, widow of Dr. Sun Yatsen, founder of modern China, and sister of Mme. Chiang Kaishek. A rheumatic lady of 74, Soong Ching-ling fell out with her family during China's civil war, stayed on the mainland after the Communist takeover, won a Stalin Peace Prize in 1951, now lives in relative obscurity in Shanghai. Cheerfully, she waved at the crowds in Colombo, joined Chou at dinners and receptions, and made small talk with Mrs. Bandaranaike.

But Ceylon's Prime Minister saved her serious words for Chou himself. As a self-designated peacemaker, she thought she only had to say a few properly persuasive words to Chou and China would hasten to patch up its quarrel with India. Blithely, the Ceylonese press reported that Mrs. Bandaranaike had persuaded Chou to fly right to India for peace talks. But Chou was inscrutable, and India downright hostile to the idea. Mrs. Bandaranaike was only momentarily deterred. "As for the dispute between Peking and Moscow," she said, "I am afraid it is beyond me."

Chou was more amenable to Mrs. Bandaranaike's request for a handout. Ceylon's economy is as full of holes as the red carpet rolled out to greet Chou at Colombo's Ratmalana airport. U.S. aid has been cut off ever since Ceylon nationalized three American oil companies last year; when Mrs. Bandaranaike recently recognized East Germany, Bonn cut off its aid program. From Red China, Ceylon is receiving desperately needed machinery and industrial products. As a quid pro quo, China is seeking to use Ceylonese ports as transshipment centers for ships carrying goods to Africa, Europe, and South Asia. The Chinese are paying special attention to Trincomalee, on Ceylon's northeast coast. Western diplomats are aware that Trincomalee might some day make an ideal submarine base.