I met him half a dozen times. His personality was engaging, his determination to change and reform a stagnant USSR was genuine.
‘The morning has been golden, the noontide was bronze; and the evening lead”.
This Winston Churchill wrote about Lord Curzon in his charming book, “Great Contemporaries”.
One could write about the late Mr Mikhail Gorbachev on similar lines. He matured at an uncanny speed. His fluency of speech was breathtaking. He was courageous, possessed a tireless energy, mental and physical. His willpower was all too visible. What deserted him was a capacity to anticipate at least in small measure of the political future. Finally, he obviously had a poor horoscope. For the last 30 years of his life he was a forgotten man.
I met him half a dozen times. Twice in New Delhi, four times in Moscow. His personality was engaging, his determination to change and reform a stagnant USSR was genuine.
Alas! He was in too much of a hurry. Perestroika and Glasnost did not produce the desired results. Instead of carrying the old guard with him, he aliened them, both at home and the leaders of the Eastern European countries.
I distinctly remember Rajiv Gandhi’s talks with the Hungarian leader, Janos Kadar. Short of abusing Gorbachev, he was totally against what the Soviet leader was up to.
In late 1987, I visited Warsaw. I had been ambassador to Poland in the early 1970s. Some of the leaders of those times were still alive, including the former Prime Minister, Wojciech Jaruzelski. I asked to see him. He invited me to tea at his house. His lovely wife was also present.
I asked my distinguished Polish host what he thought of Gorbachev’s reformist policies. His answer was scathingly disapproving. “He is destroying Communism, the USSR and us. I cannot forgive him.”
Mr Gorbachev had a soft corner for India, respect for Jawaharlal Nehru and considered Rajiv Gandhi an intimate friend.
In his “Memoirs” he wrote admiringly about Jawaharlal Nehru. Gorbachev was a student when Jawaharlal Nehru spent a week in the Soviet Union. He had substantial discussions with M/s Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin, the two leaders. Khrushchev was the undisputed number one.
Gorbachev writes, “Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Moscow in June 1955 served as an unexpected stimulus for me… This amazing man, his noble bearing, his intelligent, keen eyes, and warm and disarming smile, made a deep impression on me. I recall his kind words for our alma mater and the hope he expressed that the University would educate young men and women great in mind and of heart, who would become the bearers of peace and good will.”
Rajiv Gandhi and Mikhail Gorbachev called each other by their first names. “I established a warm personal rapport with Rajiv Gandhi. We met on many occasions and exchanged letters. Our thoughts were along the same lines, and our conversations ranged far beyond the agenda. I was deeply impressed by the way he organically combined the profound philosophic tradition of India and the East with a perfect knowledge and comprehension of European culture. He had great personal charm and was endowed many human virtues. Rajiv was devoted to the cause of his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his mother, Indira Gandhi—his life’s aim was the renaissance of India.”
In December 1986, Gorbachev came to Delhi with a very large delegation. The memorable event was the signing of the Delhi Declaration on 27 November. It was a landmark event. Here is a quote: “human life must be acknowledged as the supreme value…non-violence must become the basis of co-existence…”
This was the first time that any Communist leader has agreed to include the word non-violence in an official bilateral agreement.
Ghulam Nabi Azad’s five-page letter to Sonia Gandhi has done serious damage to the image of Rahul Gandhi in particular and also the functioning of the Congress party in general.
One or two Congress chamchas have used comical words against Ghulam Nabi, but no one has taken any notice of them. The rant is that the Party has done so much for him. Has not Ghulam Nabi given the better part of his life to the service of the Party?