Sunday, 17 July 2011


To most Indians China is a quaint country. One hears of it, admires its culture and food but does not routinely plan to visit it. It is only recently that we have had a renewed interest in China, thanks to a series of postures and events culminating in the efficiently conducted Beijing Olympics; and later Expo at Shanghai. China fills us with emotions ranging from awe to anxiety. Last year we concluded the Commonwealth Games and sobriety about our oft repeated comparison with this emerging superpower would have hit us like a wet towel.

I was fortunate to have visited China in my official capacity as Director of the College of Naval Warfare (Now, Naval War College) in Jan last year with the entire Naval Higher Command Course (NHCC) and many of our ladies. Earlier in Nov 2008 Admiral Wu Shengli, the PLA (Navy) Commander, during his visit to Mumbai had interacted with the NHCC. Considerable bonhomie was developed during this interaction. The Admiral invited the CNW officers to visit the Naval Command College in Nanjing, China. No one took it seriously except me. I planned a visit to China during the FCT or the Foreign Country Tour for the NHCC. In 2009 the tour did not come through because of “short notice”. I persisted and in Jan 2010 the tour actually materialised, though with a little persuasion.

Our reception at Pudong Airport, Shanghai
Why was the persuasion necessary? My own assessment is that PLA (N) although taking great strides and making ripples in international arena, is still the poor cousin of People’s Liberation Army. Many high ranking Indian delegations visit China every year and our visit might not have been considered a high priority by the PLA. However, once the planning had been done with the PLA, some of it at the eleventh hour, my insistence that we were to be there at the invitation of the Admiral made the visit exceedingly important and successful. I was not sure whether the Admiral would have even remembered the invitation until we landed at Pudong airport, Shanghai.

Commander Shanghai Naval Base
RAdm Xu Weibing
hosting banquet fro u
We had a grand reception at the airport. Suddenly, we were told that Commander Shanghai Naval Base, RAdm Xu Weibing, would be our chief host in place of the Deputy Commander as had been planned
Breathtaking Acrobatics
earlier. The next evening we had a visit to the Shanghai Naval Base where we were received by the Base Commander himself. During the banquet dinner, as he sat next to me and I thanked him for looking after us so well, he said he had received a call from Admiral Shengli and the latter had told him to spare no efforts to make our visit successful, fruitful and comfortable. At one time, before leaving for China, we were worried whether the naval delegation would be welcome there. But, once there, thanks to the Admiral, even the ladies were looked after in a grand manner. We visited the Pearl Tower, the main tourist attraction at Shanghai. In a public place we were received by a reception party accompanied by a military band. In the evening, we were told that the Admiral had gifted tickets for the world famous Shanghai Acrobatics show for all of us. And what a show it was. For nearly two hours we sat spellbound as we watched the acrobats perform their miraculous acts in a continuous flow of music and performances.

Signing Visitors' Book at Shanghai Expo
The city was spotlessly clean and extremely presentable. It must rank amongst some of the world’s great cities such as New York and Sydney. There were no slums anywhere and the traffic ran smoothly. Young men and women moved around as freely as in any western country. We saw all the sites for Expo 2010 to be held from May to Oct 10. And yet, all the centres and infrastructure were ready good five months before the Expo. There was a sense of pride in the Shanghai people to put their best foot forward. Most of them said that the Expo would be to Shanghai what Olympics were to Beijing.

Brocade Museum - Nanjing
Our next city visit was to Nanjing. Rear Admiral Li Zhouming, Commandant, Naval Command College, was our host there. I had received the Commandant in my capacity as Director Maritime Warfare Centre, Mumbai, in Feb 05. He remembered that and also said that Admiral Shengli had phoned him to make our visit successful. In addition to official interactions we visited the Nanjing Massacre Museum showcasing the Japanese atrocities; and the Nanjing Brocade Museum.

PLA (N) Hqs at Beijing
At Beijing, thanks once again to the personal instructions of Admiral Shengli, we interacted with a high level delegation comprising the Chief of Staff, General Staff, PLAN Headquarters, VAdm Su Shi Liang, and his entire team of senior staff including the Deputy Chief of Staff, RAdm Liuo Shining.

The fare at ther Duck restaurant
A visit to the Great Wall of China and to a Chinese Duck restaurant were thrown in at Beijing. Even though the weather is reputed to be bad during January, in keeping with the warmth we had generated, wherever we went it was nice and sunny. I was relatively junior in hierarchy but I was treated with a protocol befitting an Admiral; complete with police pilot escorts wherever we went.

At the Great Wall of China
We hear a lot about Chinese incursions in the Indian Ocean; their doggedness in what they call their private lake, that is, the South China Sea, string of pearls theory and refusal to let LtGen BS Jaswal, Northern Army Commander, visit China on a planned visit. But, we of the CNW, for those seven days in January last year completely forgot about the Dragon and were as much home there as we would be, say, in Mauritius. Naval diplomacy worked and worked well. There was no great wall between us.

1 comment:

  1. We can emulate a lot from China! Good article!


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