Three Conversations of J.V. Stalin and Indian Ambassadors 1950-1953

1. Record of the Conversation of J.V. Stalin and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, January 15th, 1950.

CCB No. 397

O. T. P.

Telegram:        SECRET.

FROM           Indembassy, Moscow
                      Foreign, New Delhi

                                                                                                              DTO. JAN 14 NIL.
                                                                                                              DTR. Jan 151600

No. 3. From Radha Krishnan to K P S MENON.

Ambassador accompanied by Counsellor interviewed Generalissimo Stalin today at 9 P.M. at KREMLIN. Vyshinsky was present at interview. Ambassador began by expressing hope that good relations between two countries would be strengthened to which Stalin assented. Ambassador affirmed India's anxiety to do everything possible to work for peace which was essential to enable her to build up country and improve living standards. India's policy of neutrality was real and positive and in Colombo Pandit Nehru had reaffirmed India's anxiety to avoid cold war tactics and anti-Communist pacts. Stalin said he did NOT hear about it, but seemed to approve. Ambassador spoke of essential need for big powers to do their utmost to put end to cold war and to place embargo on propaganda against each other, in which Generalissimo Stalin should take lead in larger interest of humanity. Stalin replied that did NOT depend upon him alone. Ambassador replied that Stalin should take initiative and thus help suffering humanity. Stalin said that two days ago he was informed that when Pandit Nehru was in London he wanted to return to India via MOSCOW but he was NOT sure MOSCOW would favour this trip* and enquired if Ambassador had heard about* this. Ambassador answered in negative, and added that he knew Pandit Nehru would be glad to visit MOSCOW if time and* opportunity permitted. Stalin asked several questions regarding India's position in Commonwealth and seemed anxious to know if she was more or less independent than, say, Canada. Ambassador explained position especially in light of India's forthcoming declaration as a Republic. Stalin asked if India was entitled to have her own army without any restriction and also if there is a navy, He NODDED approval when informed that was case; Commander-in-Chief was Indian and there was also an Indian Air Force. He enquired if relations with Pakistan were still bad and about language they spoke there. He was told that relations were rather strained as Pakistan was of the view that wherever there were Muslims they must be with them. Of the languages of India he enquired which was dominant and expressed satisfaction that Hindi was PHONETIC and NOT HIEROGLYPHIC as it would thus be easier to liquidate illiteracy, unlike position* in China where even to read a newspaper it needs five years study. He enquired* if the Government proposed to carry out agrarian reforms and added something has to be done as peasants are in very poor condition. Ambassador assured that landlordism was being abolished and and [sic] essential land reforms were being carried out. India had hard time to solve all problems in these two years when she had to clear up feudal RELICS and effects of partition. Stalin asked if Ceylon was separate State and whether its separation was so necessary and LAUGHED. He further enquired if court* language* had any AFFINITY with any Indian language and was informed of position. On parting he wished Ambassador good health.

Interview was pleasant and lasted half an hour. PAVLOV Head of North Europe Division of Soviet Foreign Office and former Counsellor in London acted as interpreter. Stalin smoked cigarettes continuously and LAUGHED occasionally. Appeared in quite good health and was alert and attentive. Interview took place in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Ends.


D(20)                      [Signature]
15th JAN.                Superintendent CCB.

N.M.M.L., J.N. (S.4) Vol. No. 34, 286-287

2. Record of the Conversation of J.V. Stalin and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, April 5th, 1952.


Record of conversation at Ambassador Radhakrishnan's interview with Generalissimo Stalin on April 5, 1952.

The Ambassador began by saying that he wished to express his grateful thanks to the Generalissimo for receiving him at such short notice on the eve of his (Ambassador's) departure.

Stalin: When are you leaving?

Amb. On Tuesday, the 8th.

The Ambassador went on to say that his stay of 2½ years in Moscow was most useful and he had every courtesy and assistance from the Foreign Minister and his Deputies. He recalled the prompt and ready assistance which the Foreign Office and the Soviet Government had rendered last year in the matter of the despatch of wheat to India. When the Ambassador stressed that he was really grateful for the promptitude and readiness with which the Soviet Union had come to our aid in this, Stalin said: "There is nothing to be grateful about. We have only fulfilled our duty." The Ambassador remarked that many States did not have a proper conception of their duty, nor did they discharge it, when they had.

The Ambassador than referred to the various Soviet delegations that had recently visited India, and said that he felt that the Indian people got some idea of the Soviet achievements – what could be done by a people with determination and will.

Referring to internal matters, Dr. Radhakrishnan said that the country (India) was indeed passing through critical times. We had got rid of various forms of exploitation. We had rid ourselves of foreign domination and we had got rid of the princely rule. We hoped to tackle the problem of our landlords equally successfully.

"It would be good", said Stalin, "if you succeed in doing it."

The Ambassador then generally referred to our recent elections and said that for the first time in history 175 million people were enfranchised of whom 105 million had voted.

"The women did not vote in your country", said Stalin, expressing a doubt.

The Ambassador corrected the Generalissimo by stressing that not only did women actually vote in the elections, but the women voters had, if anything, shown a more progressive spirit. Dr. Radhakrishnan pointed out that we had a lady Governor, a lady Cabinet Minister, and his own predecessor in  Moscow, the Generalissimo would doubtless recall, had also been a lady. The elections, Dr. Radhakrishnan said, had been free and fair. There was no official interference of any sort and many Ministers were defeated.

On the political and economic situation in India, Ambassador Radhakrishnan said that India was as much against capitalist exploitation as Russia and it had the same economic objective. "But we wish to adopt peaceful parliamentary methods to achieve our aims, because our whole history has taught us that enduring progress should be of a peaceful character."

To this the Generalissimo said:   "But the exploiters will never quit-they will very seriously object to quit."

The Ambassador said that, in any case, we would try our own methods very hard, and if we succeeded it would be a great lesson to other nations.

Referring to our foreign policy, Dr. Radhakrishnan said that it was not unlike that of the Soviet Union in several matters – China, Japan, Korea or, for that matter, the admission of other nations to the UN.  "We are not with America and we are not with any power", he stressed, "We act according to our sense of right and do not yield to any political or economic pressure."

Since Stalin showed no hesitation to carry on the conversation. Dr. Radhakrishnan further said that Stalin was at one time reported to have said that if Capitalism could adapt its production not to getting maximum profits, but to the systematic improvement of the masses of the people, then there would not be any crisis, but then that would not be Capitalism. He asked Stalin if he was still of this view.

Stalin said that he said once something like thus but it was difficult for a Capitalist to do without profits and it was a pity that the capitalists could not do without profits. If the Capitalists gave up profits, he said, they would be giving up themselves.

Referring to the desirability of the peaceful co-existence of the two systems, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked Stalin if the Soviet Union would be prepared to "give up the Cominform", as it had at one stage given up the Comintern.

Stalin replied that this was of no importance whatsoever to the question of the co-existence of the two systems; the Cominform, he said, had not been created by the Soviet Union alone. Other countries had also shared in the creation of this body.

The Ambassador said nonetheless that in his view it would be a great gesture today if the Cominform were abolished.

Speaking about Germany, the Ambassador said that if the Soviet Union looked upon a UN Commission as necessarily pro-American, could they not agree to some sort of a neutral commission to see if conditions for free and fair elections existed in that country.

The Generalissimo said that the representatives of the four powers could appoint any commission they liked. The UNO had nothing to do with Germany and only the four occupying powers according to the POTSDAM declaration could do these things. The UN had no right under its Charter to interfere.

The Ambassador asked whether Stalin would favour a neutral commission investigating the allegations of the use of bacteriological weapons in Korea.

Stalin said that he had not given thought to this. As far as they were concerned, he said, "to us it has been proved that they (Americans) have attempted to try this out in Korea", and said that a body of international lawyers had seen the evidence of this.

The Ambassador then asked if the Generalissimo would like to put him any questions.

Generalissimo Stalin said that he had only one question, and that was about "our Correspondent" in India. He turned to Vyshinsky and asked what "this complaint" was. Vyshinsky explained that we had felt that Borzenko's articles were unfair and unnecessarily critical of the Government of India, etc., and added that Prime Minister Nehru had also complained to Novikov about this. (Perhaps, this is not correct. We have been informed that the Foreign Secretary had seen the Soviet Ambassador).

"That is all right, recall him," Stalin said to Vyshinsky. "We will recall him", the Generalissimo said to the Ambassador, "If you don't like him, you tell us frankly. We assure you that he will be recalled". (Reading this, it may look like the dictatorial-touch; but this was said quite coolly and quite calmly and with no gestures, whatsoever.)

Ambassador said that his own anxiety was that the good relations and friendship that we had built up here in Moscow should not be spoilt by Soviet representatives in India saying things which offend our national dignity.

"Are there such people?", Stalin asked.

"Yes", the Ambassador said, "that is what we feel about Borzenko and the Moscow Radio."

The Generalissimo again turned to Vyshinsky and quietly said, "Call him back".

The Ambassador then referred to his imminent return and his anxiety for preserving Indo-Soviet friendship. The Generalissimo said that he was glad of the latter. "Both you and Mr. Nehru are persons whom we do not consider to be our enemies. This will continue to be our policy and you can count on our help". Then he went on "Our people have been educated in the equal treatment of Asian people"  -  and he said this with some feeling. "The United States and Britain look on Asian peoples as backward and look down upon them. We treat all Asians as equals. It is this which helps us to conduct a correct policy. The Americans and the British treat them supercilously [sic]. Our policy helps us to have very different relations with the Asian peoples". The Generalissimo spoke these sentences slowly, deliberately and with obvious feelings.

The Ambassador agreed generally with the sentiments expressed by the Generalissimo and said that Malaya, Indo-China, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran and South Africa are illustrations of a very different policy towards, what may be called, backward peoples. "Is this democracy?" he asked.

The Generalissimo smiled and said: "This is what they call democracy?"

The interview here ended with the usual greetings and with good wishes for the Ambassador on his return home.

N.M.M.L., J.N. (S.4) Vol. No. 123 Pt. II, 294-297.

3. Record of the Conversation of J.V. Stalin and K.P.S. Menon, February 19th, 1953.

Secret,                  Embassy of India,
No. 43-S/53          Moscow,

February 19, 1953.

Interview with Stalin

My Dear

Will you please refer to my telegram No. 21, dated the 17th February, regarding my interview with Generalissimo Stalin?  This letter contains a fuller account of our conversation. I have given Stalin's remarks, as far as possible, in his own words – thanks to the full notes taken down by Kaul, who accompanied me to the Kremlin and was present at the interview.

I began my conversation by expressing my gratitude to Stalin for finding time to receive me. He had received my predecessor, but Dr. Radhakrishnan was a scholar and philosopher of international reputation; and to have received him was to pay a personal compliment to him as well as a compliment to India. In my case, it would be essentially a compliment to India and would therefore be all the more appreciated in my country. Stalin said that he was glad, very glad, to receive me. He added that it was his duty, as Prime Minister, to receive foreign Ambassadors. I remembered, however, that during the last five years he had only received three Ambassadors – Dr. Radhakrishnan (twice), Louis Joxe, the French Ambassador, and Leopoldo Bravo, the Argentine Ambassador.

I then told Stalin that the Prime Minister had asked me to convey to him his greetings and good wishes for his health. Stalin asked me to communicate his thanks to the Prime Minister and his own greetings and good wishes to him.

I said that I had received every courtesy and consideration from the Foreign Office and that I was impressed by the prevailing friendliness towards India everywhere. Stalin said that was only natural. Even shepherds were hospitable, he added, and "we are no worse than shepherds". He said that the Soviet people regarded other people and races as equal and there was no trace of condescension in their attitude towards them. That was particularly the case towards the "great people of India."

Stalin then asked me what was the chief language of India. Was it Urdu or Hindi – or, as he called it, "Hindu"? Were all the languages derived from the same stock? How did they come to have separate individual developments? Gujratis? I gave – I hope – appropriate answers to these questions. Towards the end of the conversation, when we were talking about Pakistan, Stalin reverted to the subject of languages and asked whether it was true that Pakistan was evolving a language of its own. I said that Urdu had developed as a language of the camp in India but that Pakistan was adding a number of Persian and Arabic words to it. "In that case," said Stalin, "it cannot be a real national language."

I believe Stalin's interest in languages is quite genuine. Not long ago there was a controversy, in the course of which Stalin, already acknowledged as a political prophet and an economic expert, showed himself to be a linguistic expert as well. One Professor Marr had advanced a theory that language was essentially a superstructure, with the class structure as its basis, and that when the basis of a society changed the language would change, too. In other words, there would be a feudal language, a bourgeois language, a capitalist language, a Communist language and so on. There was considerable discussion on this theory which was finally demolished by Stalin's pronouncement that language was not a superstructure which changed with a change in the basis of society, but one of those social phenomena which operated throughout the existence of society and were inseparable from it.

I then gave Stalin a brief explanation of our foreign policy, its background in our national struggle and Gandhiji's teachings, its objectives and its methods. As an illustration, I referred to our repeated efforts to find a settlement in Korea. I recalled the Prime Minister's message to Stalin soon after the Korean war started and his favourable reply thereto, our opposition to the coressing [sic] of the 38th Pareallel [sic] on the ground that it would extend the theatre of hostilities, our vote against the American resolution, denouncing China as an aggressor, and our recent efforts in the United Nations to remove the last hurdle to a settlement, namely, the question of the repatriation of the prisoners of war. That resolution was put forward on our own accord in our search for a way to peace and it was regrettable that its scope had been seriously misunderstood. I had hoped that this would provoke Stalin to saying something about the Korean resolution, but he remained silent as a Sphinx, merely, and somewhat mechanically, saying "Da Da" (yes, yes). For aught I knew, he might not have heard of our Korean resolution at all. Was our Korean resolution – and, indeed, the whole Korean affair – a matter of too small moment to that master-planner, who was thinking in decades, not in years, and whose gaze was set on a red star which, thanks to his inflexible will, was already shining on half the globe?

Getting no response on Korea, I referred to the recent disturbing developments in Formosa. I said that both our President and our Prime Minister had expressed their grave concern and that the Indian press was unanimous in denouncing Eisenhower's moves. Stalin listened to this carefully and said with deliberation: "We are against  the widening of hostilities. So is the Government of India. But in America there are certain people who are bent on widening the conflicts because they want more business and greater profits. Not all Americans are like that, but many are. It is no use preaching morals to them, because they are out to accumulate profits even at the cost of blood." I said that the reactions to recent American moves in the Far East were adverse throughout the world and even countries like the United Kingdom and Canada shared our concern. That, I thought, would have a restraining influence on American policy. "There is no sign of it yet", said Stalin dryly. Stalin went on to say. "The peasant is a very simple man but very wise. When the wolf attacks him, he does not attempt to teach it morals but kills it. And the wolf knows it and behaves accordingly."

Stalin then enquired whether we had any commercial relations with Japan. I said that these relations were growing. "Then Japan will undersell you and flood your markets with cheap Japanese goods", said Stalin, with a smile. I said that this had happened in the past but we would be on our guard.

Stalin then turned his attention to the army. Somewhat apologetically he asked whether India had a sufficiently large army. I said that our army was meant essentially for defence purposes and not for any adventures abroad, as happened sometimes in the British days. "But, is your army capable of defending India?", asked Stalin, I said that we had a compact, well-trained and well-disciplined army, but that our air force and navy were still in their infancy. "It is difficult to defend a country effectively without a powerful air force," said Stalin.

At this stage, Stalin switched the conversation to India's relations with Pakistan. I said that Kashmir continued to be a stumbling bloc [sic] in the establishment of friendly relations. Still, until recently, India and Pakistan had a similar international outlook, as was shown in such vital matters as the recognition of China and the refusal to recognise the Bao Dai regime. Recently, however, there were reports that Pakistan was intending to join the Middle East Defence Organisation. We felt that this would be a very unfortunate development. Stalin made no comment but asked whether we had not considered the possibility of a Federation between India and Pakistan. "That would be the ideal solution", he said. I agreed, but pointed out that this would take time in view of the continuing bitterness between Hindus and Muslims, sown by the British in their attempt to divide and rule. "How primitive it is", interjected Stalin "to create and run a State on the basis of religion!" I said that religion was intruding even into the Constitution of Pakistan, as shown by certain provisions giving the Mullahs the right to pronounce on legislation. "How absurd it all is!", said Stalin.

This led Stalin to dilate on the way in which the problem of nationalities had been dealt with in the Soviet Union. In the old days, said Stalin, the Russians oppressed other nationalities; and these other nationalities hated Russians. The vehemence with which he said this made me think that there was a Georgian speaking-a Georgian, who had avenged centuries of oppression by imposing his will on the whole of Russia. Stalin went on to say that 1917 marked the end of a period when one nation oppressed the other. Now all nations within the Soviet Union were equal in every respect; and this had led to the solidarity and strength of the country.

I then referred to our Prime Minister's own conception of a secular State and his unflinching adherence to it. By upholding this conception, we were making the fifty million Muslims in India feel that they were Indians in every way. "Of course, they are Indians", said Stalin," and your policy is just the right one."

The conversation ended with the usual exchange of greetings.

You may like to have my personal impression of Stalin. Let me, first of all, recall the impressions left by Stalin on some of the very few persons to whom he has given interviews. In 1938 Davies, the American Ambassador, in an official report to Secretary Hall [sic] on his interview with Stalin said: "His demeanour is kindly, his manner almost deprecatingly simple.... he gave me the impression of being sincerely modest". In a letter to his daughter Ambassador Davies said: "His brown eye is exceedingly kind and gentle. A child would like to sit on his knee." Churchill stated in Parliament: "Premier Stalin left upon me an impression of deep, cool wisdom and absence of illusions... a man direct, even blunt, in speech... with that saving sense of humour which is of high importance...”

Of these descriptions, Churchill's, I think, comes nearest to the mark. I was impressed by three qualities in Stalin – his simplicity, shrewdness and ruthlessness. Everything about him was simple – his dress, his room,  his manners his mode of speech. There was something bucolic in the way he said things. Bucolic, too, were the similes he used; they were drawn from peasants and shepherds. Here was the man whose will, more than any other factor, saved Russia for Communism and Communism for the world; but for him neither might have been able to face the assault of Hitler. Here was the man, held not only in his own country, but by millions all over, the world, as the "leader and teacher of all progressive mankind", whose portraits have taken the place of holy icons in every Russian home; and at the mention of whose name, every audience in Russia would and should get up and clap hands and give a "prolonged applause amounting to ovation". Yet all this adulation has left no more impression on him than water on duck's back; there is not even a trace of ostentation or affection [sic] about him. When Voltaire returned to Paris after many years' exile, he was met by a mammoth crowd of admirers. When a friend asked him whether he was not pleased to be the people's idol, as shown by their demonstration, he replied: "Yes, but an equally large crowd would have turned up if my head were carried on a scaffold". This is a sentiment which Stalin himself will not hesitate to express.

This leads me to the second quality in him which impressed me most, his shrewdness. Stalin not only sees things, but sees through things. His shrewdness is shown as much in his silence as in his speech. He declined to be drawn into a discussion on the Korean resolution or even the Korean problem, probably because he felt that anything which he said might have hampered Vyshinsky at the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly. Equally he declined to comment on Pakistan's participation in the Middle East Defence Organisation, presumably because the Soviet Government have not yet officially decided to relegate Pakistan to the ranks of the doomed. While discussing the Far East, Stalin merely let off a vigorous salvo against the greed of the capitalists; and while discussing Pakistan, he seemed more interested in the nature of a State based on religion, than on its present activities. Perhaps Stalin feels that he has come to a stage when he can devote his thoughts exclusively to fundamentals, leaving details to the henchmen whom he has so thoroughly trained.

If I was struck by Stalin's shrewdness, I was also struck by his ruthlessness. Twice he spoke of the futility of preaching morals to an evil person. I could not but trace a note of irony in this remark of his to the representative of a nation of which Mahatma Gandhi was the Father; indeed, his remark might have been provoked by my observation that our foreign policy had, as its background, our national struggle and the teachings of Gandhiji who taught that peaceful ends could not be attained by means which were not peaceful. Gandhiji's phrase, "a change of heart", would mean nothing to Stalin. The essence of his philosophy is contained in his remark to me: "The peasant is a very simple man but very wise. When the wolf attacks him, he does not attempt to teach it morals but kills it. And the wolf knows it and behaves accordingly."

Last night I met Joxe, the French Ambassador, and exchanged with him my impression of Stalin. Stalin gave an interview to Joxe a few months ago. We were pleasantly surprised to see how closely our impressions tallied. They cannot be better expressed then in the words of Joxe, who said that as a man Stalin was a "mixture of a peasant and a wild cat."

Yours sincerely,
Sd: K.P.S. Menon
Shri R.K. Nehru, ICS,
Foreign Secretary,
My. of External Affairs,
New Delhi.

N.M.M.L., J.N. (S.4) Vol. No. 167 Pt. I, 119-123

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