The largess brought by the envoy from Nepal was fit for a king. The treasure trove consisted of a bejewelled dagger renowned as the Khukri, the fearsome weapon of the Gurkhas so potent during close combat; the tiger skin with its mounted head bagged by the Maharajah himself; lastly the pièce de résistance - fifty thousand Indian Rupees in cash for the war chest! Chiang Kai-shek bowed low beaming with pleasure. His wartime diplomacy to win friends and allies against the Japanese devils had taken him from Rangoon to Calcutta and then on to New Delhi. He had met the local politicians and their British overlords and convinced them that the Generalissimo would be a trusted ally in their combined effort to stall the Japanese invasion of Burma and India. Only Mahatma Gandhi had reaffirmed his stance to remain neutral in his quest for ahimsa: he would oppose both the British and the Japanese by non-violent means.
As the leader of the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion of China, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was indeed as powerful as the former king emperors of the Middle Kingdom. He had put together a coalition of disparate tribes including the nationalists and the Communists together and had been declared the uncontested leader of this coalition. He had come to India with Madame Chiang, herself a well known figure in Chinese politics and diplomacy, her sister being the wife of the founder of the Chinese republic Dr. Sun Yat Sen.
|Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of China|
The Generalissimo had many questions to ask of the Nepalese envoy; his curiosity about the mountain kingdom bordering Tibet was deep. He had been informed that the quinquennial mission from Nepal to China as mandated by an earlier treaty between the two countries had stopped after China became a republic. There was hardly any diplomatic contact between the two neighbours and so this was a fortuitous occasion to establish a lasting bond of friendship. He knew that sooner rather than later China would have to play a role in keeping strategically located Nepal an independent and a neutral country just like 'yam between two boulders' their founding king had once articulated.
This story came to light because a distinguished Chinese gentleman by the name of Chen Xueyi while writing a book in China on the wartime contribution of General Chiang Kai-shek in defense of China from the Japanese invasion and formation of an alliance with the western powers came across this story while doing his research in Taipei. Further research on Nepal led him to my blog. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from him while I was on a trip to England and to learn that he was convinced the Nepalese envoy was my father General Kiran Shumsher. To be honest I don't remember hearing my father tell a story of his meeting with the Generalissimo, a person of world renown and I thought my father would not have missed telling us this story. The most likely person would be General Bahadur Shumsher J. B. Rana, the eldest son of Maharajah Juddha and also his Aide-de-camp. Was he sent to New Delhi to meet the generalissimo? The Chinese scholar could not find any reference to this meeting while researching in Nepal.
The Generalissimo received the Nepalese envoy and the following is the English translation of the Chinese transcript of the conversation between them found in Taipei as sent to me by Mr. Chen.
Translation of Chinese Records of the Gist of Conversation Between Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and General Kiran Shumsher Rana in New Delhi on 12th February 1942
1. An original note to the written records of the gist of conversation preserved in Chiang Kai-shek’s archives in Taipei reads: “On the morning of the 12th, Generalissimo met in New Delhi, India with Commander-in-Chief Bahadur (Gen. Shumsher J. Bahadur Rana), son of the Nepalese King [Maharaja]. Vice-Minister Xianguang Dong and Dean [of Political Institute] Daofan Zhang were also present at the meeting.”
2. Published version of the same records included in Preliminary Edition of Important Historical Archives of the Republic of China – the Period of the War of Resistance Against Japan, Part III – Wartime Diplomacy, Section Six – Negotiations Relating to Coordinated War Effort of the Allies (Taipei, 1981) makes two references to the name and title of the guest in its explanatory notes, respectively as “Sir Bahadur, son of the Nepalese King [Maharaja],” and “Commander-in-Chief Bahadur, son of the Nepalese King [Maharaja].”
3. In a separate account found in Chiang’s archives, Mr. Daofan Zhang, who was present as that meeting, wrote the name and title of the guest as “Nepalese prince, Lieut. Gen. Shumsher Bahadur Rana.”]
Translation of Records of the Gist of Conversation:
Generalissimo: When did Your Excellency arrive here? How many troops currently are under your command?
Bahadur: The number of troops under my command is more than eight thousand. Therefore I am constantly traveling.
Generalissimo: How long is the distance between here and Nepal?
Bahadur: About six hundred miles.
Generalissimo: In the past, I sent many Chinese books to Nepal. Where are they kept these days?
Bahadur: All are kept at the National Library. I have received a telegram from my father, the Nepalese King [The Chinese translator may have simply mistranslated “Maharaja” as “King,” since “Maharaja” was indeed one of the titles for the Rana Prime Ministers of Nepal and it is quite impossible for the speaker to refer to his father as the “Nepalese King” ]. He instructed me to convey the message to Your Excellency that Nepal very much admires China’s heroic War of Resistance in recent years, and that we admire even more China’s help in the Allied conduct of the war. He instructed me to make a contribution of fifty thousand Indian rupees to China as a humble expression of our admiring feelings, and please do accept it.
Generalissimo: Please do thank your father for me. Seeing you today is just like seeing a beloved brother to us.
Bahadur: I will certainly convey this kind message from the Generalissimo to my father the King [Maharaja]. I feel very honored to meet with such a great leader as the Generalissimo.
Generalissimo: For a long time I had cherished a wish to meet with important leaders of Nepal. It therefore gives me great pleasure to be able to see you today.
Bahadur: I am merely a coarse-mannered soldier. In fact it was quite beyond my expectation to pay a visit to such a great leader as the Generalissimo, so I am simply overjoyed today. Luckily my father instructed me to make this fifty-thousand-rupee contribution. Otherwise how could I have come to pay this visit empty-handed?
Generalissimo: The gifts that Nepal used to send to China are mostly still well-preserved. Is your father in great health?
Bahadur: He is very well. Thank you!
Generalissimo: When are you going to return to Nepal?
Bahadur: Because I am in command of the troops, for the time being I will not be able to return there.
Generalissimo: I hope China and Nepal can have frequent exchange of delegates.
Bahadur: Before the Chinese Revolution, we used to pay tributes to China on a once-every-five-year basis. Then, because the routes of communication were blocked, and also because we became less informed about the situations in China, the paying of tributes was suspended. After this War comes to an end, we hope that we can continue to pay the tributes like before.
Generalissimo: Nepal is a true brotherly neighbor of China. Relations between our two countries were very close in the past.
Bahadur: My father had recently returned home from an inspecting trip abroad, and from the newspapers, he learned that the Generalissimo had arrived in Delhi. If he had known earlier, he would definitely have come to see you himself.
Generalissimo: In your telegram to your father, please tell him that I am so pleased to see you, and please do express my thanks to him.
Bahadur: I thank Your Excellency on my father’s behalf, too. You have made time amidst such a busy schedule to see me. It makes me feel especially honored.
Generalissimo: I wish to keep correspondence with your father in the future. Where are you staying at this moment?
Bahadur: At the Commander’s headquarters.
Generalissimo: If I have a letter for your father, will you be able to pass it on to him?
(Upon completion of the conversation, Commander-in-Chief Bahadur presented the Generalissimo with a cheque of fifty thousand rupees, a military sword and a tiger skin. He further explained that the sword is what Nepal presents to the most distinguished international personages, and that the tiger skin is a personal trophy of his father. He wished for the Generalissimo’s good health and also for victory to China. )
Well, just who was the Nepalese envoy then? The jury is still out!