Did Rabindranath Tagore make a mistake by meeting Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome and seeking financial help for starting Italian studies department in Visva Bharati?
Was Tagore well-versed with the prevailing situations in the countries he had visited between 1978 and 1932?
And is Tagore's rejection of aggressive nationalism within confines of geography and ideals of internationalism and humanism, which had inspired India's foreign policy for a long time after independence still relevant and not out of sync with hard realities of international politics?
These and many other searching questions came up for a threadbare debate at a two-day international conference organised by premiere think-tank Indian Council for World Affairs here recently for a relatively less explored area of Tagore's life - his contribution to relevance to India's foreign policy.
ICWA Director General Rajiv K Bhatia pointed out that Tagore's vision of global and Asian unity contributed to shaping the tenets and ethos of the foreign policy of independent India and ignited the debate regarding their relevance in the contemporary world.
Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry, said, "We have much to learn from his powerful message of having a world without barriers. In many ways, Tagore foresaw many facets of a globalising world that we inhabit today".
Discussants at the conference said it was the visionary in Tagore that had predicted the emergence of a resurgent Asia, particularly China (the world's second largest economy at present after the United States), nearly a century ago and warned of the threat of Japan's nationalism turning into imperialism.
The Nobel Laureate believed such a vast mass of people, especially the youth, in Asia could not be kept subjugated in poverty for long and it was only a matter of time when the continent would develop and claim its rightful place in the comity of nations, given the development of education.
"There is a need, therefore, to analyse Tagore's ideas on how India should engage with the world and the degree to which these influenced the makers of India's foreign policy from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and later and how they were translated into foreign policy initiatives by India.