The Irony of Nehruvian Politics

It was 1947 and a new independent nation was emerging and stretching its wings. It was all set to take off and show the world that there is a lot more to it than being a land of maharajas and snake charmers. It was known as the golden bird, in the 16th century, not only because of its wealth but also the people to a great extent.

India – the land we call our home. It is the country that taught the world how a lean little man wearing a dhoti and carrying a stick could free a nation. It is the land of peace and ahimsa. However, there is one more thing the west has tagged us for and that is double standards. Which, more or less, is quite true and evident from our past.

At the peak of cold war, we gained freedom. This was the time when the whole world was divided into blocs – democrats and communists and it was our turn to join the rat race. Going by the constitutional similarity, it would have been the democrats; but in terms of trade relations it would be the USSR. It was time to choose between untied and union. But we emerged a third bloc, which followed the policy of Non Alignment. It was Nehru’s call completely. Though everyone knew that neutrality is not the ideal stand and is practically not possible, India’s bent towards Russia was quite evident. With all the meetings and arms exchange, the western allies knew where this was going. Meanwhile in the country itself, people were keen on taking a stand with the democrats. This is when the so-called neutrality of India and our then-PM Nehru were questioned and were accused by John Foster Dulles then secretary of the state to have double standards . So, how ‘non-aligned’ was the non-alignment?

Let us take a second example – the China issue. The Nehru behavior influenced this segment also. Nehru didn’t want communism (can be seen through his disliking for the CPI); he was a pure democrat but he was sure about one thing, that that the only power to challenge it would be our neighbour China. The Chinese were the ones who urged the Americans to urge the British to grant the Indians independence. The false impression made by the Chinese leaders on the Indian government was a site to look at. Nehru called Mao pleasant and benevolent, which was a laugh itself. It is said that Patel had well informed Nehru to be alert to the new danger from China and to make India defensively strong. But Mao and Nehru continued to be brothers-in-arms. The ideology adopted by China was not different from the communist Russia and it definitely had expansion plans. Nehru’s cabinet warned him but he turned a deaf ear towards them. In 1962, after three visits from the Chinese government, Nehru’s government received a slap across their faces in return of their hospitality. The rest is history; India giving shelter to Dalai Lama and at the same time, trying its best to improve its ties with the People’s Republic of China shows a picture quite clear.

Last but not the least, I want to deal with secessionism. India’s stand on the secessionist problems is worthy to look at. In 1980s, we had Khalistan; in the 50s it started in the north-east and the Kashmir issue is known to everyone. Let us take Nagaland for instance. There is no doubt that the problem initially started due to the ignorance of that state by the Indian government, economic backwardness and the terrain to a great extent. The government gave in their word to improve the conditions in the north-east. But no such development could be seen and as a result, our foes took advantage of the situation and this provided an impetus to insurgency. Funded by the ISI, north-east was not even a part of political India. In 1947, Indian independence and partition made this area a landlocked region, exacerbating the isolation. The stand taken on the north-east by the Indian government of late has been of talks with the people. Why would the people talk now if their calls were not answered years ago? The Kashmir issue has always being highlighted while the north east has been treated like a step-sister.

More or less, it was Pandit Nehru’s stand on each of the issue. He created India’s image as a nation that was a class apart, living in harmony at the epitome of a situation when the world is getting divided. Was it Utopia that he had in mind or just a Gandhian India? His decisions formed the basis for foreign and internal policy of the country. Perhaps a different take on these issues would have put India in a different position today. It is ironic how we accuse the Americans to have double standards when we ourselves are not so different.

Aakanksha Ahluwalia

[Image Source:]