Jawaharlal Nehru is considered to be the architect of modern India. Apart from his careful handling of India’s tumultuous domestic situation in the years immediately after the Independence, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the field of foreign policies.
Apart from handling the domestic situation, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the area of external relations as he kept foreign affairs under his strict control over seventeen years and made all the major foreign policy decisions himself merely getting consultation from his advisers and aides.
His policies were characterized by ideological perspective including Panchsheel, nonalignment, colonialism and racism.
Formulating the foreign policy, Nehru not only considered the other states’ foreign policies but also observed the trends in contemporary world politics.
These two traditionally discrete realms known as inter-domestic politics increasingly influenced the Indian foreign policy jointly highlighting the need for the leader to integrate his domestic and foreign policies.
All activities occurring beyond India’s borders structured the choices of Nehru’s policy making. He wanted India to have an identity without overt commitment to either power bloc; the USA and the Soviet Union.
Nehru led newly independent India from 1947 to 1964. Both the United States and the Soviet Union competed to make India an ally throughout the Cold War.
Socialism can be said to be one of the greatest international influences on Nehru, but Gandhi’s ideals of Satyagraha also influenced him to a great degree. But he committed himself to neither point of view in framing his foreign policy.
Nehru’s foreign policies were characterized by two major ideological aspects.
First, he wanted India to have an identity that would be independent of any form of overt commitment to either power bloc, the USA or the Soviet. The first policy led ultimately to the founding of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM).
Secondly, he had an unshaken faith in goodwill and honesty in matters of international affairs.
His second faith was terribly shaken by the Chinese attack of 1962, openly disobeying all the clauses of the Panchsheel or five-point agreement of 1954 between New Delhi and Peking.
This breach of faith was a major psychological shock for Nehru, and was partially the reason for his death.
He was proud of being an Asian, and wanted Asian nations to be the primary determinants of their political fate, not always guided by Western forces.
Early in 1947, at the initiative of India, the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi was convened where the principles of foreign policy of independent India were proclaimed. It was attended by representatives of 29 countries. The Conference helped to strengthen the solidarity of all Asian countries.
COMMON WEALTH NATIONS
Nehru maintained good relations with the British Empire.
Under the London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would join the Commonwealth of Nations and accept the British monarch as a “symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth.” It allowed the Commonwealth to admit and retain members that were not Dominions, so including both republics and indigenous monarchies
The other nations of the Commonwealth recognised India’s continuing membership of the association.
Nehru was made subject to much criticism back home because of the support he extended towards the Commonwealth, particularly after the complication of the independence issue by the British government in the post World War II years, leading to the unwanted partition. However Nehru, always the believer in peaceful alliances and solution of international affairs based on discussions, went on with his ideals.
BANDUNG CONFERENCE (AFRO-ASIAN CONFERENCE), 1955
It was a meeting of Asian and African states—organized by Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan—which took place April 18–24, 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia. In all, 29 countries representing more than half the world’s population sent delegates. The agenda contained in this conference was the economic and cultural cooperation, respect for human rights and self-determination and finally the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
Nehru participated in Bandung and popularized the policy of non-alignment there.
A 10-point “declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation,” incorporating the principles of the United Nations charter and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Five Principles (“mutual respect” for other nations’ “territorial integrity and sovereignty,” nonaggression, noninterference in “internal affairs,” equality and mutual benefit, and “peaceful coexistence”), was adopted unanimously.
The greatest success of Jawaharlal Nehru’s non-committal international politics was the formation of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). Nehru found allies in Tito, Nasser, Soekarno, U Nu and Nkrumah at a later stage in his formation of this new alliance.
(More about NAM is already discussed in World History Chapter : Emergence of third world and non alignment )
INDUS WATER TREATY, 1960
At the partition of British India in 1947, the international boundary between India and what was then West Pakistan cut the irrigation system of the Bari Doab and the Sutlej Valley Project—originally designed as one scheme—into two parts. The headwork fell to India while the canals ran through Pakistan.
That led to a disruption in the water supply in some parts of Pakistan.
The dispute that thus arose and continued for some years was resolved through the mediation of the World Bank by a treaty between Pakistan and India (1960) known as the Indus Waters Treaty.
The Indus Waters Treaty as a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
According to that agreement, the flow of the three western rivers of the Indus basin—the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab (except a small quantity used in Jammu and Kashmir state)—is assigned to Pakistan, whereas the flow of the three eastern rivers—the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej—is reserved exclusively for India.
Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars.
Disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty.
The treaty is considered to be one of the most successful water sharing endeavours in the world.
POLICY ON PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
India did not subscribe to the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949. India also did not recognize Israel as a nation till 1950.
Nehru and Gandhi, both were pro-Palestine. They opposed the creation of Israel as he was against the creation of countries based on religion.
Although India did not subscribe to the partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949, it did recognise Israel as a nation in 1950. In a statement in 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said he would not “be a party to a resolution which stated that the creation of Israel was a violation of international law”.
In contrast to the official Indian standpoint which had a vast degree of support in the country, various Hindu nationalist organisations supported the creation of Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported Israel when it was created and viewed its creation as ‘joyous’ and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel.
INDIA'S ROLE IN KOREA WAR
Nehru was afraid that Korean war would lead to WW3 and that atomic bombs could be used (Soviet also developed ‘the bomb’), this might drag India in to the war. Also as China is its neighbor, it was afraid of the spill over effects.
India tried to pacify all sides by mediating the matter between all parties.
Apparently, The New York Times declared that the struggle for Asia “could be won or lost in the mind of one man – Jawaharlal Nehru”.
India condemned North Korea as an aggressor when the Korean War started, supporting Security Council resolutions 82 and 83 on the crisis.
However, India did not support resolution 84 for military assistance to South Korea.
As a nonaligned country, India hesitated to involve itself in a military commitment against North Korea.
India instead of sending its armed forces on the request of UN had sent a medical unit to Korea as a humanitarian gesture, India’s medical services are still fondly remembered in Korea by both sides.
India was chair of the 9-member UN Commission that monitored elections in undivided Korea in 1947.
After the Korean War, India again played an important role as the chair of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in the Korean peninsula which would handle the prisoners of war (PoWs) of both sides and interview them to determine which of them wanted to go back.
India dispatched a 6000 Indian Custodial Force to Korea.
At the end of the war, India did not gain much and received flak from all sides. Relationship with US deteriorated (for not siding with it) and US began giving military-aid to Pakistan.
On the other hand, the war elevated Nehru’s prestige to great heights in the world, solidifying his image as world’s leading statesman. For the rest of his life, there was no major global discussion in the world, which could occur without his involvement.
NOT SO PACIFIST NEHRU
Nehru, while a pacifist, was not blind to the political and geo-strategic reality of India in 1947.
While laying the foundation stone of the National Defence Academy in 1949, he stated:
“We, who for generations had talked about and attempted in everything a peaceful way and practised non-violence, should now be, in a sense, glorifying our army, navy and air force. It means a lot. Though it is odd, yet it simply reflects the oddness of life. Though life is logical, we have to face all contingencies, and unless we are prepared to face them, we will go under. There was no greater prince of peace and apostle of non-violence than Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, whom we have lost, but yet, he said it was better to take the sword than to surrender, fail or run away. We cannot live carefree assuming that we are safe. Human nature is such. We cannot take the risks and risk our hard-won freedom. We have to be prepared with all modern defence methods and a well-equipped army, navy and air force“.
Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948.
Nehru also called Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, who was entrusted with complete authority over all nuclear related affairs and programs.
Nehru famously said to Bhabha, “Professor Bhabha take care of Physics, leave international relation to me“.
From the outset in 1948, Nehru had high ambition to develop this program to stand against the industrialised states and the basis of this program was to establish an Indian nuclear weapons capability as part of India’s regional superiority to other South-Asian states, most particularly Pakistan.
Nehru also said to Bhabha: “We must have the capability. We should first prove ourselves and then talk of Gandhi, non-violence and a world without nuclear weapons”.
He commissioned the first study of the human effects of nuclear explosions, and campaigned ceaselessly for the abolition of what he called “these frightful engines of destruction.”
He also had pragmatic reasons for promoting de-nuclearisation, fearing that a nuclear arms race would lead to over-militarisation that would be unaffordable for developing countries such as his own.
Kashmir was a perpetual problem, and he failed to reach any successful negotiation regarding Kashmir with the neighbour Pakistan. He tried to force a negotiation with the Pakistani government through the United Nations.
Nehru had promised in 1948 to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir under the auspices of the UN. However, as Pakistan failed to pull back troops in accordance with the UN resolution and as Nehru grew increasingly wary of the UN, he declined to hold a plebiscite in 1953.
His policies on Kashmir and the integration of the state into India was frequently defended in front of the United Nations by his aide, Krishna Menon, a brilliant diplomat who earned a reputation in India for his passionate speeches.
In 1957, Menon was instructed to deliver an unprecedented eight-hour speech defending India’s stand on Kashmir; to date, the speech is the longest ever delivered in the United Nations Security Council.
Nehru ordered the arrest of the Kashmiri politician Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, whom he had previously supported but now suspected of harbouring separatist ambitions; Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad replaced him.
On 8 April 1964 the State Government dropped all charges in the so-called “Kashmir Conspiracy Case”.
Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar. After his release he was reconciled with Nehru. Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub of Pakistan to agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem.
This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem. But sudden death of Nehru in 1964 stopped the process.
LIAQUAT–NEHRU PACT OR DELHI PACT, 1950
At the time of independence, many communal riots broke out in different areas of India and Pakistan. These riots had a great impact on the status of minorities in the two nations. Even after the migration, almost half of the Muslims living in the Sub-continent were left in India and a sizable number of Hindus in Pakistan. The people and government of their countries looked upon them as suspects. They were unable to assure their countrymen of their loyalty. This problem escalated and it seemed as if India and Pakistan were about to fight their second war in the first three years of their independence. To solve this problem, Delhi Pact was signed.
Delhi Pact was a bilateral treaty was between India and Pakistan, whereby refugees were allowed to return unmolested to dispose of their property, abducted women and looted property were to be returned, forced conversions were unrecognized, and minority rights were confirmed.
The treaty was signed in New Delhi by the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on April 8, 1950. The treaty was the outcome of six days of talks sought to guarantee the rights of minorities in both countries after the Partition of India and to avert another war between them.
This pact provided a ‘bill of rights’ for the minorities of India and Pakistan. Its aim was to address the following three issues:
To alleviate the fears of the religious minorities on both sides.
To elevate communal peace.
To create an atmosphere in which the two countries could resolve their other differences.
Minority commissions were set up in both countries.
NEHRU-NOON TREATY, 1958
After partition of country, in view of the problems arising out of boundary demarcation and enclaves, both the countries, India and Pakistan felt it necessary to reach an agreement.
The then Prime Minister of India Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mr. Feroze Khan Noon, Prime Minister of Pakistan arrived at an agreement in 1958 which is known as NEHRU-NOON Agreement.
In the eastern theatre the Agreement of 1958 sought to achieve following major objectives:
To resolve differences which impeded demarcation of the boundary in different sectors of the border.
The problem of the Union No.12 of Southern Berubari which was a part of India according to the line drawn by Sir Radcliffe but belonged to Pakistan according to his written description.
However, the mostly Hindu population of the Union opposed the territory going to Pakistan.
However, the Nehru-Noon Agreement of 1958could not be implemented due to litigation.
In due course the case reached Supreme Court of India. The Court ruled that Constitution of India has to be amended to exclude from the Republic of India the southern half of the South Berubari Union No.12 and the Indian enclaves inside East Pakistan in order to give effect to the exchange stipulated in the Agreement. The Indian Constitution was accordingly amended in 1960 (9th Amendment). However, the stipulated exchanges did not take place.
In 1954 Nehru signed with China the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, (known in India as the Panchsheel, a set of principles to govern relations between the two states.)
Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit.
They were enunciated in the preamble to the “Agreement on trade and intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, which was signed at Peking on 29 April 1954.
By April 1955, Burma, China, Laos, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Cambodia had accepted the PanchShila.
However, China started patrolling certain parts of the Indian border from 1955 onwards. Delhi started negotiations to solve the problem in a peaceful way.
India, under the leadership of Nehru wanted to take one issue at a time and begin the discussions.
The Chinese government, under Chou En-lai wanted to treat the border issue in its entirety at one go. It was gross violation of the five-point agreement.
The Chinese denial for the arbitration from the International Court of Justice complicated the problem.
Nehru’s decision to grant political asylum to the 14th Dalai Lama worsened the situation.
From 1959, in a process that accelerated in 1961, Nehru adopted the “Forward Policy” of setting up military outposts in disputed areas of the Sino-Indian border, including in 43 outposts in territory not previously controlled by India. China attacked some of these outposts. Amidst such tensions, the Chinese suddenly started a full-scale invasion in 1962.
It was a rude shock, not only to Nehru, but to the entire international society. The Indian military was unprepared and also unequipped. Both USA and the Soviet extended token help. Soviet was quite busy with the Cuban crisis, however soon after the problem subsided, President Kruschev did extend some help. American help was minimum, compared to the massive military help that was extended to Pakistan in 1954.
India lost, and China withdrew to pre-war lines in eastern zone at Tawang but retained Aksai Chin which was within British India and was handed over to India after independence.
Later, Pakistan handed over some portion of Kashmir near Siachen controlled by Pakistan since 1948 to China by 1963 agreement.
During the conflict, Nehru wrote two desperate letters to US President John F. Kennedy, requesting 12 squadrons of fighter jets and a modern radar system. These requests were rejected by the Kennedy Administration (which was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis during most of the Sino-Indian War), leading to a cool down in Indo-US relations.
When Washington finally turned its attention to India, it honoured the ambassador’s pledge, loaded 60 US planes with automatic weapons, heavy mortars and land mines. Britain,Canada and Australia also helped.
Because the Soviets were engaged in their own high-stakes gamble in Cuba, USSR did not discourage the Chinese, despite Khrushchev’s close relationship with Nehru.
Americans played a decisive role in forestalling a Pakistani attack on India with a view that Pakistani move against India as a hostile and aggressive action inconsistent with the SEATO and CENTO Treaties.
Nehru stood firm with this faith in the five-point principle. The international community stood by him, as China withdrew under growing international pressure, fearing isolation and global antagonism.
Nehru would continue to maintain his commitment to the non-aligned movement despite calls from some to settle down on one permanent ally.
The Chinese invasion had far reaching effects on India’s foreign policy.
It forced Nehru to change his stance on international affairs. He realized that unmitigated goodwill was not necessary the way the business of foreign affairs was conducted. Nehru’s dreams were more or less shattered.
It was also a great eye-opener. It made India to see that it is important to strengthen one’s military strength and not overtly depend on peaceful negotiations in matters of international affairs.
The Chinese invasion was a shock to Nehru, almost shaking his idealistic foundation to the very base.
Domestic problems also kept escalating, putting a great degree of mental and physical stress on Nehru.
Nehru was widely criticised for his government’s insufficient attention to defence. In response, Nehru sacked the defence minister Krishna Menon and took up several steps to beef up defence.
Many Indians view the war as a betrayal of India’s attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China and started to question Nehru’s usage of the term “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai”.
The war also put an end to Nehru’s earlier hopes that India and China would form a strong Asian Axis to counteract the increasing influence of the Cold War bloc superpowers.
Toward the end of the war India had increased her support for Tibetan refugees and revolutionaries, some of them having settled in India, as they were fighting the same common enemy in the region. Nehru ordered the raising of an elite Indian-trained “Tibetan Armed Force” composed of Tibetan refugees, which served with distinction in future wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.
NEHRU'S OTHER FOREIGN POLICIES
Invasion of Portuguese India
After years of failed negotiations, Nehru authorised the Indian Army to invade Portuguese controlled Goa, Daman and Diu in 1961.
The Invasion of Portuguese India was an action by the Indian Armed Forces that ended the rule of Portugal in its exclaves in India in 1961.
The armed action, codenamed Operation Vijay by the Indian government, involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India which resulted in incorporation of the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu into the Republic of India
The brief conflict drew a mixture of worldwide praise and condemnation. In India, the action was seen as a liberation of historically Indian territory by geographical closeness, while Portugal viewed it as an aggression against national soil and its citizens.
Regional cooperation was another principle of India’s foreign policy which Nehru envisaged for promoting peace among the nations. He wanted to’ maintain good relation with Pakistan, China, Nepal etc. which will foster lasting peace among themselves. He wanted to expand this friendship and cooperation with as many countries as was possible.
Nehru had firm faith on the U.N.O. and Commonwealth of Nations. It was only because these organizations enabled the nations to arrive at a solution.
Nehru wanted to do away with racialism and colonialism.
Nehru wanted to pursue a foreign policy which should be advantageous for the country. It should be based on peace and should aim at establishing friendly relation with other countries of the world which would be beneficial for the country.
Nature of Indo-Russia relation during Nehru:
After World War II, as Russia and the West both tried to influence the newly independent nations of the world, one of the first major countries that Russians courted was India.
Although the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with India even before the departure of the British in 1947, (Nehru had made her sister Vijayalkhmi Pandit as India’s first ambassador to Moscow in April 1947),Joseph Stalin and his supporters never quite understood the country.
Stalin, who called India’s independence a “political farce,” considered Jawaharlal Nehru an agent of American imperialism, while Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov considered the first prime minister of India to be a British intelligence agent.
If Russia was an enigma wrapped in a riddle to the West, then India was equally mysterious to the Russians. In his memoirs, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev writes, “Our knowledge of India was not only superficial but downright primitive.”
Russians, who had smashed the German forces after a titanic struggle involving tens of millions of armed men and women, couldn’t understand what Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was up to with his policy of non-violence.
An official Russian visit to India did not materialise until 1955 – eight years after Indian independence.
The first reason was Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator. Stalin paid no special attention to India.
The second reason was Nehru, who at that time preferred to deal with newly independent nations such as China, Indonesia, Egypt and Myanmar.
Russian observers had come to the conclusion that India had chosen the capitalist path of development.
Russian leaders also distrusted Nehru because they thought he was palling around with the British.
On the positive side, the Indian people enjoyed special respect in the USSR because they had formerly been oppressed by the colonialists and had now achieved their liberation.
The move towards establishing closer relationships was drawn out. Finally, in June 1955 Nehru accompanied by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, made an official visit to Russia.
Nehru travelled around and saw a significant part of the USSR, including Central Asia and other places. He had a high regard for USSR’s achievements.
Nehru hadn’t budged from his mixed-economy theory. “As a result our former attitude toward Nehru did not fundamentally change,” writes Khrushchev. “As before, we viewed him with great respect and valued him highly, but in our view he was a man with a particular frame of mind, a particular culture, and particular views, and essentially that was correct.”
Khrushchev brilliantly concluded that “the path Nehru chose for the betterment of his country was a very long and slow one, and no one knew where it would lead.”
One can detect a deep disappointment in Khrushchev’s tone: “Outwardly our official talks with Nehru went smoothly. He praised Soviet achievements, but not once did he say anything to the effect that our experience might to some extent be transferable to Indian conditions, and he gave us reason to think that this was not what he wanted.”
Later Nehru invited an official delegation from Russia to visit India. The stage was set for new beginnings.