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Nehru And India's Foreign Policy

By Ram Puniyani

12 November, 2007

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India,
has been under criticism from different quarters all
through. The reasons of this have been diverse for
different political streams. Currently a section of
intellectuals is blaming him for forcing India into
Socialist Russia's camp. Their argument comes in the
backdrop of Left's pressure not to sign the nuclear
deal with U.S. One of the inherent arguments of
critics of left and others is that not signing it will
keep us away from the deeper friendship of U.S., the
land of wealth and prosperity, whose alliance will
benefit us a lot.

In the complex scenario, which our world is, to
support or oppose a political line is not easy enough.
Also the left while opposing the nuclear deal has an
attitude towards nuclear power, energy itself, which
is not acceptable to most peace workers. While one
will like that the left takes a stand which is totally
against the nuclear energy and weapons, this is not
the case. The major built in argument in their current
stance in opposing the nuclear deal with U.S., is that
this will push us in the camp of America, as its
satellite ally and that will be the doom of India's
foreign policy, which has been that of non alignment.
There is a criticism that in the name of non-alignment
India was tilted towards the Soviet block of
yesteryears. Some also pose the question, is it
possible in today's post 'Soviet regime' era to remain
non-aligned, not to toe the singular pole of global
power, America?

Critics of Nehru's foreign policy undermine the fact
that India's foreign policy was aimed at minimizing
the domination of imperial powers in the World in
general and India in particular. Though U.S. and USSR
both were the superpowers, there was some difference
in their attitude. While opposing the concept of
global poles, one also recognizes that most of the
countries which were coming out from the slavery of
colonial powers needed to develop their industrial
infrastructure. U.S. and U.K. were not for helping
these countries with the technological support for
this infrastructure while USSR partly helped India in
building the foundation of industries, which in turn
laid the base for the major industrial growth in times
to come. The contrast is most visible, when India is
compared to its major neighbor Pakistan, which allied
with America, and the difference in the in the
trajectory of two nations is there for all to see.

Pakistan, happy with the short cut of supply of
industrial goods, as a US ally, free market, no
license permit raj, a free economy to begin with
landed up as a puppet economy in due course. India
seeing that the industrialists here cannot set up the
base of industrial growth on their own opted for the
mixed economy, public sector, many of which were
supported by the USSR, for heavy industries and
private sector for the rest. The public sector was
labeled as Socialist by all and sundry, without giving
much thought to the concept of socialism, and was
strongly opposed by the right wing economists,
communalists and western imperialist powers. U.S.
pursued its policies of supporting its minor allies by
giving them weapons and ready made goods in return for
various things including their loyalty to its global

This struggle between capitalist and socialist model
was in turn also a shadow boxing between the upcoming
economies in the third world countries and the
domination of western ex-colonial powers.

U.S. and its allies, with their economic interests
being jeopardized by the independent attitude and
policies of the third world nations, the success of
Soviet block in various fields, stepped up their
ideological campaign against socialist ideology. What
the Western powers wanted was that the third world
should not set up their own industrial base and should
remain dependent on the U.S. and its allies. The
socialist policies in India meant essentially a public
sector which will provide the base for growth of the
industries in general and lift up India's level from
an economically dominated colony towards the
possibility of an strong economy with own say.

Interestingly as India began to chart its course after
getting independence, the thinking of the big
industrialists, which got reflected in the Bombay
plan, and Nehru's fascination for growth model of the
countries like USSR, which helped them come out from
the clutches of feudal economic system, matched well
at this point of time. Industrialists did want the
state to set up infrastructure industries. Here
centralized planning and its accompaniments, which
later became frozen and were unable to change with
times and led to the demise of Soviet socialist

India's charting independent path with the help of
others, more particularly with USSR, in setting up the
infrastructure, helped it stand on its feet, while
most of the countries which became independent at that
time and opted for pro U.S. policies eventually
marched towards banana republics, without the core,
the base for their social and economic systems.

Parallel to this economic path, India took the road of
non alignment. The major opposition to the non
alignment policy came from the BJP and its predecessor
Bharatiya Jansangh, who have always advocated thick
relations with U.S. Politically their ideologue
Golwalkar had listed communists as a threat to Hindu
nation. So far the policies of RSS-BJP had always been
in parallel to those of US. In late 1940s America was
following MaCarthism and hunting communists. Around
that time in the aftermath of Gandhi murder, Golwalkar
was writing to the Sardar Patel that RSS workers
should be released from jails and in turn they will
help the government to contain communists. And today
when U.S. is leading the global anti Muslim tirade,
RSS is the lead organization spreading anti Muslim
venom here in India.

USSR had no problems with the this non alignment
course in foreign policy so it not only endorsed it
but also kept giving core support to India for its
indigenous growth. US annoyed with India's not
accepting US patronage branded India's policies and
non alignment in general as the decoy for being pro
USSR. India did keep supporting the national
liberation struggles in Vietnam and many other nations
to the annoyance of US. Today with the changed of
World scenario, US is keen that India does not form
another block away from U.S., that's why its tilt
towards India, away from its nurturing of Pakistan
till date.

The basic dilemma which countries like India faced was
weather to have 'ready made goods' or to produce the
same the hard way. US wanted India to go on this ready
made path, while India defied it and pursued
independent path. The same got reflected in the
foreign policy and attempt to stay clear of US-USSR
blocks. It's another matter that USSR for its own
strategic reasons was supportive of the non alignment.

This had reflection in India's policy vis a vis
Israel-Palestine. Israel, the hub of US interests,
hand in glove with Western powers, dominated the
region, led to the exile of lakhs of Palestinians and
installed an authoritarian state. Palestinians has
been struggling for years to get back their own land.
Here the aggressor-victim duel was clear and India did
opt to keep away from Israel and kept supporting the
cause of Palestine. US designs in the region were
prompted by the lust for oil, its policy is hegemonic,
it theme, 'Oil is too important to be left to the

In this direction it overthrew the Government of
Mossadeq in 1953, installed Raza Shah Pehlvi who in
turn brought in superficial westernization not
bothering to develop the country's infrastructure. The
political rebellion against him was given a religious
turn and so came in Ayatollah Khomeini. And with this
began another chapter in World history. US projected
it as signaling the rise of Islam as the 'new threat'
to freedom and democracy and this slogan has been
serving it in all its aggressions in the Middle East.

While condemning the foreign policy charted out by the
builder of Modern India, Nehru, these ideologues
conveniently forget that it is important for the World
as a whole to promote democratization amongst nations
and democratization within nations. The attempt to
keep India out of the stifling patronage of US is of
paramount importance to ensure the building of
democracy amongst nations, away from the hegemony of
global bully. The current hegemonic, bullying policies
of US, which are the major cause of violence in the
world, aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq was preceded
by promotion of terrorist outfits, Al Qaeda and its
clones, to fight Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
These need to be understood in their proper
perspective. We do have to keep the goal that the
world marches towards peace and harmony amongst
nations and amongst people.

In the contemporary scenario it is easy and also
fashionable enough to criticize Nehru's
economic-foreign policy. It is difficult to see today
that it is precisely these policies of public sector
and non alignment which resulted in India charting the
course of democracy and economic growth. One is not
saying that what has been achieved is satisfactory.
The point is this was the comparatively better option,
which did help us go some distance in the direction of
industrialization-education in the given
circumstances. World is essentially global, how we
strike a balance between external support and internal
growth is a million rupee question. Blindly submitting
to the wishes of super power number one, may land us
up in the direction of many a banana republics or lead
to the fate which our neighbor is seeing due to
embracing the Uncle Sam.

Time that we build the non aligned movement again,
time that we promote regional alliances, time that we
see the vision of Nehru in its perspective of
indigenous growth and global democracy away from the
domination of one or the other superpower.



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