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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 24 New Delhi June 4, 2016

Nehru as an Internationalist

Monday 6 June 2016


by Mohd Yousuf Dar and Jahangir Ahmad Dar

Jawaharlal Nehru’s political leadership both in Indian politics and international affairs was indeed unique in the true sense. As a votary of world peace, Pandit Nehru was intimately connected with problems and challenges of international affairs. He developed an inter-national outlook. He was greatly concerned about the arms race and the superpower rivalry. He was deadly opposed to all forms of imperialism, colonialism, racialism and so forth. He was one of the leading spokesmen of Asian and African aspirations for absolute political and economic freedom. He remained a domi-nating personality in the affairs of the world, especially in the Afro-Asian countries. He stood for cooperation amongst the various nations of the world in the interest of world, peace and laid emphasis on the need of bringing about some sort of harmony between nationalism and internationalism. Narrow nationalism, according to him, leads to imperialism which he discarded outrightly. Regarding narrow nationalism, he warned in 1947:

Nationalism is a curious phenomenon which, at a certain stage in a country’s history, gives life, growth, strength and unity but, at the same time, it has a tendency to limit one, give one thoughts of one’s country as something different from the rest of the world,. The result is that the same nationalism which is the symbol of growth for a people becomes a symbol of the cessation of that growth in the mind. Nationalism, when it becomes successful, sometimes goes on spreading in an aggressive way and becomes a danger internationally. Whatever line of thought you follow you arrive at the conclusion that some kind of balance must be found.

He exhorted the young men of Bengal in 1928:

Are you prepared to shoulder to shoulder with the youth of the world, not only to free your country from an insolent and alien rule but to establish in this unhappy world of yours a better and happier society?

He warned them that national independence should not mean for us merely an addition to the warring groups of nations. It should be a step toward the creation of a World Common-wealth of Nations. He was in favour of a world federation, and a world republic, and not an empire for exploitation. Again in 1928 Nehru, while addressing the Punjab Provincial Congress, stated:

The world has become internationalised, production is international, markets are international and transport is international..... No nation is really independent, they are all interdependent.

Thus, if romantic loyalties had made Nehru a nationalist, the rational and pragmatic conside-rations for human welfare made him a believer in peaceful co-existence and the ideals of ‘one world’. In the nuclear age, hydrogen fusion and the prospects of neutron bomb and chemical warfare, Nehru became an apostle of world peace, a champion of disarmament, and a true believer in the ideals of the United Nations. To Nehru, the United Nations was of central impor-tance. He was conscious, of course, of its shortcomings. But in spite of that, he was tireless in affirming that the United Nations is the chief repository of our hopes for ever and more effective international co-operation for security as well as welfare. Nehru was a firm believer in the ideals of the United Nations and was opposed to the bipolarisation of world politics during the Cold War era and persistently refused to join any powerful bloc. It was Pandit Nehru who carved the third force or third world as a counterpoise to the two super- powers and eased the tensions. Nehru pro-pounded the policy of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence to safeguard the national interests and internationalism.

Non-alignment has been regarded as one of the most important cornerstones of India’s foreign policy and is the most enduring of India’s contri-bution to international relations. Non-alignment as a principle meant non-involvement in the USA-USSR bipolar power-politics, and keeping away from bloc politics, maintaining friendship with both, and military alliance with none. A desire for world peace and evolving an independent foreign policy became main objectives.

Nehru was in favour of adopting an approach of friendship and cooperation with its neighbours. For this he established sound principles of dealing with them in the name of ‘Panchsheel’, that is, the five principles of peaceful co-existence. These principles were enunciated on April 29, 1954, as part of the preamble of India-China agreement with regard to Tibet between Nehru and Chou-En-Lai. These are:

(a) Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;

(b) Mutual non-aggression;

(c) Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs;

(d) Equality and mutual benefit;

(e) Peaceful co-existence.

These five principles are meant to enhance the sense of security, trust and confidence.

Nehru was not in favour of the use of arms for security in the world as he believed that peace cannot be secured through security, but security can be attained through peace. He was very much apprehensive about the dangerous consequences of the post-Second World War arms race. Considering the growth of nuclear weapons as a dangerous development, he felt that these had pushed the world on to the ‘edge of disaster’. Hence, he appealed to the superpowers to adopt disarmament as a good gesture for the sake of humanity.

In the present times too the ideas of Nehru, if adopted without prejudice and in an objective manner, are bound to pave way for a just and equalitarian world order where all the nation- states can live in peace and harmony and in this perceived world order, hostility, fear and suspicion will be replaced by rationalism, tolerance, friendliness and cooperation.

Mohd Yousuf Dar is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir. He can be contacted at Jahangir Ahmad Dar (Gold Medalist) is a Lecturer in Political Science at the Government Model HSS, Kilam Kulgaon.

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