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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 39, September 12, 2009

Jinnah and Nehru

Saturday 12 September 2009, by P.K. Nigam


Jaswant Singh wrote that Jinnah was a great man. Advani considered that Jinnah was secular. The BJP leaders have been enamoured of Jinnah and his greatness. But, their bete noire is Nehru. He was pseudo-secular. What are the facts?

Jinnah’s reading was limited and he did not understand geo-politics. Nehru had vast reading and his knowledge of the outside world was better than any leader in the world. Based on his vast knowledge, he made many predictions, which came true. Only two are mentioned below:

1. In his book, Glimpses of World History, published in 1933, he predicted the rise of Asia as the dominant continent again. His prophecy is beginning to appear true and may be fulfilled in the 21st century.

2. In his confidential report to the Congress Working Committee dated February 19, 1927, Nehru correctly predicted the emergence of the Communists in China as the dominant force and said that those Communists would have a nationalist outlook.

Jinnah did not understand what constitutes the power of a nation. Nehru understood power very well. When Hitler attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Hitler thought that he would conquer the Soviet Union in ten weeks. Roosevelt and Churchill thought that Hitler would take only seven to eight weeks. Even that would be of great help to them, when the US and England attacked Germany later. Nehru was the only one political leader who said that Hitler would not win against the Soviet Union. It was the Soviet Union who destroyed the German Army and forced Germany to surrender.

As late as in 1946, Jinnah did not think that the British were leaving India. In a letter to Syed Mahmud in 1927, Nehru wrote:

We shall see “swaraj” (free India). Whatever India might or might not do, I am fairly sure that England cannot hold on to India for long.

Again he wrote on April 4, 1930:

Somehow I cannot help thinking that the days of British Empire are numbered and it is going to be our privilege and good fortune to help to end it.

In 1936, during a trip to Europe, Nehru wrote to Viceroy Linlithgow that India would become independent of England in ten years. Linlithgow did not agree. Time proved Nehru was right.

Unlike others, Nehru knew well that other powers such as the US, Soviet Union, Germany had arisen and were much stronger than England, and all of them were Have-Not nations ready to expand their empires. Japan’s strength in the Pacific was more than Britain’s. They all had their eyes on India. Even Gandhiji said in January 1941:

I confess I do not follow everything as Jawaharlal with his study of foreign affairs can. Jawaharlal is convinced that the British Empire is finished. We all wish that it may be finished, but I do not think it is finished. We know that British are tough fighters, we know what the Empire, specially India, means to every home in Britain, and that, therefore, they will never consent to be ‘Little Englanders’ ... Therefore it will be long before the empire is finished.

The extent of Britain’s decline was vividly brought out in a report by the American Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1944. It said about Britain’s capacity: “The relative decline in Britain’s munitioning capacity during the past 70 years (was) from 50 per cent to eight per cent of the world’s total.” As for the JCS, they felt “the British Empire had ceased to exist as a great power”.


Both Jinnah and Nehru faced one problem—the problem of national language. Jinnah selected Urdu; Nehru selected Hindi. In March 1948, Jinnah went to Dhaka. The university students there demanded that Bengali should also be a national language, as a majority of people in Pakistan spoke Bengali. Jinnah rejected their demand and threatened them with bullets to accept his decision. The result was division of Pakistan only after 24 years. The area and population of Pakistan shrank. People in south India did not want Hindi as a national language, as demanded by Hindi enthusiasts like Congress President Purshottam Das Tandon. Nehru saw a danger to the unity of India. He was a very brave man. In 1951, Nehru became the President of the Congress in his place. He said Hindi would not become the national language in the south till the people there desired it. Tamil Nadu remains an important part of India today.

In 1942, Jinnah said that India was not fit for democracy. Nehru has made India a flourishing democracy, the biggest in the world! Jinnah changed on August 11, 1947 and said Pakistan would be a modern democracy. In the last 64 years, Pakistan had very brief periods of democracy with revolving heads, but dictatorship most of the time. Jinnah had claimed that 100 million Muslims are one nation and Hindus and Muslims cannot live together; hence partition. Only two months after partition, Jinnah did not allow Muslims to migrate to Pakistan with the exception of Muslims from Punjab. Later Muslims, called Biharis from East Pakistan, were not allowed to migrate to Pakistan. The final death-nail to Jinnah’s claim was struck by millions and millions of Muslims from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) who have been coming to live in India during the last 37 years without any invitation. Muslims in undivided India were 95 million; now there are more than 120 million. Moreover, an objective study shows that Muslims did not gain from partition. Many Muslims like Badshah Khan had also said so. Was Nehru not right in rejecting the two-nation theory?

In 1947, Jinnah told the Muslim Leaguers: “You think you made Pakistan. I made it with my steno.” On May 1, 1947, Jinnah met diplomats from the American Embassy and asked them to assist Pakistan in their own interest, as the Muslims were against Communists and would help the US. Pakistan would help in the protection of US interests in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Ignorant Jinnah did not know what folly he was committing. He thought he was too clever. Pakistan was never free, as Muslims claimed they had won independent Pakistan laughing. Pakistan was under the domination of Britain for a few years in the beginning, and then it was completely under American domination. America decides who shall be the ruler of Pakistan. The American ambassador sits in the Pakistani Cabinet like a Viceroy, if any important decision is to be made. Thus JInnah walked into the maw of two imperialist powers in the words of British Lord Cranebourne. People of Pakistan are now fighting to throw off the American yoke. The fighting is bloody. Their war for freedom will last many years in future and will be very devastating.

Both India and Pakistan were very weak militarily. Nehru was undaunted. Nehru kept India’s independence by his political stratagem of non-alignment. This was similar to “divide and rule” and counter-moves. None of the two super-powers wanted India to be under the hegemony of the other. Hence, each had to take steps to prevent this and help India in doing so. Jinnah’s Pakistan remained under foreign domination.

People should be judged by their overall achievements. Let us look at the achievements of Jinnah and Nehru. Jinnah’s Pakistan lasted only 24 years. Nehru’s India is in one piece. Even today, Pakistan is bankrupt depending upon American charity. Pakistan is backward and undeveloped with little industry. While Nehru’s India is a major industrial power with the world’s third biggest GNP based on purchasing power parity. In fact, Nehru was one of the greatest leaders of not only India but of the world. He ranks with emperor Ashok as the second native ruler to have almost all India under his rule. Jinnah was an ordinary talented man, who developed to be the second Mir Jafar of India. No one knows him today in the world outside Pakistan. He cannot be pardoned for his hymn of hate against Hindus and incitement to communal riots. Jaswant Singh claims Jinnah was a great man. If one looks at their achievements, then what was Nehru? Nations are built around their great leaders. India is fortunate to have leaders of the calibre of Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel. It is unfortunate that the BJP is downgrading them for its own selfish motives.

The author has penned a recently published book, entitled Reflections on the History of World in 20th Century; www.peaceamongmankind.com is his website.

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