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Nehru’s foreign policy blunders on China and Pakistan

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The Congress Party has always projected Pandit Nehru as an exemplary helmsman of India’s foreign policy.

The founder of our political movement, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji, on the other hand, regarded Panditji’s handling of Pakistan, as well as China, as two egregious blunders of his.

Sadly, the shock that Nehru suffered when confronted by China’s gross betrayal in 1962 virtually cost him his life. His mishandling of Pakistan has left terrorism and Kashmir as two festering sores for our body politik right up to this day.

Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International (whose late father was a committed Congressman) has recently made some very pertinent observations about Nehru’s conduct of India’s Foreign Policy. A Penguin publication by Zakaria has been titled “The Post American world”. In this book Zakaria says that the “central paradox of India” today is that “its society is open, eager and confident ready to take on the world”, but its state – its ruling class – is “hesitant, cautious and suspicious of the changing realities around it”. The Newsweek Editor adds: “Nowhere is this tension more obvious than in the realm of foreign policy, the increasingly large and important task of determining how India should fit into the new world”.

Zakaria’s book recalls that when Mountbatten suggested that there be a powerful chief of defense staff, Nehru turned down the suggestion.

Zakaria adds “A week into his new government, he walked over to the defense ministry and was furious to find military officers working there (as they do in every defense ministry in the world). Since then all armed service personnel working in New Delhi’s ‘South Block’ wear civilian clothes”.

Pandit Nehru remained India’s Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964. Throughout his tenure he was his own Foreign Minster. K.P.S. Menon, one of our first foreign secretaries, has observed in his autobiography: “We had no precedents to fall back upon because India had no foreign policy of her own until she became independent …our policy therefore necessarily rested on the intuition of one man, who was Foreign Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.”

Zakaria goes on to make a rather severe summing up of Nehru’s foreign policy management thus :

“Nehru rooted India’s foreign policy in abstract ideas rather than a strategic conception of national interests. He disdained alliances, pacts, and treaties, seeing them as part of the old rules of real politik, and was uninterested in military matters.”

Ironically, Fareed Zakaria writes, India’s policies became “especially tough-minded and shrewd during the reign of Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi.” We all know that it was during her regime that Bangladesh was carved out, and that India took its initial step into the field of nuclear weaponry. Those who have been following the development of India into a full fledged nuclear weapons state are aware that Pokharan I took place in 1974, during Mrs. Gandhi’s tenure. The process then started was completed by Prime Minister Vajpayee through Pokharan II, where on May 11, 1998, three underground nuclear tests were successfully conducted.

There can hardly be a more glaring instance of Nehruji’s unconcern for the India’s own strategic interests than his refusal to accept a U.S. offer in 1955 of a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council, till then held by Taiwan. He insisted that the seat be given to China. Interestingly, this fact is mentioned in his book on Pandit Nehru by Shashi Tharoor, an MOS in Dr. Manmohan Singh Government.

When Nehru declined to accept the U.S. proposal, his argument was that he did not want U.S. to marginalise China. We thereby only hurt our own interests.

In 2008, a conclave of foreign ministers of BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) was held at Yekaterinburg (Russia). At this conclave Russia pressed that the conclave support India’s plea to secure a permanent place in the U.N. Security Council. Russia’s move did not succeed because it was strongly opposed by China !

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

15th February, 2010

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23 Responses to “Nehru’s foreign policy blunders on China and Pakistan”

  1. PRAVEEN SHANKAR KAPOOR Says:

    Advani ji is right in his observation that India’s soft stand towards Pakistan and China under Pt. Nehru regime affects India till today. Be it Arunchal or Kashmir, a firm stand between 1947 to 1950 would have served India better.

    Its an irony of events that Pt. Nehru had to succumb to the wounds given by those whom he trusted. Yet, I beg to differ with the contention of Advani ji or Zakaria ji that India should have agreed to Mountbatten’s advise for a strong chief of defense staff.

    India was always destined to be a Parliamentary Democracy and fortunately we are so, till date. On the other hand, lets look at the state of affairs in Pakistan which opted for a strong chief of defense staff.

    A political aspirations free army is a must for a Democracy to succeed and our army is above politics. It is Lack of political will to put the foul neighbors in place, has actually weakened us. The blame is squarely on Congress that has ruled the nation for most part.

  2. Santhiya M Says:

    Dear Sir,

    My admiration for Nehru grew multi-fold after I read Glimpses of World History and Towards freedom. Everybody commits a blunder at some point of time. But, it is difficult for me to belive that he meant something bad to happen.

    Even in his writings he was always appreciative of China and it’s culture. He writes that India and China are the only two places where the civilization has not broken down at any point in between unlike Rome or Greece. Because the Chinese government is belligerant today, I would not blame Nehru for his goodwill then.

    PS: I have nothing to do with the Congress Party, but I am a huge admirer of Nehru.

  3. vinay Says:

    Will BJP stop blaming others .. Please think what your government has done … you are talking about pakistan .. Pakistan is doing these things for a long time even when the BJP government was there. That time Pakistan had done a lot of things against India .. but BJP did nothing concrete … so please stop blaming others.

  4. Prakasam Says:

    Sir,

    It is very shocking to read how foolish was the great scholar by rejecting the offer in UN Security Council and offer it to the permanent enemy of our country China. Even an ordinary uneducated man will not do this. Thanks for making this news known to us.

  5. Bhushan Agrawal Says:

    Nehruji with his brand of pseudo-secularist and appeasement policy made country even weaker than what it was during independence. His policy and subsequent Congress lead govt’s followup with these policies had lead the country to partition, uneasy relations with its neighbours, poverty, terrorism and reduced us to a third world country always begging for help and advice from US or EU.

    All these facts and many more blunders have been hidden from the people originally by the Govt and now by the media. Why do the so-called elite class, learned, educated NGO’s or spokespersons, not try to investigate or talk on subjects like these which concern our nationhood.

    Who says we gained Independence from the foreigners in 1947 ? Open your eyes, folks. We are still under mental slavery.

  6. Jitendra Says:

    I completely agree with Advani Ji. In fact, I wrote a similar article last year during Lok sabha elections.
    http://jitendradimri.blogspot.com/2009/04/legacy-of-nehru.html

    After independence, Nehru’s policies have been disasterous .

  7. R.Venkatachalam Says:

    Dear Advaniji,

    What you have written quoting Freed Zakaria is not something new that we do not know about Pandit Nehru. But two prominent English papers have given a caption to this news as “Advani critizes Nehru and praises Indira”. I am sure you have not praised Indira. You have merely quoted Zakaria and narrated some events in support of what he has said. These papers always want to show you in bad light. It is a pity that we do not have a national level news paper which gives only news not views. In Tamil Nadu we are lucky. At least, we have Thuglak which always brings in the needed correction for the crooked image these papers build of you.

    R.Venkatachalam

  8. suresh Says:

    In hindsight its always easy to ponder and write.Despite BJP being given an oppurtunity by the electorate, nothing dramatically changed either in foreign policy or home policy. Panditji was an exemplary person, his daughter also proved to the world that she indeed was a chip off the old block.Congress goverment is more soft towards minority that is the tragedy of that party. Unlike BJP which is balanced to all, in India.

  9. Manish Says:

    Advaniji,

    You have been right in your observation about Nehru. Nehru had a unique style of functioning which was regulated by his multiple nefarious activities.

    Many Nehruvites, who swear by his name, always claim that Nehru’s policies were more made from idealism, but his idealism in personal life was at loggerheads with his idealism of nation building. Besides, Nehru was not supposed to use his idealism as a head of the nation. Why did he not adopt idealism when Gandhi gave a call to wind up Congress party ? Where did his idealism go when his other illustrious colleagues were sidelined while he was getting promoted by Gandhi ji ?

  10. nandhini Says:

    I too agree advaniji, as his ways is wrong not only in foreign poilcy but also in defense. We can understand that during war with pakistan during his administration that created unsolved problem with pakistan till now.

  11. Shishir Says:

    Advaniji, it has been such a delight to read you after so long. May God give you good health so that you can be around as a lighthouse to us.

    It is heartening to learn from you some of the basic tenets of Congress philosophy as dictated by a family. I am sure there are not many nationalist Indians who are aware of the rejection of the U.N.S.C. seat, and this needs to be not just highlighted but made a point to prick. Believe me, a Kandahar might have cost us our elections as a good majority can argue that India acted meekly during that time. Unfortunately, we have not been able to initiate any major debate on issues that can floor the Congress, including this one. I would urge Advaniji, with his influence on many organisations of importance, to initiate a public debate on this. I am sure this blog will lead it, but internet literacy even now is just around 7%!!

    Regards,
    Shishir

  12. aloke banerji Says:

    @vinay and suresh

    Mismanagement of India’s affairs started 20 years before independence by Congress under Nehru’s leadership and continued unabated after partition. You can not expect BJP to correct the enormous mess of 70 years in 6 years of power at the centre that too with a coalition govt.

    All the vital reforms NDA implemented in economy, banking, tele-communication, IT etc. sowed the seeds for the explosive growth of our economy, achieved in the subsequent years till date. Also, the courage it showed in Pokhran II was never found in Congress ! You know what? It was only after Pokhran II that the world took notice of the country - INDIA !

  13. Rajiv Tripathi Says:

    Hi Sir,

    Its my first time I am writing on any politician’s blog. Not sounding hypocritical , I am neither a great admirer of Congress nor its current policies, but I personally feel that your recent blog vitiates the work of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru. Political rivalry aside, there are many more serious topics to handle. I know that whatever you have emphasized in your blog might be true but there are many reasons to think otherwise. As the past suggests and so does the history, our constitution and success of democracy in a country with second largest people and four major religions, has no parallel. Their are many factors which make us distinct and unique from rest of the world, and so do our problems. Don’t be incredulous towards the achievements of that man. Kindly refrain from digging old graves and try to resolve other important issues that we face today. This is humble request of an Indian citizen. Make BJP a strong party at center but not by these means.Thanks and Regards.

  14. Mehul Aghera Says:

    Untill we get PM like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, we will not be able to resolve any issue with Pakistan nor with World…. I thanks GOD everyday that during 1947 partition, Sardar Patel was our Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.

    I am still thinking in last 60 years why India was not able to get a PM like Patel… India had Nehru and we are seeing what’s the outcome of it….and now we keep getting only clones of him. We really need to think Why Patel’s Policy died once he died….. the only way you can regain his policy back and put India back on track to resolve all issues is if you get another of Gujarati Farmer’s Son and let him run the country. Also Gujarat is the only state that never adopted Nehru’s Policy.. it still believes in Patel’s Policy and still follows it. Just compare the the growth of Gurath with other states and you would see the difference between Nehru’s policy with Sardar Patel’s policy…

    Regards Mehul Aghera, USA

  15. nandhini Says:

    Hi Mehul Aghera,

    I agree with your comments. what u have quoted is 100% correct.

  16. alokban Says:

    Congress achieved absolute power after independence and skillfully created a myth about Nehru/I.Gandhi and gradually obliterated names of other heroes and patriots so much so that todays generation only hears about Nehru and his progenies. Thus Nehru’s criticism makes present generation upset.

    Most don’t know Nehru was anointed no.1 in Congress by Gandhiji in 1929 when he was 40. Over next years his Know-All Arrogance and Intransigent Attitude alienated Muslim Leadership as he refused to consider their political concerns. Over next one and half decade Muslim demand went from separate electorate to autonomous Bengal/ Punjab to Pakistan! A Pakistan which is bleeding us perpetually. You can’t reach your true destiny without knowing your History and your Forefathers.

  17. alokban Says:

    Let me add: No doubt Nehru was a great patriot and a scholar. But in spite of full power after independence, he did not implement Primary Education.

    I lived in West Germany all of 60s, studying then working. I was surprised that every child there had to go to school till 15 and then could continue either higher studies or go for vocational training.They had no choice as otherwise parents will lose child care and there will be no job in future.

    Just imagine if every Indian would have studied upto 10th standard from 1947 onwards ! I am ashamed today when my plumber, mason, fruit/bhajiwalla can’t read and write.

    Nehru felt it was sufficient if we have IITs and IIMs.

  18. Sajish Says:

    @alokban

    Possibly Nehru felt it was sufficient if we had IITs and IIMs. India is known by them. But, India is also known by Asok@Dilbert more than our own Asoka !

    What did anyone else do ? My leaders let me down. They had a chance. But got bogged down by the coalition politics pressures, may be.

    FYI - I am not an IIT/ IIM guy.

  19. ashok Says:

    Nehru’s foreign policy blunders :

    1 Refusal to accept a U.S. offer in 1955 of a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.
    2 Taking the KASHMIR matter to UN
    2 Agreeing to hold Plebiscite in UNITED KASHMIR

    Dr. Manmohan Singh’s foreign policy blunders :

    1. Signing of faulty nuclear deal.
    2. Mentioning Balochistan in Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement .
    3. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s External Affairs SM Krishna statement “Whenever there are incursions on either side, there is a built-in mechanism which takes care of things.As compared to other countries, the Indo-China boundary is most peaceful. These incursions will be sorted out,”.

  20. prince Says:

    Even if India accept the offer and is seen as an ally of US by the USSR,the USSR has the veto power and it can veto the said proposition in the UN.So there was no point in accepting the offer.

  21. Padmakar Pande Says:

    Respected Advaniji,

    I have always been your admirer, both as a person of high integrity and as an able, astute politician who has brought the B.J.P. to its present stature.

    As a political party, the BJP has a long way to go. To get a clear majority in the Lok Sabhs as well as in the states which are not under the rule of BJP. But we also will have to give a thought -rather serious thought to the fact that inspite of the misrule of the congress Party,why are the people ,particularly. the followers of Congress Party, can not think of anyone to lead them who is not related with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, either directly or even remotely, as does the present congress president ?

    Why is there not even one person in that party who will be acceptable as its Pressident? When we get an answer to this question, I think, then the legacy of Nehru’s wrong policies and politics,futhered by his daughter Indira Gandhi and her progeny will be corrected.

  22. Vinay Ambali Says:

    Dear Advaniji,

    I have followed your blog for sometime and being a sincere admirer of BJP, I want to share this with you and my fellow citizens also let me tell that I represent the youth who does not have time for politics and few who take time in knowing our past.

    Advaniji, I completely understand the emotion in which you write this post. The congress might have joined in the freedom struggle but they always had agenda of who has to rule in the future. Its sad that we are still under king (Family rule). This is the basic principle on which the BJP was formed that it will be more secular, democratic and thats why, its a Bharatiya Janata party.

    But somewhere we are forgetting that, Congress is too smart and I am sure they have few hundred brand managers and party workers who are working on the image of the party continuously. BJP does not do this. Let us tell people what BJP stands for, sell our idea of future and build this nation. Give us youngsters some chance to work for the party.

  23. Kumar Says:

    Hi Advaniji,

    I found this piece of text (below) while surfing the Wikipedia which might provide an counter argument to your view. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_and_the_United_Nations#UN_Security_Council)

    Apart from this, Nehru might have done some blunders with his innocence or stubbornness. But BJP with full knowledge & thirst for votes committed (so called) Ayodhya & Godhra blunder. Nehru atleast repented for his mistakes. But there seems to be no remorse for you !

    I wish elders like you change the party atleast now !

    Note: I do not support Congress dynasty. But I don’t look at you as an alternative either !

    Regards,
    Kumar

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