Nehru and the twentieth century - Unknown.pdf - Digitized...

This preview shows page 1 out of 280 pages.

Unformatted text preview: Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2019 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation Nehru and the Twentieth Century SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES PAPERS 1. Milton Israel and N.K. Wagle, editors Religion and Society in Maharashtra 1987 2. D.W. Attwood, M. Israel and N.K. Wagle, editors City, Countryside and Society in Maharashtra 1988 3Joseph T. O’Connell, Milton Israel and Willard G. Oxtoby, with W.H. McLeod and J.S. Grewal, editors Sikh History and Religion in the Twentieth Century 1988 (Rep. 1990) 4Milton Israel, editor Nehru and the Twentieth Century 1991 SERIES EDITORIAL COMMITTEE Nanda K. Choudhrv Milton Israel Willard G. Oxtoby Lawrence W. Preston, assistant editor Narendra K. Wagle, chairman Anthony K. Warder South Asian Studies Papers, no. 4 Nehru and the Twentieth Century edited by Milton Israel University of Toronto Centre for South Asian Studies 1991 T>3 M Published by the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Room 2057, ioo St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S Copyright © 1991 by the Centre for South Asian Studies isbn 1-895214-04-1 (hardcover) 1-895214-05-x (soft cover) Printed in Canada iai, Canada Contents Acknowledgements 7 Introduction 9 Nehru’s Place In History Michael brecher 23 Jawaharlal Nehru: Historical Role and Present Significance. A Russian Perspective e.n. komarov 53 His Life and Our Times: Nehru and the Colonial World A.P. THORNTON 74 Nehru’s Relations with Gandhi judith m. brown 84 Nehru’s Truth: “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” MILTON ISRAEL 108 Nehru and the Twentieth Century: A Commentary ROBERT crane 130 The Economic Policy of Jawaharlal Nehru baldev nayar 142 A Note on Nehru as Economic Planner pranab bardhan 173 Nehru’s Failure with China: Intellectual Naivete or the Wages of a Prophetic Vision? jagat singh mehta 179 Nehru’s Nuclear Policy ashok kapur 217 The Nehru We Loved to Serve (A Personal Nostalgia) JAGAT SINGH MEHTA 233 Concluding Reflections Sarvepalli gopal 256 Contributors 267 Thomas \ ”?vERSftY Acknowledgements This volume is the result of a conference titled: Nehru and the Twentieth Century. The idea for the conference was first discussed by Milton Israel and Michael Brecher in March, 1988, in the garden of the Indian Interna¬ tional Centre, New Delhi, during a break in the 20th anniversary celebra¬ tions of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. The conference was held in November, 1989, at the University of Toronto, under the auspices of the Centre for South Asian Studies. In addition to the contributors to this book, Professors Paul Brass, D.A. Low, and Atul Kohli participated in the conference, presented papers or commentary, and made significant contri¬ butions to the discussion and the quality of the shared experience. Generous support for both the conference and the publication was pro¬ vided by the following institutions: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Toronto, The Donner Can¬ adian Foundation, The Federation of Indo-Canadian Associations, the State Bank of India, the University of Manchester (U.K.), The Institute of Oriental Studies (Moscow), and the Arya Samaj (Mississauga). In addi¬ tion, individual contributions were made by Mr. Shreyas Ajmera and Mr. Kiran Kulkarni. It would not, however, have been possible to invite to Toronto scholars from India, Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States and Canada with¬ out the commitment of time and personal resources of Mr. Shashi Sharma and Mr. Keshev Chandaria who shared our desire to celebrate Jawaharlal Nehru’s life and to remember his extraordinary achievements. The success of the conference was, in large measure, the result of the personal interest and organizational skills of the Centre’s Administrative Officer, Ms. 7 8 Nehru and the Twentieth Century Shirley Uldall. The manuscript was prepared for publication by Ms. Janice Redlin. Her patience and professional expertise have allowed this project to proceed quickly to completion. Introduction Jawaharlal Nehru’s centenary provides a special opportunity to reconsider the twentieth century historical context: the range of perspectives, the sig¬ nificance of the collapse of European empires and the rise of new states, the resulting changes in the nature of international decision-making, and the evolving definition of a new world order. As the first and largest nation to achieve independence in the period of decolonization, India became a model for both third world and western states in the process of establishing new and untried relationships. And throughout this period, Nehru dom¬ inated policy making at home and was perceived as a major representative of the new nations of Asia and Africa in the councils of the world. For a con¬ siderable period, his role and influence were unique. More than most of his contemporaries, he concentrated his attention on the design of the newly emergent international community, the increasing complexity of interna¬ tional decision making, and the competing perspectives on issues of inter¬ national peace and security. As a principal leader of resurgent Asia and a major architect of the post-colonial world system, Nehru sought through non-alignment to challenge the concept of a new balance of power para¬ digm which would subjugate weaker states (especially those emerging from colonial control) to the influence and priorities of either the United States or the Soviet Union. It is clear that the complex interrelationships which inform the linkages between ‘north’ and ‘south’ today continue to reflect his extraordinary influence in setting directions and goals. Nehru’s insistence that India would have a life of her own set the stage for a new and difficult dialogue in a war-weary western dominated world that was reluctant to confront such realities. He emphasized a new range of issues: poverty, illiteracy, racism, as sources of international instability and 9 io Nehru and the Twentieth Century potential confrontation. As significantly, he implicitly gave notice that the nations of the ‘Third World’ could disturb the order of the first; that there was, in fact, one world in matters of peace and stability, and its range of nations would have to learn to work together to achieve them. His remark¬ able ability to articulate a vision for India’s future and record its evolution through the turmoil of nationalist struggle has produced a legacy of books, essays, speeches, and letters which reflect the extraordinary combination of character and talent that made Nehru the first leader of free India. On August 9, 1933, in his cell in the district jail at Dehra Dun, he wrote about the burdens of the moment and his optimism about the future. “Ours is an age of disillusion, of doubt and uncertainty and questioning,” he noted in a letter to his daughter. It was clear that Asia shared with Europe and America a loss of balance and confidence and a need to seek new solutions. But Nehru looked forward to the challenge and the prospect of “growth and progress and the possibility of an infinite advance for man." He sought to place Asia and India in the perspective of both the past and of contemporary world events, in a manner which reflected his idealism, his occupation with ideas as well as action, and his courage. “Danger seems terrible from a distance; it is not so bad if you have a close look at it. And often it is a pleasant companion adding to the zest and delight of life.”1 The transition from nationalist to national leader brought no relief from the challenge or the danger. On October 15, 1947, Nehru initiated a fort¬ nightly correspondence with the premiers of India’s provinces.2 He noted the tragedy of post-partition violence and the possibility that its spread across north India might lead to national collapse only two months after the establishment of the new Indian state. In a few pages of text, he described the range of problems left unresolved or enhanced by the transfer of power, and provided a list of priorities for meeting the challenge. In this first letter, the central themes of his leadership of the nationalist struggle were reiterated in the form of nascent national policy - essential in Nehru’s view, to hold the new nation together and to preserve its independence in the future. The need for a strong central government, and the fear of the “virus of communal politics,” were primary issues. The large Muslim minoritv had to be incorporated into the mainstream of Indian society. “If we fail,” Nehru warned, “the country would be burdened with a festering sore 11 Introduction which will eventually poison the whole body politic and probably destroy it.”3 Concern for India’s international reputation, and a primary concen¬ tration on the country’s economic problems was reflected in the need for India to increase its industrial productivity - both to build the domestic economy and to minimize dependence on foreign sources. Nehru’s social vision and idealism regarding the sharing in this growth by all of India’s people, his concern about relations with Pakistan and the need to reduce friction on the new borders, the need to build consensus among the leader¬ ship at the centre and in the localities concluded the list of challenges. Over time, Nehru’s dominant role evolved into a virtual personification of the country’s achievements and failures - in the perception of both the Indian people and in some measure, of Nehru himself. His visit to the United States in 1949, was for Nehru “an event of historic significance,” representing “the ending of the period of Asia’s subservience....”4 The mix of conviction and concern which produced both an idealist vision and reticence to implement it is clear in these letters. He was convinced that the building of the Indian nation and the new post-war world would inevitably be founded on socialism and economic planning. For Nehru, private enterprise was a nineteenth century idea which had “faded away com¬ pletely;” but the envisioned goal, always controversial, remained unclear. “What do we plan for?” “What kind of picture of society do we have in view?”5 Nehru was convinced that radical measures were clearly “neces¬ sary immediately,” but he accepted the constraints that made it “undesir¬ able to embark” on that dangerous voyage for the present.6 Unity building and the necessity to compromise and adapt in its service informed the whole of Nehru’s leadership career from the late 20s to 1964. The biggest problem in his view was “a psychological one,” the acceptance of the idea of the Indian nation. He sought “a flaming enthusiasm” for the task of building national unity but too often the response from the Indian people reflected “an inertness and passivity and a complete lack of enthusi¬ asm.”7 He sought to reach out to this vast constituency to determine if the direction he had set was right; but more than concern about the appropri¬ ateness of his goals and vision was his awareness of the burden of the “leg¬ acy we have inherited.” During the early years of his Prime Ministership, there appeared to be so much allied against his efforts. “I have sensed a 12 Nehru and the Twentieth Century process of deterioration and disintegration and faction and little minded¬ ness asserting itself from day to day and affecting all our national activi¬ ties.”8 The scholars who participated in the Toronto conference and whose collective scholarship appears in this book have chosen to celebrate the life of one of the twentieth century’s great statesmen by critically examining his point of view, his achievements and failures, and the continuing signifi¬ cance of the issues which dominated his career, for peace and security in our own time. Together these papers focus on the major decisions and per¬ spectives which inform the history of modern India and twentieth century international relations, to which Jawaharlal Nehru made a creative and influential contribution. The conference was organized around three themes: Nationalism and Decolonization, Nation-Building, and Foreign Policy: Asia and the World. The over-arching theme which draws these three areas together is Nehru’s leadership. Nationalism and Decolonization Only Gandhi competes with Nehru for primacy as leader of India’s nation¬ alist struggle. In some measure they were in competition in the late 20s and 30s, when fundamental ideological differences and conflicting viewpoints on particular issues strained their relationship. Far more significant for the Indian struggle and the direction of national life after 1947, however, were the elements that sustained this extraordinary partnership. Judith Brown notes the crucial role of Nehru’s relationship with Gandhi in making him a great Asian leader. Both were All-India leaders, and recognized their inter¬ dependence in mobilizing a vast and complex range of constituencies, and directing them to some useful and unifying purpose. Although his social radicalism and political activism were continually frustrated and con¬ strained by Gandhi’s measured strategies; Nehru recognized the need for unity, and therefore, a commitment to Gandhi and the Congress. Brown suggests that Nehru, aware of his “poor organizational skills in politics” and his rootlessness in traditional Indian society, recognized in Gandhi a practical guide, “an anchor man” who could provide the essential link. And Gandhi recognized that his own advancing age and Nehru’s ability to bring a younger, educated, more militant and radical generation into the Con¬ gress and accommodative politics made him the obvious successor. 13 Introduction Gandhi began to defer to Nehru after his ‘retirement’ from the Congress in 1924, and by the end of the 30s, Nehru was the designated heir. Michael Brecher argues that Gandhi played the greater role in the nationalist campaign but lacked Nehru’s vision. In a reprise of his pioneer¬ ing biography, Brecher reassesses the legacy twenty-five years after Nehru’s death, and finds his earlier judgment sustained and strengthened. In 1959, he noted that few' political leaders of the twentieth century had attained Nehru’s stature, and in 1989, despite obvious shortcomings and a vigorous revisionist reconsideration of his career, Nehru’s reputation, in Brecher’s view, has grown over time. Like Brown, he emphasizes Nehru’s role as “the strategic link” among diverse groups in the developing Indian polity. In his analysis of Nehru’s contributions to the national struggle, Brecher notes Nehru’s concern regarding the parochialism of the Indian movement and his personal campaign to educate his colleagues regarding world issues. As well, Nehru called the world’s attention to India and asserted the significance of the inter-relationship and inter-dependence of Asia and the West. Eric Komarov’s paper gives particular attention to Nehru’s recognition and enunciation of a wider world struggle of which India’s nationalist movement was a part. That struggle - for social as well as political freedom - was directed toward the just society he envisioned for India. The revolu¬ tionary rhetoric, however constrained by colleagues and circumstance remained sufficiently strident to worry British officials, and tended to iso¬ late him from the more conservative and regional-based Congress main¬ stream. Brown describes the sense of isolation which Nehru shared with Gandhi. Komarov agrees, emphasizing that Nehru’s “socialist vision” set him apart from Gandhi as well. The resulting feeling of loneliness is a cen¬ tral theme in Milton Israel’s paper in which the often “incongruous rela¬ tionship of leader and organization” is noted in reference to Nehru’s presidencies of the Congress. Paradoxically, this isolation was enhanced by Nehru’s willingness to compromise ideological orthodoxy when it appeared to weaken the campaign for national unity. Komarov portrays Nehru’s “historic role” in setting India on the path toward a socialist state, informed by the Soviet example, but free of the dogmatism and authori¬ tarianism of that model. It was his “ingenious non-dogmatic approach” which was, in Komarov’s view, the key to his original contribution. It was 14 Nehru and the Twentieth Century his willingness to compromise, in deference to what he perceived as a higher national purpose, Israel notes, that placed Nehru “on the margin of both the conservative conviction of Congress colleagues and the orthodox creed of communist revolutionaries.” In Baldev Nayar’s view, however adaptive Nehru might have been, his socialist convictions were so divisive among Congress leaders with stronger ties to traditional landed and bank¬ ing elites, they had to be curbed by Gandhi in the mid 30s. A.P. Thornton emphasizes the prescient and charismatic nature of Nehru’s leadership - a theme shared by many of the conference papers. Nehru’s was a visionary ‘voice’: “He seemed to know his way about a world waiting to arrive.” Thornton notes as well the genuineness of the “moral pulpit” from which he preached, his decency and honesty, and his opti¬ mism about the progress that would result from the decolonization pro¬ cess. His goals were enlightened and he “made a difference” in pressing the process of change to achieve them. Brecher adds another dimension in his description of Nehru’s personal traits and democratic convictions: the lack of “ruthlessness” in pressing policies and goals, which often resulted in yielding to pressure, and loyalty to subordinates who did not deserve his trust. Brown agrees, noting his courtesy and gentle style - “not the quali¬ ties of leadership needed to deal with many of the new nation’s most urgent problems.” For Jagat Mehta, Nehru was “the prophetic apostle of nationalism. ” His rejection of the bi-polar world which evolved out of the ashes of older empires and World War II, caused him to invest all of his optimism in an ideal world of national diversity and peaceful interdependence. The uncritical nature of his loyalty to this nationalist vision, however, left little room for the renegade. Mehta laments that Nehru did not anticipate a bel¬ ligerent China would destroy the illusion of peace as the priority among the new nations of Asia. Sarvepalli Gopal’s describes the development of Jawaharlal Nehru’s “personal voice” in the late 20s, determined by his faith in liberalism and the idea of progress, and his perception of impersonal world forces and movements which subsumed the Indian struggle. The resulting breadth of his vision reflected a quarrel, not only with the British, but with global hegemonic systems: capitalism, fascism, and imperialism, no less burden- 15 Introduction some in Spain and China and working class Britain than in India. Gopal finds “the meeting-point of nationalism and socialism” in Nehru’s responses to the challenge of leadership. But the range of opportunities and constraints, of issues, experiences, and pressures, produced a leader who was “a bundle of paradoxes.” For Gopal, however significant the ambivalence and paradox, the achievement is clear. Thornton notes that Gandhi managed “to disconcert the Raj,” but it was Nehru, “building on that achievement,” who was able “to put it entirely out of countenance.” Nation-building The fundamental elements of Nehru’s vision and programme for the building of the Indian nation were in place during the nationalist period. The major question after 1947, was the extent to which the rhetoric and idealism would be reflected in government policy and decision making. Michael Brecher describes Nehru’s initiation and patronage of the institu¬ tional beginnings of democracy in the decision to call an election in 1951-52 founded on universal adult suffrage. Nehru provided as well the philosophical context and the base of values and norms for the establish¬ ment of the Republic. But Brecher also reiterates Judith Brown’s view regarding Nehru’s lack of organizational skills, describing him as “an inept administrator.” The result was inef...
View Full Document

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture