Categories Modern IndiaPost Independent India

Nehru’s Foreign Policy

Nehru’s Foreign Policy

  • Jawaharlal Nehru is considered to be the architect of modern India. Apart from his careful handling of India’s tumultuous domestic situation in the years immediately after the Independence, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the field of foreign policies.
  • Apart from handling the domestic situation, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the area of external relations as he kept foreign affairs under his strict control over seventeen years and made all the major foreign policy decisions himself merely getting consultation from his advisers and aides.
  • Constructing the conceptual frame work of foreign policy, Nehru abrogated to himself the role of the sole arbiter of Indian foreign policy. His policies were characterized by ideological perspective including Panchsheel, nonalignment, colonialism and racism.
  • Formulating the foreign policy, Nehru not only considered the other states’ foreign policies but also observed the trends in contemporary world politics.
    • These two traditionally discrete realms known as inter-domestic politics increasingly influenced the Indian foreign policy jointly highlighting the need for the leader to integrate his domestic and foreign policies.
    • All activities occurring beyond India’s borders structured the choices of Nehru’s policy making. He wanted India to have an identity without overt commitment to either power bloc; the USA and the Soviet Union.
  • Nehru determined India’s international profile to a great degree in the post-independence years, in his capacity as the foreign minister of India.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy has been made subject to much controversy and debate, like his economic policies.
    • However, taken in the context of India’s newly found status as a democratic republic, Nehru’s foreign affairs policies seem to be extremely apt.
  • Nehru led newly independent India from 1947 to 1964,. Both the United States and the Soviet Union competed to make India an ally throughout the Cold War.
  • Socialism can be said to be one of the greatest international influences on Nehru, but Gandhi’s ideals of Satyagraha also influenced him to a great degree. But he committed himself to neither point of view in framing his foreign policy.
  • Nehru’s foreign policies were characterized by two major ideological aspects.
    • First, he wanted India to have an identity that would be independent of any form of overt commitment to either power bloc, the USA or the Soviet. The first policy led ultimately to the founding of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM).
    • Secondly, he had an unshaken faith in goodwill and honesty in matters of international affairs.
      • His second faith was terribly shaken by the Chinese attack of 1962, openly disobeying all the clauses of the Panchsheel or five-point agreement of 1954 between New Delhi and Peking.
      • This breach of faith was a major psychological shock for Nehru, and was partially the reason for his death.
  • He was proud of being an Asian, and wanted Asian nations to be the primary determinants of their political fate, not always guided by Western forces.
  • Early in 1947, at the initiative of India, the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi was convened where the principles of foreign policy of independent India were proclaimed. It was attended by representatives of 29 countries. The Conference helped to strengthen the solidarity of all Asian countries.

Common Wealth Nations:

  • Nehru maintained good relations with the British Empire.
    • Under the London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would join the Commonwealth of Nations and accept the British monarch as a “symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth.”
    • The other nations of the Commonwealth recognised India’s continuing membership of the association.
  • Nehru was made subject to much criticism back home because of the support he extended towards the Commonwealth, particularly after the complication of the independence issue by the British government in the post World War II years, leading to the unwanted partition. However Nehru, always the believer in peaceful alliances and solution of international affairs based on discussions, went on with his ideals.
  • Nehru said: “I wanted the world to see that India does not lack faith in herself, and that India is prepared to co-operate even with those with whom she had been fighting in the past; provided the basis of co-operation today is honourable that it is a free basis, a basis which would lead to the good not only of ourselves, but of the world also. That is to say, we would not deny that co-operation simply because in the past we have had a fight, and thus carry on the trail of our past “karma” along with us. We have to wash out the past with all its evil.”
  • On 16 May 1949, during the Constituent Assembly Debates for the framing of a republican constitution, Nehru declared in the house that: “We join the Commonwealth obviously because we think it is beneficial to us and to certain causes in the world that we wish to advance. The other countries of the Commonwealth want us to remain there because they think it is beneficial to them. It is mutually understood that it is to the advantage of the nations in the Commonwealth and therefore they join. At the same time, it is made perfectly clear that each country is completely free to go its own way; it may be that they may go, sometimes go so far as to break away from the Commonwealth…Otherwise, apart from breaking the evil parts of the association, it is better to keep a co-operative association going which may do good in this world rather than break it.

London Declaration

  • The London Declaration was a declaration issued by the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference on the issue of India’s continued membership in the Commonwealth of Nations after its transition to a republican constitution. It was made in London on 28 April 1949 and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth.
  • The declaration had two main provisions: It allowed the Commonwealth to admit and retain members that were not Dominions, so including both republics and indigenous monarchies, and it changed the name of the organisation from the British Commonwealth to the Commonwealth of Nations, reflecting the first change.

Bandung Conference (Afro-Asian Conference), 1955

  • It was a meeting of Asian and African states—organized by Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan—which took place April 18–24, 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia. In all, 29 countries representing more than half the world’s population sent delegates.
  • The agenda contained in this conference was the economic and cultural cooperation, respect for human rights and self-determination and finally the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
  • The conference reflected the five sponsors’ dissatisfaction with what they regarded as
    • a reluctance by the Western powers to consult with them on decisions affecting Asia;
    • their concern over tension between the People’s Republic of China and the United States;
    • their desire to lay firmer foundations for China’s peaceful relations with themselves and the West;
    • their opposition to colonialism, especially French influence in North Africa;
    • Indonesia’s desire to promote its case in the dispute with the Netherlands over western New Guinea .
  • Major debate centred upon the question of whether Soviet policies in eastern Europe and Central Asia should be censured along with Western colonialism. A consensus was reached in which “colonialism in all of its manifestations” was condemned, implicitly censuring the Soviet Union, as well as the West.
  • Nehru participated in Bandung and popularized the policy of non-alignment there.
  • A 10-point “declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation,” incorporating the principles of the United Nations charter and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Five Principles (“mutual respect” for other nations’ “territorial integrity and sovereignty,” nonaggression, noninterference in “internal affairs,” equality and mutual benefit, and “peaceful coexistence”), was adopted unanimously.

Non-Alignment Movement:

  • The greatest success of Jawaharlal Nehru’s non-committal international politics was the formation of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). Nehru found allies in Tito, Nasser, Soekarno, U Nu and Nkrumah at a later stage in his formation of this new alliance.
  • Nehru was a champion of pacifism and a strong supporter of the United Nations. He pioneered the policy of non-alignment and co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement of nations professing neutrality between the rival blocs of nations led by the US and the USSR.
  • Non-alignment was a tactic or technique to maintain world peace in such a way that each nation pursues his own interest without disturbing the other. The policy was also in tune with the domestic requirements of democracy and socialism.
  • A major economic factor for the adoption of the policy of non-alignment had been India’s economic backwardness. Foreign aid was an important component for developing our underdeveloped economy. Therefore aid was welcome from all quarters- USSR, UK, USA, Germany and Japan. This presupposes non-alignment. India was both tied up with the east and west for economic development.
  • Nehru tried to guide India in such a way, so as to steer clear from any form of violence and militarism.
    • He rightly believed that a newly decolonized nation must invest all its economic and logistic resources towards development and not defense and armament.
    • Just like his economic policies, which were non-committal towards any ideological position, Nehru wanted to bring in a healthy level of pragmatism in his dealings of India’s foreign affairs as well.
    • He understood that overt commitment to any of the two major power blocs to emerge in the aftermath of World War II, would not serve India’s path.
    • He therefore wanted to tread a third path, which was not necessarily the middle path.
  • This dogged non-commitment of Nehru was not seen sympathetically by any of the super powers of either East or West at its initial stage.
    • It was frequently termed as a kind of international opportunism and was accused of ‘neutralism’ – a stance reckoned to be not only dangerous but also equally immoral in the world of International politics.
    • However, the increasing popularity of NAM among various Asian and African countries and Nehru’s growing stature as a statesman situation changed their views. India too benefited from this position, as it managed to secure rebuilding grants from member countries of either bloc.
  • The importance of the alliance was soon felt, and initially led to a great degree of international pressure from both parts of the globe.
    • However, Nehru proceeded with his mission undaunted. It was great test for his courage and it was soon found out that the NAM was not merely a passive platform of neutral and inactive nations.
    • It had clear objectives that included the gradual decolonization of the world, and a strong statement that the member countries were not party to the ever escalating tension of the Cold War.
    • The favored process of decolonization as adopted by the NAM member countries was one of discussion and peaceful agreement. On many occasions, NAM met with success, often under the leadership of Nehru.
  • After Nehru’s successful mediation in the Korean War and the Congo problem, putting an end to a long and violent struggle, his status as a commendable and efficient statesman reached new heights. Jawaharlal Nehru’s theory of ideological non-commitment in a world that was rendered dangerous by the Cold War was appreciated by one and all.
  • Recognising the People’s Republic of China soon after its founding (while most of the Western bloc continued relations with the Republic of China i.e. Taiwan), Nehru argued for its inclusion in the United Nations and refused to brand the Chinese as the aggressors in their conflict with Korea.
    • He sought to establish warm and friendly relations with China in 1950, and hoped to act as an intermediary to bridge the gulf and tensions between the communist states and the Western bloc.
  • In 1956 Nehru had criticized the joint invasion of the Suez Canal by the British, French and Israelis.
    • The role of Nehru, both as Indian Prime Minister and a leader of the Non Aligned Movement was significant; he tried to be even-handed between the two sides, while denouncing invasion vigorously.
    • Nehru had a powerful ally in the US president Dwight Eisenhower who, if relatively silent publicly, went to the extent of using America’s clout in the IMF to make Britain and France back down.
    • The episode greatly raised the prestige of Nehru and India amongst the third world nations.
    • During the Suez crisis, Nehru’s right-hand man, Menon attempted to persuade a recalcitrant Gamal Nasser to compromise with the West, and was instrumental in moving Western powers towards an awareness that Nasser might prove willing to compromise.
  • The USA had hoped to court Nehru after its intervention in favour of Nasser during the Suez crisis.
    • However, Cold War suspicions and the American distrust of Nehruvian socialism cooled relations between India and the US, which suspected Nehru of tacitly supporting the Soviet Union.
    • Nehru maintained good relations with Britain even after the Suez Crisis.
    • Nehru accepted the arbitration of the UK and World Bank, signing the Indus Water Treaty in 1960 with Pakistani ruler Ayub Khan to resolve long-standing disputes about sharing the resources of the major rivers of the Punjab region.
  • (More about Non-alignment Movement is given in World History)

Indus Water Treaty, 1960

  • At the partition of British India in 1947, the international boundary between India and what was then West Pakistan cut the irrigation system of the Bari Doab and the Sutlej Valley Project—originally designed as one scheme—into two parts.
    • The headwork fell to India while the canals ran through Pakistan.
    • That led to a disruption in the water supply in some parts of Pakistan.
    • The dispute that thus arose and continued for some years was resolved through the mediation of the World Bank by a treaty between Pakistan and India (1960) known as the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty as a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
    • The treaty was a result of Pakistani fear that since the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war. .
  • According to that agreement, the flow of the three western rivers of the Indus basin—the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab (except a small quantity used in Jammu and Kashmir state)—is assigned to Pakistan, whereas the flow of the three eastern rivers—the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej—is reserved exclusively for India.
  • Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars.
    • Disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. The treaty is considered to be one of the most successful watersharing endeavours in the world.

Policy on Palestine and Israel

  • India did not subscribe to the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949. India also did not recognize Israel as a nation till 1950.
  • Nehru and Gandhi, both were pro-Palestine. They opposed the creation of Israel as he was against the creation of countries based on religion.
  • In an editorial in the Harijan, a widely circulated Indian weekly, on the 11 November 1938, Gandhi declared: My sympathies are with the Jews… but my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me… Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.
  • Although India did not subscribe to the partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949, it did recognise Israel as a nation in 1950.
    • In a statement in 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said he would not “be a party to a resolution which stated that the creation of Israel was a violation of international law”.
  • In contrast to the official Indian standpoint which had a vast degree of support in the country, various Hindu nationalist organisations supported the creation of Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported Israel when it was created and viewed its creation as ‘joyous’ and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel.
  • India established official relations with Israel in 1991, although informal ties had long existed previously, involving such figures as Moshe Dayan, who visited India secretly during Morarji Desai’s stewardship.

India’s Role in Korea War

  • Nehru was afraid that Korean war would lead to WW3 and that atomic bombs could be used (Soviet also developed ‘the bomb’), this might drag India in to the war. Also as China is its neighbor, it was afraid of the spill over effects.
  • India tried to pacify all sides by mediating the matter between all parties.
  • Apparently, The New York Times declared that the struggle for Asia “could be won or lost in the mind of one man – Jawaharlal Nehru”.
  • India condemned North Korea as an aggressor when the Korean War started, supporting Security Council resolutions 82 and 83 on the crisis. However, India did not support resolution 84 for military assistance to South Korea. As a nonaligned country, India hesitated to involve itself in a military commitment against North Korea.
  • India instead of sending its armed forces on the request of UN had sent a medical unit to Korea as a humanitarian gesture, India’s medical services are still fondly remembered in Korea by both sides.
  • India was chair of the 9-member UN Commission that monitored elections in undivided Korea in 1947.
  • After the Korean War, India again played an important role as the chair of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in the Korean peninsula which would handle the prisoners of war (PoWs) of both sides and interview them to determine which of them wanted to go back.
  • India dispatched a 6000 Indian Custodial Force to Korea.
  • At the end of the war, India did not gain much and received flak from all sides. Relationship with US deteriorated (for not siding with it) and US began giving military-aid to Pakistan.
  • On the other hand, the war elevated Nehru’s prestige to great heights in the world, solidifying his image as world’s leading statesman. For the rest of his life, there was no major global discussion in the world, which could occur without his involvement.

Not so Pacifist Nehru:

  • Nehru, while a pacifist, was not blind to the political and geo-strategic reality of India in 1947. While laying the foundation stone of the National Defence Academy in 1949, he stated: “We, who for generations had talked about and attempted in everything a peaceful way and practised non-violence, should now be, in a sense, glorifying our army, navy and air force. It means a lot. Though it is odd, yet it simply reflects the oddness of life. Though life is logical, we have to face all contingencies, and unless we are prepared to face them, we will go under. There was no greater prince of peace and apostle of non-violence than Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, whom we have lost, but yet, he said it was better to take the sword than to surrender, fail or run away. We cannot live carefree assuming that we are safe. Human nature is such. We cannot take the risks and risk our hard-won freedom. We have to be prepared with all modern defence methods and a well-equipped army, navy and air force“.
  • Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948.
    • Nehru also called Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, who was entrusted with complete authority over all nuclear related affairs and programs and answered only to Nehru himself.
    • Indian nuclear policy was set by unwritten personal understanding between Nehru and Bhabha.
    • Nehru famously said to Bhabha, “Professor Bhabha take care of Physics, leave international relation to me“.
    • From the outset in 1948, Nehru had high ambition to develop this program to stand against the industrialised states and the basis of this program was to establish an Indian nuclear weapons capability as part of India’s regional superiority to other South-Asian states, most particularly Pakistan.
    • Nehru also said to Bhabha: “We must have the capability. We should first prove ourselves and then talk of Gandhi, non-violence and a world without nuclear weapons”.
  • He commissioned the first study of the human effects of nuclear explosions, and campaigned ceaselessly for the abolition of what he called “these frightful engines of destruction.”
  • He also had pragmatic reasons for promoting de-nuclearisation, fearing that a nuclear arms race would lead to over-militarisation that would be unaffordable for developing countries such as his own.

Kashmir Issue:

  • Kashmir was a perpetual problem, and he failed to reach any successful negotiation regarding Kashmir with the neighbour Pakistan. He tried to force a negotiation with the Pakistani government through the United Nations.
  • Nehru had promised in 1948 to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir under the auspices of the UN. However, as Pakistan failed to pull back troops in accordance with the UN resolution and as Nehru grew increasingly wary of the UN, he declined to hold a plebiscite in 1953.
  • His policies on Kashmir and the integration of the state into India was frequently defended in front of the United Nations by his aide, Krishna Menon, a brilliant diplomat who earned a reputation in India for his passionate speeches.
    • In 1957, Menon was instructed to deliver an unprecedented eight-hour speech defending India’s stand on Kashmir; to date, the speech is the longest ever delivered in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Nehru ordered the arrest of the Kashmiri politician Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, whom he had previously supported but now suspected of harbouring separatist ambitions; Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad replaced him.
  • On 8 April 1964 the State Government dropped all charges in the so-called “Kashmir Conspiracy Case”.
    • Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar. After his release he was reconciled with Nehru.
    • Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub of Pakistan to agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem.
    • This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem.
    • But sudden death of Nehru in 1964 stopped the process.

Kashmir map

Kashmir Conspiracy Case

  • Kashmir Conspiracy Case was the legal case filed by Government of Kashmir and Investigations Department of the Government of India, by which Sheikh Abdullah and others were arrested and jailed. Abdullah along with Mirza Afzal Beg and 22 others, who were accused of conspiracy against the state in the for allegedly espousing the cause of an independent Kashmir. The case was framed in 1958, for which trial began in 1959 was withdrawn in 1964.

Liaquat–Nehru Pact or Delhi Pact, 1950

  • At the time of independence, many communal riots broke out in different areas of India and Pakistan.
    • These riots had a great impact on the status of minorities in the two nations.
    • Even after the migration, almost half of the Muslims living in the Sub-continent were left in India and a sizable number of Hindus in Pakistan.
    • The people and government of their countries looked upon them as suspects. They were unable to assure their countrymen of their loyalty.
    • This problem escalated and it seemed as if India and Pakistan were about to fight their second war in the first three years of their independence. To solve this problem, Delhi Pact was signed.
  • Delhi Pact was a bilateral treaty was between India and Pakistan, whereby refugees were allowed to return unmolested to dispose of their property, abducted women and looted property were to be returned, forced conversions were unrecognized, and minority rights were confirmed.
  • The treaty was signed in New Delhi by the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on April 8, 1950. The treaty was the outcome of six days of talks sought to guarantee the rights of minorities in both countries after the Partition of India and to avert another war between them.
  • This pact provided a ‘bill of rights’ for the minorities of India and Pakistan. Its aim was to address the following three issues:
    • To alleviate the fears of the religious minorities on both sides.
    • To elevate communal peace.
    • To create an atmosphere in which the two countries could resolve their other differences.
  • Minority commissions were set up in both countries.

Nehru-Noon Treaty, 1958

  • After partition of country, in view of the problems arising out of boundary demarcation and enclaves, both the countries, India and Pakistan felt it necessary to reach an agreement. The then Prime Minister of India Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mr. Feroze Khan Noon, Prime Minister of Pakistan arrived at an agreement in 1958 which is known as NEHRU-NOON Agreement.
  • The surveyors of India and East Pakistan ( that is, Bangladesh, post-1971) started their work in delineating the international boundary right from Day One. They tried to follow the lines drawn and description written by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, but soon came to face irreconcilable differences. Came the Bagge Awards (26 January 1950) and with them a host of political and legal imponderables.
  • Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Firoze Khan Noon of Pakistan concluded the first Boundary Agreement in 1958 (10 September 1958 ).
  • In the eastern theatre the Agreement of 1958 sought to achieve following major objectives.
    • To resolve differences which impeded demarcation of the boundary in different sectors of the border and the problem of the Union No.12 of Southern Berubari which was a part of India according to the line drawn by Sir Radcliffe but belonged to Pakistan according to his written description.
    • However, the mostly Hindu population of the Union opposed the territory going to Pakistan.
  • In the 1958 Nehru-Noon Agreement it was agreed:
    • To divide the union by two halves, roughly equally, the southern half along with two enclaves going to Pakistan and the northern half remaining with India.
    • Secondly, the Agreement sought to resolve the problems of the so-called enclaves, 113 Indian enclaves inside East Pakistan and 53 East Pakistan enclaves inside India.
      • The Agreement decided to merge the enclaves with the country they fell within.
    • Thirdly, the agreement decided to exchange territories as a consequence of the demarcation of the boundary. Territories which were found upon demarcation to be wrongfully held (that is, under adverse possession) were to be transferred to the country they rightfully belonged to.
  • However, the Nehru-Noon Agreement of 1958, in so far as the mutual exchange of the enclaves and the transfer of the southern half of South Berubari Union No.12 to East Pakistan by India was concerned, could not be implemented due to litigation filed by Indians, claiming that the entire union of South Berubari, was Indian territory at the time of coming into force of the Indian Constitution and the enclaves belonging to Cochbehar state were also parts of India. Therefore neither the southern half of the Union nor the enclaves could be ceded to a foreign country.
  • In due course the case reached Supreme Court of India. The Court ruled that Constitution of India has to be amended to exclude from the Republic of India the southern half of the South Berubari Union No.12 and the Indian enclaves inside East Pakistan in order to give effect to the exchange stipulated in the Agreement. The Indian Constitution was accordingly amended in 1960 (9th Amendment). However, the stipulated exchanges did not take place.

China Crisis:

  • In 1954 Nehru signed with China the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, (known in India as the Panchsheel, a set of principles to govern relations between the two states.)
    • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
    • Mutual non-aggression.
    • Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
    • Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit.
    • Peaceful co-existence.
  • They were enunciated in the preamble to the “Agreement on trade and intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, which was signed at Peking on 29 April 1954. By April 1955, Burma, China, Laos, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Cambodia had accepted the Panch Shila.
  • However, China started patrolling certain parts of the Indian border from 1955 onwards. Delhi started negotiations to solve the problem in a peaceful way.
    • India, under the leadership of Nehru wanted to take one issue at a time and begin the discussions.
    • The Chinese government, under Chou En-lai wanted to treat the border issue in its entirety at one go. It was gross violation of the five-point agreement.
    • The Chinese denial for the arbitration from the International Court of Justice complicated the problem. Nehru’s decision to grant political asylum to the 14th Dalai Lama worsened the situation.
  • From 1959, in a process that accelerated in 1961, Nehru adopted the “Forward Policy” of setting up military outposts in disputed areas of the Sino-Indian border, including in 43 outposts in territory not previously controlled by India.
    • China attacked some of these outposts. Amidst such tensions, the Chinese suddenly started a full-scale invasion in 1962.
    • It was a rude shock, not only to Nehru, but to the entire international society.
    • The Indian military was unprepared and also unequipped.
    • Both USA and the Soviet extended token help. Soviet was quite busy with the Cuban crisis, however soon after the problem subsided, President Kruschev did extend some help. American help was minimum, compared to the massive military help that was extended to Pakistan in 1954.
  • India lost, and China withdrew to pre-war lines in eastern zone at Tawang but retained Aksai Chin which was within British India and was handed over to India after independence. Later, Pakistan handed over some portion of Kashmir near Siachen controlled by Pakistan since 1948 to China by 1963 agreement.
  • During the conflict, Nehru wrote two desperate letters to US President John F. Kennedy, requesting 12 squadrons of fighter jets and a modern radar system.
    • These jets were seen as necessary to beef up Indian air strength so that air to air combat could be initiated safely from the Indian perspective (bombing troops was seen as unwise for fear of Chinese retaliatory action). Nehru also asked that these aircraft be manned by American pilots until Indian airmen were trained to replace them.
    • These requests were rejected by the Kennedy Administration (which was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis during most of the Sino-Indian War), leading to a cool down in Indo-US relations.
  • When Washington finally turned its attention to India, it honoured the ambassador’s pledge, loaded 60 US planes with automatic weapons, heavy mortars and land mines.
    • Twelve huge C-130 Hercules transports, complete with US crews and maintenance teams, took off for New Delhi to fly Indian troops and equipment to the battle zone.
    • Britain ,Canada and Australia also helped.
  • Because the Soviets were engaged in their own high-stakes gamble in Cuba, USSR did not discourage the Chinese, despite Khrushchev’s close relationship with Nehru.
    • At the same time defeating India would answer the question Kennedy had raised in his 1959 speech in the Senate about which country, democratic India or communist China, was poised to win the race for great power status in Asia.
  • Americans played a decisive role in forestalling a Pakistani attack on India.
    • Kennedy’s message to Ayub Khan, reinforced by similar message from Prime Minister Macmillan, left little in doubt that the United States and the United Kingdom would view a Pakistani move against India as a hostile and aggressive action inconsistent with the SEATO and CENTO Treaties.
  • Nehru stood firm with this faith in the five-point principle. China withdrew under growing international pressure, fearing isolation and global antagonism.
    • Nehru would continue to maintain his commitment to the non-aligned movement despite calls from some to settle down on one permanent ally.
  • The Chinese invasion had far reaching effects on India’s foreign policy.
    • It forced Nehru to change his stance on international affairs.
    • He realized that unmitigated goodwill was not necessary the way the business of foreign affairs was conducted. Nehru’s dreams were more or less shattered.
    • It was also a great eye-opener. It made India to see that it is important to strengthen one’s military strength and not overtly depend on peaceful negotiations in matters of international affairs.
    • The Chinese invasion was a shock to Nehru, almost shaking his idealistic foundation to the very base. Domestic problems also kept escalating, putting a great degree of mental and physical stress on Nehru.
  • Nehru was widely criticised for his government’s insufficient attention to defence. In response, Nehru sacked the defence minister Krishna Menon and took up several steps to beef up defence.
  • The aftermath of the war saw sweeping changes in the Indian military to prepare it for similar conflicts in the future, and placed pressure on Nehru, who was seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the Chinese attack on India.
  • Indians in general became highly sceptical of China and its military.
    • Many Indians view the war as a betrayal of India’s attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China and started to question Nehru’s usage of the term “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai”.
    • The war also put an end to Nehru’s earlier hopes that India and China would form a strong Asian Axis to counteract the increasing influence of the Cold War bloc superpowers.
  • Toward the end of the war India had increased her support for Tibetan refugees and revolutionaries, some of them having settled in India, as they were fighting the same common enemy in the region. Nehru ordered the raising of an elite Indian-trained “Tibetan Armed Force” composed of Tibetan refugees, which served with distinction in future wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.



Nehru’s other foreign policies

Invasion of Portuguese India

  • Nehru’s foreign policy suffered through increasing Chinese assertiveness over border disputes. After years of failed negotiations, Nehru authorised the Indian Army to invade Portuguese controlled Goa, Daman and Diu in 1961.
  • The Invasion of Portuguese India was an action by the Indian Armed Forces that ended the rule of Portugal in its exclaves in India in 1961.
  • The armed action, codenamed Operation Vijay by the Indian government, involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India which resulted in incorporation of the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu into the Republic of India
  • The brief conflict drew a mixture of worldwide praise and condemnation. In India, the action was seen as a liberation of historically Indian territory by geographical closeness, while Portugal viewed it as an aggression against national soil and its citizens.
  • This operation increased Nehru’s popularity in India, but he was criticised by the communist opposition in India for the use of military force. The use of military force against Portugal earned him goodwill amongst the right-wing groups.

International Cooperation

  • Regional cooperation was another principle of India’s foreign policy which Nehru envisaged for promoting peace among the nations.
  • He wanted to’ maintain good relation with Pakistan, China, Nepal etc. which will foster lasting peace among themselves.
  • He wanted to expand this friendship and cooperation with as many countries as was possible.
  • Nehru had firm faith on the U.N.O. and Commonwealth of Nations. It was only because these organizations enabled the nations to arrive at a solution.
  • Nehru wanted to do away with racialism and colonialism..
  • Nehru wanted to pursue a foreign policy which should be advantageous for the country. It should be based on peace and should aim at establishing friendly relation with other countries of the world which would be beneficial for the country.
  • Whatever policy you may lay down, the art of conducting foreign affairs of a country lies in finding out what is most advantageous to the country. We may talk about international goodwill and mean what we say. But in the ultimate analysis, a government functions for the good of the country it governs and no government dare do anything, which in the short or long run is manifestly to the disadvantage of that country.” – Nehru in the Constituent Assembly, December 1947.

Nature of Indo-Russia relation during Nehru

  • After World War II, as Russia and the West both tried to influence the newly independent nations of the world, Moscow found itself at a handicap. This was because unlike the western countries – which had been colonising the world for over three centuries and were thus well-acquainted with far flung corners of the planet – Russian leaders and diplomats had very little experience in dealing with foreign nationalities.
  • Although the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with India even before the departure of the British in 1947.
    • Nehru had made her sister Vijayalkhmi Pandit as India’s first ambassador to Moscow in April 1947
  • Joseph Stalin and his supporters never quite understood the country. Stalin, who called India’s independence a “political farce,” considered Jawaharlal Nehru an agent of American imperialism, while Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov considered the first prime minister of India to be a British intelligence agent.
  • One of the first major countries that Russians courted was India. But if Russia was an enigma wrapped in a riddle to the West, then India was equally mysterious to the Russians.
    • In his memoirs, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev writes, “Our knowledge of India was not only superficial but downright primitive.”
      • Russians, who had smashed the German forces after a titanic struggle involving tens of millions of armed men and women, couldn’t understand what Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was up to with his policy of non-violence.
        • “We regarded the policies Nehru was pursuing as something close to pacifism. The teachings of Gandhi about non-resistance to evil and his other statements along the same lines, in the spirit of Leo Tolstoy, were not attractive to us,” Khrushchev writes. “We valued Gandhi’s nobility of spirit, but we didn’t understand him. In today’s world, we felt, it was impossible to win freedom by such methods.”
        • Khrushchev writes: “The British were cunning. Realising that a violent rebellion by India’s armed forces and revolutionaries was coming, the British agreed to retreat from India, dumping all credit on Gandhi and his non-violence. The British retreat sort of legitimised the theory of non-violence, and Nehru’s policies found takers in many developing countries.
  • However, an official Russian visit to India did not materialise until 1955 – eight years after Indian independence.
    • The first reason was Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.
      • Khrushchev writes: “In conversations between Politburo members and Stalin, the question of our relations with India was often brought up, but Stalin paid no special attention to India, a disregard that was undeserved. A country like that ought to have attracted his attention. He underestimated its importance and evidently didn’t understand the events taking place there. The first time Stalin began to pay close attention to India was after it won its independence.”
    • The second reason was Nehru, who at that time preferred to deal with newly independent nations such as China, Indonesia, Egypt and Myanmar.
    • Thirdly, Russian observers had come to the conclusion that India had chosen the capitalist path of development.
      • “There was nothing to indicate socialist construction in that country. And we felt repelled by that,” Khrushchev writes.
      • Russian leaders also distrusted Nehru because they thought he was palling around with the British. “We couldn’t understand why he took such a patient and tolerant attitude toward the British, who had formerly enslaved his country. British officers continued to serve in the Indian army, and British officials still held posts here and there in India. That put us on our guard,” Khrushchev writes.
  • On the positive side, the Indian people enjoyed special respect in the USSR because they had formerly been oppressed by the colonialists and had now achieved their liberation.
  • The move towards establishing closer relationships was drawn out.
    • Finally, in June 1955 Nehru accompanied by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, made an official visit to Russia.
    • “We wanted him to see the best things and to have a favourable impression of our Soviet land. We wanted him to see how, guided by Marxist-Leninist theory, we had put that theory into practice” Khrushchev writes.
    • Nehru travelled around and saw a significant part of the USSR, including Central Asia and other places.
      “My impression was that he had a high regard for our achievements” Khrushchev writes.
    • Khrushchev writes: “Nehru, with his confused mind, couldn’t decide whether it was capitalism or socialism was better, or whether ties with the United States or Soviet Russia were good for India.”
    • Nehru hadn’t budged from his mixed-economy theory. “As a result our former attitude toward Nehru did not fundamentally change,” writes Khrushchev. “As before, we viewed him with great respect and valued him highly, but in our view he was a man with a particular frame of mind, a particular culture, and particular views, and essentially that was correct.”
  • Khrushchev brilliantly concluded that “the path Nehru chose for the betterment of his country was a very long and slow one, and no one knew where it would lead.” He says: “We wanted India to develop heavy industry and raise the living standards of its people, but not by the methods and policies that Nehru was proclaiming, because such goals were not achievable that way, and the people of India would be doomed for many years to an impoverished existence.”
  • One can detect a deep disappointment in Khrushchev’s tone: “Outwardly our official talks with Nehru went smoothly. He praised Soviet achievements, but not once did he say anything to the effect that our experience might to some extent be transferable to Indian conditions, and he gave us reason to think that this was not what he wanted. For our part, we didn’t want to be imposing our view of the world on him.”
  • Later Nehru invited an official delegation from Russia to visit India. The stage was set for new beginnings.
Q. Examine the main features of Foreign Policy of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru  is called the architect of India’s foreign policy. Evolution of his foreign policy started even before Independence when he headed the foreign department of Indian National Congress formed in 1928. It was mainly due to Nehru’s efforts that since the mid-twenties the Congress party began to take interest in international affairs. He kept a watchful eyes and actively participated in the international events. e.g. Participated in international congress against imperialism and colonial oppression, Brussels (1927), supported liberation movements worldwide, appreciation for soviet experiments etc.  The experiences he got during this period shaped his world views.
After independence, he retained the foreign ministry with himself and shaped by foreign policy for India and build a basic foundation of over which the foreign policy was to be built upon after him. His Policy was necessarily conditioned by India’s needs, derives also from a long history and thus fits into the framework of India’s thought and tradition.
The main features of his foreign policy:
  • Followed principle of non-alignment i.e. not aligning to any other the groups during cold war.
    • It was a vision of independence, i.e., to act in independent manner, to pursue independent policies and to maintain independent status. Thus it represented national interests.
    • It was not isolation and nor neutrality rather, it was an active response to prevailing international relations and affairs.
    • It also represented a new alternative in international relation, i.e., that of international peace and international co-operation.
    • It was more pragmatic approach rather than an ideological approach. A/c to Nehru, Non-alignment represented shared interest of newly emerged nations.
    • This vision was shaped by long-term colonial domination and cold war situation.
    • He was among the pioneer of the non-alignment movement (NAM). The NAM took a concrete shape with the holding of the first conference in 1961 in Belgrade.
  • Panchsheel for peaceful co-existence.
    • The policy of Non-alignment was based on the five principles of Panchsheela, enumerating international conduct. These were first envisaged and formulated in 1954.
    • These principles were:
      • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
      • Non-aggression
      • Non interference in each other’s military affairs
      • Equality and mutual benefit
      • Peaceful coexistence
    • By April 1955, Burma, China, Laos, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Cambodia had accepted the Panch Shila.
  • Raising voice against imperialism and colonialism.
    • Many conferences were organised to voice for liberation of nations:
      • Asian relations Conference 1947, New Delhi and Asian National Conference 1949, New Delhi.
      • Asian National Conference- 1954 Colombo.
      • Afro-Asian Conference- Bandung-Indonesia 1955.
      • 1st Summit of NAM at Belgrade in 1961.
    • Similarly, India supported the issue of independence movements in South East Asia and all over the world.
    • He also criticized the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and demanded it’s withdrawal.
    • Voiced against Korean war.
  • Pursued a policy of friendship with every country, whether of the American bloc (capitalist,system) or of the Soviet bloc (communist system).
    • Its declared policy is not have preference for the one against the other.
    • India has adopted a democratic system of government. This, however,has not drawn India closer to those countries of the west, who have a similar system nor has this distanced it from the communist countries.
  • India supported struggle for human rights and voiced against the policy of anti-apartheid and anti-racism.
    • Gandhi had fought against apartheid in South Africa, during the turn of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.
    • India had raised this issue for the first time in the United Nations in 1946.
  • Recognized the useful role of the international organizations like UNO and Commonwealth of nations as he always believed in peaceful alliances and solution of international affairs based on discussions.
    • Committment to UN:
      • volunteering peace keeping force and subscription to UN principles. e.g. during Korean war.
      • Kashmir issue taken to UN.
    • India decided to stay in the commonwealth.
      • Under the London Declaration (1948), India agreed that, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would join the Commonwealth of Nations.
      • This decision was also in consonance with Gandhi’s insistence that the quarrel of Indians was with English rule and not Englishmen and that “enmity against Englishmen or Europeans must be wholly forgotten”.
  • Relation with super-powers:
    • He tried to maintained friendly relation with both USA and USSR but without aligning with them ideologically.
    • India benefited by getting help from both side. e.g.
      • U.S. funded in community development program, provided food support.
      • USSR also provided food aid to India, supported on Kashmir issue, supported construction of heavy industries e.g. in Bhilai and Bokaro
  • Relations with neighbours: He always strived to have friendly relations with the neighbours.
    • With Pakistan, the relation was always strained.
      • Major factor behind the strained relation was: borders, distribution of river waters, the questions of kashmir etc.
      • In 1960 Indus water treaty was signed with Pakistan with good effort of the world bank. It is the most successful water treaty in the world.
      • Pakistan decision to join the military alliance also contributed to the strained relation.
    • India signed the treaty of friendship with both Nepal and Bhutan. Ans also assisted in their development.
    • With Sri-Lanka  the only irritant in the relation was the problem of people of Indian origin in sri-Lanka. Sood after independence Sri-Lanka disowned the people of Indian origin as a result of which large number of them rendered stateless. The India government permitted those Indian citizens to come to India if they want. Those who came India was given Indian citizenship.
    • The relation with Myanmar was also peaceful and issues related to border and Indian settlers were solved with discussion.
    • With China:
      • India always showed keenness to develop a friendly relation despite it’s military action in Tibet.
        • India supported the case of China’s entry into the United Nations.
        • In 1954, India concluded a treaty with China with regard to Tibet and recognised Tibet as region of China.
        • Both also showed determination to conduct their relation on the basis of Panch-Sheel.
        • China also supported India on the issue of Goa.
        • Food gains was also supplied by China to India.
      • But Later, the hostalities broke out due to border issues and war followed in 1962.
  • Nehru as international Mediator:
    • During Korean war he mediated between both players. India also played helpful role in solving the problem of the repatriation of Koran Prisoners of war.
    • Again in 1954, Indian emissary played a role of mediator between Indonesia and France.
  • Policy on Palestine and Israel:
    • India did not subscribe to the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949. India also did not recognize Israel as a nation till 1950.
    • Nehru and Gandhi, both were pro-Palestine. They opposed the creation of Israel as he was against the creation of countries based on religion.
Limitations of his foreign policy:
  • Defeat in Sino-India war-1962 led to criticism of his earlier policies like supporting China for UNSC.
  • Kashmir issue was also not lingered on. Many criticized his decision to take the matter to united nations.
  • Overall relation with Pakistan didn’t improve.
  • Following the non-alignment principle sometimes gone unfavorably for both side. e.g. During Korean war.
Overall Nehru’s Foreign policy was based on enlightened self-Interest. And despite some limitations he could formulated a foreign policy which helped India to maintain its independence and to be treated respectfully by alomost all the nations.

9 thoughts on “Nehru’s Foreign Policy”

    1. Thanks. It has been presented from examination point of view. But in reality, Nehru’s foreign policy sucks big time. Foreign policy is all about realism with enough care for minimal ethics. Nehru failed in the first part.

  1. Sir/ mam
    I am reading this topic first time.
    Is there need to read more resources on this topic ?
    Plz guide.

  2. Beautifully explained! Just a few doubts. The language is of a journalistic kind – smooth flowing and informal where necessary. Can History Optional answers be of the same kind? From your experience, did you add these statements (within quotes) by leaders in your answers?

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