Congress Sandesh has started a new series about the achievements of the Congress Party in building the nation from the desk of Editor. Contributions of the Congress Party difficult to be ignored
During the 200 years of the British rule, India lagged behind in every sphere social, economic, defence etc. As such India’s image as an undeveloped and backward country was formed in the eyes of the world. After independence, it was a great challenge to establish India as a strong nation but Pandit Nehru very deftly and efficiently tried to complete this enormous task. He, being the main architect of the foreign policy was of the opinion that on account of its great civilization, India can fearlessly put forward its own ideas and concerns. If India fails to make a mark on international arena, then freedom from foreign rule would be meaningless. The first prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru respecting the aspirations of the people of a vast country like India, associated the country with the Non-Aligned Movement.
Joining Non-Aligned Movement became a policy matter for external affairs of India. The background of this movement was After the Second World War, the whole world by and large divided into two poles; one led by the US and the other led by the former USSR. Pandit Nehru believed that the newly born Asian and African nations will be at a great loss if they join either of the superpowers. These nations will merely become rubber-stamps of the superpowers. The challenges before these new-born nations were poverty, illiteracy and epidemics. To overcome these challenges, peace and harmony was needed. Therefore, India neither joined the Baghdad Pact, Manila Treaty, CITI or CENTO nor supported these treaties. Western and eastern Asian nations were associated with western superpower by virtue of these accords.
Under the leadership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India adopted a neutral approach and emphatically expressed the principles of Non-Aligned Movement. Non-Aligned Movement of newlyborn nations was the symbol of struggle to save freedom which was achieved from colonial and imperial forces. India was leading the newly-born nations. When these nations got the membership of the UN, the number of member-countries rose sharply. The Non-Aligned nations were able to face the western superpower due to one country-one vote system and support of the USSR. In this way, the Non-Aligned principles of Pandit Nehru helped in democratization of world-relations. Pandit Nehru laid down the principles of Non-Aligned Movement as the foundation of foreign policy of our country. After Hiroshima incident, Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy was against the danger of nuclear war.
His idea was supported by world famous personalities like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell. Pandit Nehru emphasized that peaceful co-existence was a necessity among different nations which had different administrative forms and which were governed by different ideologies. He believed that pluralism is the truth of life. Keeping this aim in mind, Pandit Nehru propounded the principles of Panchsheel. Its five principles were To respect geographical integrity and sovereignty of one-another; to relinquish the policy of invasion; Not to interfere in the internal matters of one-another; Equality and mutual cooperation and Peaceful co-existence. These principles were meant for regulating mutual relations among member countries. Before independence in March 1947, with the inspiration from Pandit Nehru, a conference upon “Asian Relations” was organized In New Delhi in which more than 20 countries participated. The main agenda of this conference was the freedom of Asian nations and to put forward their concerns forcefully. The next conference was organized to consider the issue regarding Holland’s attempt to capture Indonesia.
The countries of the Indian Ocean and Australia were invited to take part in this conference. Pandit Nehru’s proposal, “to stop all facilities for ships” was passed and sent to the UN. Within a week, the UN decided to end the war and to reinstate Indonesian government. Endeavour to end colonialism continued in Bangdung (Indonesia) conference which was held in 1955. This conference in fact proved to be the blueprint of Non- Aligned conference which was held in Belgrade. In this conference proposals of world-peace and dangers of atomic arsenals were passed. In 1961, at the Belgrade conference, Pandit Nehru, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser Mohammed of Egypt appealed for world peace and atomic disarmament. These endeavours of Pandit Nehru resulted in making India’s image as strong and noteworthy in the international arena. Pandit Nehru was being respected as a world leader and rightly named, “a man of peace”. Independent foreign policy is considered as an important ingredient of a free country. The newly born nation, India succeeded in making its independent identity in the world affairs under the leadership of Pandit Nehru and other senior Congress leaders. One core responsibility of foreign policy of India was to safeguard its economic interests. Keeping equidistance from both the superpowers helped India to establish economic relations with the both and its allies.
In the hour of need, India obtained capital, technology and grains from western countries. The USSR cooperated continuously after 1954 in developing public-sector undertakings. It became possible only due to Pandit Nehru’s international image. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru and other senior Congress leaders, the core policies for Indian defence were laid down. The policy supported the idea of peace but also emphasized to be strong in selfdefence. So India remained in touch with several nations in order to purchase arms and ammunitions to fulfill its military requirements. During the tenure of Pandit Nehru, India purchased 104 aeroplanes and 110 Misters from France; 182 Hunters and 80 Canberras from England; 16 A-N-12 and M-4 helicopters from the USSR and 55 Fairchild Packets from the US for Indian Air Force. Under British license, 230 Vampire aeroplanes were manufactured in India.
Defence equipments for Indian Navy and Indian Army were also purchased on a large scale. At the instance of Pandit Nehru, India succeeded in getting a number of licenses for manufacturing defence equipments domestically. Some of them were Net intercept airplane from Britain; Alute helicopter from France; Mig helicopter from the USSR; L-70 tank from Sweden; Vijayanta tank from Britain; Shaktimaan truck from Germany; Nishaan truck and Jonga jeep from Japan; Brant mortar from France; 106 mm guns from America; Sterling carbine from Britain and wireless set from several countries. The list of military equipments clearly shows that India was not dependent on any particular country. Hence India succeeded in negotiating on price among different bidding nations. Thus India was able to save its valuable resources due to policies adopted by Pandit Nehru and the Congress leadership. Likewise, India remained an active member of IMF, the World Bank and many organisations of the UN. It was a big achievement in economic diplomacy where India was becoming a big recipient of assistance from international agencies at low rates.
Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, many treaties were signed between India and the USSR. The Indo-USSR relations touched new heights. India implemented agri-tech for the Green Revolution which was provided by the US. Because of the Green Revolution, India became self-reliant in grainproduction within a few years. This made India to adopt more independent foreign-policy. On several occasions, the US and the USSR agreed to receive payments in Indian currency and this saved valuable foreign-exchange. Multilateral agencies also helped India. Pandit Nehru’s decision to remain a member of these institutions resulted in India’s favour in a great way. India remained a member of the Commonwealth, though soon after independence, this decision was vehemently opposed. But Pandit Nehru had firm belief in his vision. The fact is When there was no clear difference between friend and enemy nations, the membership of the Commonwealth provided a sort of security. Indian Army played an important role under the Peace Force of the UN at different places. Pandit Nehru and other senior Congress leaders of the Congress Party adopted such a liberal foreign-policy which established India as a prominent nation internationally. If we go through some international events, it will be clear that responsibilities of India borne out of Non-Aligned Movement were very complex. India’s commitment to the principles of Non-Aligned Movement was first tested during Korean War in 1950. India became successful in this test also.
The USSR and China were supporters of North Korea and at the same time these two nations also had good diplomatic relations with India. Since India declared North Korea as an invader country, it had to face strong opposition from the USSR and China. India also faced American anger due to its Non-Aligned policy since it didn’t support American interference. India also didn’t termed China as an invader country. While opposing American policy, the USSR walked out of the Security Council. During these international events, India was reeling under famines and was hopeful of getting grains from America. India continued its efforts to establish its own foreign policy, despite not getting success at every occasion. At last India’s position was understood by both the superpowers. The world recognized the importance of Non-Aligned Movement. The whole world was praising its decision to remain a member of the Commonwealth. The USSR’s view towards India had changed. It was an illustration of the vision of Pandit Nehru and the top leadership of the Congress Party. On one hand, the Korean problem was almost resolved and on the other tension was escalating on Indo-China-Vietnam border. In this area, France was at war since the Second World War and the US was providing assistance to France on a large scale. There was a possibility of the internationalization of this war. A strong supporter of world-peace, Pandit Nehru appealed to end the war; succeeded in obtaining the support of seven nations in a conference held in Colombo in 1954 where he formulated six-point programme. In this year, China’s Chou En Lai arrived at Delhi and met Pandit Nehru. India ensured China’s impartiality towards Laos and Cambodia. He also ensured from Britain and France that they will not support America’s attempt to make military bases in Laos and Cambodia.
At the request of China, India was appointed as the president of International Control Commission. One of its duties was to keep a vigil on the import of weapons in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The efforts of India ensured that nuclear weapons will not reach in this area. Though these efforts didn’t resolve the problem completely, but eminent danger was successfully avoided. India’s efforts were praised all over the world. A great achievement of India’s foreign policy was the peaceful resolve of the Suez Canal dispute in 1956. The US and Britain pressurized Egypt to leave the Non-Aligned Movement.
France and England demanded that there should be an international control over the Suez Canal. Though India was a major user of this facility, but according to the principles of its foreign-policy, India agreed that the Suez Canal was an integrated part of Egypt. In the London conference, India insisted that Egyptian control over the Suez Canal should be like a collaborator and the disputes should be resolved according to the Charter of the UN. India’s proposal was overwhelmingly supported by Egypt and other countries, When France, Britain and Israel positioned their military troops at the Suez Canal, even the US criticized this step. The UN and India termed it, “an open invasion” and “return of colonialism”. After the UN initiative, these forces went back. Indian Army worked as a peace-keeping force. Later India supported the cause of Egypt but also took into account British interests. Later on, Britain accepted the fact that India’s initiative was quite correct. In 1956, the USSR attempted to encroach Hungry. This attempt was strongly critisised in the UN but India avoided to oppose it.
As a result, western countries criticized India’s policy. Pandit Nehru thought that there was no advantage in criticizing the USSR at the international forums. But at personal level, Pandit Nehru opposed this step of the USSR and to show his anger, he didn’t send a diplomat to Budapest for the next two years. In reply, the USSR insisted on neutral approach on Kashmir issue when this matter was raised in the Security Council. Whenever there were proposals opposed to Indian interests, the USSR used its Veto-power in our country’s support. India’s position was complex. Both the superpowers pressurized it. But India never went to anyone’s favour. It showed its commitment to the principles of Non- Aligned Movement. One more great achievement of India’s foreign policy was to safeguard Kongo’s freedom and its unity. Kongo’s Katanga area got its freedom from Belgium in 1960. Katanga area was very rich in minerals especially copper. At the instance of Belgium, a leader of Katanga announced its freedom. In the name of security to people, Belgium sent its army to the capital of Kongo. In a few months, separate armies of the UN, the US and the USSR were present in Kongo. In these circumstances, Pandit Nehru demanded immediate interference by the UN; foreign armies to go back; to end the civil war; to call parliament session and to form a central government. The Security Council passed a resolution in 1961. Indian army successfully put an end to the civil war. In 1963, the central government took control of the whole country. Pandit Nehru proved that if there is willpower, the Non- Aligned policy can be successful. Superpowers wanted to take nations in their own fold so that their freedom can be seized. In the modern world, Non-Aligned is the most appropriate policy. Pandit Nehru thought that India’s foreign-policy should be free; should be Non-Aligned. India kept equi-distance from bipolar politics. In post War era, the US was a superpower. India needed technology, machines, assistance for development and nation-building, and food security.
Pandit Nehru was of the opinion that the US can provide all these things to India. Though the US and India had very different opinions on cold-war and the US was also very apprehensive about communism. In fact. It was very difficult for the US to accept and recognize any other ideology other than its own. The US was against the communists. Pandit Nehru was very much influenced by Marxism. He differed with communists on several matters but he never looked down upon communists. In these circumstances, India was not ready to support western countries only to get weapons. Pakistan was doing so. India had difference of opinion with the US regarding the latter’s view on communists. India was also inspiring Asian and African nations to remain Non-aligned. On the other hand, there was a powerful pressure group in the American administration which leaned towards colonialism. After the Second World War, this pressure group wanted to reinstate France and Britain in their respective colonies. It was supporting Portuguese colonialism in Africa as well as internal colonialism by Ian Smith in Rhodesia. Like Britain the US was supporting the Muslim League and Pakistan. The US in tune with the UK was of the opinion that the diversity of India will ultimately break it into pieces. So India didn’t suited them as a power against communism. The US policy was based on power and in their view, India was “devoid of power”. In these critical situations, Pandit Nehru remained firm on the principles of India’s foreign-policy. There was no animosity between the people of India and the US. The US was the source of machines and technology, so economic relations touched new heights. There was a powerful lobby in the US which supported India and likewise, a powerful lobby in India supported the US. In the decade of 1950, the mutual relations between India and the US showed many positive signs. Partly because the US understood foreign-policy of India in a better way and largely because perhaps the closeness between India and the USSR.
The US president John F. Kennedy sent an important person to India in order to strengthen the ties. The US helped India time and again and began to respect the Non-aligned policy. After the Second World War, the USSR was the other superpower. India wanted to make diplomatic relations with the USSR within the framework of Non-Aligned policies. This was clearly expressed by Pandit Nehru while delivering a speech as the vice-president of the Interim Government in 1946. At the beginning the mutual relations between India and the USSR was not very encouraging. This was due to the USSR’s opinion that India remaining a member of the Commonwealth was nothing but surrender before the colonial forces. From 1951-52, warmth and friendliness began to emerge in their relations particularly after the Korean War. China along with the USSR began to supply grains to India when the country was reeling under famines; whereas the US was unable to reach any firm decision in this regard. Stalin himself wanted to strength ties with India and he proposed this before Indian diplomat. India began to garner support in the UN. The CPI was asked to lessen its attack on the Nehru government. After the death of Stalin in 1954, the process again gained momentum. Pakistan became a member of CITO and CENTO.
The USSR proposed to provide defence assistance to India but Pandit Nehru didn’t accept it since he didn’t want to take assistance free of cost, otherwise it will hamper India’s foreign-policies. In 1955, Pandit Nehru visited the USSR and in the same year, Khrushchev and Bulganin also visited India. Many important agreements were signed. In 1955, the USSR fully supported India on the question of Kashmir and in 1956 used its Veto-power in favour of India. This development was not less important since before the USSR’s support, India’s position in the UN was very difficult. The USSR also supported India and against the US on the Goa issue. These developments strengthened the ties between India and the USSR. Pandit Nehru’s industrial policy was based on the leadership role of the public-sector undertakings.
For this, heavy investments were needed. Western countries especially America were hesitating to provide technical and monetary support. But the USSR readily agreed and provided assistance to establish Bhilai steel plant. Britain assisted to establish Durgapur steel plant and Germany came forward to build Rourkela steel plant. When America was sought to establish Bokaro steel plant, it again hesitated. But once again the USSR provided all types of support to establish it. When industrial data were collected in 1973-74, the results were surprising. 30% of steel production; 35% of oil production; 20% of power generation; 65% of heavy electrical machines and 85% of heavy engineering machines these all were produced with the machines of the USSR. The relation with China began to worsen particularly from 1959.
This was the time when Dalai Lama took asylum in India there was escalation in military squabbles on Indi-China border. The USSR didn’t support China and remained neutral. Pandit Nehru and other top leaders of the Congress Party understood the importance of the USSR and India made a close tie with it. After this incident, differences cropped up between the USSR and China. In this year, the first agreement was signed. In 1960, supply of aeroplanes, helicopters, and engineering equipment for Border Road Development Board started. This board was responsible to build roads even in “disputed” areas. In 1962, an agreement for domestic production of Mig fighter planes was signed. It is interesting to note that for the first time, the USSR provided this facility to a non-communist country.
Even China was not able to sign such an agreement. In 1962, China invaded India. Once again the USSR adopted the neutral approach. The Soviet leader Suslov named China as responsible for Indo-China war. During the Indo-China war, western countries didn’t honoured their promises of supplying military equipments and weapons. On the contrary, the USSR in 1963 signed many agreements that were aimed at fortifying India. These agreements ensured the smooth supply of weapons, interceptors, submarines, missile boats etc. India succeeded in building dockyard for Indian Navy with the help of the USSR. Due to this domestic production facility, India got victory in 1971 war. Up to 1952, India’s relations with its neighbours except Pakistan was good and satisfactory. India signed a treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal in 1950.
India had long boundary-line with Burma and Indians in large number lived there. This boundary-line was mostly unidentified and unmarked. But this problem was also resolved by both like true friends. It was never been easy to resolve the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. Tension remained but it didn’t escalate. Normally the foreign policy is associated with diplomacy. Pandit Nehru understood very well the importance of foreign-policy for economic and social development for newly-born and poor country like India. He laid down the foundation of foreign-policy of India and the country is following that even today. Pandit Nehru’s insightful Non- Aligned policies and its practicality is proved with the fact that whenever India tries to deviate from it, it had to face difficult challenges.
References: 1. India after Independence: Ed. Bipin Chandra, Mridula Mukharji and Aditya Mukharji.
2. Indian Foreign Policy: Ed. K.P.S. Menon.
3. India and the Soviet Union: B.R. Nanda.
4. Evolution of Indian Defence Policy: K. Subrahmanium.