Why Nehru is so special to me

He was an extraordinary man. He was very dynamic, energetic and passionate about people. I had the opportunity of interacting with him for 15 long years.

 |  4-minute read |   19-11-2014
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The generation which witnessed Jawaharlal Nehru is now passing away but there is an urgent need to involve the youth and tell them what is so important about our freedom movement.

Nehru’s foreign policy is very relevant for a democratic world order in the 21st century. It is an interesting phenomenon in India that all the leaders were strong nationalists but also had a strong world view. For example Mahatma Gandhi, after his South Africa experience, had strong views on colonialism. Nehru was of the same view as he had travelled across the world and studied at Cambridge. His anti-colonialism movement was not only confined to India but was also represented in Africa, Indonesia and he always believed in these ideals.

The result of this was that Nehru got directly involved in the discovery of India and thought that it was not only about the freedom of India but about freeing the world of imperialist yolk. His movement touched parts of the Arab world and Asia.

Debates

In Parliament, it was a delight to listen to Nehru wrap up debates on foreign policy issues. As a result, I always made it a point to listen to his speeches in Parliament. He talked in terms of great historical movements in his letters to world leaders and even revealed his understanding of global affairs in his letters to his daughter Indira. Thus, Indian freedom movement was part of a major global trend and showed Nehru as an internationalist par excellence.

Nehru believed in a one world government and was very excited with the formation of the United Nations. He looked at the UN as an important step for creating a structure for the world. He was influenced by socialism and said no to the world being divided into two power blocks. He used to say that we will develop out own path and started interacting with global leaders like Tito, Abdul Nasser, Sukarno and Julius Nerere. India became a hub on the non aligned movement.

When the Commonwealth was formed there was a question whether India should remain in it. Nehru worked out a structure which accepted the Queen of England as the head of Commonwealth but not of India.

He was an extraordinary man. He was very dynamic, energetic and passionate about people. I had the opportunity of interacting with him for 15 long years.

Now in the post-Nehru phenomenon, regional organisations like the European Union have proved to be a miracle. For over 30 years, the European nations fought wars and killed each other but they have become a common market and it is easy to travel across the EU.

Concerns

This has happened in our lifetime. I am convinced forums like ASEAN and SAARC are needed for Asia in international affairs. BRICS is another example of Nehruvian thought that developing countries should come together.

Nehru's concept of non-alignment brought India international prestige among newly independent states that shared its concerns about the military confrontation between the superpowers and the influence of the former colonial powers. New Delhi used non-alignment to establish a significant role for itself as a leader of the newly independent world in such multilateral organisations as the UN and the "non-aligned movement".

The signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation between India and the Soviet Union in 1971 and India's involvement in the internal affairs of its smaller neighbours in the 1970s and 1980s tarnished New Delhi image as a non-aligned nation and led some observers to note that in practice, nonalignment applied only to India's relations with countries outside South Asia.

Disputes

Nehru’s concept of the Panchsheel Agreement, which believed in peaceful resolution of international disputes, and international cooperation to spur economic development, was enhanced by domestic economic reforms. Thus, the 1990s saw India redefining non-alignment and the view of India's place in the world. He was first and foremost a patriot, a great freedom fighter who bravely faced personal privation and misfortune during the struggle, was chosen by Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, as his second in command to lead the nation after Independence, was India’s first prime minister, builder of modern India, and initiator of the policy of non-alignment which has since found universal acceptance.

For Nehru the policy of non-alignment was an indigenous product, emanating from India’s long struggle for freedom. So were probably the compulsions of the leaders of the Asian, African and Latin American countries who were able to assert their national identities mainly by adopting the policy of non-alignment. 

(as told to Amit Agnihotri)

Writer

Dr Karan Singh Dr Karan Singh @drkaransingh

The writer is a veteran Congress leader.

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