The events in Egypt and Hungary have brought into focus as an issue in Indian politics the “double standard” which Nehru has long maintained in his judgments on world affairs as between the Western powers and the states of the Sino-Soviet bloc. After the Indian delegation to the United Nations had abstained from voting on the resolution passed by the Assembly (November 4) calling for a cessation of Soviet military intervention in Hungary, and the executive of the Congress party under Nehru’s direction had adopted a resolution strongly condemning the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt but referring to the Soviet action with only the mildest expression of regret, Jayaprakash Narayan, the former Socialist leader who has now retired from active politics but remains a highly respected and influential personality in Indian affairs, directed against the Prime Minister what was perhaps the most damaging attack made on him since India became independent.

Narayan was particularly scathing about the statement reported to have been made to a correspondent by Krishna Menon, that the events in Hungary were a “domestic affair” of that country. It is as yet too early to gauge how much effect such criticism may have, but there is evidence of serious dissatisfaction in Indian political circles with the strange foreign policy partnership of Nehru and Krishna Menon which has kept “neutral” and “uncommitted” India leaning so persistently to the Communist side through a series of international conflicts.1

Narayan might also have referred, though it does not appear that he did, to the anti-Israeli bias which has been so marked a feature of Indian foreign policy. India has not merely declined to have diplomatic relations with Israel, but in sponsoring the invitations to the Bandung conference, which was supposed to represent all independent nations of Asia and Africa, agreed without demur to exclude Israel on the demand of the Arab states. Since India is not, like Pakistan or Indonesia, a Moslem country, this partiality cannot be attributed to any religious ties, and it ill accords with the Indian claim to be concerned as a matter of principle with the independence and security of all Asian peoples. It may perhaps be adequately explained by the diplomatic importance to India—particularly as part of her rivalry with Pakistan—of cultivating good relations with the Arab countries. But it has to be noted that Delhi’s attitude to Israel is in accordance with the permanent anti-Zionism of the Communist bloc, and thus ties in with the pro-Communist leanings of Indian foreign policy in other respects.

How does this state of affairs arise in a country which is governed by a powerful non-Communist party which is in no way dependent on local Communist support in domestic politics, and has no obvious reason to align itself with the Soviet bloc in world affairs? The answer cannot be a simple one; indeed, so complex are the political phenomena of contemporary India, and so important are factors which seem to operate in a direction contrary to the pro-Communist trend that many observers deny that any such trend really exists.



Nehru proclaims—and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity in this—that he is trying to make India into a modern industrial country without the use of totalitarian methods, and insofar as he can show successes in this endeavor, he is committed to a mortal challenge of the Communist claim to have found the only way of rapid economic progress for underdeveloped countries. Moreover, Nehru has deliberately chosen, without any kind of compulsion, to remain in the “Indo-British” Commonwealth, and this course has been in striking contrast to the attitudes of Vietnamese and Indonesian nationalists toward their former imperial rulers. In many ways, indeed, the policies of the new India have been so moderate, so adverse to the totalitarian way of life, and so little affected by the anti-Western rancor prevalent in many other areas of Asia and Africa that it becomes all the more difficult to understand why it is that the Indian government constantly shows such a pronounced one-sidedness in its approach to international issues beyond the sphere of immediate Indian interests. The explanation must be sought in states of mind which are in part characteristic of Indian educated opinion in general, and are in part special to Nehru himself.

In the first place, it must be borne in mind that India has no tradition of foreign policy because it is one of the consequences of colonial status that the external relations of a dependent territory are administered by the metropolitan power as part of its overall foreign policy. The conduct of relations with other sovereign states is one of the functions of a sovereign central government, and is always one of the powers reserved by an imperial authority even when partial self-government has been conceded to a subject people. The politics of a country under the control of another nation are essentially domestic, and “foreign” only insofar as they involve relations with the imperial authority. When, therefore, such a country achieves independence, it suddenly finds itself in a world of sovereign states with no body of trained diplomats or set of working principles of foreign policy such as old-established states evolve from long practice and experience of international relations.

In India there is no continuity between the diplomacy of the Indian kingdoms which existed before the supremacy of the British Raj and the foreign policy of the new nation which began in 1947. Everything has had to be improvised and worked out from the beginning; in this respect India could benefit far less from the British heritage than in the sphere of internal civil administration, for the Indian civil service was an organization adapted to Indian conditions, whereas the “External Affairs Department” of the Government of India could hardly be more than a branch of the Foreign Office in London. In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that Indian foreign policy in the first nine years of its existence should be characterized by a certain doctrinaire quality, an addiction to abstract principles not yet modified by experience and knowledge of the outer world.



The somewhat callow idealism to be expected of a new state engaging in international diplomacy for the first time has, however, in the case of India been complicated by the influence of Gandhi and his faith on all the thinking and feeling of India’s present leaders. Participation in the non-violent movement of resistance to British rule which Gandhi inspired and led was a great spiritual experience that has left its mark on all the Congress leaders of Nehru’s generation.

In one of his talks with the French journalist Tibor Mende which have recently been published under the title of Conversations with Mr. Nehru, Nehru said in recollection of his own conversion by Gandhi:

. . . I was simply bowled over by Gandhi, straight off. . . . It was a new revolutionary force in action. All this, of course, had an overpowering effect on us. We saw this great movement, were part of it, were swept by it and we pushed it ahead. At that time there were no doubts in our minds about its complete efficacy; the doubts arose later and we resolved or left them unresolved from time to time.

Looking back on the history of India’s struggle for national independence, we can appreciate today how fortunate it was both for India and for Britain that it developed under the leadership of such a man as Gandhi, who evoked a self-sacrificing fervor which could never have been attained by a merely constitutional nationalist party and yet kept it within the ‘bounds of peaceful, non-violent action. To him in the first place is due the credit for the fact that the final dissolution of the British Raj was achieved without a great armed insurrection.

But the particular course of events in India has certainly contributed to a certain unawareness in Indian public opinion of the more extreme realities of power politics in the contemporary world. Although many practitioners of non-violent non-cooperation went to jail—including, of course, Nehru himself—the fight was carried on by both sides according to certain rules; British political repression, harsh as it might seem to idealists striving for national liberation, was far removed from terror of the totalitarian type. The real test of Gandhi’s political methods would have been in their application against Hitler or Stalin, and this was a test which they never had to meet. Consequently, there is a disposition among Indians whose minds have been formed by the experience of the Gandhi era to overestimate the effectiveness of purely moral force in all human affairs and to underestimate the ruthlessness and aggressiveness of totalitarian Realpolitik as it operates in our time. There is an assumption that men everywhere are really reasonable and humane, that all conflicts can in the end be resolved through discussion and persuasion, and that defensive military combinations are not the result, but the cause, of international strife—since the dangers against which they are supposed to provide are imaginary.

This is, of course, the attitude of so many Western liberals who, nurtured in an environment of legality, security, and constitutional order, are unable to comprehend the states of mind which breed, and are bred by, systems of unlimited violence and terror. A simple faith in the goodness of human nature is, no doubt, a noble trait and in a transcendental spiritual sense may even be justified, but in practical affairs a man who has always led a sheltered, respectable life is likely to be insufficiently wary if he suddenly finds himself in the company of gangsters and crooks—and this gullibility may involve not only his own interests, but also those of others, if he is acting as their agent or trustee. A man with such a background may be quick to recognize wrongdoing of a kind with which he is familiar, but will refuse to believe in far greater evil which surpasses his experience. Thus there have been plenty of normally well-informed political observers in our time who have been realistic enough about the ordinary crimes and follies of governments, but found it quite incredible that Hitler should deliberately put to death five million Jews, or Stalin secretly massacre all the officers captured in his invasion of Poland. The very enormity of totalitarian violence gives it an advantage before the bar of liberal-optimist opinion because it appears unreal.



A basic inability to comprehend the nature of Communist power is evident in Nehru’s benevolently tolerant attitude toward Communist regimes in contrast to the severity of his criticisms of Western nations. Thus in one of his conversations with Mende he is recorded as saying:

I do not like the techniques adopted by the Communist party. That again means I would not like to have it in my country. But who am I to say what—in a particular set of circumstances—another country does? I am not competent, and anyhow I cannot interfere. So I put up with it . . . my objecting to what they do necessarily would lead to their objecting to what I do. Now I do not want their interference and I do not wish to interfere with them, or with any other country for that matter.

This line of non-interference, even by criticism, in the affairs of the Communist world does not apply, however, to the colonial or semi-colonial regimes of Western powers. In this sphere India claims rights of interference over the whole area from New Guinea to Morocco. Continuing his conversation with Mende he declares:

I do not know if it is adequately realized in many Western countries or in America how strongly we feel on the question of colonialism. . . . This is a vital and important problem for us. Colonialism and racialism, these two things are vital in the Asian countries. And whatever our differences may be, we meet together, as in Bandung, and we are all at one in this. . . . We are interested therefore not only in the elimination of colonialism from Asian countries where it still exists but also from Africa.

Nehru does not, of course, exaggerate in emphasizing the strength of Asian feeling on the subject. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of his own anti-colonial conviction. But here again, why the double standard as between the Western nations and the Soviet Union? At Bandung India was conspicuously in the endeavor to keep any reference to Russian imperialism out of the proceedings of the conference. But why is the future of Algeria, Aden, or Iran the concern of all Asian and African nations, while that of Georgia, Azerbaijan, or Uzbekistan is deemed entirely an internal affair of the Soviet Union?

We know, indeed, that Communism maintains the fiction that the constituent national republics of the Soviet Union are voluntary members of a federation in which they have proportional representation at the center as well as their own elected state governments, and that there is in the Soviet Union no ground for any movement for separate national sovereignty such as there is in the empires of capitalist countries. But why should a man of Nehru’s intelligence swallow all this without asking himself what freedom of choice the non-Russian nationalities of the Soviet Union have ever had in the matter of their federation, and without considering the abundant evidence which exists with regard to the struggles of these peoples for national independence over the last forty years? Is Nehru not aware that in the mass deportations of the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Kalmucks, and other recalcitrant peoples during the Stalin era the Soviet government dealt with nationalist resistance by methods more ruthless than have ever been used by the British, French, or Dutch in the annals of their colonial rule in Asia? But if he is aware of it, why does he continually give the world the impression that he endorses the Communist thesis that imperial domination is essentially an outcome of Western capitalist expansion and can never be attributed to a Communist state?

There is another case, too, affecting India more closely, which illustrates the double standard of Nehruite thinking. There is no people in the world which has more strongly marked characteristics as a distinct national entity than the Tibetans, nor one which has a more clearly defined territory. This people, moreover, has been independent of foreign control for most of its history and was independent de facto for four decades from 1912. Yet India, after first protesting against, finally acquiesced in the Chinese reconquest of Tibet, and has recently concluded with Peking a treaty which refers to “the Tibet region of China.” There were no doubt weighty reasons for India to avoid incurring the enmity of China and involving Indian resources in support of a weak and backward buffer state. But if political realism thus leads India to connive at the subjugation of a formerly independent people on its own borders, what is left morally of the lofty idealism which so uncompromisingly upholds the rights of nationality in distant lands? If a “Tibet region” of China, why not an “Algeria region” of France, or a “Kenya region” of Britain? Or is the existence of an intervening sea the essential condition for classifying as imperialism the rule of one people over another?



In trying to understand how Nehru’s mind works in relation to these questions, one must return to the all-important fact of India’s lack of a diplomatic tradition and concentration until a few years ago on the country’s internal affairs and the struggle for independence from the British Raj. Suddenly confronted with the need to conduct a foreign policy in a world of extremely complex international relations, the Indian nationalist leaders looked around for information and advice, for a simple set of rules to enable them to interpret the bewildering phenomena of world affairs. They were naturally unwilling to be instructed by their British ex-rulers, for they suspected that the latter would try to give them a view of the world which it was convenient for British interests that they should have, and they were resolved to break away entirely from British tutelage. Herein lay the opportunity for crypto-Communists and fellow-travelers entering the new officialdom from the ranks of the intelligentsia to fill the vacuum and give shape to the thinking of minds which, familiar as they were with the internal problems of India, were lacking in knowledge and experience of the field of foreign affairs.

In this way Communism gained a subtle influence over the making of Indian foreign policy quite out of proportion to its importance as a factor in Indian internal politics. It offered a complete, ready-made, and clear-cut version of world affairs which seemed to explain in simple fashion the most baffling complexities of the world situation. And this could be done without undue emphasis on the Marxist-Leninist basis of the interpretation—in such a way that Communism and an anti-colonial nationalism with overtones of socialism appeared to be natural allies in a fight against forces of reaction and exploitation identified with the imperialist West.

Nehru has been extremely susceptible to indirect Communist influences reaching him through his entourage because to an even greater extent than most politicians in high office he relies for his knowledge of facts on briefing by his advisers. A hostile, but not entirely unfair Indian critic of Nehru has written of his leadership:

He would never make a good judge, for he is in the habit of passing judgment in favor of whoever reaches his ear first. Loyalty and personal attachment count with him more than the facts of the case. . . . Those who know Nehru intimately as an administrator are of the opinion that he is not at home with matters of a concrete character, which unfortunately comprise seventy-five per cent of the whole range of governmental activity. He cannot come to grips with any issue which involves a proper study of data. . . . The enunciation of foreign policy, especially of our neutral brand, comes easily to him. It only needs sweeping generalities in which he specializes: the broad long-range view, the progressive eradication of mutual suspicions, the smoothing of differences, the blessings of peace, the amelioration of human suffering, neighborly feelings, bonds of friendship, the self-respect of the downtrodden [D. F. Karaka, in Nehru, the Lotus Eater from Kashmir].

These characteristics go far to explain why it is that, although Nehru is his own foreign minister, the making of Indian foreign policy appears to be left to a very large extent to Krishna Menon. A man cannot be an effective foreign minister unless he is willing to make a “proper study of data,” and as Nehru is concurrently Prime Minister and chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, he is hardly able in any case to give more than a fraction of his time to foreign affairs. This gives great scope to the influence of a man who has always been regarded as a fellow-traveler, and who has distinguished himself in the United Nations by the frequency with which he has aligned India with the Soviet bloc in international controversies. Krishna Menon owes his position to Nehru’s personal support, and he succeeds in imposing on his patron policies which are far more definitely conceived and ideologically slanted than Nehru’s own.



An Egyptian newspaper not long ago displayed side by side photographs of Nasser, Nehru, and Chou En-lai, who were described in the caption as “the three great leaders of the Afro-Asian peoples against imperialism.” It is doubtful whether Nehru would be entirely pleased at being included in a triptych with two such companions, but there is much in the Indian record to make it appropriate.

The course of Indian policy with regard to Korea showed a disposition to set good relations with Communist China above any consideration of the merits of the dispute. After voting for the original Security Council resolution condemning the North Korean attack on South Korea, India declined to participate in any enforcement of the United Nations decision, even with a token contingent—which would have deprived the United Nations intervention of the predominantly Western character which otherwise it inevitably had—and subsequently refused to join in designating Communist China an aggressor after the Chinese move against the United Nations forces. The emotional urge which led India to repudiate its original commitment to support of South Korea has been sufficiently well indicated by an Indian writer who entirely approves of the policy then pursued by the Indian government. Dr. K. Gupta, in his recently published book Indian Foreign Policy in Defence of National Interest, sums up the situation prevailing at the beginning of 1951 with the revealing sentence:

Now that the new China under Mao Tsetung’s leadership was able to place herself in a position of military equality with the Great Powers of the world, by meeting with a crushing defeat MacArthur’s offensive towards the Yalu, it was hailed all over Asia as a fitting reply to the humiliations suffered by the Asian peoples at the hands of the Western powers for the last few decades.

That the Korean people might have to be sacrificed and forcibly subjected to a political system which India’s leaders would not accept in their own country was evidently considered unimportant in comparison with the satisfaction to be obtained from the spectacle of an expeditionary force mainly composed of Western troops being rolled back by Chinese arms.

Similarly, in the Middle East the defiance of Britain and France by the militant, rabble-rousing Pan-Arab nationalism of Colonel Nasser has so much engaged the anti-imperialist sympathies of India as to distract all attention from the fact that the central purpose of this nationalism is the destruction of an independent national state which is not the instrument of any imperial power, but represents a people settled in Asia and desiring to live its own life within frontiers which are the barest minimum possible for its existence. Nothing has been in such glaring contradiction to Nehru’s constantly proclaimed principles of policy as the Indian attitude toward Israel. But in addition to sympathy for a movement with such obvious— though largely superficial—resemblance to India’s own nationalism, there have been powerful diplomatic considerations operating to align India with Egyptian-led Pan-Arabism.

The strongest motive of India’s Middle Eastern policy has been to counteract the prestige and influence which Pakistan, as a Moslem power established in the Indian sub-continent, naturally possesses throughout the Islamic world. India has been able to do this particularly by playing on the antagonism between Egypt and Iraq, and by taking advantage of the Egyptian opposition to the Baghdad Pact.

India opposes the Baghdad Pact because it conflicts with the principle of neutralism—which India apparently claims not only to adopt for herself, but also to impose on her neighbors; she also opposes the Pact because it perpetuates Western influence in Asia by including a Western power in an Asian regional alliance; and above all, she opposes the Pact because it strengthens Pakistan.

Egypt detests the Pact primarily because it is the symbol of Iraq’s rejection of Egyptian leadership of the Arab world. Further, since the Pact is a defensive alliance for resisting Soviet expansion in the Middle East, all Communist influences both in India and in the Arab countries are directed toward an incessant agitation against it. Thus India and Egypt have been drawn together in hostility to the Baghdad Pact countries; and, as a by-product of this, India takes Egypt’s side against Israel.

In any case there has been a profound ignorance in India of the facts of the Palestine situation, if only because India has diplomatic relations with Arab countries, but not with Israel, so that until Sharett’s recent visit to Delhi and Bombay, Arab propaganda had a clear field and the case for Israel went unheard. The Arab influences have been reinforced by those of Communist anti-Zionism, and “neutral” India is thus brought into line with the Soviet-Nasserite objective of crushing Israel by building a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and equipped with Russian arms.

The Anglo-French action against Egypt following on the preventive invasion by Israel appears merely to have accentuated the Indian tendency to regard the Middle Eastern situation exclusively in terms of resistance to Western imperialism. At the time of writing it is still too early to say what will happen in Egypt as a result of recent events, but it seems quite likely that Nasser’s position will be strengthened rather than weakened; if so, the Middle Eastern situation will tend to go from bad to worse, for a general war of the Arab states against Israel is the essential goal of Nasserism. It can only be prevented if the United States assumes a definite obligation to preserve Israel against attack within its existing frontiers. But if the American government should make up its mind to maintain the peace of the Middle East—instead of talking about its willingness to guarantee “agreed” frontiers, which is an incitement to war—then a very important part of the policy would have to be an effort to persuade India of the tightness of such a course, so that India’s great weight in Asian affairs may be thrown in favor of, and not against, the intervention.



In spite of all that has been said above about the bias of the leadership of Congress India in favor of the Soviet bloc and of anti-Western nationalist dictatorships of the Nasser type, it should be by no means a hopeless task for Western diplomacy and publicity—or rather American, since Britain is now in such extreme disfavor in Delhi on account of Eden’s Egyptian adventure—to win Nehru himself and Indian educated opinion to a more just and balanced view of world affairs. When everything has been said on the other side, the fact remains that India is the great hope of democracy and liberal values in Asia, and that its political practice stands out in the strongest contrast both to the totalitarian regime of Communist China and to the more or less dictatorial governments of the Middle East.

Irritation at Indian foreign policy should not blind the West to the great virtues of Nehru’s India—the combination of strong and stable administration with a genuine political liberty, the free elections, the independence of the judiciary, the active policies of economic development and social reform carried on without the coercion, the tyranny, and the persecutions supposed to be necessary for any transformation of Eastern societies. Nehru’s basic devotion to liberal principles—in spite of a fiery temperament which is easily angered by any opposition—is brought out very clearly by the record of the conversations with Tibor Mende.

Mende, as his other writings reveal, is extremely sympathetic to Chinese Communism, and disposed to regard Nehru as insufficiently drastic in overcoming obstacles to social and economic progress in India. In one of his interviews with Nehru he suggested that there might be a middle way between “revolution, execution squads and commissars on the one hand and the classical British parliamentary democracy on the other.” Nehru, however, declined to be drawn into a repudiation of democratic restraints, and while admitting that “the speed of change” might be slower in a democracy than under a dictatorship, expressed his opinion that “the difference in time is not so great as people imagine.” Mende then returned to the attack and urged—with an obvious relevance to Nehru’s own position—that if the “slow process of persuasion” were insufficient to bring about desirable reforms, it might be right for “some personality who by fortunate historical accident happened to be in a position to do it” to get things done by “the more direct utilization of one’s influence.” But Nehru still declined to recognize such a right of direct action, and argued that the task of such a personality was to “move the majority” and attain his ends “by the democratic processes of law.”

In order to have a proper perspective on Indian affairs it is essential always to keep in mind this real democratic faith of Nehru and the greater part of the Congress leadership. This is something which cannot be taken for granted and, under Indian conditions, can only be maintained in the face of strong temptations to resort to dictatorial authority. It needs all the moral support and encouragement that the West can give if India is indeed to provide Asia with a convincing alternative to the Chinese example. The West must continually emphasize its common ground of belief and purpose with India and be prepared to give generous economic aid to India not on condition of any international diplomatic alignment, but as from one democratic nation to another in the fraternity of the free world.

India should also be given due credit for not having forcibly seized those residues of European imperialism in India, the Portuguese enclaves, though nothing would be easier for her than to do so; it is impossible to imagine Communist China or Egypt behaving with such forbearance in similar circumstances. But Nehru, after all, is not Chou En-lai; he is not Nasser. Ultimately he is not even Krishna Menon. He is a man open to reason and persuasion—and this applies generally to Indian educated opinion—if the right approach can be found, and due consideration given to the susceptibilities of a nation which has so recently emerged from Western tutelage.

The Western nations must take account of India in every major international decision, and they must take trouble to explain and justify their policies to India, with adequate supporting factual evidence, not only in moments of crisis, but all the time. Nothing is to be gained by ignoring the recent anti-Western bias of Indian policy or by minimizing its importance. But it is not a state of affairs that is beyond remedy, and statesmen both in Washington and in London should be taking thought how to make a better case for themselves in Delhi than they have succeeded in making over the last five years.


1 Responding to these criticisms, Nehru on November 19, in the Indian Parliament, criticized the Soviet intervention in Hungary: “The fact is that the Soviet Army is there against the wishes of the Hungarian people.” In the Un, India, with Ceylon and Indonesia, introduced a resolution on November 20 calling on Hungary to admit Un observers.—ED.


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