NEHRU MEMORIAL LECTURE ON THE THEME "NEHRU'S VISION OF INDIA AND THE WORLD - THEN AND NOW" DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN.

New Delhi, November 13, 1997

I am immensely honoured to have been asked to give this Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture. I feel very humble to speak about a man who was the liberator of India and one of the liberators of the world and one to whom I was personally obligated.

To talk about him is indeed an honour and an onerous task. Nehru's ideas have been often obscured by the encomiums heaped upon him and by the debunking process that inevitably takes place after great men are gone. But his ideas remain sharply pertinent to our own times and even to the times ahead of us. Therefore, I thought I should say a few words about his vision of his own country and of the world.

He had an integrated vision of India and the world. He wanted to revive the ancient glory of India in a modern form and to eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease from this country and to introduce science and technology, and progress to millions of its people. His dream was to eliminate inequalities and injustices of this age-old society and to give it a modern form and modern significance. He had a sense of mission for India, a mission of peace and liberation. He was attracted by Vivekananda's ideal of unity and strength for his country and by the ringing declaration of Vivekananda when he said that our isolation from all other nations of the world was the cause of our degradation and its only remedy was getting back to the current of the rest of the world. Thus, the idea of unity and strength of India and the need for remaining in the mainstream of the developments of the world were integrated in his thinking and his actions.

As early as 1927, he sent a Report to the AICC, after the International Congress against Colonialism and Imperialism in Brussels, outlining what he thought should be the basic policies of free India in the future. He spelt out in this his vision of the future of Indian unity, the way he wanted to deal with its minorities problem, the future economic structure of India, the social problems of India and the foreign affairs of independent India. It was an audacious exercise, the first of its kind. All that followed was an elaboration, intensification and an integration of these four questions into a coherent whole and into a philosophy of action.

For India, his vision was dominated by the need for unity and independence. The unity of India was a dream that haunted him throughout his life. He was obsessed at that time as all Indian nationalists were, with the British view of Indian unity spelt out by Sir John Strachey in 1888 that there is not and there was never an India possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity_physical, political, social, or religious. Western perceptions of India, more or less, followed this original view propounded by the British. Much later, after India's independence, a Yugoslav scholar Milovan Djilas wrote, "Despite my sympathy for India, I am not convinced that it can remain united in the long run." Another intellectual, one of the assistants of President Eisenhower, wrote in a futuristic piece, that "the avowedly democratic society of India may be reasonably counted upon not to unify but to fragment, probably into as many parts as Western Europe." Richard Nixon in his book "Leaders" marvelled at the powerful personality of Jawaharlal Nehru who could hold together India during its critical years and maintain it as a single nation. But he also believed that India could have been a nation of as many countries as Europe and he expressed the view that it might have been good for the unifiers to keep India as one, but it was probably not good for the people of India.

I am not sure if in the glorious privacy of their minds the strategic thinkers of Western countries do not think more or less in the same terms about the future of India. America seems to have swallowed wholesale the British view, and the assessment of China is not known, but I recollect one sentence that Premier Zhou EnLai said during the Bangladesh war_he characterised the fall of Dhaka not as "a victory for India but as a beginning of a conflagration which would ultimately consume the whole sub-continent."

Jawaharlal Nehru's dream of Indian unity in this context is a vision of great significance for us and the world. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, he was one of those who considered the unity of India as firm and unassailable. The concept of unity in diversity was too mystic for outsiders to grasp or to understand. The multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-political pluralism of Indian life and society, to my mind is a forerunner of the multipolar pluralism that is taking shape today in the world; it was this fact that Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed in regard to India and also of the world.

The idea of unity was something of a floating dream throughout Indian history. The Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and British Empires in India had given to this dream of unity, a cultural or spiritual or administrative or military shape. But Mahatma Gandhi gave to that concept the immense unity of the mass mind; Sardar Patel consolidated the administrative and territorial unity. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who gave Indian unity a profound and concrete economic and emotional content. The Five Year Plans that he formulated introduced a pattern of developmental unity to the whole of India and a certain economic inter-dependence of the different parts of India, perhaps for the first time in our long history. To this he added the concept of a casteless, classless society that was egalitarian and socialistic in its orientation. He invested it with harmony and a sense of emotional unity. He gave to this vision a form which was unprecedented in the history of India and all this was encompassed in the framework of democracy in the midst of the luxuriant pluralism of Indian life.

Nehru was a prophet of the mixed economy in India and perhaps in the world. The economic content that he gave to the fact and the vision of Indian unity was spelt out by him very clearly in the Five Year Plan documents. In his Preface to the Third Plan he wrote, "In the last analysis, economic development is but a means to an end_the building up through effort and sacrifice, widely shared, of a society without caste, class or privilege which offers to every section of the community and to all parts of the country, the fullest opportunity to grow and contribute to the national well-being." Again he wrote : "It is neither necessary nor desirable that the economy should become a monolithic type of organisation offering little place for experimentation either as to forms or as to modes of functioning."

Today there is a tendency to look upon the economic system, the mixed economy that Nehru operated, as something of a rigid, almost totalitarian system from which we have had to depart in the modern era of liberalisation. But that was not his concept of mixed economy. It was not a mixture which was rigidly set, but which was to vary according to circumstances, according to the stage of technology. And if the bureaucratic deformation of this mixed economy has affected initiative and enterprise in our system, it is not that there was something basically faulty with Nehru's vision of the Indian economic system. It is because we could not or we did not adapt to changing circumstances, changing technological stages of society.

He had integrally related this conception of the economy and the domestic set up of India to his vision of the world, to his foreign policy. And this he had stated clearly again in the Third Five Year Plan in a chapter written by himself. He said, "In the larger context of the world, realisation of this objective for India as for other countries is intimately tied up with and dependent on the maintenance of peace...Peace, therefore, becomes of paramount importance and an essential prerequisite for national progress." This is how almost naturally, spontaneously, he made the transition from domestic preoccupations to preoccupations with larger foreign policy. But however much he was preoccupied with the world and with foreign policy objectives, he knew and he said that very clearly, India was his basic consideration. As early as 1942, he said at a press conference, "But, ultimately, naturally I have to judge any question from the Indian point of view. If India perishes, I must say selfishly if you like to call it, it does not do me any good if other nations survived."

His world outlook was therefore India-oriented and again I would like to refer to his 1927 report. He linked India to the wider struggle, the anti-imperialist struggle that was going on in the world and he remarked that we must understand world movements and policies, and fashion our movement accordingly.

The vision of One World had dawned upon him and he asserted that in the One World of his dream he would give up a measure of freedom of action to an international body of which India would be an equal member, but she will do so if other countries agreed to limit their sovereignty in like measure. It is interesting that this very thought was articulated by

Mahatma Gandhi in very telling terms. Gandhiji said once :_"My service of India includes the service of humanity. Isolated independence is not the goal of world States. It is voluntary inter-dependence. The better minds of the world desire today not absolutely independent states but a federation of friendly interdependent states. I desire the ability to be totally independent without asserting independence." This is a statement pregnant with meaning even today. Gandhiji wanted the ability to be totally independent without necessarily always asserting that independence. This is something we ought to remember in the present opening up to the world. In a globalised One World system, if this ability to be independent is crippled or constricted then we would have lost something basic. It is not necessary for us to assert our independence always, but we must retain as a precious thing the ability to be independent. This was the crux of Nehru's One World vision.

From the interplay between nationalism and internationalism was born Nehru's policy of Nonalignment and peaceful coexistence. He stated several times that in spite of the conflicts and divisions in the world, the world was moving towards the ideal of a One World that he had foreseen. He always felt in his bones that the fundamental trend of the world was towards a One World system. At the same time, he sensed earlier than anyone else, the move towards alignment, groupings and attempts by certain groupings at dominating the world. As early as 1927, he sensed this trend and said that the United States may some day develop a kind of imperialism, that Britain might join with United States in a powerful Anglo-Saxon bloc. He also feared that even the Soviet Union might develop a new type of imperialism. In 1940, he wrote in an article that, if the idea of a World Federation did not materialise, there might emerge a colossal grouping of nations, with a danger of big wars. Later, sitting in the solitude of Ahmednagar Jail he wrote in 1944-45, in his "Discovery of India" that he saw the outlines of two groupings emerging around USA and USSR and asked where this would leave the millions of people in Asia and Africa ? They would remain an awakened, discontented, seething humanity no longer prepared to tolerate the existing conditions. He saw the common threads of sentiment and invisible links which hold them together. This was his discovery of the Third World or the Nonaligned world that was beginning to emerge, in fact, though not in name. But he did not look at it as a new bloc but as an area of peace, geographically expanding and transcending geography, reaching out into the minds of peace-loving peoples everywhere.

One of the greatest contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru to the world was the precious gift of Nonalignment that he gave to it. We do not realize the originality of this idea. If one reads textbooks of international politics and international relations written 40 or 50 years ago, you would not find the word Nonalignment or the concept of Nonalignment, but today it is impossible to write anything about foreign policy without referring, at least, in passing to this concept. He introduced between the two sides to the cold war, a Nonaligned world, an area of peace, which prevented the sharp division of the world into two warring blocs. It is this area in between, that played a very crucial role in preventing a headlong collision between the titanic forces in the world.

Nehru was one of the first to detect inside the blocs growing trends towards peace, towards accommodation, towards understanding each other. Nehru encouraged this process and it was one of the assumptions behind his foreign policy. He wanted India and the Nonaligned countries to provide a bridge between the two warring factions for the maintenance of peace. He thought of India as a platform for the two contestants to meet, may be in the first instance for competition between each other, but eventually for co-operation and for reconciling their differences. The manner in which the cold war finally ended showed the validity of Nehru's analysis of world forces. It showed how within the blocs themselves, there were powerful currents for mutual accommodation which fitted in with the aspiration of the larger world.

In 1964, a few months before he passed away, Nehru explained the nature and the role of Nonalignment and it is worth quoting in full what he said : "The basis of Nonalignment is our area of peace which has been consistently increased since the inception of the policy. This not only helps to create a sort of no-war land between the military blocs by making their war-like confrontation difficult, but also provides them with a common ground for cooperatrion in something like a workshop of peace. As more nations keep joining the peace club as against the nuclear club and the cold war club, we expect this Nonaligned grouping to grow and absorb other nations, the European nations like France and Czechoslovakia which today belong to NATO and boast of military alliances. We want the whole world to become part of this area of peaceful coexistence including ultimately the United States and the Soviet Union." This was the vision of Nehru's Nonaligned world. Now that the Cold War is over, it has been argued by many scholars that the rationale of Nonalignment has disappeared. But Nonalignment as conceived by Nehru has retained that its validity and relevance in the post-cold war era. Various theories are put forward with regard to the collapse of the Cold War system. Questions are asked like who won the Cold War and who was the loser. The end of the Cold War is not considered as a failure of a system of international relations that the great powers had established; it is interpreted as a victory of one against the other. I would like to discuss this question a little later but before that let us have a look at Nehru's home front, his practical as well as visionary policies in the neighbourhood on India and in Asia. Today, we talk a great deal about the "Look East" policy, about our association with ASEAN, our aspiration to belong to APEC, about our initiative in the Indian Ocean Rim, the formation and evolution of SAARC and our good neighbourly policy that we have initiated. But if we look back analyze what happened during the early Nehru period with regard to India's relations with the neighbours, it would become very clear that he was the forerunner of India's policy towards Asia and that he had a dream about Asia. And surprisingly here again I can go back to 1927, when he argued that, in developing our foreign policy, we should naturally first cultivate friendly relations with countries of the East which have so much in common with us. And if you look at the conduct of his foreign policy during the early period, we would find that it was with neighbours like Nepal, Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, Ceylon and Turkey, that he had established the most active relationship. Indeed, treaties were concluded with several of these countries and if one looks at the Ambassadorial appointments he made, while no doubt he sent important Ambassadors to the capitals, Washington, London, Paris, Moscow, some of the best men, public men, were selected and sent to our immediate neighbours.

And then let us look at his actual conduct of policies. In fact he once wrote in a letter to the Chief Ministers, "I cannot appreciate the question being asked of us as to whether we are with the American group of powers or with the Soviet group. We are friendly with both, but essentially we function for ourselves and develop closer contacts with our neighbours." There was a phrase which we have forgotten, which was very current in those days, the South-East Asia Patterns. He had established the closests relations between India, Burma and Indonesia. These three countries followed more or less the same policies, world policies, and this relationship came to be known as a South-East Asia Pattern which by extension applied to other countries in the region who had not emerged fully on the Asian scene as yet. It is a fact that Nehru took considerable interest in Burma. When there was a civil war in Burma, he allowed the Burmese government to buy arms in India. At one time, he made a statement that the security of Burma was the security of India. And you are all aware of what he did during the Indonesian struggle for independence. No country in Asia has been involved so intimately in the freedom struggle of another country as India under Nehru, was involved in the Indonesian struggle. He called a conference on Indonesia in New Delhi whose recommendations became the basis of the stand that the United Nations took on the Indonesia problem. During the time of the Japanese Peace Treaty, he had the imagination to conclude a separate treaty with Japan recognising Japan not as a defeated party but as an independent entity. I recollect that when the treaty was negotiated I was a junior diplomat in Tokyo and how profoundly this gesture affected the minds and hearts of the ordinary Japanese.

Then there is the role that Nehru played in the Indo-China and the Korean crises. These are just forgotten as if they were not significant events and people say very glibly these days that Nehru had neglected his neighbours and Asia and was playing games with the great powers only. When the Korean war broke out, it was India's diplomacy that prevented a real war breaking out and that helped in the peace-making in that country. He said at one time that if this Korean war led to a real war, all the dreams of India, its dreams of planning and development, will be reduced to ashes, and therefore it was incumbent on India to do something to prevent the spread of this war. And when he was criticized about the futility of his intervention in Korea_some speeches to that effect were made in Parliament_he declared that if another occasion arose, he would send Indian troops on peace mission not once but hundred times ! That was the degree of his involvement in Asia and in peace at that time, an involvement which wasconstractive, imaginative, realistic and productive of peaceful results.

So also in Indo-China. I would like to say only one thing about the Indo-China settlement which India helped to bring about. After the Geneva Declaration was announced, he pointed out that the Convention of non-intervention which was embedded in the declaration should be extended to the rest of Asia and it should include even the great powers. In fact non-intervention was the basic tenet of his foreign policy. As you know in the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence which we signed with China, non-intervention was one of the important principles. It is not very much known that while it was Premier Chou Enlai who really formulated these five principles first, it was on Nehru's insistence that the principle of non-intervention was incorporated finally in the Tibet Agreement. It was this principle that he held fast to as being central to peace in Asia and in the world. What I wish to emphasize is that Nehru's central preoccupation was Asia, and it was standing on the platform of Asia that he projected hispolicy to the world as a whole. In fact, the events which happened in Asia, whether through great conferences like the Asian Relations Conference or the Bandung Conference, had a world significance. Not only did they impact on the Indo-China war and the Korean war, but also on the course of world events. Major wars could have broken out in the world if peace had not been preserved at those critical times. The efforts of India and Nehru had a lot to do with this outcome whether the world recognized it then or does not recognize it now.

There were one or two more complicated relationships in this region, one with China and another with Pakistan. About Nehur's China policy, it is not necessary to say much to this distinguished audience, except to stress that what he wanted was the acceptance of China by the rest of the world. He had a few considerations in projecting this policy. First was, of course, the relationship between the two ancient civilizations of Asia which he thought should work together in friendship and cooperation. He wanted that to happen. Then he had another consideration. His assessment was that China, even at the time it signed the Sino-Soviet Treaty, would be an independent party working independently on its own and not by any means as a satellite of the Soviet Union. He wanted this inherent fact to blossom out as an actual fact. Therefore, his method was to bring out China into the world, into Asia. It was this policy which was bitterly suspected and opposed by the United States. I read recently a speech President Clinton made over the Voice of America after or during the visit of the President Jiang Zemin to the United States. He said, I am quoting it because it is an echo of what Nehru had said in the 1950s about China. President Clinton said : "The isolation of China is unworkable, counter-productive and potentially dangerous and isolation would encourage the Chinese to become hostile and to adopt policies of conflict with our own interest and values." The words used by President Clinton are not exactly the same as Nehru's, but the meaning is the same. It was precisely this argument Nehru had advanced in favour of the recognition of China by other countries after the liberation. Of course people say that his policy was a failure, but why that policy failed was because while he recognised China and some other countries recognised China, the United States and its allies did not recognize China at the right time, and that led to immense suffering and conflicts and tension in Asia. Therefore one is glad to read the statement of President Clinton today, not to justify our policies retrospectively though it does justify them, but to say that for the future this is a good sign.

After a series of meetings in Beijing recently, between President Yeltsin and President Jiang Zemin, an interesting communique was issued by them. I am only referring to what I read in the newspapers here. The communique said that the time for alliances, the time for triangular strategic relations, was over. Well, neither China nor the Soviet Union had believed in such ideas earlier. I find this very significant. Those who say that Nonalignment has no relevance in the present period, ought to consider these statements which are echoes of the language of Nonalignment being spoken today by the great powers.

Today, we are trying to become members of the APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. Nehru had written in the "Discovery of India" in 1945 that the Pacific would be the nerve centre of world politics in the next century and India would have to do much about this area. India is today not a member of the APEC but she is a dialogue partner of ASEAN, closely associated with it and involved in South East Asian developments. But the difference is that while we are trying to be in Asia and Asia Pacific today, we were a central player in Asia during the Nehru era. I am not saying this as any sort of criticism because there are many reasons, regional and international, for this, but I would like to put the record straight by saying that during Nehru's period India was an active player and an influential player in Asian affairs.

After the Cold War, apart from everything else, economic relations have assumed supreme importance. Some people have made the projection that economic wars may arise in the world. I do not know; it need not necessarily be so, but one has to consider the great gap and the inherent conflict between the developing world and the developed world, and it is in this context and in regard to this problem that Nonalignment has been asserting itself as a major force.

And then, in the military sense, one should ask as to why, even though the Warsaw Pact has been dissolved, NATO remains in existence. There are signs of it being used for cooperation for constructive purposes. But whether in Europe or in Asia, one does not know whether new alignments and groupings in conflict with each other might arise in the future or not. And in this context, Nonalignment as conceived by Nehru has a preventive role to play even in the present world.

For Nehru a new international order was a dream that he pursued. He was a great believer in the United Nations. Today we are talking about restructuring the United Nations. It was in 1960 that he said in the United Nations that the UN has not been fair to Asia and Africa; they have a right to be in the Security Council, he said. While he said this, he did not want to press the point at the time, but he did wish to register the right of the countries of Asia and Africa to have a say and a role and a place in the Security Council of the United Nations.

And, of course, he was a passionate advocate of disarmament. Disarmament is talked of today in terms different than in Nehru's time, and we have to direct our attention to that ethereal realm in which a high-technology armaments race is taking place. So if one applies Nehru's advocacy of disarmament to the present stage, one has to somehow bring these questions of high-technology weapons almost unseen by the common eyes of the world, and ask how it could be controlled and how it could be made a subject of discussion in international fora.

All these questions are integrally related to Nehru's vision of the world and his vision of India. I think we can follow his vision of the world only if we can make his vision of India a credible one. Today there is desperate need to inject into our thinking a bit of his vision of India_a country of nearly one billion people marching together in unity and brotherhood making its contribution to the kind of world that he had envisioned.


Thank you.