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Anglo-Saxon Attitudes


S. Gopal

THE EROSION OF A RELATIONSHIP
By M. Lipton and J. Firm
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1975, 427, 14.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 3 July - September 1976

With stabbings and race riots, the relationship between India and Britain is today much in the news. To most of us, especially those in and across middle age, that relationship is overlaid with a large number of historical hang-ups, We have known the best and the worst of this contact; and in l947 and immediately after, we elected to forget the worst. This can, of course, and has often been much simplified and overstated. If the leaders of the Congress, despite all their earlier theorizing and commitments, preferred Dominion Status to imme­diate severance of the British link, it was not a result of sentiment but because this seemed the easiest way of arranging the transit from empire to freedom. Later, if Nehru opted to find a way of keeping the Indian Republic in the new Common­wealth, his motivation was not a blend of nostal­gia and the overpowering influence of Mountbatten. India was not charmed into remaining in an associ­ation which was presided over by Britain. Beneath the outer softness of Nehru there was a hard core of realism and a clear recognition of India’s inter­ests. He kept India in the Commonwealth because it suited her at the time. The international world of 1947 was a new and a harsh place; Pakistan was ferociously hostile and, assiduously cultivating her relationship with Britain; and the economic and military muscle of India was still weak. By one stroke Nehru turned Pakistan’s flank at this level. But he did not at this time believe that the tour de force of India's membership of the Commonwealth would last for long. It had its use for the moment but it would have to be tested by its performance. It was a functional association that would be judged by its result. In fact, the Commonwealth that is primarily in its present phase, built round the relationship bet­ween India and Britain, has lasted. This is one of the surprises of the modern world system and is basically the achievement of Nehru. By all the norms of international affairs it should have broken over Suez. Britain's sordid aggression in Egypt carried with it the violation of every canon of Commonwealth understanding. Naturally both the action of Britain as well as the way in which she had led up to it evoked outright condemnation from every section of Indian opinion. Even a conserva­...


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