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Principles vs. Expediency: Nehruvian Dilemma


Salil Misra

SELECTED WORKS OF JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (SECOND SERIES), VOL. 36 & 37
Edited by Mushirul Hasan
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 705 & 636, Rs. 700.00 each

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 11 November 2006

Jawaharlal Nehru, on a number of occasions and in a number of ways, defined himself as a product of the Indian National Movement and all that it stood for. This implied among other things anti-imperialism, commitment to national sovereignty, and a measure of internationalism. In addition Nehru also acquired early in his political career a left-wing orientation to politics. All this he inherited from the national movement and practised, with some exceptions, during his long tenure as independent India’s Prime Minister.   Volume 36 (second series) of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru covering the period December 1956-Fabruary 1957, is an important testing ground for some of these values that Nehru professed. This is an important period for two major political events of international significance that were only distantly related to India’s domestic politics: the Suez crisis and the Hungarian crisis. The two crises involved the major superpowers of the post-war world. The Suez question started with the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt, followed by the formation of a military alliance between England and France, and the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt. The Hungarian crisis emanated from attempts within Hungary to break out of Soviet control, followed by a full-fledged invasion of Soviet tanks into Hungary. There were no natural compulsions on Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, to get entangled in the two issues. It was in fact the involvement in these issues, specially the Hungarian one that contained certain risks. Siding with Soviet Russia would have meant diluting the commitment to national sovereignty. Upholding Hungary’s right of self-determination and resistance to external invasion implied antagonizing Soviet Russia, an ally in international relations. Neutrality might have been the safest course but it went against Nehru’s perception of himself and independent India as a major actor in world affairs.   Involvement in the Hungarian issue had implications for India’s own national interests. Soviet Russia made it clear to India that Hungary was as close to them as Kashmir was to India. If India dared to oppose the Soviet Union at an international forum, or did not side with the latter on the Hungarian question, the Soviet Union could withdraw support for India on the Kashmir question. This importantly was no empty threat.   On the Kashmir question the position of the western countries had been more pro-Pakistan than pro-India. The Indian plea of calling Pakistan the aggressor had found ...


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