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In Retrospect

A.K. Damodaran

Edited by M.V. Kamath
Nehru Centre, Mumbai, 2003, pp. 570, Rs. 650.00


This collection of lectures organized by the Nehru Centre, Mumbai, two years ago to reassess the relevance of Jawaharlal Nehru of the modern world makes pleasant reading. The writers are all well-known experts on politics, foreign policy, national security and modern Indian history. There is a certain pleasant absence of uniformity in the pieces because each writer has his own special point of view determined by his or her academic discipline or official experience. It is obvious that the organizers gave total freedom to the speakers in forming their conclusions about the great man four decades after his death when the world changed and the men and the states in the world were only slowly beginning to respond to the technological revolutions. Happily there is no hagiography here; neither is there the over-anxious revisionism which characterizes some of the modern Indian writing on Jawaharlal Nehru. He is seen as a product of the first half of the twentieth century, functioning in the creative transformation of a large heterogeneous society during the first decade of the second half. Most of the aspects of Nehru’s personality, achievements and failures are discussed in these lectures.      On foreign policy there are some studies by A.P. Rana, Kanti Bajpai and J.N. Dixit. The essence of the argument in these analyses is a study of the complex international system today and the continuing relevance of the essence of Nehru’s policy, particularly nonalignment in the post-Cold War era. There is a very rigorous analysis by V.N. Datta of the factors leading to the Partition of British India in 1947. The Partition once again is discussed briefly in Dr. Karan Singh’s concluding essay. Of special interest to the students of national security is the paper by K. Subrahmanyam on defence matters. This is important because it explains the personal and institutional failures behind the 1962 debacle. At the same time it does not exaggerate its importance in the totality of independent India’s evolution. Subrahmanyam particularly notes Nehru’s contribution to building up a self-sufficient defence mechanism.      There are some pieces of great interest to the students of Nehru’s evolution as a political leader before he became Prime Minister. The article by B.R. Nanda on Nehru, Bose and Gandhi is of special interest in this connection, containing, as it does, a detailed analysis of the disintegration of the Congress organization in the ...

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