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More than a Mere Prime Minister

H.Y. Sharada Prasad

By Sarvepalli Gopal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 346, Rs. 100.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 3 November/December 1979

When the first volume of Dr. Sarve­palli Gapal's life of Jawaharlal Nehru appeared three years ago, there was a definitional dispute on whether it was a biography or a history. The Sahitya Akademi settled it by citing the author and the book for one of its awards.             We should be grateful, however, that the second volume of the three-part book is the work of a historian. The nine-year period which it covers, 1947 to 1956, were years when the foundations of so many of Independent India's policies, postulates and postures were being built (and problems resolved or accumulated) that, it is good to have a historian to guide us through the forest of memories, impressions, imputations and facile conclusions. Dr. Gopal has done well at the very outset to claim that the book is the history of the first years of free India. His highly disciplined sifting of evidence is particularly valuable in following the turns of India's evolving relations with the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, China, Pakistan and other Afro­-Asian nations, the twists of the Kashmir problem (in the United Nations as well as within the State itself) and other major questions foreign and domestic, like Korea, Suez, Hungary, Hyderabad, Goa, the linguistic states, planning, and the struggle for the mastery of the Con­gress.             Very often hindsight passes for his­torical judgement. The reconstruction of things as they were, with the aid of documentation from various sources, enables the reader to understand the chain of cause and effect, of necessity and choice.                  Dr. Gopal has studied an enormous amount of material and, as in the pre­vious volume, organized it with cons­picuous clarity and economy. Each chap­ter could be lengthened out into an independent book. Even at double the present length, interest would not have flagged. It is always a pleasure to wit­ness scholarship that is not pedantic or pompous. Although Dr. Gopal sets out to remove the ‘myth that Jawaharlal Nehru concentrated on foreign affairs to the detriment of domestic demands’ foreign relations dominate the pages. By coinci­dence, they are also the author's special field. To Nehru himself foreign policy was the true test of a nation's indepen­dence. Dr. Gopal traces the many op­portunities that the United States missed to befriend India because of its obsession with the crusade against Communism and the mirror-image mistakes that Stalin's Soviet Union ...

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