A Persistent Pro-Soviet Speaker
Pandit Nehru’s admirers are prepared to admit that he was influenced by communist thought to quite an extent before he became the first Prime Minister of independent India in August 1947. But they maintain (of course, in a purely a priory fashion) that since that event his sense of responsibility as leader of a major democracy has considerably diluted his devotion to purely theoretical questions, and developed in him a sense of proportion regarding the Soviet Union.
These people tell us that Pandit Nehru’s unceasing tirades against the various Western alliances have been inspired not by his addiction to the Soviet Union but by his strong anti-imperialist inclinations coupled with his faith in non-violence. They add that he has been considerably annoyed with the West due to the latter’s pro-Pakistan stand on the Kashmir question. He, they say, had come to put considerable trust in Western good faith after the British withdrawal from India. But the West has, over the past few years, frittered away that fund of goodwill by committing one folly after another. If, therefore, he has spoken against the West it must be due to his bitterness against the West rather than to any pro-Soviet proclivities on his part.
The Western nations, particularly the U.S.A., have gradually come to accept this explanation of what they describe as Pandit Nehru’s neutralism. They are, therefore, vying with each other to “heal the wounds” which they think they have unwittingly inflicted on Pandit Nehru’s “sensitive mind”. And in that process Pandit Nehru’s India has become the “bastion of democracy” in Asia and he himself the only firm guiding star for the destiny of what they describe as the underdeveloped nations. More recently, his “dynamic neutrality” is gaining prestige in the West as a model for all newly independent nations in Asia and Africa.
Independent India would have very much liked her Prime Minister to be inspired neither by the West nor by the East. India may be a newly independent country, but she is no new nation. In fact, in terms of her culture and civilisation, she is the only nation on earth which has still maintained an unbroken continuity with her ancient traditions. Those traditions have their own solutions to offer for most of the ills from which the world has been suffering ever since Christianity, Islam, and the materialist civilization of the modem West managed to unhinge nation after nation from their deeper moorings.
But that, perhaps, is too idealistic an aspiration. India does cherish her ancient traditions but is no longer alive to them. She may, therefore, not be able immediately to bring those traditions to bear on current controversies. But she can at least strive to preserve her independent identity and “judge each issue on its own merits”, as Pandit Nehru is so fond of saying so often. To that end, it is necessary that India should understand the true nature of Communism as a streamlined system of neo-imperialism, and show some appreciation for the struggles of those nations which have to fight the communist menace for their very self-preservation. That is the minimum we should expect from an independent India.
But under Pandit Nehru’s leadership, India has shown neither a will for self-preservation against the increasing communist threat to her own integrity, nor a minimum of sympathy for those who have had to stand up against Communism. And that is no accident. It is not due to any lack of information about the communist menace that India has kept her eyes shut towards it. Nor is it due to any lack of moral sense in the nation as a whole. If an explanation is to be found for this phenomenon of an independent India siding with the communist camp, we have to look into the mind of that man who has been the sole architect of India’s policies since Sardar Patel died in December 1950. Let us see how that man’s mind has functioned vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and Communism after he became our Prime Minister.
If we could present all of his speeches and statements after he assumed office, we would have more than adequate evidence to prove conclusively that he has continued to be a Soviet-addict all through these post-independence years. But that is a big job. We have before us only his selected speeches from 1946 to 1957 compiled and published by the Government of India in three volumes. To these volumes, then, we must turn.
Pandit Nehru announced his Interim Government on September 7, 1946. His statement on this occasion contained greetings to both the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union. He said: “We send our greetings to the people of the United States of America to whom destiny has given a major role in international affairs. We trust that this tremendous responsibility will be utilized for the furtherance of peace and human freedom everywhere. To that other great nation of the modern world, the Soviet Union, which also carries a vast responsibility for shaping world events, we send greetings. They are our neighbours in Asia and inevitably we shall have to undertake many common tasks and have much to do with each other.”1
Thus the U.S.A. was a country whom “destiny” had chosen to play a “major role”, while the Soviet Union was willingly shouldering “a vast responsibility”. Further, Pandit Nehru had doubts in his mind whether the U.S.A. would use her power and opportunity for the good of mankind. He had no such misgivings about the Soviet Union. But, above all, while the U.S.A. was a far-away nation, which had no common tasks to undertake with us, the Soviet Union was a “neighbour in Asia” and India had “much to do with her”. The slant was quite meaningful for all those who had the intelligence to pick it up.
A few months later, on December 13, he moved the Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly which was meeting in order to frame independent India’s constitution. Talking of American, French, and Russian revolutions, he employed the same slant. He said: “I think also of the various constituent assemblies that have gone before and of what took place at the making of the great American nation when the fathers of that nation met and fashioned a Constitution which has stood the test of so many years, more than a century and a half, and of the great nation which has resulted, which has been built up on the basis of that Constitution. My mind goes back to that mighty revolution which took place also over 150 years ago and the Constituent Assembly that met in that gracious and lovely city of Paris which has fought so many battles for freedom… Then my mind goes back to a more recent revolution which gave rise to a new type of State, the revolution that took place in Russia and out of which has arisen the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, another mighty country which is playing a tremendous part in the world, not only a mighty country, but for us in India, a neighbouring country.”2
So, the Soviet Union was still “a new type of State” and “a neighbouring country”. Any average student of politics knows that neighbourliness of States leads to mutual hostility more often than to mutual trust. If neighbourliness were a test, there were so many other countries which were nearer to India at that time. In a few more months Pakistan was to be India’s neighbour on both sides of her borders. It has never occurred to Pandit Nehru to emphasize the neighbourliness of Pakistan. And for obvious reasons. Geographical nearness is never meaningful unless it is accompanied by ideological nearness. What he was referring to in his speech was the ideological nearness of the Soviet Union.
Next year, on March 5, 1947, he gave an inaugural address to the Asian Relations Conference at New Delhi. Delegates from the Soviet Union had been admitted to that Conference on his plea that Russia was an Asian country as well and not a European Power which had colonised and subjugated vast areas of the Asian continent. Welcoming the various delegations, he said: “We welcome you, delegates and representatives from China, that great country to which Asia owes so much and from which so much is expected; from Egypt and the Arab countries of Western Asia, inheritors of a proud culture which spread far and wide and influenced India greatly; from Iran whose contacts with India go back to the dawn of history; from Indonesia and Indo-China whose history is intertwined with India’s culture, and where recently the battle of freedom has continued, a reminder to us that freedom must be won and cannot come as a gift; from Turkey that has been rejuvenated by the genius of a great leader; from Korea and Mongolia, Siam, Malaya and the Philippines; from the Soviet Republics of Asia which have advanced so rapidly in our generation and which have so many lessons to teach us.”3
Thus, while every other country had only past achievements to, its credit, the Soviet Union alone had “so many lessons to teach us”. The significant slant was once more very obvious to the intelligent ear.
Very soon India became independent as a result of Britain’s voluntary and peaceful withdrawal. Pandit Nehru’s sister, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, was appointed India’s Ambassador in Moscow. But by that time the Kremlin had become intensely hostile to India. India had given no offence to the Soviet Union, except that the Indian National Congress rather than the Communist Party of India had come to power. One had to read the weekly New Times, a journal published from Moscow, to realise the depth of Kremlin’s displeasure with Indian leaders. The Congress was being accused of selling India to “Anglo-American imperialism” in order to forestall a “people’s revolution”. In a few months, the Communist Party of India was to launch its famous 1948 insurrection on direct orders from Moscow. Naturally, Moscow could not be expected to be courteous to India’s Ambassador.
Like her brother, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Pandit had so far hobnobbed with various communist fronts in India. Even so, she was given a very cold reception in Moscow. She was not able to meet Stalin despite her repeated requests. And by the time she came back from her post in her brother’s Fatherland, she was completely cured of her communist inclinations. She resented the fact that Moscow was refusing to accept India as an independent country. Moscow made its hostility patent even in petty matters. One such matter was the supply of furniture to the new Indian Embassy. She had to buy all the furniture she needed from Stockholm, and incur heavy expenditure on that account. Pandit Nehru was aware of the inside story.
But when some members in India’s Assembly raised a question as to why the Indian Ambassador in Moscow had to spend so much for importing furniture from abroad, he did not tell the truth. Instead, he apologised for the Soviet Union. He rebuked the House for failing to understand Soviet Russia. He said: “A great deal of criticism has been made about our Ambassador in Moscow getting furniture from Stockholm. Well, how a house has to be furnished in Moscow, of course, Hon. Members do not realize. It just is not possible to furnish it easily in Moscow. You get an empty house. We thought of sending things from India, but it was almost a physical impossibility unless you spent vast sums on aeroplanes to carry chairs and tables from here. Of course, it could have been furnished alternatively with Russian furniture. The Russian people, and all credit to them for this, ever since the war, are so intent on doing what they consider to be the fundamental things that they refuse to waste their time on the accessories of life. They have to rebuild their country after the most horrible suffering and damage suffered in the war and they are concentrating on major undertakings. They go about in patched-up clothes and worn-out shoes. It does not matter, but they are building dams, reservoirs and factories and the rest which they consider more important. So it is not easy to get any of these small accessories of life for the moment. The only things you can get in Russia are antique pieces of Czarist days which are frightfully expensive. The result is that our Embassy in Moscow had to go to Stockholm for its chairs and tables, and as these were urgently required - office equipment, etc. - our Ambassador had to go there.”4
It would have been difficult for anyone except an incurable Soviet-addict to believe that the Soviet Government could not supply ordinary furniture for a small embassy such as we had initially established in Moscow. There is ample evidence that other embassies in Moscow were buying a lot of furniture at that very time. Even if furniture was not readily available from stock a dictatorial government like that of the Soviet Union could have got it fabricated overnight, had it so wished. There are many instances of the Soviet Government performing such “miracles” at short notice.
The simple truth was that Moscow at that time was not favourably inclined to having an embassy from a country which in its estimation was no more than a “semi-colony of Wall Street imperialism”. Moscow knew that Pandit Nehru had all along been its own minion. But Moscow also knew that Pandit Nehru was powerless so long as Sardar Patel wielded the Congress Party machine and exercised his “reactionary” influence against the “progressive people”. And Moscow was angry with Pandit Nehru for his failure to put up a fight against Sardar Patel by making a common cause with the Communist Party of India. So Moscow behaved as it did. But all these studied insults heaped on his country and on his own sister presented no occasion to Pandit Nehru for having second thoughts about the Soviet Union. He only felt called upon to invent yet another apology for Moscow. in fact, he went further and praised Soviet Russia’s preoccupation with “fundamental things” after the fashion of a straightforward sycophant. Moscow’s manners towards a newly independent country were not at all “fundamental” in his scheme of things.
As regards the Russian people, they had gone about in “patched-up clothes and worn-out shoes” ever since the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. They had no say in the matter and they could not come in the way of the Kremlin selling furniture to the Indian Embassy. On the other hand, the communist bosses in Soviet Russia were, even during those days of post-war shortages, living in great comfort and enjoying all the amenities of civilised life. Things of luxury were being produced for them in plenty. If the bosses had wanted to sell furniture to the Indian Embassy, they had only to issue an order and all that was needed could have been manufactured in a day.
Then came the communist insurrection inside India and an avalanche of malicious Soviet propaganda against the Congress Party, its leaders, and its Government. Pandit Nehru was now portrayed as a “co-partner in Sardar Patel’s crimes”. Next year, that is in 1949, China went communist. Mao Tse-tung at once sent a message to B.T. Ranadive, General Secretary of the CPI, that India, too, was going to be “liberated before long”. A few months later, Peking was describing Pandit Nehru as a “running dog of American imperialism”. It was, therefore, natural that opinion inside the Congress Party became pretty hostile against Communism and the communist countries. Sardar Patel was still alive. So Pandit Nehru had to stop singing his hymns in praise of the Soviet Union. But he also refused to utter a word against Communism or the communist “paradise”.
Had he been in possession of normal mental faculties, here was an opportunity for him to see the truth about the Soviet Union. He had admired that country for more than 20 years. He had refused to protest publicly even when, in his private opinion, the Soviet Union had acted in a way which he did not consider right. Yet, without any provocation whatsoever from him, the Soviet press had launched a malicious campaign against him personally, and the Kremlin had directed its hired hounds to overthrow his Government - a Government for which he had fought and suffered for many years.
It is the tragedy of Soviet-addicts that they can seldom overcome their infatuation. They always have an explanation for Soviet misdeeds. Now the explanation for which Pandit Nehru plumped was that the Soviet Union had been committed to a wrong line by an obstinate and die-hard faction in the Kremlin, and that Stalin was personally opposed to it. So he had only to wait and watch.
His next opportunity came in 1952. Sardar Patel was dead, and the Congress Party was fast heading towards becoming his pocket organisation. Meanwhile, the fiasco of the new communist line in Korea had moved the world communist camp towards wooing the newly independent nations in Asia. Early in 1952, it was more than clear that the Party line in India was changing towards “parliamentarianism”. He immediately broke his silence and resumed his rhetoric in the service of the Soviet Union.
India had her first Parliament in session now. More than two dozen communist M.Ps were occupying the Opposition benches in New Delhi. They were bitterly critical of Government policies. Addressing these traitors on May 22, 1952, Pandit Nehru said on the floor of the Parliament: “I am sure that the honourable Members of the Opposition remember that Lenin is believed to have described Communism as soviets plus electricity. I am anxious to impress on the House that whatever has been done in India in these five years cannot be dismissed as insignificant. Foreigners, even those from the great lands of Russia and China, have often been surprised at the measure of our achievements. Not that they necessarily agreed with our policy. Unfortunately their access to news about India is limited and those who do supply them with information about this country are full of their own ideas and only too readily condemn everything we have done.”5 It sounds strange that the Soviet Government should, at that time, be misinformed about India. India had become a fully democratic country in which information was readily available to anyone who cared for it. And Moscow was now maintaining an Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in several other cities. Unlike Russia, India was maintaining no Iron Curtain.
Slightly later, but during the same speech, he proclaimed: “I can say with some confidence that there is hardly any other country in the world, perhaps including Russia also, which can claim to have laid the foundations of scientific progress as we have in so short a period of time. It is true that Russia is far more advanced than we are but I am referring to the initial stages of development.”6 So the model to be admired and seek comparison with was still the Soviet Union. The sins of the Soviet Union towards the new Republic of India were explained away as due to lack of proper information. Only he could believe that Moscow was guided by the misinformation provided by its hirelings in India! The plain truth was that these hirelings were prepared to see the white as black and vice versa at Moscow’s bidding.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches, 1946-49, The Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi, Second Edition, November 1958, p. 3. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., pp. 9-10. ↩
Ibid., p. 300. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 211. Italics added. ↩
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches, 1949-53, The Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi, Second Impression, June 1957, p. 34. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 35. Italics added. ↩