A Fellow-Traveller of Soviet Foreign Policy-3
An year or so before Sardar Patel’s death in December 1950, there was a serious rift between him and Prime Minister Nehru on questions concerning the foreign policy of India. The Sardar did not like the way in which our foreign affairs were being conducted. He felt that our foreign policy was too servile to the Soviet camp in spite of the violent hostility which that camp had all along shown towards the Government of independent India. But he could not or did not review this policy in terms of any alternate international analysis of his own. Pandit Nehru, on the other hand, pointed out repeatedly that the general direction of India’s foreign policy after the attainment of independence was not new but only an application of the principles enunciated in the various foreign policy resolutions which the Congress had passed in pre-independence days. The Sardar was exasperated. And he made a. public statement that he had never read a single foreign policy resolution of the Congress. He added that these resolutions were passed always and unanimously more in order to avoid controversy over what was an academic issue for enslaved India than to denote any decisive national attitudes towards international politics.
Pandit Nehru was himself aware all along that his foreign policy resolutions were not being taken seriously by anyone except himself and his communist co-conspirators. He admits: “This all-round support was very gratifying, but I had an uncomfortable feeling that the resolutions were either not understood for what they were or were distorted to mean something else… These resolutions of mine were somewhat different from the usual Congress resolutions; they represented a new outlook. __Many Congressmen no doubt liked them; some had a vague dislike for them, but not enough to make them oppose. Probably the latter thought that they were academic resolutions, making little difference either way, and the best way to get rid of them was to pass them and move on to something more important.”1 Yet after attainment of independence he insisted that these resolution were binding on his Party and Government! This was a typically communist operation.
At the same time, however, that confession on the part of Sardar Patel conveyed the utter poverty of that mind which views international affairs only in terms of narrow national interests, and refuses to project national principles and power into the arena of international conflicts. The indefensible indifference towards international politics which led the Congress foreign policy into the Soviet trap through the agency of Pandit Nehru is still the predominant national mood, in all circles outside the communist camp. For people who happen to be admirers of Pandit Nehru for personal or ideological reasons, the foreign policy of India is safe in his hands. The only duty they assign to themselves is to shout the slogans issued by him with ever increasing ardour, no matter what the source of these slogans is and where they are leading the nation. On the other hand, people who claim that they are opposed to Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy proclaim their difference only on matters of detail, and endorse the general direction and the underlying principles of that policy.
That is the tragedy of this nation. Either we are narrow-minded nationalists who think that our quarrel with Pakistan, and Portugal, and now with communist China, constitutes the whole of our concern for foreign affairs, and that, for the rest, our policy should be ‘a plague on both (or all) your houses’; or we are followers of this or that international camp; or we are empty-headed but self-righteous simpletons. There is not a single voice which proclaims that we are an ancient nation with our own svadharma which alone should be our touchstone for settling our attitude towards international questions. Our national svadharma, which lays down the lofty principle of Vasudhaiva kuTumbakam (i.e., the whole world consists of my. kinsmen), should be able to point out principles which can be our strength and solace in a tormented and topsy-turvy world.
A greater tragedy is that hypocrisy in certain quarters which, while they know fully well that Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy has been and still remains a copy-book exercise of the turns and twists of Soviet foreign policy, yet refuse to subject that policy to a free and frank public discussion. Not only that. These quarters go out of their way to bestow fulsome praise on that foreign policy, and say that this policy has raised the prestige of the nation. Their criticism is confined to a clever footnote, namely that in spite of all its sweep and loftiness, the policy has served no “practical interests” of the nation.
The need of the hour, if it is already not too late, is first to expose Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy fully and frankly for whatever it is. He should be told that he is the Prime Minister of India and not a Soviet satrap set up for superintending the interests of Soviet imperialism in Asia and the world. He becomes temperamental and difficult only when he is criticised in what he calls “a constructive” manner. The only way of dealing with him firmly is to identify him and his ideology for what they really are. Our people are still not denuded of patriotism in spite of decades of drugging by Pandit Nehru and his communist camp-followers. It was these people who rose and protested when Tibet was over-run, and when our own territory was occupied. Nor has our people’s sense of moral values become blunted beyond repair in spite of a total absence of that sense in their Government. Wherever the communists have committed crimes against humanity, as in Hungary and Tibet, our people have registered a powerful protest.
So, on the balance, it is not our people who have failed their political leaders. On the contrary, it is our political leaders who have failed their people. There is so much of self-seeking or party patriotism among even the top leaders of all political parties that they have no devotion or patriotism to spare for the nation. Session after session of our Parliament has witnessed broadsides against the “betrayals by Krishna Menon”. Session after session of our Parliament has seen Pandit Nehru hitting out in all directions in defence of his indefensible Defence Minister. Yet no member of Parliament has had the patriotic urge or the moral courage to stand up and point out an accusing finger at this villain of the piece. If India is ever undone, it will be because India’s political leaders are more afraid of losing their leadership than of losing their country.
And in this surging sea of cowardice, cynicism, and hypocrisy, Pandit Nehru comes out easily as the only man who has had the courage of his convictions. He became a communist quite early in his political career. He stuck to that creed even when he could not have his way in the Congress. But as soon as his opportunity came, he translated his convictions into concrete actions. For others, convictions have been like cosmetics, and their brand of powder and puff has changed with the change in political fashion. Of course, the fashion has always been set by Pandit Nehru.
It may be said that courage is often combined with stupidity. Pandit Nehru may be stupid in the sense that he could never think a thought of his own all through his life. And his courage may be in a very large measure the by-product of cowardice on the part of other political leaders. He has, however, been courageous in yet another sense. Surely it requires a lot of courage to imbibe other people’s ideas at short notice and proclaim them publicly without looking into the logic of one’s own past pronouncements. He has always exhibited this courage whenever the call has come to him from Moscow.
We have seen how he was denouncing all the “enemies” of the Soviet Union from 1927, when he visited his Fatherland, to 1934, when he completed his exercise in world history, in spite of the fact that the Soviet press had denounced him in strong terms. He must have thought that he had caught up with the Comintern line. But, unfortunately for him, the Comintern was ahead of him once again. The Seventh Congress of the Comintern, held in Moscow during July/August 1935, proclaimed the strategy of “United Front” which meant that the communist parties everywhere were to join hands with their erstwhile enemies - the Social Democrats and the Nationalists - in order to “stem the rising tide of Fascism”.
The earlier strategy of the Comintern had resulted in the victory of Nazism in Germany, and the strengthening of Japan in the Far East. Both of them now threatened the Soviet Union with containment. So the Soviet foreign policy underwent a volte-face. In May 1935, the Soviet Union signed the famous Franco-Soviet Pact. An year later, the Soviet-Czechoslovak Pact was signed. The Soviet Union was out to cooperate with the Western nations in a bid to save itself from the Frankenstein it had raised. The Comintern hammered out a new strategy suited to the new situation in which the Soviet Union now found itself.
Delivering his Main Report to the Comintern Congress, Comrade Dimitroff said: “How can fascism be prevented from coming to power and how can fascism be overthrown when it has come to power? The first thing that must be done, the thing with which to begin, is to form a united front, to establish unity of action of the workers in every factory, in every district, in every region, in every country, all over the world.”2 Coming to India, he proposed: “In India the communists have to support, extend and participate in all anti-imperialist mass activities, not excluding those that are under national reformist leadership.”3
Pandit Nehru was released from jail in September 1935. He immediately went to Europe. The ostensible purpose was to attend to his sick wife. But the real purpose was to “refresh” his mind once more. And he did get “refreshed” very soon. By the time he returned to India in early 1936 to preside over the Lucknow Congress held in April that year, he was completely converted to the new Comintern line. He himself says: “I was full at the time of the idea of Popular Fronts and joint Fronts, which were being formed in some European countries. In Europe, where class and other conflicts were acute, it had been possible for this cooperation on a common platform. In India these conflicts were still in their early stages and were completely overshadowed by the major conflict against imperialism. The obvious course was for all anti-imperialistic forces to function together on the common platform of the Congras.”4
Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the official historian of the Congress, reports: “When he had presided over the Lahore Session in 1929, he stated in his Presidential address that he was a Socialist and Republican. When seven years later he presided over the Lucknow Session (April, 1936) he reached the logical fulfilment of socialism-namely, communism.”5
Once again he presented his famous foreign policy resolutions to the Congress. He writes: “On the eve of the Lucknow Congress we met in Working Committee, and I was pleased and gratified at the adoption by this Committee of a number of resolutions that I sponsored and which seemed to give a new tone and a more radical outlook to the Congress.”6
The first resolution sent greetings to the World Peace Congress announced by the World Committee for the Struggle Against War and Fascism-a regular communist front. It said: “This Congress, having considered the invitation of Monsieur Romain Rolland, Honorary President of the World Committee for the Struggle Against War and Fascism, to participate in the World Congress for Peace to be held in Geneva in September next, conveys its greetings to the organisers of the Peace Congress and its assurances of its full sympathy and cooperation in the great work of ensuring peace in the world based on national and social freedom. The Congress is convinced that such a peace can only be established on an enduring basis when the causes of war are removed and the domination and exploitation of nation by nation is ended.”7 Krishna Menon was selected by Pandit Nehru to represent the Indian National Congress at this communist rally. Incidentally, the word “peace” means “Soviet Foreign Policy” in the Glossary of Marxist Terms published from Moscow.
He was also able to persuade the Lucknow session to pass a resolution for setting up a Foreign Department of the A.I.C.C. The resolution read: “The Congress authorises and directs the Working Committee to organise a Foreign Department of the A.I.C.C. office to work under the general superintendence of the General Secretary and with such special staff as may be necessary, with a view to create and maintain contacts with Indians overseas, and with international, national, labour and other organisations abroad with whom cooperation is possible and is likely to help in the cause of Indian freedom.”8 The Foreign Department was immediately manned by two communist stalwarts - Z.A. Ahmed and K.M. Ashraf.
Now he could get regular communist drafts from his comrades in the Foreign Department. Next year, he was elected president of the Faizpur Congress held in December 1936. A majority of Congressmen wanted Sardar Patel to assume this office. But the Sardar had to withdraw under pressure from Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru was elected without a contest. And he continued to carry forward his communist game inside the Congress.
Resolution No. II of the Faizpur session congratulated Krishna Menon in the following words: “The Congress having considered the report of Shri V.K. Krishna Menon on the World Peace Congress, records its appreciation of the part he took in this Congress as its representative. It supports wholeheartedly the objective of the Peace Congress to ensure world peace by removing the causes of war and offers its full cooperation to it in this urgent and vital task. The National Congress will willingly associate itself with the organization which the Peace Congress has established in this behalf. The Congress, however, wishes to emphasise that imperialism itself is a continuing cause of war and its elimination is essential in the interests of world peace. The President is authorised and directed to take necessary steps in this behalf.”9
Resolution No. IV toed the communist line in Spain where General Franco was putting up a heroic fight to save his country from becoming a colony of Soviet Russia. It said: “The Congress has followed with the deepest sympathy and anxiety the struggle that is going on in Spain between the people of Spain and a military group aided by foreign mercenary troops and Fascist Powers in Europe. The Congress realises that this struggle between democratic progress and Fascist reaction is of great consequence to the future of the world and will affect the future of imperialism in India. The Congress has noted without surprise that in this struggle, the policy of non-intervention followed by the British Government has been such as to hamper in many ways the Spanish Government and people in fighting the Fascist rebels, and has thus in effect aided these rebels who are being openly backed and helped by the Fascist Powers. This Congress, on behalf of the people of India, sends greetings to the Spanish people and the assurance of their solidarity with them in this great struggle for liberty.”10
Soviet Union’s single-minded policy in Europe now was to draw both France and Great Britain into an entente against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, both of which were strongly opposed to Communism. To this end, the Soviet Union was trying to precipitate “Popular Front” governments in Britain and France. The game was “dialectical” as in the case of every game the communists play. A “Popular Front” government meant a government in which the communist party of that country participated directly or which depended on communist support. Such a government was expected to become increasingly an instrument of the Soviet Government, and, at the same time, try to capture complete power in slow stages by internal subversion.
The game succeeded to quite an extent in France where Leon Blum got deeply entangled with the Communist Party of France and the Soviet Foreign Office. France was to pay dearly for this policy in 1939-40 when Stalin ganged up with Hider and the Communist Party of France worked actively for the defeat of French armies. But Great Britain refused to walk into the trap. There was no prospect of a “Popular Front” government in London. And Great Britain’s price for a pact with Soviet Russia was that the Kremlin should withdraw her communist fifth-columns from every part of her far-flung empire. Soviet Russia felt furious. She decided to force Great Britain into a “Popular Front” government and a British-Soviet pact with the help of her communist hirelings. They were directed to agitate everywhere against the Chamberlain Government. The standard plank of this agitation was that the Chamberlain Government was conspiring with the Axis Powers - Germany, Italy, and Japan - for a war against the Soviet Union.
The Communist Party of India decided to start such an agitation in India. But, meanwhile, the Indian National Congress had formed governments in several provinces. Pandit Nehru had opposed this decision of the Congress after his return from Europe. But he could not prevail over the “reactionaries” of the Congress Right. So he consoled himself by injecting the communist line into another foreign policy resolution which was passed by the Faizpur Congress.
This resolution was the most thinly camouflaged communist pill swallowed by the Congress. It said: “The Congress has drawn repeated attention in the past to the danger of imperialist war and has declared that India can be no party to it. Since the last session of the Congress the crisis has deepened and fascist aggression has increased, the fascist powers forming an alliance and grouping themselves together for war with the intention of dominating Europe and the world and crushing political and social freedom. The Congress is fully conscious of tile necessity of facing this world menace in cooperation with the progressive nations and peoples of the world, and especially with those peoples who are dominated over and exploited by imperialism and fascism. In the event of such a world war taking place, there is grave danger of Indian manpower and resources being utilised for the purposes of British imperialism, and it is therefore necessary for the Congress to warn the country against this and prepare it to resist such exploitation of India and her people. __No credits must be voted for such a war and voluntary subscriptions and war loans must not be supported and all other war preparations resisted.”11
In February 1937, Pandit Nehru issued an appeal for aid to the communist armies in Spain: “We have already expressed our deep sympathy and solidarity with the Spanish people in many ways. The National Congress has given eloquent expression to the Indian people’s voice and feelings. But that is not enough. We must translate our sympathy into active and material help. We are poor and hungry folk, crushed under many burdens, dominated by an arrogant imperialism, and we struggle ourselves for freedom. But even in our poverty and misery we feel for our Spanish comrades and we must give them what aid we can, however little this might be. We can help in sending them medical supplies and food. I trust it will be possible for us to arrange to send grain and other food supplies, and I appeal to those who deal in such foodstuffs for their cooperation in this matter. In London our countrymen have formed a Spain-India Committee with Syt. V.K. Krishna Menon as chairman. __I suggest that we might send money to them for the purchase and despatch of medical supplies. I trust that contributions for this purpose will be forthcoming from all parts of the country.”12
And, finally, at the Haripura Congress in February 1938, he repeated his lies against Great Britain in yet another resolution which read:
“In view of the grave danger of wide-spread and devastating war which overshadows the world, the Congress desires to state afresh the policy of Indian people in regard to foreign relations and war.
“The people of India desire to live in peace and friendship with their neighbours and with all other countries, and for this purpose wish to remove all causes of conflict between them. Striving for their own freedom and independence as a nation, they desire to respect the freedom of others and to build up their strength on the basis of international cooperation and goodwill. Such cooperation must be founded on a world order and a free India will gladly associate itself with such an order and stand for disarmament and collective security. But world cooperation is impossible of achievement so long as the roots of international conflict remained and one nation dominates over another and imperialism holds sway. In order, therefore, to establish world peace on an enduring basis, imperialism and the exploitation of one people by another must end.
“During the past years there has been a rapid and deplorable deterioration in international relations, fascist aggression has increased and an unabashed defiance of international obligations has become the avowed policy of fascist powers. British foreign policy, in spite of its evasions and indecisions, has consistently supported the fascist powers in Germany, Spain and the Far East and must, therefore, largely shoulder the responsibility for the progressive deterioration of the world situation. The policy still seeks an arrangement with Nazi Germany and has developed closer relations with rebel Spain. It is helping in the drift to imperialist world war.
“India can be no party to such an imperialist war and will not permit her man-power and resources to be exploited in the interests of British imperialism. Nor can India join any war without the express consent of the people. __The Congress, therefore, entirely disapproves of war preparations being made in India and large-scale manoeuvres and air-raid precautions by which it has been sought to spread an atmosphere of approaching war in India. In the event of an attempt being made to involve India in a war, this will be resisted.”13
It was now fully clear what Pandit Nehru meant by what he called an “imperialist war”. As a convinced communist he had come to believe that Britain was conspiring with Nazi Germany to unleash a war against the Soviet Union. But only an idiot or a communist could believe that. For, an year later, it was not Britain but Pandit Nehru’s Fatherland, the Soviet Union, which signed a pact with Nazi Germany and left the latter free to unleash war in Europe.
An Autobiography, p. 167. Italics added. ↩
G. Dimitroff, The United Front, International Publishers, New York, 1938, pp. 30-31. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 68. ↩
The Unity of India, p. 96. ↩
Pattabhi Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, Padma Publications Ltd., Bombay, 1947, Vol. II, p. 8. ↩
The Unity of India, p. 98. ↩
The Background of India’s Foreign Policy, pp. 49-50. ↩
Ibid., p. 49. ↩
Ibid., p. 50. ↩
Ibid., p. 51. ↩
Ibid., pp. 51-52. ↩
The Unity of India, pp. 266-67. Italics added. ↩
The Background of India’s Foreign Policy, pp. 55-56. Leaders of the Communist Party of the Great Britain, R. Palme Dutt and Ben Bradley, had written an article, ‘The Anti-Imperialist People’s Front in India’, in Labour Monthly of March 1936. Pandit Nehru’s biographer, Sarvepalli Gopal, says that “this article was written after the talks with Jawaharlal at Lausanne and stated what Palme Dutt and Bradley believed to have been accepted by Jawaharlal as the common programme for which he will strive” (Jawaharlal Nehru A Biography, Volume One, OUP, 1976, pp. 203-04). Pandit Nehru was in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the last days of his wife’s illness. Kamala Nehru died on February 28, 1936. (Footnote added in 1993.) ↩