Saturday, June 16, 2007

'If he is a bastard, at least he is our bastard'

Q. Who said this? And how does it explain why India tilted towards Russia, despite Nehru's original non alignment stance?

A. Ramachandra Guha, in his comprehensive history of India after independence, attributes this statement to John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state when Nehru visited America in 1949. During the Cold War, the US was suspicious of any nation that said it was neutral ("if he's not with us, then he's against us"). Guha writes,

"Generally speaking, dictators who toed the American line were to be preferred to democrats who didn't"

Nehru is quoted as well in one the letters he wrote to K P S Menon in 1947,

"We must be friendly to both and yet not join either. Both America and Russia are extraordinarily suspicious of each other as well as of other countries. This makes our path difficult and we may well be suspected by each of leaning towards the other. This cannot be helped. "

As Nehru feared, the US grew increasingly suspicious of India. Dulles offended India by suggesting that Portugal could continue to keep its colony in Goa as long as it chose to. And he was instrumental in signing a pact with Pakistan in 1954, further alienating India. Guha also suggests that,

"Nehru's vigorous canvassing of the recognition of the People's Republic of China, and his insistence that it be given the permanent seat in the UN Security Council...was also not taken to kindly by Washington".

So now I know a little more about what had been a mystery to me. Of course, Guha explains that Nehru's false reading of Russia's intentions (perhaps fired by his idealism) led to India gravitating towards the Reds. No doubt there are a cocktail of reasons that dictated India's choices just after independence, but Guha's book is a good starting point.


Anonymous said...

GM, I am itching to borrow the book from you. Does he talk about Krishna Menon's role in irritating the US? That marathon 7-hour long harangue of his at the UN.

Anonymous said...

yes, he talks a little about KM and his disastrous diplomacy. but i've only finished a third of the book. long way to go yet!

Anonymous said...

But during Nehru's first 1949 visit to America Dulles was still a senator (NY) and didn't become secretary of state until 1953 so shouldn't it be 1956 during Nehru's second US visit and one year after the Bandung conference on non-alignment?

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