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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 47 New Delhi November 12, 2016

Remembering Nehru Today

Thursday 17 November 2016, by M. C. Chagla

Gandhiji was the one man who played the most important role in building a secular India. Both Gandhiji and Nehru were secularists, but their approach to secularism was different. While Gandhiji was essentially a religious man, Nehru was not religious. But he wanted people of different religions to live in this country in peace and harmony. He was essentially a modernist with a tremendously broad outlook, and therefore he often felt that the rituals and the dogmas and the prejudices and the superstitions associated with religions came in the way of progress of the country. While the approach of the two was different, both were dedicated to the cause of secularism and made greatest possible contributions towards it.

Dynamic Non-alignment

The question is raised if the current events have vindicated the policy of non-alignment initiated by Nehru. I think the policy of non-alignment is good but the mistake we made is that we think of non-alignment as a static concept whereas it should be regarded as dynamic. Non-alignment must be adjusted and adapted to the changing conditions of the world. When Nehru enunciated it, he was the originator of the Bandung idea. The world at that time was very different from what it is today, and no country can continue to hold on to the same position even though the face of the world is changing. Therefore what we want is not a static approach to the idea of non-alignment, but its adaptation to the alignment of forces that exist today. And today’s alignment of world forces is different from what it was in Nehru’s time.

I think one broad feature in the present situation is the consolidation of our national unity and secularism. The whole country has been supporting the government in resisting Pakistani aggression. Pakistan expected communal troubles to break out in this country. Far from that happening, Pakistan has helped to strengthen our secular cause.

I am convinced if Nehru had to face the present crisis, he would have acted in the same way as the present government has done. He wanted friendly relations with Pakistan and towards the end of his life he was most anxious that the quarrel between the two countries should come to an end. Therefore he wanted the Kashmir problem to be solved. But he did not want it to be solved at the cost of India’s integrity, or by handing over Kashmir to Pakistan.

He would have tried to solve it peacefully. We also tried to solve it peacefully, and we did not start the fight. The aggression was started by Pakistan. It was Nehru who resisted Chinese aggression; and I am sure he would have equally strongly resisted this aggression from Pakistan. It was Pakistan who wanted to settle the Kashmir problem at the point of the gun and not peacefully; and no Indian, certainly not Nehru, would have agreed to the solution on these terms.

Kashmir in UN

Our present difficulties in the United Nations are partly the result of the wrong handling of the Kashmir problem in the past. Because, I think, we were vacillating so feebly and almost equivocally on the Kashmir question. But during the last two years we have taken up a firm, unequivocal attitude and I think that is already paying dividends. If Pakistan now realises that Kashmir is not negotiable, I think the settlement of the Indo-Pak dispute would be easier than if we let the world think that we are still prepared to talk about the status of Kashmir.

My attitude towards the handling of the Kashmir question is different from that of the late Prime Minister. I strongly feel we should never have gone to the United Nations at all in the first instance. We went there as complai-nants, complaining of aggression by Pakistan. That fact has been completely forgotten; instead of Pakistan being put in the dock, we are being made to answer for Kashmir. If we had stuck to our complaint and insisted on Pakistanis getting out of what they called Azad Kashmir, the prevent situation would not have come about.

Same Reaction

Nehru would have reacted to the situation of fighting with Pakistan as Shastri has done. I do not see how differently he could have reacted than what the present government has done. As I said, if an aggression is committed on one’s country, one can react only in one way, and that is, to throw the aggressor out. That is exactly how we have reacted and we are sure Nehru would have reacted in the same way.

We cannot see any solution in sight till Pakistan changes its basic outlook. It is not so much a question of Kashmir, it is more a question of the fundamental differences between our two countries. Till Pakistan learns to respect secularism, and not make religion the basis of its policy, it is very difficult to bring about any lasting settlement with Pakistan.

We must wait till that consciousness dawns upon the people and the government of Pakistan. Otherwise for a long time we may have a sort of truce. But I do not think we can have peace that way.

The present situation is bad for both the countries. The situation like this diverts our resources from a proper utilisation of them to raise the standard of living of our people. It is not good for a poor country to spend money on arms and armaments. We have been compelled to take up this attitude although we do not like it. We can have peace tomorrow if Pakistan wants it. But peace is something which one country alone cannot bring about. It requires two countries. We may want peace, but Pakistan should also want peace and judging from what Mr Bhutto and President Ayub have said they do not seem to want it. Peace cannot be unilateral, it has to be bilateral.

This situation is a big drain on our country. It is a tremendous strain on our economy. But if a country cannot defend itself, and cannot maintain its integrity and its security, it does not deserve to exist. Whatever the cause, that must have first priority.

Today when the country is facing difficulties on the economic front, I am absolutely sure Nehru would have bravely taken up this challenge. Because, Nehru was essentially a socialist, not a doctrinaire socialist. I understand by socialism social justice and Nehru felt most strongly about the denial of social justice to millions of our people and the only way to meet the challenge of present times is not to do less social justice, but more.

Scientific Mind

Nehru’s was essentially a scientific mind. I always call him the father of modern science in India. It was Nehru’s vision that has made possible the scientific and technological advance that we have made in this country. He felt that India could never become a modern progressive nation unless it was scientifically minded. He rightly thought that we would never be able to shed our supperstition, prejudices and inhibitions unless our people attached impor-tance to science and scientific progress.
Therefore we owe almost everything in the field of scientific progress to his genius and to his vision.

Without what we have achieved today, we would have been in serious difficulty and might have completely given in under the pressure of foreign powers. I am convinced today, if all the foreign aid were stopped, we can build up our own indigenous technology. We have been so accustomed to think in terms of foreign assistance that somehow we have acquired the habit of walking with crutches. But if we are driven to a situation when we get no foreign assistance at all, and we have to manufacture everything in this country, I think, to a large measure, we shall do it; we have sufficient scientific and technological talent to do that.

There is already a feeling in the country today that we should cut down and economise in various spheres of national activity. I agree with that. The first priority must be given to defence. But scientific research is essential for our defence and therefore I hope that far from cutting down our expenditure on scientific research, we should spend more on that score so that our country can become not only defence-oriented but as far as possible self-reliant in matters of defence.

Sri Shastri’s stature has gone up tremendously and he has received response from the country which no one else could have received. Today, the climate is created in which people are prepared to do anything and sacrifice anything. What we have to decide is how to make proper use of this climate.

(Mainstream, November 13, 1965)

The author was an eminent jurist, diplomat, Union Minister besides being the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.