India's foreign policy has a historical back- ground which has not so far been systematically studied. The Indian National Congress, the main organization that carried the struggle for national freedom, showed interest in questions of foreign policy right from its birth in 1885. This interest, at first limited, grew with the broadening of its general political outlook. Gradually, certain principles on foreign policy and certain ways of looking at world affairs evolved. These became the foundations of India's foreign policy when she emerged as a free country on 15 August, 1947, and form the subject of the present study. The importance of this subject is further underlined by the role of Jawaharlal Nehru. As India's Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs he was the chief architect of her foreign policy; earlier he had also been largely responsible for shaping the Congress outlook on world affairs from 1927 onwards.
The Nehru Legacy in India's Foreign Policy has been continuing to guide India's foreign policy to a large extent even after the passing away of Nehru. Hence a study of the evolution of Indian foreign policy during the period of struggle for independence will, it is hoped, also deepen our understanding of India's foreign policy today.
Nothing is stationary in this world, certainly not foreign policy. It changes according to circumstances and conceptions of national interests. But our understanding of every phenomenon is improved by a study of its antecedents. This is part of the justification of all historical writing. This is also the assumption behind the present study. We shall be able to understand India's foreign policy better if we are familiar with the attitude of the Indian National Congress towards world affairs between 1885 and 1947.
Formerly Professor of South Asian Studies and Dean, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), and India'sAmbassadorto Nepal, Bimal Prasad is at present Founder-Director of Rajendra Prasad Academy, Chairman of the Rajendra BhawanTrust, Chairman of the National Gandhi Museum and President Indian Council for South Asian Cooperation.
Before joining the School of International Studies, Professor Prasad was Professor of History, Patna University and Fulbright- Smith-Mundt Scholar, University Fellow in History and Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Humanities at the Columbia University. In later years, he was Senior Fellow in History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Visiting Professor of Modern Commonwealth History at the University of Leeds.
Professor Prasad has authored and edited several books relating to Modern Indian History and India's Foreign Policy. Among his works on the latter, mention may be made of The Origins ofIndian Foreign Policy (Calcutta, 1960, 1962); Indo-Soviet Relations, 1947-72 (New Delhi, 1973); India's Foreign Policy: Studies in Continuity and Change, edited and with an overview, (New Delhi, 1979) and Regional Cooperation in South Asia: Problems and Prospects, edited and with an Introduction.
At present Professor Prasad is engaged in preparing a comprehensive and objective study of India's Foreign Policy: The Nehru Era, 1947-'64, an assignment entrusted to him by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, which has recently conferred upon him the honour of being appointed as a 'National Fellow in Social Sciences' for two years.
This book was first published in 1960 and reprinted in 1962. As the Indian leadership has continued to be guided, to a large extent, by the Nehru legacy in foreign policy, some friends have often been suggesting to me the desirability of reissuing it. It has been their contention that it will not be possible for us to have a proper understanding of our foreign policy without a knowledge of its roots. As a student of history, I could not but listen to their suggestion. I do hope the venture will help the readers to understand India's foreign policy in its historical perspective.
While undertaking this project, I have been primarily guided by the advice of ProfessorMuchkund Dube, President of the Council for Social Development (New Delhi) and formerly Foreign Secretary of the Government of India and Professor of South Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and C Rajamohan, Head of Strategic Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi) and Foreign Affairs Columnist, Indian Express. I am extremely thankful to them for their warm commendation included in the book. ProfessorDube has gone beyond commendation and added a substantial and valuable piece to the book by way of his 'Forward', and I am extremely grateful to him for this.
I am thankful to Ms Renu Kaul, enterprising Director of Vitasta Publishing (New Delhi) for her courage in undertaking the publication of a book, first published over half a century ago, and her constant encouragement to me to bear my part of the burden as promptly as she was doing hers.
Professor Bimal Prasad's book, The Origins of Indian Foreign Policy, has stood the test of time for several decades now. It still remains, in my humble opinion, by far the most useful and reliable source for understanding the ideals, principles, motives and compulsions that went into the shaping of independent India's foreign policy. The very fact that another re-print of the book is coming out more than half a century after its publication, is a glowing testimony to the seminal value of this book.
It is farthest from my intention in this Foreword to bring this book up-to-date. For, to do so will call for writing an altogether new book, if not books, on India's foreign policy. However, an attempt is made in the following paragraphs to recapture the vision that the leaders of India's independence movement had, of the world order that should be built on the debris of the destruction and devastation of the Second World War, delineate the chief characteristics of the international order, primarily underpinned by the United Nations, that was put in place after the War, and examine the validity and feasibility of the original vision of the Indian leaders in the contemporary context.
The leaders of India's independence movement had a vision of a United Asia or an Asian Federation. In his Presidential address at the 1922 Indian National Congress, C R Das saw the emergence of a "union of oppressed nationalities of Asia". At the Brussels Congress in 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru expressed the hope that common cultural and economic interests would "facilitate the consummation of the scheme of Asian Federation". The Indian National Congress was so fascinated by the idea of Asian Federation that in 1928, it directed its Working Committee to correspond with the leaders of other Asian countries and take other steps to hold in India in 1930 the first session of a "Pan-Asiatic Federation". On account of the almost exclusive pre-occupation of the Congress leaders with developments at home having direct bearing on India's independence movement, this idea had to be kept on hold until 1947 when the Asian Relations Conference was convened in New Delhi from March 23 to April 2 that year. India very much wanted a structure of Pan-Asian cooperation to emerge from that Conference. A makeshift secretariat was set up in the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, to pursue this idea and there was even an understanding that the Conference would be reconvened in the capital of one of the other participating countries, most probably China. But this could not materialize due to a variety of factors, both internal and external.
Immediately after the Second World War when the major powers of the world got engaged in the negotiations on the Charter of the United Nations, the focus of the Indian leaders shifted from "Asian Federation" to "World Federation". In an interview with the United Press (America) on 1 January 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru said that if a proper international order came into being, there would be no need for small federations. In his inaugural address at the Asian Relations Conference, he stated that the Asians had arrived at a stage in human affairs when the ideal of One World' and s me kind of a world federation seemed to be essential, though there were many obstacles and dangers in the way. The Asians should work for that ideal and not for any grouping which came in the way of this larger group. They should, therefore, "support the United Nations which was painfully emerging from its infancy".
The Indian leaders, however, attached supreme importance to the Asian countries cooperating for achieving the larger ideal of 'One World' and adopting common policies in the areas of "defence, trade, economic and cultural growth". In his interview to the United Press, Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged "some kind of closer association" between Asian countries "for both defence and trade" and for "presenting a joint front in the councils of the world".
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