Revisiting Nehruvian Idealism in the Context of Contemporary Imperialism

Author(s): Anirudh Deshpande
Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 41, No. 52 (Dec. 30, 2006 - Jan. 5, 2007), pp. 54085413
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
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so be it.Indonesia andChile were two recentexamples. Japan.it is not surprisingthatthe rise of Japan"filled"Nehru'syouthfulmindwith nationalisticideas and the young visionaryalmostimmediately"musedof Indian freedomandAsiaticfreedomfromthethraldomof Europe".in 1905.This historicmomentproduceda young idealistin him. if too independent. rT heopening decade of the 21st century is quite significant from the viewpoint of evaluating Jawaharlal Nehru's conception of Asian solidarity both for contemporaryand historical reasons. "stirredup my enthusiasmand I waitedeagerlyfor thepapersforfreshnewsdaily".2 By the 1930sand 1940sNehru'sviews on Japanesenationalism had changedradicallyin line with his critiqueof fascism and Nazism. it was the promise that Asia's futureheld for many of his anti-imperialistcontemporaries thatbegan JawaharlalNehru's political journey. the Bolshevik revolution and subsequent formation of the USSR inspired seven decades of socialist experiments across the globe. an idealist whoseAsianvisionwouldneverdeserthim. Japan. Perhaps the rise of Japan at the beginning of the 20th century had inspired similar feelings.in Bengalwherethe Swadeshimovement had gatheredsteamJapanesenamesbecamequite commonin the households. Nehru began dreaming of leading India to freedom from colonial slavery. Economicand PoliticalWeekly December30.1 One only hopes it is not repeated!Analysts tell us thatwhile the west. Asia. is rising to claim a rightful place in world history.The cops on the beat have rightsunless they defect. ANIRUDH DESHPANDE The routineway to overthrowa civilian governmentis to establish relations with elements in the military. After all. Russo-Japanese he wrote.In Russia. Dreamsand ideals have always been pursuedto make the worlda betterplace and thereis no reasonto believethatthisshouldnothappentodayor tomorrow. led by its two giants. -Noam Chomsky.The mythsof globalisationseem to haveburiedmostdiscussionson imperialismeven as the war in Iraqrages.as thisessay triesto prove. we are being repeatedly informed by the apologists of globalisation. the folks who will have to do thejob.they become enemies.Oneday.139. Iranturnedout to be a harder nut to crack. and specially a heavily indebted US. The local managershave rights as long as they keep to their business. it was more an apposite symbol of Asian awakening in the face of western imperialism and colonialism than the exemplary marriage of 5408 nationalismand imperialistaggressionwhich it laterbecame. are said to be poised on the threshold of global dominance once again. anti-imperialistand secular-nationalist ideasspannedthe 50 yearsbetween1905and 1955. 2006 This content downloaded from 14. This paper evaluates Nehru's vision on Asian cooperation and argues that this was neither an armchair nor an utopian vision but historically grounded in concrete political struggle and personal experience. whenIndiawas partitionedand thenin 1962. to begin with. and fears we must not fail to mention. Powers and Prospects.once in 1947. Barely a year has passed since the 50th anniversaryof the the event remainedunBandungConference.Revisitinghis idealism offers the possibility of fashioning a stronger and real groundfor shaping another resurgence. 'Development Strategies for the 21st Century'.it precipitatedthe Menshevikrevolutionwhichpavedthewayfinallyfortheearth-shaking October Revolutionof 1917. Therefore.this vision grew andmaturedin India's fightagainstBritishimperialism.Thisis easilyunderstood because forthefirsttimein moder historyanAsiancountryhaddefeated an imperialistEuropeanpower.The relevanceof his ideas. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics 2000.dueto theSino-Indianborderwar.As subsequentevents in Nehru'slife proved. in a different context.178 on Thu. -Dani Rodrik. Nehruis still relevant.214. The ideaof a mixedeconomy is possibly the most valuableheritage that the 20th century bequeathed to the 21st in the realm of economic policy.But. If an "iron fist" is needed to preserve "stability". Fromthe moment Japan defeated Russia.logicallyandhistoriconsciousnesswoulddrawa lastcally. Glorious days seemingly await these ancient civilisations which. Since the 18th century history seems to have come a full circle. For all fightersagainstEuropeancolonialism.TheJapanesevictories.the worthof dreamscannotbe measuredonly by theirabilityof becomingreal. Nehru'sAutobiographymentionsthe tremendousimpactthe warof 1904-05hadonhim. 1996.The growthof Nehru's modernist. is declining. pp 139-40. as the growingeconomicties betweenIndiaandChinaindicate. it is increasingly being asserted in various quarters that the coming century will most probably be dominated by China and India. in which case. Nehru'santi-imperialist ing boundarybetweenthe colonialworldandthe aspirationsof a new post-colonialorder. The US has rights by definition. The projectsometimesmeets with success. However. did not appear as an imperialist power to Nehru. In 1905. Contraryto popularopinion this articleclaims thatrememberedor not. Nehru's dreamswere seriously woundedtwice .Theseyears also comprisedimportantdecadesof crucialAsian andAfrican liberationmovements against imperialismand colonialism.this turnedout to be an inspiringevent.is not diminishedbytheblurringof thisboundaryin themindsof India's contemporaryruling classes. Rights accrue to various actors according to their place within the general strategicconception.Revisiting Nehruvian Idealism in the Imperialism Context of Contemporary A critical understandingof Nehruvian idealism is needed especially when there is a tendencyto hold Nehru responsiblefor nearly everythingthat was wrong with India before liberalisation and globalisation.Understandably sung in our globalisedmedia. demonstrated whatanAsiancountryfreeof foreigndominationcouldachieve. Such views are hardly new and have periodically surfaced to hold sway over opinion in the past with reference to other countries. For instance.

Further. Much has happened since 1905. In contrast. And let us not forget that these differences have the capability of upsetting the neoliberal applecarts pushed around by most thirdworld ruling elites.pragmatismgenerallyslides intoreaction. As it turnedout. This intellect is the source of multiple identities and it. They areexposed to environmentaldisasters many of which result from the irresponsible behaviour of third world elites. According to some projections. Once these movements decline people return to their routine. the modern expression of national identity. That is why abjuring a lucrative legal practice. related to the material forces of history as they are. Since the 1980s. wrote that a "foreign policy must be in keeping with the traditional background and temper of the country. Visionaries aremen andwomen firedby dreamsof changing the world substantially. 2006). As the ruling classes of India become increasingly intimate with Washington. will and nationalism. education and the colonial conditions in which he Assuming that in given historical contexts the individual plays spent the formative years of his life he developed a fecund hybrid an important role in history we find that there are individuals intellect . 2006 This content downloaded from 14. On the other hand. an idealist is someone who places "ideals before practical considerations". a new. quite like the Indian civilisation he symbolised. is someone who wants to change the world and thinks the world can be changed by reasonable action. In contradistinction to this stands.According to the dictionarymeaning. after three more decades the two most powerful countries after the US will be China and India although China is far ahead of us in many things. ultimately makes the majority prefer socialism. He extended this volition to the nation state. to rememberthe wise words of BertrandRussell. the foremost representative of modern India and its synthesis with the west.178 on Thu. A century after the Russo-Japanese war.139. Millions of Asians remain poor and uneducated. Penguin. JawaharlalNehru. spelling out the dialectical nature of his beliefs. The condition of women is particularlybad andrampantfemale feticide is making it worse. 1954. continues to remain a matter of ethics. upheld the middle path. Beyond these subaltern moments Illusion of Destiny. rational and scientific action can improve society and elevate civilisation. pragmatism according to which practical considerations should outweigh ideals in our dealing with the world. This paperargues thatthe idealism which shaped Nehru's views on Asian cooperation was neither an armchair nor an utopian but historically grounded . entire epochs get named after some remarkable indi. the principles of non-alignment and national sovereignty appear more as hindrances to them than the guiding principles of Indian nationhood. On the other hand. The time has. therefore. Nehru's progressive idealism.it emerged from his submergence in concrete political struggles and personal experience of some of the most traumatic events of the previous century. It is guided as much viduals. To be fair to both sides it can be said that while idealism carries thedangerof utopianism. This Asia. upbringing. According to pragmatism. How many of these double edged material changes will usher in progress which. It is not free of internal strife. the dismantling of the USSR has added an important dimension to these changes. if the media is taken seriously. Scores of peasant suicides go virtually unnoticed in a mainstream media obsessed with glamour and the shenanigans of politicians. The world has always been divided between those who want to interpret and change it and those who seek practical accommodation with it most of the time. was underlinedby the belief that conscious. idealism is a "theory that the essential nature of reality lies in consciousness or reason". Applied to modern foreign policy and statecraft this meant recognising the historical specificity of the inter-acting parties. imperialist domination and colonial exploitation all of which are interrelated. Nehru's formulations of what I have called progressive idealism were based on his belief in the role of human volition in history. The rising socio-economic violence in many parts of India is a reminder of the fact that globalisation is not working for the majority of people and that the regime is increasinglyfailing to translategrowthinto equitable development.214. Nehru.as the experienceof Latin America shows.maximum gain must be derived from a given situation without thinking too much about the future.a fact common to most western educated Asian intelwho make a big difference to history and the way we remember lectuals. come to revisit Nehru's ideas and examine the possibility of fashioning a stronger and real ground for India's national resurgence. Hence. Asia has become the engine of internationalgrowth.hence is best suited to a pluralistic ambience. This is being written not to endorse the elitist view of history but to highlight the difference between individual pragmatism. which is different from communal or imperialist idealism. It was born in the mind of a person given to intense reflection over long years spent in colonial Indian jails. Globalisation. to use Amartya Sen's words. the vast majority of people are born and by a cosmopolitan affiliation as its local roots and there is little brought up in accordance with the historical conditions prevalent point in trying to compress it into a "solitarist" human identity in theirtimes. His views sometimes appear to be a curious mixture of Buddhism and western notions of modernisation. cultural or religious movements but this happens without their necessarily becoming visionaries. energetic. of our times and the pursuit of ideals in history. An idealist. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 5409 . modernist and emanated from a unique encounThis journey into the universe of Nehru's thought begins with ter of European and Asian civilisations. It is hopefully beginning to regain its centrality in history. In any attempt to define and most of them live good simple conforming lives. It has been said before that Nehru. But how much room do we have for the complacence which has entrapped our bourgeoisie. In a letter to the presidents of Provincial Congress Committees dated July 4. A realist may find himself between these extremes but most realists don't end up changing much. belonged to the community of dreamers. Economic and Political Weekly December 30. In India alone the human development index narratesan abysmal story in stark contrastto what its government claims.The occasionally and fleetingly. he jumped into India's freedom struggle reposing complete trust in the ability of Indians to overthrow colonialism andthereafterbuild a free country. Nehru's vision A Journey into Nehru's Thoughts was progressive. the 'madhya marg'. above all. His Fabian views implied that ideas. have a great role to perform in the shaping of human society. Evaluating the salience of Nehru's vision of Asian cooperation in the contemporaryhistorical context is the purpose of this paper. Historians know thatthey question these conditions critiqued recently by Amartya Sen (Identity and Violence . which (being the practical thing to do in most bourgois households) he would have inherited in due course from his famous father Motilal Nehru.practical people are drawn into social.the reigning "wise-guy scepticism". It should be idealistic and realistic". to which everyone refers these days. From here the road leads to either state authoritarianismor some sortof socialist alterative. Due to the nature of his a simple submission on the role of the individual in history. learning to live and progress despite differences and renouncing expansionist wars. Often these critique Nehruvian modernity it is importantto note that Nehru. also appears vulnerable in many ways. vibrantand hopeful Asia has emerged. Asia today comprises a site for momentous historical changes about to occur in the next few decades. Undoubtedly. Hence. there are obvious differences between a history of economic reforms and the history of Asian people in the same period.

thepolicyof non-alignment "does not mean passivity of mind or action. it emanatedfromtheexperienceof thehorrorsof totalwarproduced by imperialistandinter-imperialist rivalryin the firsthalfof the 20th century. terrorism orcommunalviolence.178 on Thu.treatyobligations. No less than the world view of most leaderswho had fought againstimperialismand were leading their countriesafter the second world war was dependenton the ideologicalmeansto resolvethiscontradicton.withouttryingto imposeourwill on othersin orderto obliteratethosedifferences.Secondly. Nehru'sparadigmtries to resolve the contradictionbetween Asian traditionand westernmodernityby synthesisingcertain andindustrialmodernitywiththe key elementsof enlightenment longcherishedAsianpracticesof peacefulco-existence.debt and so-called free trade.All thisunderscored thephilosophical and methodologicalimportanceof secularism.139. This widespreadanti-imperialist feeling logically impliedthat fraternalanti-colonialfrontswouldleadto friendlypostcolonial ties betweenindependentcountries.The questionwhichhad to be answeredin his times.In the globalisingframeworkof internationalintercourse providedbyNehru.etc. Nehruultimatelyemergedasacritic of war.consensusanddemocracyinthe Nehruviandiscourse. a believerin universalhumanismhe was nonethelessreconciled to the idea that the modernworld would remaina community of sovereignnationstatesfor a long time to come.It emanatedfrom the inabilityof Asiato eitherfullyrejectorcompletelyacceptwestern civilisation.but also to decideits own policy and way of life".persuasion.AlthoughNehru was an Asianleaderhis view of Asiancooperationwas partof a largervisionof Afro-Asianandfinallyinternational cooperation.nationalsovereigntyhadto be guaranteed against whichoccurredin manyformsincludimperialistencroachments ing cold war alignments.Thismultifarious dilemmawascreatedby thearrivalof modernityin Asianhistory throughthe mechanismsof colonialism.as they were. Non-alignmentcouldbe the pivotof any arrangement necessary to renegotiatethesetermsif westerndominationof international relationsand tradeis to be overcome. Asia and the modernworld in general.214."thateach countryhas not only the rightto freedom.Hence.This is the antithesisof whathis myopic successorsareimposingonIndiain thegarbof economicreforms. the southcannot huntwiththehoundsandrunwiththehare.They had no choice but to industrialiseand modernisebut this could hardlybe achievedon termsentirely favourableto the west or by not rejectingthe harmfulconsebetween quencesof the Europeanexperience.therearegoingtobedifferences whichwe mustrecogniseandallowfull play. Thegenerationof AfricanandAsianstatesmento whichNehru belongedpaid considerableattentionto these problems.forinstance.by the combinationof capitalism.the west couldnot be ignoredandaftergainingindependenceAsian countriescould no longer negotiatewith the west on colonial terms. knock down national boundariesand indulgein nucleardoublestandardsthe Indian rulingelite should not forget Nehru's words on this subject: Thefirstthingto remember is that. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Today it is also between growth and sustainabledevelopment and between developmentandsocialjustice.IndiraGandhionwards. Once a country's"wayof life" is 5410 threatened inthegarb by eitherpoliticalalignmentorintervention of trade.were graduallyjettisoned bytheIndianpoliticiansin favourof electoral opportunismand politicalcynicism.freedomorsocialism.The fast growingcountriesof Asia mustnegotiatewiththewestonnewterms.thereis no one solutionto differentproblemsandthereis no one culture suitedto all countries.Whilethe sovereignnationstate was importantto staveoff a regressionintoneo-colonialismhow much nationalismbased on the nationstate was healthy?The intoregionalimperialismhad dangerof nationalism mushrooming to be curbed. On Asian Fraternity Accordingto Nehru a fraternityof Asian countrieswas a necessaryconditionfor the resolutionof Asia's historicalproblemscausedprimarilybyimperialismandcolonialism.nonviolence.Asia could not completelyignorethe westernway in its pathof progress.Thiswasexpressedin thepopularmass movementsagainstimperialismand colonialismall over Asia.Forif Asia were to be at war with itself or at the mercy of greatpowers.andstill remainsunanswered. 2006 This content downloaded from 14. thedoorsto imperialismwouldopenonceagain.Translated inNehruvian parlancethismeansupholdingnationalsovereigntyinthecontext of regionalcooperationand peace. Some of these reactions.was bothanadmirerandcriticof westernhistoryandpolitics.In the era of liberalisationand globalisationthe Asian dilemmahas assumeda new significance. nationalismandimperialism.divertpopularattentionfrom real issues andconfoundthe understanding of historicalcauses andeffects in general. On the otherhand. and contrarytothecanardpopularthesedays.manyreactionsin thatcountry arise.Thesevalues. to assumethatthese problemsare of archivalinterestin the age of globalisationwould constitutea grave error. In theirrush to integratewith the world economy.Theapparentcontradiction duringdecolonisationwasbetweenthelegacyof colonialismand a postcolonialmodernitywhichhadto breakfreefromthislegacy.discussion.hisviewswereinfluencedbytheorganisational natureof theIndianmassmovementagainstBritishrulealthough his differenceswithGandhion mattersof scientificprogressand industrialisation remainedstrong.like fundamentalism.The contradiction nationalismand imperialismremainedstrong.cultural pluralismandpoliticalgradualismin a historicalcontinuum.The rejectionof expansionistwarswas combined withan emphasison the welfarestate.Uponthe worldbecomingmodern.He was trulya cosmopolitan.unliketherepresentatives of theurbanIndianelitethesedays.The policy was based on the premise.whiletheworldis inevitably .if peace andprogresswere to prevailin Asia.However.Underliningthe westernconquestof Asia was the industrialrevolutionandimperialismbothproducedby modem Europeanhistory.appearselementarybuthas profoundimplications:Howmuchof thewesternwaycouldAsia safely emulate? The Western Way Theeconomicandphilosophicalconsequencesof colonialism havebeenprofoundinthethirdworld.If thesedifferencesdeclinednaturallyit was Economicand PoliticalWeekly December30.greaterinteractionbetween countrieswould be more importantthan integration.peace. What emerges clearly from Nehru's ideas is an attemptto dilemmainheritedby resolvea simplebutvastlyunderestimated manyAsiancountriesfromtheircolonialpast.becausethishas commonwaysof actionandthinking developing becomeessential. lack of faith or conviction". Deeply shakenby the enormouslydestructivewarsof the 20th centurycaused.His thoughton the subjectwas informedfirstly by the will of the colonialsubjectsin Asia.atomicweaponsand the cold warwhichthreatenedthe veryexistenceof humanityduringthe 1950sand1960s.Thenatureandhistory of globalisationindicatesthatthesetermshaveyet to be defined and implementedto the satisfactionof non-westerninterests.Since they were unitedby their past their salvation too lay in friendship.Although at hearthe was an internationalist and. disarmament andthepolicyof non-alignment in Nehru'sscheme of things.like Rabindranth Tagore.Thereinlies thecauseof his transhistorical relevanceto India.Thirdly.Accordingto him. Individualdifferenceshad to be toleratedin the interestof communityhealth.inevitably also.Sincethewheelsof historycouldnotbe turned back.Norcouldtheyallow"tradition" to pullbacktheprocessof modernisation.

139.Sinceanti-imperialism was a cornerstoneof Nehru'svisionof international relations.His vision of international cooperation. Economic and Political Weekly In Nehru'shistoricalperspectiveIndian. a civilisationalsyllhesis characterisedthe culturalevolutionof Asia.If Indiabecomesa globaleconomicpowerinfuture. The interconnectedand cosmopolitan evolutionof Asia from the prehistoricto moder periodproceededalong the lines of migrations. India remainsa sourceof inspirationalbeittheIndianelite'sfascination withthewest is frownedupon. Religiousconflict was knownandresolvedbutreligiouswars.likethosewhichoccurred in Europeanhistory. as Nehru'sgenerationunderstood ratherwell.buteven hold himresponsiblefornearlyeverythingwhichwaswrongwithIndia Allsaidanddone. In the Nehruvianparadigman ambienceof peacefulcoexistenceis noticeablein ancientandmedievalAsia.Historyoften shows thatthe unfashionable is neitherirrelevantnor necessarilyunworthyof emulation.makethe mistakeof placinghim outsidehis context.anoutcomehe wouldhavecertainly disliked.Afghanistan.Indiais seen by manyas a microcosmof Asia.Whilethere is meritintheargument thatNehrutookthediscourseof modernity.Nehru'sAsia was shapedby Hinduism. Ambience of Peaceful Coexistence Inthepast. This becomesclearin the way Nehrudealtwith Asia's military historyandthevariousmilitaryinvasionsof Indiafromthenorthwestern regions. specially in the mattersof large projects such as dams and industrialplants.ThehistorianRamchandra Guhaonce politico-historical remarkedin a piece on Nehruin the EPWthatcriticsoftenhold himwronglyresponsibleforthesinsof his followers. in his holistic scheme of historyAsiaappearedas a deeplyinterconnected regionwithsubregional variations.Inthecontemporary languageemployedbyAmartyaSen. the passageof time.Iraqand the gatheringclouds overIranaremilestonesof a postcolonialhistorywhichis rarely freeof imperialism. modernisation.Chinese.Frompersonal experienceI knowthatfor muchof pluralisticsouthAsia. linguistic and religiousinfluences.Itis awellknownfactthatmanyAsianandAfricancountries continueto look upon Indiaas an exampleof workingparliamentarydemocracyand economic gradualism. if Asian countriesstressedregionalcooperation inthecontemporary period. These were temporary phenomenawhichultimatelygave way to socio-culturaladjustmentsandeventuallymanyregionsof Asiadevelopeda syncretic culture.unity logically following this. IndiansandMongolshad convertedthe land mass of Asia and the Indian Ocean region into a tolerantcosmopolitantradeorientedregion.Their culturewas secureyet not closed to externalinfluences.harmonyandculturalcontinuities.a subjectdeeply examinedand loved by Nehru.weremererippleson the surface of the Asian civilisation.and "peacefulcompetition" was predicateduponthisrealisationandwas in tunewith major developmentsin the world history. In the postcolonialperiodNehrurealisedthatthe world was increasinglybecoming multipolarand polycultural.the pictureis not idyllic.Hence to comprehendhis visionof Asiancooperation.culture. Till the rise of communalismin the colonialperiod Indianeitherhad its Jews nor a two-nationtheory.Asian countrieswerecloselyrelated to eachotherby landandsea routes. Accordingto him the militaryphenomena. statesmen like him. in an appraisalof Nehru'scontributionto Indianforeignpolicy in 1992.stable and independentIndiaimplies a well knit Asia. It had also createda great deal of space for Christianity. DuringNehru'syears they were also expressedby democrats like JohnF Kennedyaccordingto whom therecould not be an Americansolution to differentcountries'problems. December 30.Thisis notto saythathis view mustbecomea dogmafor us or thatwe shouldrejectthe possibilitiesevidentintrade.Buddhismand Islamandmanyothersectsandreligionssincethe ancienttimes.colonial and postcolonialperiods.his contriandglobalisation.These views were not unique. and political cohesion would prove to be Asia's strengthsin future. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 5411 . Violencewas not a stranger to theregionandits complexstratifiedsocietybutthesystematic useof violencein commercialandimperialistinterestengendered by Europeanpowers laterwas not the norm.bothon the rightandleft of India's politicalspectrum. industrialisation.Palestine.In contrast.Accordingto Nehruthe villain in Asian historywasnota particular religion.butonly to assertthelastingsalienceof his perspective and therebyremainalertto the dangersposed by globalisation to India'sregionalspecificities. The atmospherepervadingthe past of this continentwas characterised by politicalconflictbetweenelites amidstgeneral socio-culturalaccomodationand peace.To begin with. beforeliberalisation butionto the makingof modernIndiashouldbe criticallyunderstood. The late J N Dixit.Persians.one thingbutcountrieshadno right"tothinkthatit is theirduty to makeotherslike themselves". hasnotdiminishedwith AfghanistanandIraqhavedemonstrated. persecutedminoritieselsewhereoftensoughtandfounda home in India.214.The persecution of minoritiesand genocides resultingfrom racism and ultranationalism.Nehru'scritics. In the Asia of Nehru'shistoriography people had learnthow to thrivewithoutlettingthesedifferencescomein theirway. Indianswill ultimatelythankthe middle of the road stability providedto its polityby the nationalconsensusforgedby Nehru soon after Indianindependence.it is importantto recollecthis views on history. thismeansa culturebasedupona generallypeacefulcoexistence of diversedifferencesand multipleidentities.The relevance of these views.and was in turn guided by.In fact.178 on Thu. However. 2006 This content downloaded from 14.as in some Europeancountries.unequivocallystatedthatNehru's idealismwas not naive but basedon concretehistoricalconditions.likethepresent. Hence. historywas divided into the pre-colonial.tradeandthe rise andfall of kingdomsand empires.culturaldiversityand national sovereignty. Nehru in the Politico-Historical Context ToarestlessdreamerlikeNehruchanginghumanconsciousness anddevelopingreasonandscientifictemperweresimultaneously necessaryfor nationaland internationalgrowth and regional cooperation.his views retaina contemporaryresonancein the contextof postcolonialimperialism and neocolonialismwhich often entersthe thirdworldthrough thebackdoordeckedupinglobalisation. Vietnam.Longbeforethe Europeans "discovered" the sea routeto Indiathe Arabs.Hence.wouldbearepetitionof historybecausedecolonisation was only a check on imperialismnot a guaranteeagainstit.was simplynot the Asian way.racialgrouporAsiancultural traitbuttheinsufficientgrowthof scientifictemperandAsian politicalconsciousnesswhich in the first place madeAsia vulnerableto imperialistconquestandcolonialexploitation. Thefluidhistoryof thiscontinentwasinterrupted anddistorted by the adventof moder imperialismand colonialismwhich resultedfrom the developmentof capitalismand an industrial revolutionin Europe.Thealternativeto this. markedby periodiccrossAsianinvasions. Pertinentin thiscontextis the historyof the 20th centurywhich produced.It goes withoutsaying that a strong.they were subduedin comparisonwith forces whichencouraged coexistence. as foreign interventionin Vietnam.were almost unknown.and by implication Asian.Althoughconflict and changewere very mucha part of Asianhistory.alittletooseriouslyhe certainlydoesnotdeserve theepithetsreservedforhimin Indiandrawingrooms.Butis there any doubtthatthe educationalinstitutionsset up by his regime have paidoff in the long run?In these neoconservativetimesit hasbecomefashionablenotonlyto rundownNehru.

" This certainambivalence. due to the class contradictionsproduced and sharpened by capitalism.the USSR presentedanalluringmodelto theex-colonialcountries. The pre-colonial period of Asian history lasted till the Europeans colonised different Asian regions.hintingat the dangerwhich excessive nationalismposedto freedom. The epoch of imperialism and colonialism which began in the 18th century was one in which many Asian people were enslaved by imperialism and their countries were exploited ruthlessly by the colonial powers.evolved by thecapitalistworld. The second model was emerging in the colonies where new nation states were being articulated by the anti-colonial movements. Fascism and Nazism were forms of extreme nationalism produced by the crisis of industrial capitalism and were rejected by all secular nationalists. fascism and Nazism were produced by modernity.werebasedon violenceand suppressionof countriesandpeople. independence This was the perspectivewhich ultimatelyled to the Asian RelationsConferencein New Delhi in 1947. more so in the inter-war period. The third model was presented by the rise of socialism .wherepossible. France and Holland grew into imperialistpowers..The oldermethods. Two yearslaterhis idea of Asiancooperationwas crossingthe limits of nationalism. The greatest inspiring example of socialism would be the Bolshevik revolution and the subsequent transformation of Tsarist Russia into the USSR.En route to theSovietUnion. education. Hence. The socialist experiment was unique to history.in his presidentialaddressto theLahoreSession of the IndianNationalCongress. There was no harmin locating useful traditionsin history and reinventing them to serve the present.educational andscientificacievementsof the USSR neverthelessimpressed andinspiredhim. Both these ideologies exemplified the horrors of racism and extremist nationalism while imperialism. As far as imperialism. Nor could he have developeda more comprehensivepost-modernistcritiqueof modernityto which we havebecomeaccustomedtoday.couldbe helpfulin solvingour problemsor the world'sproblems. However. the socialist alternative was conceived by the leftist critics of capitalism in Europe.Althoughneverenamoured of communistmethods. when Nehru was still a reasonably young man in the 1920s. The colonial interlude in Asian history was marked by unprecedented violence. no solitaryapproachsuitableto all countries. the articulationof the 'Panchsheel'(The five principlesof peacefulcoexistence) and finallythe evolutionof non-alignment. the colonial period also produced the historical conditions for the rise of modem Asian nations. modernisation. It was thisneedof allpeopleandcountrieslabouringagainstimperialism that led to the left-initiatedformationof organisationssuch as the InternationalLeague againstImperialism.178 on Thu. Between the two world wars. emphasis on welfare.industrial. Despite an admirableunderstandingof world history and internationalrelationsNehrucould not have possibly foreseen the demiseof the USSR. they had led to greatwarsand they themselves.A backward countrylike India had a lot to lear from the USSR where moderisation was rapidlyprogressingin relativelybackward conditionsbutit couldhardlyemulatewhatMoscowwas trying to achieve.he paraphrased Gandhiby saying thatthe nationalismof the IndianNationalCongresswas "based on the most intenseinternationalism". in his view andcontraryto whatwe arewitnessing today.. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Nehru took this for granted given the popularity of the Indian National Congress and the planning process.he wonderedwhetherthe "new economic approach. 1955.In December1929. The impact of western civilisation. However.but even here ambiguities remained. development and sympathy with fraternal movements was integral to the formation of nationalism in the Asian and African colonies. the USSR demonstrated how a country could industrialise in a period of crisis and depression.which held the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels.However. economic destruction.At theBrusselsCongresshe madeit clear that "the strugglefor freedomwas a commonone againstthe thing thatwas imperialism.joint action was desirable".he even spokeof toningdown individualsovereigntyin theinterestof regionalorsupra-regional groups. he admitted thatdespitethe limitationsof communism"theeconomicappeal [of USSR]remained"."Ihaveno doubt thatIndiawill welcome all attemptsat worldcooperationand federationand will even agree to give up part of her own to a largergroupof whichsheis anequalmember".shorn of its violence and coercion and suppressionof individualliberty. emerged in the imperialist latecomers. three models of modern nationhood were already in existence laying down the future of international relations and shaping his views on regional cooperation. Anti-imperialism.whichhas given way to the undemocratic ties of our times.Further. Nehru categorically rejected these models.fromtheBandungAfro-AsianConferencein 1955onwards. Theanti-colonialstrugglesof theAsianpeopleshadto succeed for the new Asian nationstatesto be free and independentand only then would a new era in Asian cooperationbegin.His ideason cooperationbetween ex-colonialcountrieswere forminginto a flexible perspective in the inter-waryears. Colonialism also gave rise to communalism and official policy promoted it as a counterpoise against nationalism. On the other hand. 2006 This content downloaded from 14.andlackof integrityandmoralapproach. we must not fail to notice.whatevertheir protestations.and. anti-colonialism.While he remainedcriticalof totalitariancommunist practices. Asian nationalism had important lessons to learn from all of them.SinceSovietindustrialisation andmodernisation were takingplace outsidethe capitalistworld. industrialism and technology and finally the sharpening of the colonial contradictions produced an Asian middle class and the kernels of modern Asian nation states. Modern Nationhood Models The first model was presented by the capitalist nation state which had evolved in some countries of Europe.214.a phrasecoinedby Nehru."Havingattainedherfreedom"he said. The impact of the USSR on Nehruvian socialism should not be underestimatedbut we must never lose sight of the fact that while drawing importantlessons from the Soviet experiment.139. the secularnationalism which evolved in the colonies was largely bourgeoisbased and could develop hegemony over the masses in the postcolonial period only with the aid of a successful welfare state.fascism and nazism.socialismexcitedhim andthe palpable Economicand PoliticalWeekly December30. Their wealth was drained away and their civilisation distorted. ideas of modernity. Nehru addressedthiscongressin February1927beforevisitingMoscow forthefirsttimelaterthatyear.hadfailedandofferedno solution. Therewas. left ample room for departuresboth from Moscow and Washingtonand eventuallybecome the basis of the non-alignmentmovement.thepoliticalwill.Indeed. socialenergy. socialism. spread of modern education. Many of these nation states like Britain. social exploitation and cultural oppression of the Asian societies which came under imperialist rule and influence.they were only reiterating a historical fact in changed circumstances. condemned the vast majority of humans to subservience. which Japan began to emulate from the early 1930s. The extreme form of Europeannationalism. and in comparison with the capitalist countries..writingto thechief ministersof Indianstates in flight from Bombayto Cairoon June 5. Nehru remained critical of communist 5412 methods. Even as the search for paradigmscontinuedthe element of doubt remained because Nehru's thought was historicalenoughnot to fall preyto a naive theorisingwhichis so popularthese days.

139. mineral and forest wealth have made them vulnerable to imperialist exploitation once again in history and this highlights the salience of anti-imperialism mentioned in this paper. As the war clouds gather over the Persian Gulf and the western powers plan to send Iran back to the stone age the time for some serious soul searching has come for the Indian ruling elite. It is only reasonableto suppose that if imperialismdesires an ideal world in which only imperialist interestsmatterthen the forces which seek independencefrom such an ordermust have their own counter-ideals. countries which surrendertheir freedom for complacence neither remain free nor prosperous for very long.a hundredyears after the resoundingJapanesenaval victory over Russia in 1905 and 50 years after Nehru's long official visit to the USSR in 1955.The alternativeto this has alreadyunderminedAsiansolidarity. And to begin with.whichthe imperialistdeniesto beginwith.] 1 A seminaron JawaharlalNehru's ideas and vision was organisedby the Indian Embassy. Above all.as the late EdwardSaid often observedin the context Email: anidesh6@yahoo.co.It excludesneitherwarnorpoverty.178 on Thu. Economicand PoliticalWeekly December30. Only time will tell whethera policy of alignmentwithWashingtonor detachmentfromimperialism. In the 1950s the world was bipolarbut now it is increasingly becomingmultipolarthusironicallyhighlightingthe importance of the Nehruvianvision once again.vitalityin the young Soviet Union impressedhim greatly. Kazakhstan. 2006 This content downloaded from 14.the frameworkof foreign relationsand Asian cooperationdeveloped by Nehru retainsa certainrelevancetoday in the same way as the state does in certaincontextsreviewedby the anarchistcriticNoam India'sattitudetowardsAsian counChomsky. a divorce from principles and common sense only leads to national and regional disaster. The inter-country parity. This paperis a greatlyrevised versionof the one presented by the authorat that seminar (June 17. ICCR and the KazakhstanGovernment in Almaty.India. 01 benefitgoverningthe relationsbetweenvariousAsiancountries . Notes Concluding Remarks This paper is neither a comprehensivereview of Nehru's positionon mostpoliticalanddiplomaticmattersnoranunqualifieddefenceof theNehruvianthought.As longas regionalorglobal imperialismremains.It is basedon a historian's contentionthat despite various limitations. In sum. like individuals.is the sine qua non of negotiations.A large partof Nehru'sdream was conceived with the lofty aim of saving the ex-colonial countriesfromfurthervisitationsof the most balefulaspectsof westernhistory. will helpIndia in future. Earlier the NDA government would have sent the Indian army to Iraq but for rising public criticism of the American occupation and plunder of that country.214. and as internationalopportunism over Iraq has shown. Nor should globalisation be allowed to create an illusion that the west is willing to treat the third world as an equal. history might repeat itself because. Premier Nehru would have disapproved of such diplomatic opportunism on grounds which are as importanttoday as they were in the 1950s and 1960s. India is neither prosperous nor can it risk regional isolation. it is only reasonable thatIndia's approachto Asia must be underlinedby the ten principles of Bandung which retain their relevance despite our being informed that the world has become flat in the age of globalisation. A grave errorhas already been committed by the UPA government in respect of Iran. Forthe presentwe cannotthinkof an Asian federationbeing predicatedupon anything but theprinciple of equality and mutual are not even guaranteed to the majority.ascenariopreferred byimperialism sincethe 19thcentury.therecannotbe development andwithoutpopulardevelopmenttherecan be no realprogress. 2 We are remindedby the apologists of US policies thatJapanwas helped by Washingtonand prosperedunderthe US nuclearumbrelladuringthe cold war.He told the west thatAsia. can hardly behave irresponsibly towards its immediate neighbours and other Asian countries in the vain hope that it has Washington's certificate to do so.as far as the radicalsof the 1920s could see.Unlike exploitativecapitalismit was viewed as a window of opportunityoffered by historyto the backwardregionsof the worldspeciallyin the 1920sand 1930s. havinghadenough of imperialistimpositionsand war in the colonial part of its history.Trendsindicatethatin the long run this multipolaritywill emerge in the context of a protracteddecline of the US.Socialism. Similarideas are floating in the Indianmedia and government circles with respect to the growing Indo-US economic and nuclear cooperationin the context of Chinahaving emergedas the greatestthreat to US hegemony in Asia. Will Indiabecome an effective counterto China in alliance with America and Japan or will it ultimately go the Latin Americanway? Will it balance the power equationin Asia to check the growinghegemony of China?Or will India's growing tilt towardsthe US and indulgenceof nucleardouble standardsforce some of its neighbours like Pakistanand Chinato forge a strategicalliance againstit? This paper tries to understandthe Nehruvianvision of Asian solidarityin response to these questions.threateningregionalbalance.destroying nationaleconomiesandcreatingperpetualwarlikeconditionsby their imperatives.desirednothingfromthe worldbutrespitefromwarand a relationshipconducive to its progress.Indeedglobalisation.thenew 'avatar' of internationalfinancecapital.has alreadycreatedintractable problemsin mostcountries.the bedrockof Nehruvianforeignpolicy. Furthermore. 15 Jan 2015 10:22:58 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 5413 .the five principles of non-alignment Panchsheel have. could help liberatethe Asian people from the yoke of imperialism. They could begin by asking whether there is a "pragmatic"alternativeto the abandonmentof vison. They must also look at history and wonder if any country has ever become a great power with the assistance of an imperialist.wherehumanrightsanddemocracy [I am indebted to Anu for drawing my attention to Dani Rodrik's paper mentioned in the beginning. Much before that India had refused to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in appropriateterms.Contemporary triescannotbe obliviousto an Asian destinybeing plannedby elementswho thewesternimperialistsledby theneoconservative rule the US today. 2005). If New Delhi assumes an ostrich like posture in becoming an agency of western imperialism. The enormous natural and national resources of Asian countries like oil.economicdevelopment.Contemporary to solve the numerousproblemsbesettinghumanityat the beginningof the21stcentury.an integralpartof the Nehruvianvision. it is in the interest of all Asian countries to oppose the monopoly over the oil reserves of Iraq and Iran which the western powers so desperately seek and express solidarity with the victimised people of these countries. Countrieson theimperialistradarscreenscannotaffordto drift forvariousreasons anchorless. unfortunately for Nehru bashers.Without peace and equality.but this hardlysignalledthe victoryof historyshowsthatcapitalismhasfailed capitalism. the resilience of anti-western terrorism.Nehru'santi-imperialistvision of Asian cooperationwill remainrelevant.The simplicityof the Bolshevikleadersandtheirearnestattemptsto industrialisea backwardfeudalcountryleft a lastingimpression on the youngnationbuilder.growthof left wing movementsin manypartsof the world and the rise of China.regionalbalance andultimatelycompromisedpeace. regained their relevance to Asian cooperation despite the end of the USSR and the cold war. In the event Soviet communismcollapsedunderthe weight of its own contradictions. Therefore.in of themiddle-east"peaceprocess".