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Jawaharlal Nehru: Inexcusable Blunders on China That Dammed India Forever

Updated on May 23, 2020
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MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.

Beginning

After India became free in 1947, Nehru claimed the mantle of the Indian leadership by virtue of the fact that he was a close associate of Gandhi. A reading of books of that period shows that perhaps partition i.e the creation of the state of Pakistan could have been avoided but for the desire of Nehru and Patel to hold the reins of power. There are two very illuminating books on the subject. The first by Leonard Mosley, "The last days of the Raj" and the second by Jaswant Singh," Nehru Jinnah and partition"

The facts that emerge from these books show that Pandit Nehru was obsessed to become the prime minister of India and persuaded Gandhi to agree to partition because a united India would have meant Jinnah becoming the Prime Minister. Many other historians have corroborated this fact.

Obsession

Nehru's obsession to be the Prime Minister and the fact that he became one was entirely courtesy Gandhi. It is a known fact that Gandhi neglected his four sons in preference to Nehru who he considered being the jewel of India and backed him to be the prime minister of India. The other contender Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who appeared to have greater support in the Congress party was sidelined on the instructions of Gandhi.

Having become prime minister he was obsessed with making his name as a great "Third World Leader."At the same time history records that he had no idea of power politics and strategic domination as all his life he had been sitting in agitations against the British, His political experience consisted of leading marches or sitting in Dharna when Gandhi was going on his famous fast unto death.

He was also mortally scared of losing power in a military coup d'etat, especially after Burma and Pakistan came under the boots of the army. General Ne Win took power in Burma and General Ayub Khan became president of Pakistan. This created a fear psychosis in Nehru's mind and he took a conscious decision to reduce the power of the Army. This had disastrous consequences because no new weapons came to the army and it continued using the First World War vintage Lee Enfield .303 rifle.

Just after he came became prime minister, a civil war had commenced in China between the Communists-led by Mao Tse Tung and the Nationalists led by General Chang Kai Shek. This was the time for Nehru to consolidate his power and India's reach by taking some action in Tibet.

Failure

By the 1913 Simla pact the British, then the paramount power had ensured that Tibet would remain a buffer state between China and India. Nehru, unfortunately, did not subscribe to this policy as he believed that China was India's friend. How this man got this idea beats imagination. The net result was that he gave up all the privileges which the British had in Tibet, like maintaining troops at five places and left the Tibetans totally defenseless. He also failed to set up any administration in the state of Aksai Chin which was a part of Kashmir.

He also failed to get a border agreement done with Tibet to sanctify the MacMohan line, the border in the east which had been agreed to in the Simla conference. Many Indians are of the view that if Sardar Patel had been the Prime Minister things would have been different. Unfortunately we are living in a dream world because Sardar Patel was the deputy prime minister and Home Minister. It was his job to set up the administration in Aksai Chin and Northeast frontier but he did nothing. Why? This has never been explained.

China invaded Tibet in 1949-50 but Nehru failed to intervene. This is a mystery as at that time the Chinese army was not a match to the Indian Army but Nehru's fondness for China probably played on his mind and he failed to come to the help of the Tibetan people. There is a report that Sardar Patel wrote a letter to Nehru regarding the invasion of China but it stands to reason that at that time he was the deputy prime minister and he never asserted in this matter.

The net result was that China occupied Tibet with the acquiescence of Nehru and Patel. Patel died in 1950 of a heart attack and after that the field was open to Nehru to do what he pleased. Having little knowledge of how to lead a nation he thought sentiments and good wishes were enough and he began to befriend China at the expense of the United States and other powers. He began to champion China's cause and in the 1955 Bandung conference of non-aligned nations he was the man who introduced the Chinese Prime Minister Chou- en- Lai to the world.

Nehru visited China in 1954 and met Mao but Mao never came to India. Unknown to Nehru the Chinese held India in contempt and they claimed thousands of miles of Indian territory in Aksai Chin. As it was vacant land with no Indian presence the Chinese occupied it and Nehru lost 30,000 mi.² to China. At the same time he and Patel had not delineated the eastern border and China declared that the Mac Mohan line was a relic of the imperialistic Raj and could not be the border between India and China. They claimed the entire Northeast Frontier Agency an area equal to Italy as part of China.

With all this happening, Nehru still did not wake up and these developments had no impact on his policy of friendship with China. He began to champion China's cause for membership of the Security Council. He lived in a dreamworld and began to claim the mantle of the great third world leader but he did not realize that without any military power and strategic policy of consolidation of what the British had left behind was not the best way to go forward and the balloon on which he was sitting was bound to get punctured

Blunders

Hindi -Chin Bhai Bhai( India -China Brothers)

Knowledgeable observers brought out to Nehru that China had occupied Aksai Chin and built roads through it to connect Tibet with Sinkiang. This became public knowledge in 1955 and yet Nehru never made it public. He issued a policy statement claiming that China had suzerainty over Tibet and must give it some autonomy. He failed to realize that China and Tibet were two separate nations and Tibet had been functioning as an independent nation throughout the 20th century.

As part of the Hindi -Chini Bhai-Bhai policy in 1958, a Chinese military delegation came to India. General JFR Jacob who at that time was a lieutenant colonel has recorded in his autobiography that when the Chinese were taken for a firepower demonstration at the military cantonment at Ambala the Chinese general during a banquet made some telling comments about India. He reportedly said that China would never forget the humiliation which the Indian army troops had inflicted on China by looting the summer palace in Beijing doing the second opium war. He also made many other contentious remarks like the Indian action in Shanghai where the entire police force made up of Indians terrorized the local population.

Jacob brought this information to his commander Major General VK Kaul who was a cousin of Nehru. But Kaul who has sold on the Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai theory did not follow this excellent bit of information and admonished Jacob for spreading such news which he deemed to be false. As is well-known Kaul was made a Lieutenant General and made commander of 3 Corps fight against China in 1962 but he proved unequal to the task and had to be removed as commander. He finally ended up in the hospital.

At that time Nehru was strutting around the world stage and met leaders like Marshall Tito, Soviet leaders as well as General Eisenhower and projecting India and himself as a great Third World leader. He was also sold on the Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai theory and was so obsessed with China that he did something unthinkable.

Spurning seat in Security Council

In 1954, the President of the United States at that time general Ike Eisenhower proposed to Nehru that India could occupy the seat of China in the UN Security Council. At that time the Americans were wary of Communist China and were keen that China should not become a member of the Security Council which at that time was being held by Taiwan. This was the background of the offer by the state department to Nehru and at that time this would have gone through.

Nehru rejected the offer and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission to the United Nations. He wrote, “We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council,” he said, adding, “India, because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the Security Council. But we are not going in at the cost of China. Page 3”https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/not-the-cost-china-india-and-the-united-nations-security-council-1950.

Apologists and hero worshippers of Nehru are not able to explain why Nehru rejected something which every nation aspired for. It just about shows the bankruptcy of his political thought and complete lack of appreciation of global power politics.

The Americans were miffed but Nehru outdid himself again. The Soviet Union was cultivating India at that time as a counterpoise to China because relations between the two were reaching breaking point. Nikolai Bulganin the Prime Minister and Nikita Khrushchev the first secretary of the Russian Communist party came to India in 1955 and with the hope of getting Indian support, offered that India could be made a member of the Security Council. The proposal was slightly different and consisted of making India the sixth member of the Security Council.

Nehru wrote a letter to Bulganin rejecting the offer and saying that at an appropriate time India will become a member of the UN and we should first concentrate on getting China admitted to the UN and Security Council. Here was a man who was being offered something on a platter and he was talking of China. Such an act in any other country can almost be called traitorous. (The Wilson Centre, Not at the Cost of China, page 5, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/not-)

Nehru's lack of strategic vision did not end to his rejection of membership of the Security Council but he failed to assess the threat from China militarily. During a meeting with President Eisenhower Nehru said that China would never attack India as we had mighty Himalayan range against China as a border. He further went on to add that as the Himalayan range by itself was a natural barrier there was no need to build any defenses and India would concentrate on trying to support and be friends of China.

How wrong Nehru was becoming apparent in 1962 when he was surprised when the Chinese amassed 80,000 troops and attacked Indian positions across a 3000 km front. The Indian Army already emasculated by Pandit Nehru with his policy of keeping the army in a low profile suffered a heavy defeat.

Late realization

Nehru realized his folly and he even wrote a letter to President Kennedy requesting military help.https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/JFKNSF/111/JFKNSF-111-016.

Earlier Kennedy had also offered India a nuclear device but Nehru's rejected it saying that we do not need any nuclear weapons. China had no such compunctions and in 64 exploded an atomic bomb.

Despite all this and the Chinese advancing deep into India in 1962 the Indian representative to the United Nations Vijay Laxmi Pandit who was the sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru reportedly said that despite this war we will not change your policy and will continue to support China and should be made a member of the Security Council. Readers can make their judgment on the actions of Pandit Nehru. In the opinion of the author the actions were ludicrous.

Last Word

Much water has flown down since then and Pandit Nehru has gone to the grave but what he has done cannot be undone. India is now knocking at the doors of the Security Council but China had said that it will veto any attempt by India or the Western powers to add India to the Security Council.

At the same time China now considers India to be the threat along with America. It continues to rachet up tension on the border. I have repeatedly stated that in 1948 not even a bicycle was manufactured in China and now the Chinese economy is the second-largest in the world and their army the biggest.

Chinese technology has cleverly copied Western technology so much that they have manufactured their fifth-generation fighter- Chengdu.

China though a communist country was able to convince the Western powers including the USA to invest heavily in China. Billions of dollars of American and Japanese investment have gone to China but like Nehru the Americans also miss read China completely.

They failed to realize the Chinese dream of dominating the world. The Chinese have not forgotten their humiliation for more than 100 years when the western powers exploited them and the Japanese occupied them.

It will be interesting to watch how the cards are played out in the months to come.

Comments

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    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      14 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Pamela for commenting.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      14 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Thisis a very interesting, well-written aricle. I didn't know quite a bit od this history. Nehru sure made some bad choces. Thank you for this interesting article.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      14 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Chitra for commenting.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      14 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Well written article about the historical blunders, because of which the complications never seem to end. Couldn’t agree more.

      Thanks for sharing another wonderful article.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      14 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Flourish for commenting

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      14 months ago from USA

      I was unfamiliar with this history so I found this enlightening. Thank you. It seems like quite the strategic misfire.

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