All friends of peace and of humane ways of life should join in congratulating Nehru on his achievements. Few lives can show an equal record of success in the pursuit of important good causes to which, at many times, the opposition seemed insuperable.
I propose to write here mainly of Nehru’s foreign policy, but there are a few things in his home policy for which I should wish to express my admiration. First and foremost, India has been launched upon a regime of parliamentary democracy - a difficult feat, as may be seen in many parts of the world where attempts have been made to substitute new democracy for old imperialism. The second great task in which the Nehru Government has been engaged is that of introducing industrialism without the harsh features that have usually been associated with its early stages. The cruelties of industrialism in Britain in the early nineteenth century are a familiar theme, and every-one knows that Marx’s doctrines were inspired by horror of what was occurring in British factories when Marx was young. It is one of the remarkable ironies of history that, as soon as Marxists acquired power in Russia, they proceeded to inflict, on a much larger scale, evils very similar to those which shocked their-prophet. Early industrialism has been associated with hardship everywhere except in the northern States of America which could draw upon a destitute immigrant population for whose poverty America was not responsible. In India, Nehru’s Government is content to let the process of industrialising be somewhat slower than in contemporary China in order that the process may be less painful and less harsh. Every humane person should sympathise with this endeavor and should realise that the outcome, even-if it takes longer, is likely to be better in terms of human happiness than the outcome of a less humane process.
There is another matter in which the Nehru Government has shown itself more enlightened than most of the Governments of the West: I mean the question of population. Too many Western countries have allowed their policy in this matter to be governed by ancient superstitious dogmas. We of the West must hope that, in time, they will copy the East by rational action in this matter.
But, in our age, all other problems are dwarfed by the problem of war. Two powerful groups of nations confront each other, each possessed of weapons capable of exterminating the human race and each, apparently, incapable of realising the consequent need of conciliation. Of the nations belonging to neither bloc, India is the largest and the most important. I have never wished to see India join the Western bloc (nor, of course, the Eastern). I expressed this opinion to Indian journalists when I passed through Calcutta in 1950, and I have at no time thought otherwise. The fact that India is uncommitted has already borne good fruit, more particularly in Korea. In the two matters of the demarcation line between North and South Korea and the repatriation of prisoners, the mediation of India made it possible for agreements to be reached. A great deal of courage was needed, since each side was angry whenever any concession was made to the other, so that the pursuit of even handed justice led to unpopularity with East and West alike. For my part, I thought the decisions of the Indian authorities as regards Korea came as near to impartiality as is possible.
India has done much and may, one hopes, do even more to prevent the explosion of a world war. Om the strictest rules of old-fashioned diplomacy, this is a matter in which India has a vital and legitimate interest. In a world war with nuclear weapons it will be not only the belligerents who will suffer. In a world war with nuclear weapons it will be not only the belligerents who will suffer. In non-belligerent countries, a large proportion of the population, perhaps even the whole, will perish from the contamination of fall-out; Uncommitted nations, therefore, have every reason, even from a narrowly national point of view, for doing what they can to prevent a world war. One very useful thing which the Nehru Government has done with this object in view is the publication in two successive editions of a very careful report on Nuclear Explosions and Their Effects, to which Nehru supplied a foreword in 1956 and added to it in the new edition in 1958. Every person who is not blinded by insane fanaticism must applaud Nehru’s last words in the second edition of this very valuable work: “I trust”, he says, “that this book, which has involved much labour, will be of some help to bring a clearer realisation to people of the perils and dangers that humanity has to face and from that full realisation may come effective steps to avoid these dangers.” I wish that an equally sane outlook could prevail among the statesmen of the Eastern and Western blocs.
The usefulness of this volume is due not only to the care with which it has been compiled but to the fact that it is free from the bias from which inhabitants of either bloc find it difficult to escape. Those who are in the employ of a government have to say what that government wishes. Those who, in the name of truth, say something different are accused of helping the “enemy”. Consequently, authoritative impartiality is hardly to be expected except when the work is inspired by an uncommitted government.
For all the reasons already mentioned, the world as well as India owes a debt of gratitude to Nehru. I have hopes that he may crown his life-work by an even greater achievement than any that he already has to his credit. In all the negotiations which have hitherto taken place between the Eastern and Western blocs, each side has drawn up a set of proposals known to be totally unacceptable to the other side, and negotiations have started with a violent clash of two sets of extreme suggestions. If negotiated agreement is really desired, it is not by this method that it can be achieved. The method which should be adopted would be to cause a possible negotiated agreement to be drawn up by Powers representing neither the Eastern nor the Western bloc, and aiming as far as possible at measures which would diminish friction without giving any net advantage to either side. If a set of such proposals constituted the agenda of East-West negotiations, the proceedings would not begin with a violent clash, and there would be far better hope of some positive outcome. I should like to see some such plan suggested by India to the United Nations, or if that were not feasible, drawn up by some group of uncommitted Powers in response to Indian initiative. Friends of peace throughout the world would be glad to have an impartial pronouncement as to possible solutions of the conflicts between the two blocs. Supported by such a scheme, neither side need shrink from concessions balanced by concessions from the other side which impartial opinion considered equal.
Mankind is in danger owing to the fact that the Great Powers on either side, in practice, though not in theory, consider loss of prestige a greater evil than the destruction of the human race. In this situation, those Powers whose prestige is not involved have an immense opportunity. Of these Powers, India is the chief. Nehru is known to stand for sanity and peace in this critical moment of human history. Perhaps, it will be he who will lead us out of the dark night of fear into a happier day.