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Nehru’s Vision

Jawaharlal Nehru strove ceaselessly for the liberation of India from foreign rule. He also constantly applied his mind to India’s socio-economic problems. Through his writings in the pre-independence era, as also through resolutions he moved in the Indian National Congress sessions, Nehru placed before India, a blueprint for independent India’s policies. Further, his study of the history of the world, coupled with his knowledge of contemporary world affairs, resulted in the development of clear ideas with regard to basic policies that India should pursue for the overall good of its people. When Nehru became Prime Minister in August 1947, his mind was clear about the path that India should follow to achieve progress.

Nehru was a democrat, by temperament and training. His stint in in England during his early years strengthened his convictions about the necessity of adopting a democratic approach. Even the freedom movement, of which Nehru became an intrinsic part of, was based on the principle of self-rule. His temperament, education in England and the prevailing political atmosphere in British India, contributed to Nehru becoming a firm believer in democracy, both as a form of government and as a way of life. It is therefore but natural that Nehru’s vision should have had democracy as one of its main pillars.

Nehru’s faith in democracy influenced his world view also. In the thirties and early forties of the last century, Nehru raised his voice against Fascism and Nazism. He refused to see Mussolini in 1936 and declined an invitation from Hitler a little later to visit Germany. Instead, he travelled to Spain during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, to lend moral support to the cause of Spanish Republicans, who valiantly fought against General Francisco Franco.

Nehru’s response to the Spanish Civil War showed that he considered India’s struggle for freedom as an integral part of a much wider global movement against colonialism and imperialism. During this period, he also began to think of the political or economic problems of the different parts of the world, whether those of China, Abyssinia, Spain, Central Europe, India or any other part, not in isolation or separately, but rather as the different facets of a world problem.

Since Nehru had stood for democracy ever since his emergence on the political scene, it was but obvious that his vision for a free India was that of an India with a democratic government. He visualised a Parliamentary type of democracy for independent India. Nehru’s support to a democratic way of life can be attributed to his faith in the value of individual liberty. In Unity of India, Nehru stated: “Civil Liberty is not merely for us an airy doctrine or a pious wish, but something which we consider essential for the orderly development and progress of a nation. It is the civilised approach to a problem on which people differ, the non-violent way of dealing with it.”

The great importance that Nehru attached to individual liberty, could be gauged by the Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Programme, drafted by Nehru and adopted by the Karachi Congress of 1931. The Karachi resolution clearly shows Nehru’s desire to lead India in the direction of a secular democracy. Members of the Drafting Committee of the Indian constitution took cognisance of this resolution. Three of the clauses of the Karachi Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Programme, viz., Clause number (ii), (v) and (ix) merit attention. Clause (ix) being: “The state shall observe neutrality in regard to all religion”.

For Nehru India’s economic development was the most important benchmark in terms of progress. In his mind, the solution to India’s economic woes caused by colonialism was Socialism. Moreover, he felt that democracy itself would lose much of its content and value in India, if it was not supported by socialism.

During Nehru’s days in Cambridge, he was drawn to Fabian Socialism, and other socialist ideas. For Nehru, socialism was not only an economic doctrine; it was for him a way of life. In the Presidential address delivered at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in 1936, Nehru gave expression to his conviction that the key to the solution of the problems of India lay in socialism.
He stated:
I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and. subjection of the Indian people except through socialism. That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and aristocratic Indian States System. That means the ending of private property except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the present profit system by the higher ideal of service.

During his presidential address in Lahore at the 1929 Congress Session, Nehru had stated that India could evolve its own methods and adopt the ideal of socialism suitable for the genius of its race. To illustrate this point, Nehru often took the example of Buddhism, which had its origins in India and put on the garb of the country to which it migrated. In China, it had Chinese characteristics. Similarly, it adopted itself Burma and Japan. Thus, Buddhism engrafted itself in the national soul of the country in which it settled.

What he broadly desired was that every individual should be given equal opportunity and that there should not be inequalities, at least in respect of the opportunities that were given. Moreover, he desired that the gulf between the rich and the poor should be narrowed down as far as possible.

Nehru was a pragmatic statesman. He realised that India’s economic advancement demanded a compromise with capitalism. “I am not enamoured of these ‘isms’ “, said Nehru shortly after independence. “My approach is and I should like to say the country’s approach should be, rather phlegmatic in considering the problem and I want to forget the ‘ism’ attached to it. Whatever the method may be, the method ... which brings about the necessary changes and gives satisfaction to the masses will justify itself and give hope.”

In Nehru’s mind, India’s economic progress and prosperity was dependent on the growth of large-scale industries. This was necessary not only to eradicate poverty, but also to maintain autonomy in decision-making. “It can hardly be challenged,” wrote Nehru, “that in the context of the modern world, no country can be politically and economically independent even within the frame-work of international interdependence, unless it is highly industrialised and has developed its power resources to the utmost…. .”

Nehru dreamt of an India which would be advanced industrially, as well in terms of science and technology. He believed that the industrial, scientific and technological advancement of India would not only raise the economic standards of the people but would also serve as a catalyst in bringing about social changes.
In the words of Aneurin Bevan:
The greatest thing that Nehru is doing in India is his massive support for science and technology. This will bring you rich dividends in the future in terms of economic development and social change.

According to Nehru, what was required was neither a blind reverence for the past nor a disrespect for it, as the future could not be founded on either of these.

Even during the period of India’s struggle for independence, Nehru thought in terms of reconciling nationalism with internationalism “We in India”, stated Nehru, “will gladly cooperate in a world order and even agree to give up a measure of national sovereignty, in common with others, in favour of a system of collective security. But this can happen only when nations associate on a basis of peace and freedom”. Nehru was fully convinced that the ideal of national independence was not inconsistent with internationalism and believed that the question of a world order, “would remain only a remote ideal so long as several countries of the world continued to be the victims of imperialism, as freedom like peace and war, had become indivisible in the Age of today.”

On the midnight of August 14, 1947, Nehru moved a resolution in the Constituent Assembly, requesting its members to dedicate themselves to the service of India and the world.
This resolution bears eloquent testimony to Nehru’s desire. The resolution states:
At this solemn moment, when the people of India, through suffering and sacrifice, have secured freedom, I... a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, do dedicate myself in all humility to the service of India and the people to the end that this ancient land attain her rightful place in the world and make her full and willing co-operation to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.

The basic tenets of India’s foreign policy were clearly and categorically stated in Resolution V (drafted by Nehru), a Jaipur session of the Indian National Congress in 1948. One of the important sentences therein reads as follows:
The foreign policy of India must necessarily be based on the principles that have guided the Congress in past years. These principles are promotion of world peace, the freedom of all nations, racial equality and the ending of imperialism and colonialism.

Nehru’s constant support to the United Nations Organisation was a result of his world outlook. He consistently supported the UNO in spite of the fact that it at times, deviated from its aims. In March 1948, he stated that UNO, needed support and encouragement so that it might in the long run develop into some kind of world government or world order.

In August 1952, Nehru expressed similar sentiments. He told Members of the Parliament that while he had been critical of the UNO, whenever its actions appeared inconsistent with its charter, and record. However, Nehru opined that the UNO, was a basic and fundamental thing in the world. As such, he wanted that India should not do anything that would jeopardise and effect adversely the growth of UNO in some kind of a world structure in the long run.

In Nehru, we had the combination of a thinker and a political leader. No contemporary political leader of his time gave as much of thought as Nehru did to the various ills afflicting the world. His vision for India was that of a country that was politically mature and economically advanced. He wanted the people of India to retain all that was worthwhile about the past and combine it with all that was worth imbibing from the present. He believed, and with conviction that India could not but be a democratic, secular and socialist republic.

Jawaharlal Nehru was convinced that many of the evils from which India suffered and many of the problems that it faced, including the problems vis-à-vis different castes and communities, could be resolved if India became economically sound and scientifically and technologically advanced. Through his spoken and written word, as also through the lead that he gave to the country, Nehru revealed his vision with regard to the direction in which India should move in.