Ch-09 Extracts: Foreign to Foreign Policies

External Policies


 He [Nehru] insisted on keeping the portfolio of external affairs for himself. It was a disadvantage to him that he did so, because, as head of the whole government of India, he had to deal with a range of internal problems already too much for one mind. And it was a disadvantage to the Indian foreign office and the Indian diplomatic service. In effect he did damage to both, and at a formative and impressionable stage of their growth...

– Walter Crocker, Nehru: A Contemporary's Estimate


Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot of course accept this as it...would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council...We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage...

– Nehru’s note of August 1, 1955

History may have been different if  this offer had been subjected to serious negotiations. Through the decades since, we have been struggling for this seat.


The government’s foreign policy failed to make India stronger. Why should not India get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council? Why has the prime minister not tried for it?

– Dr BR Ambedkar


Nehru rooted India’s foreign policy in abstract ideas rather than a strategic conception of national interests. He disdained alliances, pacts, and treaties, seeing them as part of the old rules of realpolitik, and was uninterested in military matters...Nehru tended to put hope above calculation. When he was warned that Communist China would probably seek to annex Tibet, for example, he doubted it, arguing that it would be foolish and impractical adventure. And even after Beijing did annex Tibet in 1951, Nehru would not reassess the nature of Chinese interests along India’s northern border…

– Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World


Jawaharlal Nehru ignored the interests of Jammu and Kashmir and, to a lesser extent, Punjab when he signed the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, under which India bigheartedly agreed to the exclusive reservation of the largest three of the six Indus-system rivers for downstream Pakistan. In effect, India signed an extraordinary treaty indefinitely setting aside 80.52% of the Indus-system waters for Pakistan—the most generous water-sharing pact thus far in modern world history.

– Brahma Chellaney


People eulogise Nehru for his expertise in international affairs, and credit him as the founder of India’s foreign policy. Founder he was, but were the foundations solid? Or, were they rickety? Or, were there no foundations at all—was it all airy ad-hocism, and one-man’s-pontifications? Crucially, was it a foreign policy that benefited India? Or, was it merely a device for Nehru for self-posturing and to project himself internationally? How come all our major neighbours became our enemies? And, a friendly neighbour, Tibet, disappeared—Nehru allowed Tibet, that ensured India never had to worry about its northern borders, to be erased as a nation. It was highly hypocritical for a country like India to shout against colonisation in world forums and preach on world peace and security, and take active role in distant Korea, when it was not bothered about its own peaceful neighbour, Tibet, getting colonised! Other countries, watching India’s foreign policy in practice, would have been either laughing at its naivety, or sniggering at its hypocrisy, or pitying it for not being alive to its own interests.

Nehru’s policy and strategy in J&K—part of the Foreign Policy, in a way—actually gave birth to the Kashmir Problem. He failed to solve the problem he had himself created, and actually made it more complicated. Wasn’t it ironic that Nehru internationalised a matter he should not have—the internal, domestic matter of J&K by taking it to the UN—while he refused to internationalise through the UN a serious, external security matter of Tibet, despite Tibet’s pleading to India to do so. He failed to mend fences with Pakistan. He failed to resolve the India-China boundary issue that proved disastrously costly for India. No country with a mature and prudent foreign policy wedded to its self-interest would engage in a massive give-away like India did under Panchsheel in 1954 without getting anything in return—like settling the border-issue with China. When the Communists seized power in China, India was the first to recognize them, although it was Chiang Kai-shek, Mao’s rival, who had supported India’s struggle for independence. He then championed the cause of the Communist China in the UN. Why? What did he get from China in return? Totally ignoring India’s own strategic interests, he refused an offer of a permanent UNSC seat, and recommended that the seat be instead given to Communist China! Generosity at the nation’s cost!!

Through his inaction and indifference, Nehru allowed the Sri Lankan Tamil problem to fester and grow, whose consequences have been terrible for all concerned. There is a right time for everything; and if matters are not tackled when they ought to be, they get worse, and even turn into never-ending nightmares, like they did in case of J&K, India-China boundary issues and Sri Lankan Tamils.  How was it that our foreign policy turned India into a country no one took seriously? In the India-China War, when India’s condition was pitiable, no nation came forward to support you, except the nations you were abusive with, like the US. Indian foreign services were not well-staffed and there was no effort to evolve a well-structured foreign policy by involving all stakeholders. Nehru neglected the Southeast Asian countries in our international relations. You evaluate a policy by its results, not by its verbosity and pompousness.


We were getting out of touch with reality in the modern world and we were living in an artificial atmosphere of our creation.

– Nehru