Nehru: Architect of India's Foreign Policy

By: Shubhangi Mishra

As the clock struck midnight on August 15, 1947, India was finally set free from British rule and became an independent Nation-State. The partition came along with many changes in the two newly formed nations, India and Pakistan. India was a fragile country at that time and needed dedicated leadership and Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed to do the same. He promised the citizens a nation that was built step by step with the cooperation of all its citizens. With this, India started its journey towards a new path that was supposed to lead us towards development. Nehru was committed to make our country modern and truly independent in every way possible. This led to him paving a fruitful path for our nation by putting down some significant foreign policies and plans for India.


When Nehru began his term, he skillfully managed to form a diverse cabinet by including representatives from various backgrounds, that included Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, etc. This contributed in providing better representation to different people. Thus, the cabinet collectively pushed the nation towards a better future. The formulation of these policies had started before the partition of India was formally declared. But the decisions regarding these policies were significantly influenced by the development that took place around the world after the Second World War. Since Nehru held the position of external affairs, it was up to him to form foreign policies for India that would benefit the newly formed country in the long run.


After independence, he started off by trying to maintain his current relationship with Britain by signing the London Declaration. According to this, when India became a free nation, it would join the Commonwealth of Nations.  It also meant that India would acknowledge the ruling monarch as the Head of the Commonwealth. Since this decision was made after Independence, it received a positive response from the people. Although, it was criticized by people with sentiments against the British. They also questioned if the sovereignty of the nation would persist by joining the Commonwealth. Following this, he tried to establish India at an international level. He was always a strong ally of the United Nations but did not approve when the UN tried to resolve the tension among India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir. This led to him initiating the policy of non-alignment. Nehru wanted to profess the idea of mutual peace among all the nations. Thus, he proposed the policy of Non-Alignment Movement. The movement was aimed at asserting neutral relations among the blocs headed by the USA and USSR. The ideals of the movement were focused on retaining the national independence, sovereignty, and security of the non-aligned states. The formation of this policy helped India get      prestige all around the globe. Over the years, India’s relevance and participation in NAM has declined significantly.


Nehru had always been hesitant in building military power, but wanted to develop the nuclear power within the country. In 1948, the Atomic Energy Commission of India was formed. Nehru gave Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, complete authority over all nuclear related matters. The policy regarding India’s stand on nuclear were developed by a mutual communion between Nehru and Bhabha. While development of nuclear power took place, Nehru had another problem to combat; Kashmir was a disputed area. India and Pakistan had already been in a war in 1947, and Pakistan was refusing to back down. Nehru had promised to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir to Lord Mountbatten but due to Pakistan refusing to follow the UN protocols, Nehru refused to hold the plebiscite. Nehru came up with policies that were justified by V.K. Krishna Menon. Menon is famous for giving the longest speech in front of the Security Council lasting for eight hours. This speech was regarding India’s stance on Kashmir which was concluded by Menon collapsing on the floor. Menon’s speech did the work and India successfully earned Kashmir as a part of India.


In 1954, the Panchsheel or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, was signed by Nehru with China. This was a very significant step towards building relations with China. The treaty was based on five basic principles: mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existing. The aim was to uplift these principles in order to strengthen their relation and increase mutual understanding. However, this decision was criticised by B.R. Ambedkar who said that these principles were an important part of the Budhha Dharma. Mao had failed to show equal treatment towards Buddhists and Ambedkar questioned if he would be able to uplift the ideas of the Panchsheel treaty. In 1961, NAM Conference held at Belgrade also accepted Panchsheel as the principle core values.


Nehru signed various policies when it came to enhancing India’s relation with Pakistan. These were stretched over the years 1947-1950. They were aimed at promoting harmony and peace among the two countries but the partition had left certain scars that policies written on paper could not fix. The policies, thus, did little to patch up the differences between the two countries.


Nehru can hence be called the architect of India’s foreign policies who assisted India in acquiring a prominent position among the countries all over the globe. His policies also received the necessary criticism they deserved by people who demanded to see more legitimate changes rather than what was merely written on paper. Nehru was very critical regarding India’s international position as well as the holistic growth of the country. Thus, the policies formed by him have had their own share of support and denunciation. But to an extent they have helped India reach the position it holds globally today. Jawaharlal Nehru can be given the credit for viewing a future for India that would see progress as well as global recognition occur hand in hand. The India he envisioned is still undergoing the process of coming to life as we weave a path towards a better nation.


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