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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

On World Situation, Tibet and Nepal

June 1, 2008

by Jawaharlal Nehru
Mainstream Weekly (India) Vol. XLVI, No 23
May 29, 2008

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU's fortyfourth death anniversary falls on May 27 this year.

Remembering the architect of modern India on this occasion, we are
publishing excerpts from one of his speeches on foreign affairs in
Parliament (on December 6, 1950) that are of relevance in the present
context. We are also reproducing, besides a piece (New Delhi Skyline)
by N.C., three articles on Nehru by noted personalities that appeared
in Mainstream (May 28, 1966).

I have always welcomed a debate on foreign affairs in this House
because they are no longer the concern merely of experts and
specialists. Foreign affairs concern almost every human being now and
an event in one part of the world may have consequences which affect
people in another. Foreign affairs are the concern of this House, in
particular, because on it rests the great responsibility for both
domestic and international affairs.

I further welcome this opportunity of discussing the international
situation because the world as the House well knows, is passing
through a very grave crisis…

I should like to say a few words about two -- neighbouring countries
-- Tibet and Nepal. Some questions were asked earlier this morning in
regard to the advance of the Chinese forces into Tibet. I could not
give much information then; nor can I do so now. The story of Tibet,
so far as we are concerned, is very simple. I am going into past
history. Ever since the People's Government of China talked about the
liberation of Tibet, our Ambassador told them, on behalf of the
Government of India, how the latter felt about it. We expressed our
earnest hope that the matter would be settled peacefully by China and
Tibet. We also made it clear that we had no territorial or political
ambitions in regard to Tibet and that our relations were cultural and
commercial. We said that we would naturally like to preserve these
relations and continue to trade with Tibet because it did not come in
the way of either China or Tibet. We further said that we were
anxious that Tibet should maintain the autonomy it has had for at
least the last forty years. We did not challenge or deny the
suzerainty of China over Tibet. We pointed all this out in a friendly
way to the Chinese Government. In their replies, they always said
that they would very much like to settle the question peacefully but
that they were, in any event, going to liberate Tibet. From whom they
were going to liberate Tibet is, however, not quite clear. They gave
us to understand that a peaceful solution would be found, though I
must say that they gave us no assurance or guarantee to the effect.
On the one hand, they said they were prepared for a peaceful
solution; on the other, they talked persistently of liberation.

We had come to believe that the matter would be settled by peaceful
negotiation and were shocked when we heard that the Chinese armies
were marching into Tibet. Indeed, one can hardly talk about war
between China and Tibet. Tibet is not in a position to carry on war
and, obviously, Tibet is no threat to China. It is said that other
countries might intrigue in Tibet. I cannot say much about it because
I do not know. It is certain, however, that there was no immediate
threat. Violence might, perhaps, be justified in the modern world but
one should not resort to it unless there is no other way. There was
another way in Tibet as we pointed out. That is why the action of
China came to us as a surprise.

The House is aware of the correspondence that was exchanged between
the Chinese Government and our Government. We have continued to press
upon them that it would be desirable for them to halt their advances
and settle matters with Tibetan representatives peacefully. There is
no doubt that during the last few weeks they have checked their main
advance. However, I cannot say for certain what their future
intentions are. Some small groups may have continued to advance in
some places but so far as we know there has been no advance towards
Lhasa, where conditions are still normal. That, of course, does not
mean that the problem is solved.

COMING to Nepal, I must say that it has been the scene of strange
developments during the last fortnight. Ever since I have been
associated with this Government, I have taken a great deal of
interest in Nepal. We have desired, not only to continue our old
friendship with that country but to put it on a still firmer footing.
We have inherited both good things and bad from the British. Our
relations with some of our neighbouring countries developed during an
expansive phase of British imperial policy. Nepal was an independent
country when India was under British rule; but strictly speaking, her
independence was only formal. The test of the independence of a
country is that it should be able to have relations with other
countries without endangering that independence. Nepal's foreign
relations were strictly limited to her relations with the Government
functioning in India at the time. That was an indication that Nepal's
approach to international relations was a very limited one.

When we came into the picture, we assured Nepal that we would not
only respect her independence but see, as far as we could, that she
developed into a strong and progressive country. We went further in
this respect than the British Government had done and Nepal began to
develop other foreign relations. We welcomed this and did not hinder
the process as the British had done. Frankly, we do not like and
shall not brook any foreign interference in Nepal. We recognise Nepal
as an independent country and wish her well. But even a child knows
that one cannot go to Nepal without passing through India. Therefore,
no other country can have as intimate a relationship with Nepal as
ours is. We would like every other country to appreciate the intimate
geographical and cultural relationship that exists between India and Nepal.

Three years ago, we assured Nepal of our desire that she should be a
strong, independent and progressive country. In the nature of things,
we stood not only for progressive democracy in our own country but
also in other countries. We have said this not only to Nepal but it
has consistently been a part of our policy in distant quarters of the
world. We are certainly not going to forget this when one of our
neighbouring countries is concerned.

We pointed out in as friendly a way as possible that the world was
changing rapidly and if Nepal did not make an effort to keep pace
with it, circumstances were bound to force her to do so. It was
difficult for us to make this clear because we did not wish to
interfere with Nepal in any way.

We wished to treat Nepal as an independent country but, at the same
time, saw that, unless some steps were taken in the internal sphere,
difficulties might arise. Our advice, given in all friendship, did
not, however, produce any result. During the last fortnight, some new
developments have taken place in Nepal. Our interest in the internal
conditions of Nepal has become still more acute and personal, because
of the developments across our borders, to be frank, especially those
in China and Tibet. Besides our sympathetic interest in Nepal, we
were also interested in the security of our own country. From time
immemorial, the Himalayas have provided us with a magnificent
frontier. Of course, they are no longer as impassable as they used to
be but are still fairly effective. We cannot allow that barrier to be
penetrated because it is also the principal barrier to India.
Therefore, much as we appreciate the independence of Nepal, we cannot
allow anything to go wrong in Nepal or permit that barrier to be
crossed or weakened, because that would be a risk to our own
security. The recent developments have made us ponder more deeply
over the Nepal situation than we had done previously. All this time,
however, we had functioned in our own patient way, advising in a
friendly way and pointing out the difficulties inherent in the
situation in a spirit of co-operation.

As the House knows, the King of Nepal is, at the present moment, in
Delhi along with two other members of the Nepalese Government. The
talks we have had with them have yielded no results thus far. May I,
in this connection, warn this House not to rely too much on the
statements that appear in the newspapers? Nowadays, they have seldom
any basis in fact.

Needless to say, we pointed out to the Ministers who have come here
that, above all, we desire a strong progressive and independent
Nepal. In fact, our chief need—not only our need but also that of the
whole world—is peace and stability. Having said that, I should also
like to add that we are convinced that a return to the old order will
not bring peace and stability to Nepal.

WE have tried, for what it is worth, to advise Nepal to act in a
manner so as to prevent any major upheaval. We have tried to find a
way, a middle way, if you like, which will ensure the progress of
Nepal and the introduction of, or some advance in, the ways of
democracy in Nepal. We have searched for a way which would, at the
same time, avoid the total uprooting of the ancient order. Whether or
not it is possible to find such a way, I do not know…

We are a patient Government. Perhaps, we are too patient sometimes. I
feel, however, that if this matter drags on, it will not be good for
Nepal and it might even make it more difficult to find the middle way
we have been advocating.

We, in this country, speak a good deal of foreign affairs and offer
advice, for what it is worth, to other countries. But the fact
remains that such value as our advice may have is only moral or
psychological. The fate of the world depends far more on the great
Powers, on what they do and do not do. The fate of the world depends
more on the USA, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China than
on the rest of the world put together. I should like to make an
earnest appeal to these great countries to make every effort to solve
the present tangle by negotiations or other peaceful means. The
consequenes of not doing so are too terrible to contemplate. The
irony of the situation is, in fact, that people in every country
desire peace; but at the present moment, some evil fate seems to
pursue humanity. It is driving mankind in a direction which can only
end in stark ruin. So, I hope that these great countries will apply
themselves to securing peace and I am sure the House will join me in
this appeal. On behalf of my Government and, if I may say so, this
House, I should like to make a pledge, namely, that we will do
everything in our power to promote peace and to avoid war.
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