Chapter 3: INDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE - III
Independent India saw a plethora of problems that had to be dealt
with. The short term problems were the refugee crisis, prevention of
war and rehabilitation of refugees. The refugee crisis in
East Bengal was worse than in the North west as in
Northwest the migrants to Pakistan had left sizable land resources
on which the incoming migrants could be resettled. Also the
linguistic integration of the incoming migrants was easier in
northwest. On the other hand the incoming migrants from East
Pakistan had to live in urban or semi urban centers and this
affected their lives. Also they could be resettled only in Bengal,
Assam and Tripura due to linguistic differences.
The medium term goals were to put in place a representative
government at center and states, reform the agrarian structure,
implement civil liberties. The long term goals were promote the
process of a nation in the making, removing endemic poverty,
initiate economic planning, promote national integration and
initiate planning process.
All these problems had to be built within the framework of values to
which our national movement was committed to and by broad consensus.
The Congress and its leaders started tackling these problems. The
nation was benefited by their leadership which was developed by
fighting colonialism for years, participating in legislatures,
organizing mass movements and developing consensus for national
programs. These leaders were present at the Center as well as the
States and even outside Congress. Nehru and his ministers at the
center were the most important. All leaders of India at that time
had impeccable integrity and led austere lives.
Though the Congress had hegemony over the independence struggle it
had changed its character after independence i.e. From a movement to
a Party. It had a firm grip over the masses even in grassroots.
Nobody questioned the Congress and its policies [except the
Communist party]. In such a situation the Congress developed a true
national character by including notable non Congressionals like Dr.
B.R. Ambedkar and SP Mukherjee. Thus the Congress expanded
the leadership at Constituent Assembly and made it truly national.
The next problem faced after the refugee crisis was the accession
of princely states to India. This too was impacted by the
national movement which had affected not only people of British
India but also the States. The people had struggled against Princes
since the end of the 19th century. The national movement had
affected them too. Thus the values and spirit of democracy was
imbibed into them too and so this facilitated a fairly smooth
transition of these states into India.
Communist Party and Nehru
Nehru government had to face strong resistance from the Communist
Party of India from 1948 to 1951. The CPI declared that the Nehru
government was an Imperial agent and must be removed. CPI also
tried to stage militant revolts against the government by various
rail strikes and protests.
Nehru though personally appalled by their violent techniques
tried to avoid banning them. Finally when the evidence of violence
was overwhelming CPI was banned in West Bengal only as it was most
active there. After 1951, when the CPI chose to abandon violent
tactics and pursue parliamentary processes Nehru removed the ban
and allowed them to contest elections.
He felt that the Communists were interested in socio -
economic development but their means were wrong. If they tried
to pursue their goals like mainstream political parties they
would be ideologically closer to Congress. However he believed
that Communalists couldn't be evaluated under same yardstick as
they threatened the secular fabric of the society itself.
Diversity in India
The nation has tremendous diversity and so the government
structure was decided as one that would combine features of a
strong center while also accommodating regional diversity by
having autonomy to states organized on linguistic lines. The
constitutional structure differentiated between unity and
centralization and diversity and disintegration. Parliament
became a great unifier where the power to govern the nation
resides but at the same time it is open to all who want to
contend to participate in it.
Unity was also maintained by the political parties of India. Even
during pre-independence times the parties were created with pan
India presence and ideology based on national values. The leaders
too were of diverse background representing all states and
regions. The post independence hegemony enjoyed by Congress didn't
change this. The party continued to welcome diverse political
views and worked to unify different opinions. Though it reacted
strongly to violence it had a sympathetic view for demands made
Indian army and administrative service too were symbols of
continuity and stability. The apolitical nature of these two
elements created a unifying factor for the nation. The personnel
were recruited from all over India and so no disparity was seen.
Economic policy followed by the Government played a vital role in
reducing poverty and regional disparity. This is turn ensured no
separatist tendency amongst states. Although many difference have
risen both on linguistic and political basis but they have been
amicably resolved or at-least didn't escalate into major
differences.This is because the most backward states are
the Hindi speaking states of UP, Bihar which can't claim
backwardness due to lack of political support as they enjoy it
the most. The states that have high progress in income and
standards are non hindi speaking states like Maharashtra, Tamil
Nadu. These states can't be accused of political preferential
treatment too. In fact the most complaints of neglect have
arisen from states like Punjab, Haryana that have the highest
Linguistic differences emerged amongst people for various issues
like political power, jobs, educational and economic development
which led to political conflicts. This was inevitable in a multi
lingual country like India. These conflicts were related to
question of National language and state reorganization on
Electoral Process takes Roots
The first elections in India were to be based on
the principle of universal adult electorate. The exercise for
voter registration was a mammoth exercise but it was completed.
The election took four months to complete. The congress would
emerge as the single largest party and Communists as the second
largest party [CPI remained dominant till 1977]. The Parliament
was then representative to candidates of all regions and parties.
Inspite of numeric domination by the Congress the system of
debates and questioning was of high quality due to persons of
eminence in their fields being present in the Parliament as well
as Nehru's respect for opinion of all.
A few negatives too were seen in the elections - scramble for
party tickets for the elections, squabbles amongst party-men for
getting safe seats for contesting, increasing influence of caste
in politics, vote banks became important for the people.
The next few elections too witnessed an increase in voter turnout
but the Congress continued to be majority despite not having
support of majority of voters. The Rightists and leftists made
deep inroads but couldn't dent the Congresses power. However at
the state level progress was made and Kerela became the
first state to have a democratically elected communist
Elections were earlier questioned as majority of the country was
illiterate and thus the judgment of the people was questioned.
Many skeptics believed that the system would be a failure as
people wouldn't grasp the complex electoral process nor could
anyone organize it at such a large scale. However the first
elections put an end to the debate. Free and fair conduct of
elections improved the nation's image in the world especially
amongst ex-colonial countries.
Foreign Policy - Nehruvian Years
India's aim was to have an independent foreign policy. Jawaharlal
Nehru was the architect of this policy and wanted India to find
expression at the international arena. This was given a concrete
form by starting the Non aligned movement. The World after WWII
was divided into two blocs: Capitalists led by US and Communists
led by USSR. India agreed to follow a policy of non alignment
which meant that all decisions shall be scrutinized and taken if
they are in India's interest and not just in the interests of any
Non alignment meant that India could maintain ties with both
blocs and look after its own interests too. The Soviets provided
India help in building its Public sector industries something
which US wasn't too keen. It also was a forum for world peace as
Nehru had always warned the World powers of the dangers of Nuclear
War. Nehru's ambition was to extinguish nuclear weapons
from the World saw support of scientists like Albert Einstein
Nehru also gave the World - Panchsheel which were a set
of principles that would be followed by nation's in maintaining
Foreign Policy in action
Policy during Korean War
The WWII had ended and Korea was partitioned into two parts with
the North under socialist influence and South under influence of
US. The 38th parallel was the dividing line between the two. India
had consistently maintained that the partition should be annulled
and Korea should be united. When in 1950 North Korea crossed the
border and attacked the Southern part, UN resolution to make North
Korea the aggressor was supported by India inspite of Chinese and
US then attacked North Korea and pushed the forces out of South.
This action though didn't have UN sanction. China then joined the
war on side of North and sent volunteers to fight the war. This
led to high Chinese, US and Korean casualties. India had refused
to support UN resolution demanding Western military intervention
and declaring China as the aggressor leading to US wrath. India
thus should independent foreign policy during the war. It
constantly lobbied for including Communist China to be made a
part of UNSC as USSR had vacated membership in protest against
Korea, a membership which India had refused.
India had to mediate the Suez dispute that arose when Egypt
nationalized the canal. England and France were major users of the
canal and instigated Israel to attack it. This was condemned by
even US, USSR. India though was a user of the canal recognized
Egypt's sovereignty over it and wanted settlement of dispute's as
per the UN charter. This was agreed to even by Egypt. Finally even
Britain recognized India's approach and ended hostilities. This
didn't dent India's relations with Britain.
Relations with US
Indo US relations remained frosty for years after independence.
One of the several reasons was the US war against Communism.
Although Nehru also had differences with communists and had
suppressed them for revolting but he also disagreed that they were
enemies of World peace. This view led to mistrust between US and
India. US also hated Indian policy of non alignment and attacked
it for being amoral.
Recognition of Communist China was also a stumbling block as US
refused to do so. It also had policies that supported colonialism
believing it fought communism viz. intervention of France in Indo
- China and Portuguese in Africa. Indian policy was against
colonialism and in support of freedom for colonies.
US also believed that Indian state would disintegrate as it had a
plethora of diversity. This view was partly because of British
views of hate against Indian Congress leaders that had got
independence for it. US supported Pakistan by giving it secret
military aid for fighting against soviet aggression but this was
diverted against India. India accused US of bringing the cold war
to Asia by doing this.
The turning point of these relations came when China attacked
Relations with USSR
India had friendly relations with USSR right from its
independence. The Soviets viewed India's acceptance of
Commonwealth as a sad day for India. However when
India became more aggressive against colonialism during Korean war
and Suez crisis the Soviet stand changed. It developed friendly
relations with India and also helped veto many UN resolutions on
Kashmir which were anti India. It also helped veto a resolution on
integration of Goa in India. India gained a major supporter at the
UNSC which helped it vastly since UNSC was dominated by US and its
allies and mostly bowed to their aims.
Russia helped India to rebuild its Public sector industries at a
time when US remained non committal. It also agreed to provide
free military aid to India when US gave aid to Pakistan but this
was refused by India. During the Sino Indian war USSR remained
neutral which was major support to India. In-fact Soviet leader of
Comintern, an international soviet pact declared China as the
After India's defeat many agreements were signed to make India a
manufacturing center for military equipment's which led to India's
victory in 1971. For USSR, Indian support was needed to
counterbalance US policy. India could also be a gateway to African
and ex-colonial countries which soviet wanted to appease. Thus,
Indo - USSR relations were beneficial to both.
Relation with Neighbors
India had good relations with Nepal, Bhutan but the relations
with Pakistan and China were unstable. Kashmir was a
princely state with a Hindu king and Muslim subjects. The
nationalist movement launched by Sheikh Abdullah and National
Conference also had good relations with India. When British left
India, Pakistani forces attacked Kashmir and the Maharaj signed
the Instrument of Accession to India. Indian forces succeeded in
repelling the enemies and gained an upper hand. However
India moved the UN which passed a resolution for ceasefire. This
was due to Cold War politics as Britain and US jointly followed
policy of appeasing Pakistan on Kashmir recognizing it as a
potential ally. However plebiscite wasn't possible till
Pakistani forces withdrew from Kashmir hence it has remained a
stalemate till now.
British which resented India supported resolution in Pakistan's
favor and India had to observe ceasefire. This was since British
supported the Muslim League that created Pakistan and wanted
Pakistan as a buffer state to Soviets. USSR also was unsure of
India's foreign policy and believed India to be a supporter of
Britain and so it was non committal on Kashmir. However later on
USSR vetoed all resolutions on Kashmir unfavorable to India.
Meanwhile the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir held its session
and agreed to be an integral part of India. Kashmir issue could
have been solved in 1953 due to joint declarations by PM's of both
sides but this collapsed due to Cold War politics. In 1962,
Pakistan tried to take advantage of India's defeat and demanded
the whole of Kashmir but this too was thwarted. US had recognized
the importance of Pakistan and continued to integrate it into the
Capitalist military alliances like CEATO, Baghdad Pact etc.
Pakistan's Muslim league had supported British and so its current
leadership too saw advantage in US. USSR too had for a
brief period attempted to grow closer to Pakistan but it
realized that Pakistan was too deeply integrated with US system.
China too was an old ally of India. Both had a long history of
struggle against imperialism. India had boycotted Japanese goods
after the latter attacked China. India also became one of
the first to recognize China as a country. It also acted as a
link between China and the West. When China attacked
Tibet, India wasn't informed but it recognized Chinese sovereignty
over Tibet. Although it gave refuge to Dalai Lama and Tibetans, it
disallowed them to form a Government in exile.
Chinese shoulders attacked India and the army surrendered the
Northeast without a fight. Tensions grew in India and an SOS was
sent to western powers US and UK. Chinese incursion stopped and
the army withdrew. PM Nehru got a shock due to the
Chinese incursion and this was one reason for his demise.
In the aftermath of the War, US and UK wanted a quid pro quo for
the aid. They set up massive conditions for minuscule amounts of
military aid and so to counter this India grew closer to USSR.
This friendship proved fruitful even during the Indo Pak War in
1971 when US and China both supported Pakistan. Due to Soviet
pressure China remained neutral. A major blow was also dealt to
Non aligned movement as an attack had been made by a Socialist
power not a Capitalist power. Congress and Nehru suffered
blows to his credibility and had to dismiss the Defense Minister
Analysis of Nehruvian Foreign Policy
The Defeat of India in the 1962 war was seen as a failure of
Nehruvian foreign policy but it wasn't so.
China had become increasingly isolated as US and the Western
allies had refused to accept it as a country and continued to
treat Taiwan as the real government of China. Soviets too were
increasingly in conflict with China on border issues. China had
been involved in Korean war but had to face stalemate and its
isolation by the West hadn't ended. The Chinese also believed in a
Policy of maintaining arms length distance from US and USSR and
opposed India's policy of maintaining close relations with both.
It couldn't make much headway amongst the African nations as they
all were under influence of Non Alignment movement of India. Hence
it wanted to fight a war to defeat and humiliate Nehru. They
believed a war should show the world futility of Nehruvian policy.
However the blame of defeat shouldn't be on Nehru's
pacifist policies of keeping Military spending low and keeping a
small army. This accusations aren't true as the same military
stalled Pakistan's efforts of defeating India in 1965.
It was a failure on the military's part to underestimate China's
intention and failing to make a strong defense even though it had
resources. The meek withdrawal from Arunachal Pradesh emboldened
Chinese and they withdrew soon as India prepared for a full scale
war at Assam. The nation attacked Nehru and he too panicked and
appealed for US, UK intervention prematurely.
Nehru's foreign policy of maintaining good relations with
Pakistan led to avoidance of a War on two fronts. Also his efforts
of maintaining good relations with both powerful blocs got India
sympathy which was unprecedented during those times.
Nehru believed more in economic development that would strengthen
a country instead of piecemeal measures like purchasing arms. This
policy bore fruit in the future and led to successful military