Nehru with Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai

In US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying his best to get countries on India’s side to help it get a seat in the UN Security Council. However, we had been offered the same by US in the 1950s and if Nehru had pushed it through, India would have had the clout that China has now.

In 1955, with the Cold War at its peak, it is believed that America offered Nehru the possibility of India getting a seat in the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council began with four members: USA, Russia, France and Great Britain. These countries were the allied forces that had won World War II. India too had a rightful place in the council, since it was providing treasure and more than two million men in the war front. Certainly, more than China had done.

But India was not an independent country when the UN was started, so the offer of membership came soon after it became independent. The US did not want Mao’s Communist China as a member and initially thought of giving it to Formosa (Taiwan) where Chaing Kai Shek and his National Army had moved after being defeated by Mao in the mainland.

Russia was keen on another communist country coming on board as a member and it is believed that it would have vetoed India’s membership and would have wanted China.
President Eisenhower was dead against China and thought it prudent that India could fit into the permanent Asian seat in the UNSC, and the offer was made.
Nehru is said to have told parliament that a firm offer was not made. Perhaps he did not want to alienate Russia but since he believed in non-alignment this should not really have been an issue.

In 2004, Shashi Tharoor released a book ‘Nehru-The Invention of India’. In a subsequent interview in The Hindu on January 10, 2004 it reported: Jawaharlal Nehru declined a United States offer to India to take the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council around 1953 and suggested that it be given to China, according to the United Nations Under-Secretary General, Shashi Tharoor.

In his latest book, “Nehru – The Invention of India,” Mr. Tharoor writes that Indian diplomats who have seen files swear that Nehru declined the offer about the same time as he turned down “with scorn” John Foster Dulles’ support for an Indian Monroe Doctrine. Nehru had suggested that the seat, till then held by Taiwan, be offered to Beijing instead. He wrote that “the seat was held with scant credibility by Taiwan.”

Thus, came about the entry of China into the UN Security Council, which we are still feeling the consequences of.

In March 11, 2015 Anton Harder in a report entitled “Not at the Cost of China,” for the Wilson Center gave new evidence that as early as August 1950 the US wanted to assist India in assuming a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Harder writes: “Nehru’s rejection of the US offer underlined the consistency of his conviction that the PRC’s (China) legitimate interests must be acknowledged in order to reduce international tensions. Integrating the PRC into the international community by conceding its right to the Chinese seat at the Security Council was in fact a central pillar of Nehru’s foreign policy.”

Nehru was soft on China as is revealed by his later Hindi -Chini- Bhai- Bhai diplomacy while China only had its own best interests at heart.

Nehru wrote, “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 means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council. We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place…”

Harder also quotes from letters of Nehru and his sister Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit: “Further correspondence of Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s sister, and holder of various major diplomatic positions in the late 1940s and early 1950s, illuminates the subject.

In late August 1950, Pandit wrote to her brother from Washington, DC, where she was then posted as India’s Ambassador to the United States: One matter that is being cooked up in the State Department should be known to you. This is the unseating of China as a Permanent Member in the Security Council and of India being put in her place. I have just seen Reuter’s report of your answer to the same question. Last week I had interviews with [John Foster] Dulles and [Philip] Jessup, reports of which I have sent to Bajpai. Both brought up this question and Dulles seemed particularly anxious that a move in this direction should be started. Last night I heard from Marquis Childs, an influential columnist of Washington, that Dulles has asked him on behalf of the State Department to build up public opinion along these lines. I told him our attitude and advised him to go slow in the matter as it would not be received with any warmth in India.

Nehru’s response within the week was unequivocal: In your letter you mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a Permanent Member of the Security Council and to put India in her place. So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China. I suppose the state department would not like that, but we have no intention of following that course. We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council. I suppose that a crisis will come during the next sessions of the General Assembly of the UN on this issue. The people’s government of China is sending a full delegation there. If they fail to get in there will be trouble which might even result in the USSR and some other countries finally quitting the UN. That may please the State Department, but it would mean the end of the UN as we have known it. That would also mean a further drift towards war.

India because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the security council. But we are not going in at the cost of China.”

Harder goes on to write: “That Nehru so adamantly made clear that India did not want to replace China in the UN Security Council, and furthermore, that the issue of China’s representation in the UN must take priority over any possible consideration of India gaining a permanent seat in that body underlines the centrality of China to Nehru’s foreign policy.

“If there was an identifiable core to Nehru’s foreign policy it was that China, whether it was communist or not, was going to be central to the post-war international world. This was a fact that could not be ignored whether one welcomed it or not because it was an aspect of the general resurgence of Asia that Nehru welcomed and hoped to spur forward. Any attempt to confine China, simply because of its allegiance to any particular political ideology, was misguided and bound to incite resistance and lead to international instability.”

Thus today, India finds itself in an unenviable position of having many of its suggestions vetoed by China whose relationship with Pakistan is the cause of much tension in our neighbourhood. Can Prime Minister Modi, change this equation? According to experts it has become extremely difficult but he has managed to get India in the limelight, even as the Congress party in India feel his trips abroad achieve nothing.

Perhaps it is time the Congress Party introspect on what its past leadership got us into and value the determined effort PM Modi is making to get India its rightful place in the new world order.