Recently, a distinguished diplomat with more than a half-century of experience in foreign policy mentioned that the 1950s decision of Jawaharlal Nehru to reject the offer of a Security Council seat (replacing China) was perhaps an error. He was also of the view that John F. Kennedy would have agreed to assist in an Indian nuclear explosion before the Chinese Communists conducted their own at Lop Nor. Going nuclear was of course anathema to Nehru and to his confidant Vengalil Kumaran Krishna Menon, who dismissed the atom bomb as irrelevant “as a postman would not be able to deliver it”. Clearly, Menon did not believe that India and its people had the scientific capability to build systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons to long-distance targets. Perhaps Jawaharlal Nehru himself shared the same doubts about this country. Perhaps he believed, in some recess of the mind, that India was simply not important enough to merit a Security Council seat. As Mahatma Gandhi was wise to an extraordinary degree, it is entirely plausible that the several policies of his choice Jawaharlal Nehru were such as would have met with his approval, including the emasculation of the private sector, although perhaps not the subsequent conversion of the Congress party into the fief of a single family. Indeed, so deeply has the imprint of the Nehru family been woven into the Congress that it would likely disintegrate were anyone other than a member of the Nehru family to take charge of its fortunes. Both Narasimha Rao as well as Sitaram Kesri suffered humiliation (the former even after his passing) for daring to believe that they were anything other than a loyal retainer of the family. However, such obvious mistakes as the Mountbatten-induced ceasefire in Kashmir in 1949 or the refusal to accept a Security Council seat were not the only examples which showed a latent belief in its leadership that India was simply not up to prime time. At different times during the 1950s, an offer was made by the Sultan of Oman to take over Gwadar. This was refused on the grounds that the port was of little consequence. Subsequently, the Rana family (which was in control of Nepal at the time) offered to merge the kingdom with India, only to be rebuffed and to watch as Delhi backed the monarchy over them, despite the monarchy being hostile to India’s influence in Nepal except for those niches and corners where there was profit to be made for the Singha Durbar out of the connection.
Hopefully, an honest history of the country will some day get written, in which the consequences of several of the decisions taken will be discussed in a straightforward way rather than in the gushing tones of so many publicists posing as historians. They have not even hesitated to claim that freedom and democracy we owe to Nehru, even though it was he who sharply diluted the freedom of speech placed in the Constitution of India by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to tear away the veil of secrecy about the past and release all the documents of that period, so that an accurate history can get written. Only such a knowledge of the past will enable the people of India and those who become their policymakers to avoid the mistakes that have ensured that India is still a poverty-ridden economy. PM Modi is correct when he points to the need for transparency and for empowerment of the citizen, rather than the colonial accoutrements of government. If Satyameva is to truly Jayate, the truth must be told about our past, and for this, the release into the public domain of all the facts is essential.