By Madhushree Chatterjee
In these turbulent times, Jawaharlal Nehru's policies of non-alignment and mixed economy need to be revisited, says P.C. Jain, author of a book on India's foreign policy during the first prime minister's tenure.
"So many countries in Asia adopted the policy of non-alignment propounded by Nehru. They accepted him as an Afro-Asian leader and they backed the movement in the first meet of the non-aligned nations in 1961," said Jain, the author of "Economic Determinants of India's Foreign Policy (The Nehru Years 1947-1964)", published by Vitasta.
The non-aligned movement did not believe in aligning with or against any major power blocs.
"The policy of non-alignment cannot be revived because the economic policy of India has changed fundamentally. We have moved out of the mixed economy and social justice system to embrace capitalism. But there is a need to look at the policy because it had brought about a consensus in polity," said Jain, a foreign affairs expert and former head of the political science department at Bundelkhand University.
Jain said the current foreign policy was tilted towards the West.
"For instance, to my mind, India's nuclear pact with the United States was a complete surrender to the West. Now that the USSR has gone, we can still be friends with China," he said.
He said it was wrong to blame Nehru for the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict because Nehru was always suspicious of China.
On Nehru's personality in the context of his foreign policy, Jain said he had "a complex personality".
Nehru was "friendly with western countries, particularly Britain, and he was educated there," Jain said.
"He was not very consistent in his socialist ideology because he was under the influence of western countries," he said.
Jain has divided the book into three phases. In the first phase, from 1947 to 1953, foreign policy was non-aligned politically but the country was aligned to the West. In the second phase, from 1953 to 1960, the foreign policy became economically non-aligned. The third phase covers the years before Nehru's death in 1964.
Nehru's tenure was marked by a near-total absence of political debate, which was unthinkable in today's turbulent times, Jain said.
(Madhushree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)