New Delhi: Backed by Mahatma Gandhi, India’s charismatic first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru worked hard to create a ‘One World’ before Cold War and China’s betrayal killed him and his dream, says a new book.
Brilliantly researched, “The Peacemakers” (HarperCollins) by scholar Manu Bhagavan argues that Nehru was consumed by the idea of One World or a federal international structure and pursued it vigorously.
The One World concept caught Nehru’s imagination since he read, in prison, a book of the same title by Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential candidate in 1940 who envisioned a grand world alliance.
“Willkie’s plan was imbued with an anti-imperial sensibility and a ringing call for global justice, both ideas that Nehru held dear to his heart,” says the book, a path-breaking study of India’s early quest to create a common destiny for all the people in the world based on the concept of human rights.
Despite the pressures of India’s independence struggle, Nehru’s Quit India resolution had called for a world federation, with a unified world federal defence force and pooled resources.
Just days after he assumed office, Nehru broadcast that in spite of its rivalries, hatreds and inner conflicts, the world was moving inevitably towards closer ties as well as a world commonwealth.
“It is for this One World that free India will work, a world in which there is a free cooperation of free peoples, and no class or group exploits another.”
Even before India became independent, Nehru underlined that the country would like to cooperate with others to build “some kind of a world structure, call it ‘One World’, call it what you like”.
Just before India’s independence in August 1947, Nehru reiterated: “We have arrived at a stage in human affairs when the ideal of that ‘One World’ and some kind of world federation seems to be essential.”
But he admitted there “are many dangers and obstacles in the way”.
Before he was assassinated in January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi also threw his weight behind the idea. “‘Did I believe in One World?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Of course I believe in One World. And how can I possibly do otherwise?'”
The book says that at one point, “Nehru was more convinced than ever that his larger goal of One World was the only way out, not only for Indians and Pakistanis but for people everywhere”.
Even at the 1955 Bandung Conference, Nehru argued that it was not right to think in terms of “isolation in this modern world which is moving towards the ideal of One World”.
Even as Cold War took deep roots, dividing the world between the US and Soviet camps, Nehru spoke about the need for “some kind of a world order, One World, to emerge”.
Among those who shared such a view were legendary scientist Albert Einstein and India’s second president, the scholarly S. Radhakrishnan.
But the deepening US-Soviet divisions proved too strong for the One World idea.
Once China, who Nehru had considered a friend, invaded India in 1962, the prime minister concluded he had to reconfigure his own country for the world.
In 1963, Nehru presided over the 16th amendment to the Indian constitution, promising to preserve and maintain ‘the sovereignty and integrity of India’ – which was a virtual antithesis of his One World concept.
And in 1964, Nehru died a broken man.