AFTER eight years of independence India's foreign policy still gives rise to grave doubts in the Western mind. The reason for this is the acceptance of old definitions rather than an appreciation of the country's background and its human aspirations. The word "neutrality" as applied to India's foreign policy has little meaning. Like a hundred other oft-repeated words it has become blunted with use, and can be related to India only in the context of her past and present policies. What does neutrality—or, as we prefer to call it, non-alignment—mean and why does India follow this path?

As in dress, there are fashions in political outlook and behavior and the individual who wears last year's model at a gathering is regarded not only as eccentric but something approaching a freak. India, it would seem, has entered the elegant international drawing room in old clothes and is an embarrassing misfit among those already assembled there. Why does she continue to embarrass the leaders of society when they have pointed out to her that she would be far more acceptable if she were fashionably in step with them?

In our assessment of the world situation, we, like other nations, find ourselves confronted by two alternatives. One is the belief that peace can be maintained by building up military might and held in balance by an armaments race. The other is the view that it can be preserved only by peaceful means, that the armaments race endangers its preservation, and that no stone must be left unturned to lessen the tensions that exist in the world. To us it seems logical that the latter is the surer way to safeguard the peace. Our approach to peace might then be called "neutrality" if such a nebulous word can be used to define a policy which since its inception in an independent India has been both active and dynamic. In essence our neutrality is the unjaundiced outlook we choose to apply to all international issues, believing that if we approach a problem with a calm mind our vision will be clearer and the result more fruitful. It is true that in an atomic age of cut-and-dried formulas and decisions backed by the authority of power such a policy has the disadvantage of not fitting neatly into any prescribed formula. It reserves unto itself the right to judge each question as it arises on its merits, but it has the great advantage of being free from prejudice and fear.

This particular approach to peace is not new to India. It is her traditional outlook, both philosophical and historical. Philosophically it took shape as early as the sixth century B.C. when Gautama Buddha condemned violence in all its forms and sought through the example of his own renunciation a solution to human suffering. The religion he inspired spread far beyond India's borders into Ceylon, China, Japan, Indo-China and Siam. Buddhist civilization linked the countries of Asia, giving them a common heritage, much as Christianity binds the Western world today and has done since its early remarkable spread over Europe.

Historically the peaceful approach found its most celebrated exponent in the Emperor Asoka in the third century B.C. In the process of waging a series of bloody wars to extend his domain, he became suddenly conscious of the futility of war. At the height of his military glory he renounced war as a method of conquest and adopted the Buddhist creed of non-violence both as a national and international policy. The inscribed pillars he had erected all over India and the edicts he had carved on rock faces bear witness to his repentance and compassion for all living things. From then on his relations with neighboring countries were confined to the missionaries he sent abroad to spread the teachings of the Buddha.

The message of the Buddha created the culture patterns and led to the meditative approach of Asia for a thousand years after Asoka. It was responsible for the peace that generally prevailed among the Buddhist countries of the ancient world and continued into very recent times. It is a noteworthy fact that the countries of Asia have through the centuries of their recorded history maintained for the most part cordial relations with one another. Their contacts have been commercial, cultural and religious. Scholars, missionaries and travellers have followed the ancient caravan routes bearing messages from their lands or in search of knowledge from other lands, and those who recorded their travels have left detailed accounts of the welcome and honors they received as guests in strange countries. Among them were the two Chinese pilgrims, Fa Hien in the fourth century A.D. and Hiuen Tsiang in the seventh century A.D., who walked across Central Asia into India in search of authoritative Buddhist works. Hiuen Tsiang, an eminent scholar himself, studied for many years at the then already historic Buddhist University of Nalanda, famous throughout Asia for its high standard of learning. There has been no history of prolonged and painful conflict between the Asian countries as there has been in the Western world, where the countries of Europe, relentlessly divided, have carried on an almost unceasing struggle for power and supremacy, and where numerous religious wars, wars of succession and wars over trade have been fought. While conflict has been the general rule throughout European history, and peace has been confined to periods between wars, in Asia the reverse has been the case. Because of this background the Asian nations, now independent, can renew their old cultural contacts with ease, regarding each other as peaceful neighbors rather than as potential enemies. There has been no inherited legacy of conflict to mar their present outlook.

It has been our special fortune to have in our midst in recent times a noble son of India and a great interpreter of our traditional approach. But an approach, however revered, must find its flowering in visible examples if it is to have a practical value for the people who subscribe to it. Mahatma Gandhi has been for us that practical example, bringing politics to the more humble and more human level of individual behavior. Gandhi made India's destiny the individual responsibility of every citizen. He believed in a very literal sense that human beings were the nation and that the behavior of every individual ultimately molded the fate of his country. The fact that his insistence on ethics and his creed of non-violence brought freedom to India by means of a unique revolution indicates that his were not the dreams of a visionary. On the contrary he proved that the peaceful approach still had a dynamic significance for our own era, that bloodshed was not the only way, even in an age of violence, for a nation to conduct its struggle for independence. By casting out antagonism from his own view and insisting that his followers do the same, he laid the foundations for the cooperation that continues today between free India and Great Britain. We value this contact with Britain because in a world so sadly divided friendship between nations is a thing to be guarded and nurtured. But more even than the contact, we value the approach that has made it possible. We are convinced not merely that it can prove an asset on the wider international plane but that it is the only method that will guarantee a lasting peace.

At the recent session of the Congress Party in Amritsar, our Prime Minister voiced this conviction while moving a resolution in honor of the 2,500th anniversary of the parinirvana (death) of the Buddha. He pointed out that the question facing humanity was whether or not it stood by the message of the Buddha and of Mahatma Gandhi both in the national and international spheres. It was a choice, he said, between peace and the hydrogen bomb.

In an earlier period the accepted definition of neutrality was passive—a state of "no-war." But now the uncommitted nations are more positive in their approach. They wish to participate fully in all activities which promote peace and for this reason they are willing to assume considerable responsibility in international affairs. India is an active member of the United Nations and willingly offers her service when it is needed to ease tension and promote good will. It was in this hope that she accepted the responsibility of the chairmanship of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in Korea and more recently the chairmanship of the Supervisory Commission for Indo-China. Thus her chosen rôle demands that she exert herself in whatever capacity offers itself in the interests of peace. Her neutrality itself implies involvement in its cause.

Can India's rôle have a real influence on the peace of the world? The answer does not lie with India alone. So long as the approach to peace lies through military pacts and greater weapons of destruction India's rôle must remain limited and world peace continue to remain just beyond reach.

This is the policy to which we adhere for two reasons. Firstly, because our need for peace is imperative. It is not merely desirable or preferable, it is a vital necessity and a daily prayer. We have problems to face in India that would tax the energies and resources of a nation far better equipped and developed than ours. We need peace not in order to become more powerful or more prosperous, but in order to exist. We need it in order to eat, to be clothed, and housed and made literate. We need it for these basic unadorned reasons and we will not jeopardize their realization by even a remote word or action that might add to the unhappy tensions that already exist.

Secondly, we choose this way because we reject completely the psychology of threat and its by-product, fear. We do not subscribe to the widely-held belief that the affairs of nations can be successfully conducted on a military level. In the world's recent history there is abundant evidence to prove that neither threats of superior force nor displays of armed might have been able to create the climate in which peace can take root. The great malady which affects humanity today is fear, born of tensions following the armaments race. Fear is a bad counsellor and reduces those who fall within its grasp to a state in which no positive action is possible. To keep fear at its lowest ebb even if it cannot be wholly eliminated is India's ceaseless endeavor.

In a world of conflicting ideologies there is, to our way of thinking, no civilized method of living in harmony with those who disagree with us but that of peaceful coexistence. To this end we uphold the Pancha Shila or five principles, first so named in the preamble of our treaty with China regarding Tibet, signed in 1954, but since then accepted by other countries as a code of international morality. Coexistence is one of the principles incorporated in Pancha Shila, the others being respect for the territorial and integral sovereignty of others, nonaggression, noninterference in the internal affairs of others and the recognition of the equality of others.

Because of our faith in the efficacy of this outlook we remain in the Commonwealth—an example that an association of nations can exist, mutually beneficial to one another, without necessarily having an identity of opinions. Because of it, too, we support the United Nations as a focal point of international relations, and seek to enlarge its membership. This, also, is the reason why we support the entry into it of the People's Republic of China, for without Asia's largest nation in its councils the United Nations is not a truly representative body. In pursuance of our policy of peaceful coexistence we have urged the banning of nuclear weapons and the limitation of conventional armaments, and have deplored any pact or treaty that has been based on a military approach. Pacts such as those of Manila and Baghdad can only heighten the world's fever, not cool it.

The concept of coexistence has a special significance for the countries of Asia and Africa in their dealings with one another. For the first time in history they meet and discuss matters relating to themselves as independent nations. The Bandung Conference has highlighted the efficacy of coexistence, proving it both worthwhile and workable. At Bandung, despite differences in political status, policy and viewpoint, 29 Asian and African countries sought each other's aid and experience on a basis of mutual coöperation. Their policies ranged from membership in NATO to close alliance with the Soviet Union, but this did not come in the way of mutual respect and friendship. They agreed to provide each other with technical assistance, to promote trade and joint financial ventures, and to renew their ancient cultural contacts through the exchange of delegations. Alike, they deplored racial discrimination wherever it existed and supported the right of all peoples to self-determination. The most outstanding result of the conference was its unanimous declaration on the promotion of world peace. These Asian and African countries, some newly emerged to independence though they were, industrially backward, militarily insecure and financially poor, did, nevertheless, accomplish a feat of coöperation.

Among the issues agreed upon at Bandung was a unanimous condemnation of colonialism. Of this Goa is a flagrant example, for Goa is as much a part of India as Dover is British and Marseilles French. When Britain withdrew from India and France from her possessions of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahé and Yanam it was hoped that Portugal too, recognizing the signs of the times, would similarly and gracefully withdraw. That she did not do so poses a situation for which there is no rational explanation. Premier Salazar has said that Portuguese rule must remain in order that Goa "might continue to be a memorial to Portuguese discoveries and a small hearth of the Western spirit in the East." Surely the Western spirit in the East should be associated with good will and not with a totalitarian régime harshly imposed on an unwilling people. The spirit of Britain that endures in India is that of her democratic institutions and traditions, her sense of fair play and her celebrated justice. The French spirit endures in her onetime possessions in India in the shape of a continued reverence for the French language and culture. The Portuguese, if they believe they are contributing to the cause of Western civilization in the East, are perpetuating a bitter and tragic farce. The East welcomes the West, but as a friend and equal, not as a master. In Goa today there is unhappy evidence of a dictatorial alien régime not accepted by the people.

Goans are Indians. Racially they are indistinguishable from the people of the neighboring districts of Bombay State. The inhabitants of Daman and Diu are Gujaratis. According to the Portuguese census statistics of 1951, European settlers numbered 517, those of mixed blood 562, and Indians 636,153. Their mother tongue is not Portuguese but Konkani in Goa and Gujarati in Daman and Diu. Not more than 8 percent of the entire population has even a slight knowledge of Portuguese. Less than a third of the population is Roman Catholic, and even these have more in common with the five million Catholics elsewhere in India who enjoy full religious freedom than with the Portuguese. It is significant that whereas the Archbishop of Goa is a Portuguese, the first Indian Cardinal is a Goan. There are more Goan officers in the Indian Army than there are Goan privates in the Portuguese army, and these privates can never aspire to any rank higher than that of a sergeant.

Goa is a part of the Indian economy and dependent upon it. Premier Salazar has himself admitted that Portugal's share in her trade is only 10 percent of imports and 1 percent of exports. Nearly the entire Goan middle class is dependent on India for higher education and for jobs. Over 150,000 Goans live and work in India and it is their remittances that have formed the foundation of Goan economy. Though the soil is fertile, only a third of the arable land is cultivated and the rice produced meets less than half the local demand. Despite recent mining of iron ore and manganese, the imports are four times greater than the exports. In 1952 the Portuguese, suddenly aware of their failure in these various fields, formulated a Six Year Plan, but in this Plan over 60 percent of the expenditure was reserved for the construction of airfields and the development of strategic communications.

Goa to this day has not been permitted representative government. The Governor-General is assisted by an Advisory Council of 12 members of whom seven are nominated and five elected by the wealthiest taxpayers. He submits to this Council as and when he thinks fit, referring any adverse vote to the government at Lisbon. A Legislative Council was established in March 1953 but no mode of elections has yet been worked out. Portuguese possessions in India elect two deputies to the Assemblies at Lisbon but the franchise is limited to about 3 percent of the total population. A strict censorship both of internal and foreign mail is maintained, and no criticism of the government, including that on purely local issues, is permitted in the press. All political activity is forbidden and the constitution and executive personnel of even social associations require official approval. Such repression cannot long continue in an age when the entire Asian continent is waking to freedom and self-expression. Issues that were once judged in terms of power and prestige can now only be decided in human terms.

The natural outcome of Portuguese rule has been an increased desire for freedom on the part of the Goans. In July 1954 a small body of unarmed Goans, supported by their people, succeeded in disarming the Portuguese police who were equipped with automatic weapons, and took over the administration of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in Daman. In the satyagraha that followed against the Portuguese authorities over 2,500 Goans, both men and women, Catholics and Hindus, were arrested and many subjected to brutal treatment. Nearly 500 are still in prison, 240 are serving long terms after summary trials by military tribunals and 14 have been deported to Portugal and her African colonies.

In August 1955 an unarmed band of Indians and Goans tried to cross the border into Goa to offer peaceful satyagraha. In the firing that followed 24 were killed, many more injured and 31 Indian nationals, one of whom was a Member of Parliament, were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. The fate of these fellow-Indians naturally stirred strong feelings in India, but the government of India while sympathizing fully with Goan aspirations, stands by its principle of non-violence; it refrained from using military measures in the face of grave provocation and put a ban on the entry of the non-violent resisters to prevent further deterioration of the situation. Addressing Parliament on this question, the Prime Minister said that the problem of Goa would be tackled within the framework of India's peace policy, without resort to military measures.

The right of all peoples to self-determination is no longer a matter of opinion. It is an established fact which the United Nations Charter recognizes and which has been accepted by its member nations. Freedom is not a prize to be offered for good behavior or a commodity to be withheld for the pleasure or the profit of the ruler. If the word is to have any meaning it cannot be denied to any portion of the world's people for any reason whatsoever. The tremendous revolution that is stirring Asia and Africa has at last given the peoples of these mighty continents the opportunity of expressing themselves with newly-found confidence and dignity and they will be satisfied with nothing less than their birthright. This is not the time when any man can ride astride another or be his master. It is the time to bury false notions of prestige and act in terms of human welfare. We make a plea for the peaceful and friendly solution of this problem so that bitterness may cease and the dark shadow of conflict which threatens may be lifted. There is no alternative to coexistence but tragedy—tragedy as devastating for the powerful as for the humbler nations.

In conclusion, I should like to draw attention to one of the main factors which have contributed to the position which the West occupies in the modern world. It is great today because it has sustained a deep faith in man, the individual and his destiny, because it has worked for the uplifting of the human spirit and believed in its guiding power. Material power itself has developed because of this guiding force. What we need is a closer understanding between the nations of the world based on the working out in practice of the great proposition which America has given the world, that all men are created equal and possess inalienable rights. To forget this at such a time as we are passing through would lead to grave consequences. Since its inception in America, this proposition has become the common heritage of mankind and independent India has based her own constitution on it. Today she bases her foreign policy upon a similar concept hoping that, in the words of the Greek poet, it will help to "hold a hand uplifted over hate."

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  • VIJAYA LAKSHMI PANDIT, High Commissioner for India in London; Ambassador to Soviet Russia, 1947-49, and to the United States, 1949-51; President of the U.N. General Assembly, 1953-54
  • More By Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit