Iran’s Rigged Election
A Handpicked President Won’t Stand in the Supreme Leader’s Way
THE Americans in their intercourse with strangers," says Tocqueville, "appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise. The most slender eulogium is acceptable to them; the most exalted seldom contents them; they unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes." In this passage toward the end of his great work, and in others earlier, the astute but sententious Frenchman was perhaps yielding to an impulse of irritation aroused by chance encounters on river steamers or stage coaches or in taverns, where no doubt a good many of his comprehensive generalizations had their origin. The phenomenon to which he refers is recognizable just the same, a century later, as being characteristically, although not exclusively, American. Disagreement with American foreign policy, even when it comes from our oldest and best allies, is fiercely resented both in private and in public expressions. It sometimes seems that the right to free, honest difference of opinion, which was the principal basis of our Republic at its foundation, has come to be restricted more and more to our own citizens, and perhaps not even to all of them. A difference of opinion from abroad is repelled as if it were an attack.
This is a time of tension and strain, when feeling runs high and when, above all, tremendous efforts and sacrifices are being demanded of the American people. Most of the effort is asked on behalf of countries of the free world, by which is meant practically any country not harnessed to the Soviet machine. Criticism of American policy is taken particularly ill when it comes from the beneficiaries of the policy. That is, the criticism of our enemies may be disregarded, but that of our friends strikes home.
The government of the new Republic of India has criticized little, but that small censure has been much resented. American impatience with Indian policy is shown both in the press and in private talk, in the halls of Congress and in the United Nations. It dates from December 1950 in its more pronounced manifestations, although it began to be perceptible some weeks earlier with the crossing of the 38th Parallel in Korea. During these months the general American feeling has tended towards an axiom quite new in our foreign relations--an axiom new in all foreign relations--which propounds an extreme: "Those who are not with us are against us." There would be little or no room for diplomacy if this principle came to be permanently accepted.
What, in fact, is the foreign policy of the present Government of India? As often stated in Parliament by Mr. Nehru, who is Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, India's policy is that of friendly relations toward all countries which are willing to reciprocate, and along with this a firm refusal to join any military alliance of one group against another. As a corollary, Nehru claims to take each decision on the merits of the question involved, no matter what the alignment of other Powers.
This policy is indistinguishable from the declared foreign policy of the United States during the first 150 years of its existence. It was sound American doctrine up to only three years ago. It is American doctrine no longer, because the changed situation of the world has compelled the United States to engage in vast enterprises of reconstruction and defense for other countries. But India's situation is in no respect comparable to that of the United States. India has no geographical security, appended as she is to a continent overwhelmingly engulfed by Communism. India's army, although good, is small; her resources are extremely limited and her population lives on the brink of famine at all times. The principal strength of India is psychological: it comes from the prestige won in a great national revolution accomplished by nonviolent means. It comes from the moral interest of all Asia in that national movement, and from the leadership under which it was achieved. There is probably also a feeling of pride on the part of all Asian peoples in the spectacle of a free, self-governing nation of such size and importance making its own way in a time of trouble, and doing so against the dire prognostications of most European observers. This, and similar considerations, constitute the strength of India: none is material and none could go into a balance-sheet of military, industrial or economic power.
The danger to India from a Communist Asia is obvious. If it is apparent to every editorial writer on every newspaper in the United States, it is also apparent to the Government of India. But the whole question in foreign policy is not the recognition of a danger but the choice of method by which that danger may be faced. India's geographic position is such that any military alliance with the United States would be, to say the least, delusional. For the sake of that delusion, and in order to take a place at the bottom of the list of applicants for military and economic assistance, would any sensible Indian government invite an invasion from the immense Communist territories of the Eurasian continent?
This is roughly the way the question presents itself to those in India (both Indians and foreigners) who look at it "realistically." They do not see the likelihood of American assistance in valid quantity or quality, or in time. Therefore to plunge into a military alliance against the neighboring Sino-Russian power, to proclaim it an enemy, would be rash and perhaps fatal. And in addition to all these "realistic" considerations, there is the further fact, important in India if nowhere else, that the country has a moral legacy of considerable persuasiveness which sets its mind against military combinations and involvements.
Well, says the American, what about Kashmir? With great frequency this question arises in just this connection. How does the Kashmir struggle fit the inherited principles of non-violence?
In principle, the action taken in Kashmir at the end of October 1947, and continuing to the cease-fire of January 1, 1949, with occasional outbursts since then, has been violent action. The Indian position all along has been that it was done in self-defense, i.e. to defend the Vale of Kashmir and its capital, Srinagar, from imminent destruction by the Pathan raiders from the northwest. Mr. Nehru and his Government improvised an action in great haste: the first Indian troops--three companies only--were flown to Srinagar and dropped there within 24 hours of the decision to defend. The accession of the Maharajah of Kashmir to India took place, it is clear, only under the immediate threat of these raids of the Pathans: he turned to India for defense. All the subsequent questions involved in the interminable debates at Lake Success and elsewhere, matters of population and religion and plebiscite, along with innumerable atrocity tales, are subsidiary in the judgment of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to the one main decision. At a press conference in Delhi three years ago he said to a roomful of correspondents: "I do not see how at any point we could have done differently from what we did do. Were we to sit by and watch Kashmir be devastated without lifting a finger?"
Mr. Nehru's governing motive in the whole Kashmir dispute--a thoughtful observer might guess--may be something rather more than the personal devotion to the land of his ancestors that has so often been imputed. He may, rather, see in the accession of that great state, with its large or predominant Moslem population, a contribution of supreme importance to his supreme aim, the creation of a secular Indian republic--not "Hindu Raj" or "Hindustan" at all, but an India in which Moslems, Hindu, Christian and Parsi shall be equal citizens. Pakistan is by definition a Moslem state; India is by definition secular. This can hardly figure in the international debate but it can hardly fail to figure in the play of motive.
Relations with Pakistan have been bad, as bad as possible in peace, from the moment of the partition and liberation of India in 1947. At frequent intervals they present the danger of open war. But for those of us who lived through the awful days of 1947-1948 in India it seems little short of incredible that war was, in fact, averted, and that the cease-fire of January 1, 1949, could be arranged at all. The Kashmir dispute, painful though it is, has been held to limits so far by the sheer obstinate truth that the Government of India does not want war. The Government of Pakistan may be, and probably is, in like case, but has a more belligerent population to control.
A foreign policy conceived largely is susceptible of minor contradictions, and can hardly be carried out without them. Life is not in the least logical. Our own foreign policy (or any other) would afford many examples. A policy intended to apply to the entire world is most likely to be contradicted near at home, where the difficulties are always more irksome. Thus it was with the United States in the nineteenth century, when a general world-view which tended toward isolationist pacifism was forever being contradicted by thrusts at Mexico. Thus it was with the Pax Britannica in the reign of Victoria, which had all sorts of moral pretensions (or even aspirations) but fell off around the edges into innumerable small wars of acquisition. The Kashmir case is not as sharp a contradiction to India's general pacifism as has been contended, for it has always seemed, to the Government at Delhi, a case of self-defense: and even Mahatma Gandhi through the great part of his life admitted the right of self-defense.
American resentment of Indian policy at the United Nations is the real essence of the situation we are discussing, in which, since December 1950, a store of American good will towards India seems to have been diminished and partly dissipated. Remembering the long debate over a cease-fire in Korea in December and January last, remembering it modo grosso and not in detail, Americans say that India "opposed" us, that India was "in favor of" Red China, and that India "vacillated" or was "unrealistic" in the matter.
This is a trick of the American memory which recalls Tocqueville's dictum at the beginning of this paper. India's position in favor of collective security and against aggression has been made clear a large number of times since the United Nations came into being. When the original American proposal was presented to the United Nations in June 1950, calling for a united stand against the aggression upon the Korean Republic, India supported that proposal (Cabinet decision of June 28). The Indian Parliament gave Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru a unanimous vote of approval for his stand: and unanimous votes are rare in the Indian Parliament. So long as the resistance to aggression was the main or only question at issue, India's support was assured. No Indian troops went to Korea for obvious reasons--they could not be spared from a country so threatened. But the moral support of India was invaluable at the time, for the plain reason that India has had a truly independent line in world politics for three years and could not be accused of acting under economic pressure, as could be said of Marshall Plan countries. The Egyptian refusal to take a similar stand was due, as may be remembered, to Nahas Pasha's contention that the aggression involved in the partition of Palestine was just as bad as the North Korean attack but had been approved by the Western Powers.
A slight cloud came in mid-October. At this point Mr. Nehru expressed himself publicly in favor of calling a halt at the 38th Parallel. This had always been his view, it seems, although privately expressed. From Sardar K. M. Panikkar, his Ambassador in Peking, he received a formal warning from the Chinese Communist Government that if our troops passed the parallel they, the Chinese, would take "defensive" action. The warning, as simple information, was relayed immediately to the State Department. It should be mentioned that Mr. Panikkar, so far from being a "Red sympathizer" as some American papers have stated, is in fact a conservative far to the right of Mr. Nehru himself; he was formerly counsel for the Indian Princes, the most reactionary body in India. There was no actual attempt at "mediation." Mr. Nehru denied in Parliament that he aimed at any such rôle. He had, during preceding weeks, exchanged some views on peace with both the State Department and Stalin: those exchanges were published.
When the 38th Parallel was passed, Mr. Nehru's comment to the journalists in Delhi was that he had nothing further to say: "the military mind has taken over." The Government of India did nothing further until December, when its delegation at Lake Success, working with the delegates of all the free countries of Asia and the Middle East (including Egypt), proposed a ceasefire. At this time the cease-fire, so far from being regarded by anybody as anti-American, was openly characterized by Jacob Malik, the Soviet delegate, as an attempt to "save the American troops" from disaster.
The long debate collapsed because of the obstinacy of the Chinese Communist responses. In the end the American delegation, obeying resolutions of both houses of the Congress, introduced a resolution branding the Chinese Communists as aggressors. To this resolution India and many other countries were opposed. The Marshall Plan countries fell into line at last, but India voted in the negative to the end. The final vote in the Political Committee took place at ten in the evening of India's day of national mourning, the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi.
This, it seems, was India's great crime in American eyes. No American I have ever met seems to realize that our approach to the Yalu River was genuinely alarming to the Chinese. Repeated public declarations on the Peking radio by spokesmen for the Chinese Communist Government (including the Foreign Minister, Chou En-lai) to the effect that China would not passively watch us come to the Chinese frontier were, it seems, regarded as bluff. The Chinese intervention was therefore, from the American point of view, aggression.
But even if it was aggression, an Indian might say--even granting the fact--how on earth can you negotiate with somebody you have branded so publicly as aggressor? What is the point of naming the Chinese aggressors? This was argued at Lake Success not only by Indians, but by many others, including representatives of most of the states of Asia and, earlier, Europe. Eventually the American resolution obtained the necessary votes. The performance was regarded with dismay by many Americans, since it seemed futile in a high degree--an expression of temper. The unfortunate fact is that from the time the United Nations troops passed the 38th Parallel the issue of resistance to aggression had been obscured, rightly or wrongly, in many minds both in Europe and Asia. The approach to the frontier of China looked, from an Asian point of view, unlike resistance and indeed rather like aggression. This unpopular fact can hardly be stated with safety in the United States, and yet it is a political reality.
And so, rightly or wrongly, India came in for its present wave of disfavor in the United States: India more than any other country because she had never changed her views and maintained her vote to the end. It is hardly necessary to recall the debate in the American Congress on wheat for India, in which a humanitarian proposal was dragged through the political mire for week after week. But even this episode, unsavory though it was, cannot give the full flavor of the anti-Indian remarks one hears in private discussions.
And yet, truthfully speaking, can anybody deny that what India wished to see in October is what we were seeing in August? At each step in the long development of the Korean drama, considered not as a military conflict but as a tremendous psychological evolution for thinking men everywhere, the aching question has been this: where and how will it end? India wished to see it end at the 38th Parallel: that was in October 1950. And somewhere in that neighborhood is probably where it will end--after travail and loss, sorrow and destruction.
Americans regard the principle of collective security as valid only if some method of enforcing it can be made operative; India, which fully accepts the principle, has in American eyes been lagging in support for enforcement. I have tried to show that India's support was assured during the whole first part of the Korean campaign and grew tepid only as we approached the frontier of China; but the points of view here are wide apart and it may be years before they are thoroughly reconciled. It is important that each should recognize the grounds for honest disagreement. If an observer may speak personally, I never did see how an army in motion could stop at an imaginary line like the 38th Parallel, but I do understand how from an Asian point of view our progress toward the north appeared to be something new and genuinely disquieting.
The other complaints heard against Indian foreign policy in this country are, seriatim: that Mr. Nehru recognized Mao Tsetung before anybody else did; that India wished to see Mao Tsetung's Government take the permanent place allotted to China in the Security Council; that Mr. Nehru has a weakness for Communism. Below that level the complaints trail off into absurdity.
It is true that India was first, by a hair's breadth, in recognizing the Peking régime, but there is reason to believe that this was all decided at Colombo in concert with the other Powers associated with the British Commonwealth. The recognition of the Peking régime would naturally imply support for its claim to sit as the existing Chinese Government in the Security Council. It is well worth remembering that at the time of these events, March-April-May of 1950, they did not seem so startling even to Americans as they do today. Had it not been for tempests in internal policy, attacks upon the State Department and the like, the American Government itself might have felt quite differently upon both questions. By May 1950, six weeks before the Korean aggression, American opposition to the Peking régime had solidified and the diplomatic situation with regard to Peking had become the hodgepodge that it is today, with the British in particular well out on a limb. They, in the pre-McCarthy era, had recognized both Bao Dai and Mao Tse-tung--Bao Dai to please the French and the Americans, Mao Tse-tung to face the facts and try to save what could be saved of British trade in China. The blatant truth is that the United States made no serious attempt to keep Britain and India from recognizing Mao Tse-tung.
Mr. Nehru's speech to the Indian Parliament on the recognition of Mao Tse-tung in the spring of 1950 states plainly that India is not concerned with the nature of an existing government, but merely with its existence. Once the entire mainland of China was under the rule of the Peking Government--for the first time in 40 years--there was no point, in this view, in ignoring that fact, especially on the part of an Asian Power which fundamentally and primarily thinks of Asia as a wronged, exploited continent. This last point--Asian anti-imperialism--is such a pervasive element in the politics of every country from the Mediterranean to the Pacific that it tends, much of the time, to make the issue of capitalism versus Communism, as presented by some in the United States, irrelevant. Asia, by and large, is neither capitalist nor Communist: it is peasant. Starving peasants take little account of our paleface ideologies.
But to suppose that Mr. Nehru has a weakness for Communism is arrant nonsense. He has been personally responsible--and has publicly accepted responsibility--for the imprisonment without trial of practically every Indian Communist organizer or agitator of any consequence. The number is not precisely known. It changes constantly, but I have heard that some 12,000 to 15,000 Communists are in prison. This is done with the utmost severity and without bail, habeas corpus or any of the other constitutional safeguards which are observed in the United States. Mr. Nehru bitterly dislikes putting anybody in jail, having spent so much of his own life there, but he also acknowledges his responsibility for public order and for the food supply of the country, both of which have been sharply threatened by Communist activity. Had the threatened Communist-led strike on the railroads taken place in the spring of 1950, it would have thrown whole provinces into total famine. It was this which determined Mr. Nehru to utilize those emergency regulations (Defense of the Realm) under which he himself was confined for so many years.
True, Jawaharlal Nehru is a Socialist in theory, but he never has belonged to the Socialist Party of India, although he showed it sympathy in its early days. His own party, the National Congress, has traditionally taken in anybody who wanted to work for the freedom of India, regardless of theoretical views on society or economics. His Socialism does not seem to me much more radical than that of Theodore Roosevelt, who also believed in conservation of national resources and was much more of a "trust-buster" than Mr. Nehru has proved to be. Woodrow Wilson was not a Socialist, and yet the origins of the T.V.A. must be traced to him: and the T.V.A. is precisely the kind of government enterprise towards which Nehru most aspires. As Stanley Baldwin and many Liberals and Conservatives before him have remarked, "We are all Socialists now," and the labels refer to degree rather than to kind. Mr. Nehru has formally deferred even the consideration of possible nationalization for ten years, which indicates how gradually he approaches the enactment of any Socialist theory. He is exempt from the worst vilifications of Indian politicians--excepting always the Communists--because he inherits some of Gandhi's immunity. But the Communists and their close allies in and out of India never lose a chance to arraign him as the "Chiang Kai-shek" of India, the "tool of Wall Street" and so on. When he travels abroad it is customary for the local Communist parties to make demonstrations against him.
Mahatma Gandhi has also become anathema to the Communists. They supported him during his life in spite of his anti-materialist philosophy, because in fact they could do nothing else. They had to support him or cease to exist in Indian politics. Once he was safely dead, however, the pundits of Moscow set to work, and as readers of the Soviet press know, it has been officially ruled that Gandhi was a "reactionary Utopian," which condemns him by bell, book and candle.
Prime Minister Nehru, of course, does not hesitate upon occasion to depart from the Gandhian rules. He never did follow the dietary and religious regulations of the Mahatma. He gave up meat-eating on his return from England, but with some difficulty, and has not adhered to the rule with any noticeable fanaticism. He smokes cigarettes as constantly as President Roosevelt used to do; he has no devotional habits or practices that I have heard about. One of his most notable departures from Gandhian teaching has just recently occurred when he sponsored a bill in the Indian Parliament which would legalize instruction in birth control. This victory for Mrs. Sanger's thesis occurs more than 20 years after her celebrated three-day debate with the Mahatma on that question. Gandhiji was greatly in favor of birth control--the population of India increases 5,000,000 a year in spite of appalling mortality--but he wished to obtain it by sexual abstinence, which is no more practical in India than anywhere else.
One of Mr. Nehru's most notable departures from Gandhian teaching has been the First Amendment to the Constitution of India. This amendment authorizes the Government to put "reasonable restrictions" on the liberty of the press. There was a furor in India over this measure, and our press in the United States duly reported the furor without ever adequately explaining what it was about. The purpose of the restrictive powers is partly, and perhaps even chiefly, to defend the United States Government against the fantastic inventions and accusations of the Communist and crypto-Communist press of India. There are papers in India--sheets or broadsides would be a better description--appearing erratically once a week for six months or so, which go further in gutter--language and sheer inventive filth than anything it has been my privilege to see in America. The United States is under constant attack in these sheets, which, following the Moscow style of invective, surpass even their models in vulgarity and untruth. Mr. Nehru has been concerned to save "friendly nations" (i.e. principally the United States) from this kind of vicious attack. Indian journalism as a whole rose in its wrath against the First Amendment in the name of "freedom of the press," though nobody contended that Mr. Nehru could not be trusted to administer it: the objection was that he might some day have a successor who would utilize his powers otherwise. He then accepted the addition of the tremendous word "reasonable," which, of course, will subjugate every litigation to review by the Supreme Court of India; but the amendment was passed, anyhow, on June 1, 1951.
A final specific criticism of India's policy by Americans should be mentioned, although it is not valid--that the Chinese annexation of Tibet was accepted without protest. It is insufficiently understood here that Tibet never has been an independent country under international law. It was always a vassal state of the Chinese emperors, and in the nineteenth century, when our codes were evolved, this was universally recognized. The most the British Government of India could claim was the right, as an interested party, to be represented at any negotiations. Even this had a very shadowy legal basis. Just as Mr. Nehru inherits the historic responsibilities of the British, so Mao Tse-tung inherits those of the Chinese emperors: that is the juridical fact unless the existence of the Peking Government be denied. Mr. Nehru does not deny its existence; he has in fact recognized it. So what legal basis could he have for any kind of intervention? Certainly he has not been rendered happier by the Chinese action, since he had actively endeavored to bring about a peaceful settlement without military occupation. And it is extremely apparent to him, as one of the most percipient men ever to attain great power, that the huge natural plateau of Tibet can, in an air age, dominate Asia. Tibet has become, at this time, what the British always foresaw that it would become: a military position of high importance. The two young boys in whose names all these manœuvres have taken place are incarnations of the enlightenment of Lord Gautama Buddha. The older, the Dalai Lama, is now 16 and has been considered in some quarters to be backed by Mr. Nehru; the other, the Panchen Lama, was only 13 a year and a half ago when the stars, omens and portents picked him out, so conveniently for Mao Tse-tung, in Chinese-occupied territory. The Chinese-Tibetan Agreement (published in both Pravda and Izvestia, May 29, 1951) guarantees the existing political system of Tibet, its religious freedom, habits and customs, the income of the lamaseries, and all the "existing status, function and powers" of both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Article 11 guarantees that no reforms will be introduced in Tibet by the central authorities, but must occur when and if the local Tibetan government desires. This is pretty much what any Chinese emperor would have done, up to this point, and is almost exactly what Chiang Kai-shek also did. It should be stressed once more, however, that the Panchen Lama is Mao Tse-tung's instrument and that there is no limit to the possibilities of such an instrument in Tibet. The powers of the two great lamas are defined as being those which pertained to the thirteenth Dalai Lama and ninth Panchen Lama "at the time of friendly and cordial relations between them."
However, the agreement also reserves Tibet's foreign relations to the central Chinese Government and contains military clauses which will integrate the Tibetan forces into the Chinese national army, will introduce Chinese military committees into Tibet, etc. It is these military clauses which have occasioned anxiety in Delhi. The Dalai Lama has now returned to Lhasa, and it is hardly to be doubted that henceforth he will be unable to appeal to Mr. Nehru on anything of consequence. The Panchen Lama's authority, which has at times in history surpassed that of the Dalai Lama, must now be considered to be a part of the political apparatus of the Peking Government.
Mr. Nehru and his Ministry of External Affairs realize all this far more precisely than do their numerous critics in the United States. They are also fully cognizant of the means at their disposal, and, roughly speaking, of the practical limits thus put upon their action. Jawaharlal Nehru perhaps underrated the Chinese nationalist sensibilities of Mao Tse-tung; I think he did. All Chinese are nationalists; some may be Communists as well. No Chinese government could be pleased to see a negotiation over the future of Tibet being conducted in Delhi under the auspices of the Government of India. The Chinese Communist leaders are nearly all the children of imperial (and Confucian) mandarins. They must have felt that the Indian Prime Minister was overreaching himself in patronizing, for well over a year, the negotiations between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese Embassy in Delhi. That is why Mao Tse-tung invaded Tibet in October and imperiously summoned the negotiators to come to Peking. He was doing just what Chiang Kai-shek would have done and just what the Empress Dowager would have done, if it had been within their means.
Mr. Nehru's strength in foreign relations, even if he did fail in Tibet, arises from the fact that he fundamentally understands the tangle of elements in Asia better than any other democratic statesman of the day. All other democratic leaders, believers in freedom under law, seem to be hypnotized by technology and economics. There are more vital forces, even though totally unreasonable from a Western point of view. Stalin has been making some rather belated efforts to acknowledge this, probably on the best advice available to him: his tremendously important contributions to the linguistics debate (May-June-July 1950) opened a new era in Soviet theory. He is at present engaged in a strenuous effort to acknowledge also the special agrarian character of the Chinese Communist movement, its independence and its difference from Russian development: this shows up in such productions as the official analysis, 11,000 words long, published in Voprosy Filosofii in January 1951, of his entire attitude towards Chinese Communism for 25 years past. The Russians are now insisting on a general relativity theory under which the old Marxist dogmas do not apply at all, and China is studiously invited to be herself. We may be quite certain that Mr. Nehru understood the linguistics debate: can we be certain that any other democratic chief of state did?
Therefore he and his government represent an ideal force, if not a material one, indispensable to all who believe in freedom. We need him very much. Nobody else can speak to the free nations of Asia as he can. He carries with him every Asian government and all Asian opinion outside of Communist areas. Once he has refused to sign the Japanese treaty few others in Asia will sign it. The reservations which he suggested to it would make no practical difference to the American arrangements since those could be carried out bilaterally with Japan. He insists that the sovereignty of Japan and the sovereignty of China be not impaired. On such a point there would be no difference of opinion in the whole of Asia.
But Mr. Nehru's government, too, has a number of items to remember. One is that the thing Americans cannot endure, above all things, is moral condemnation. We think we have been brave, generous and as good as any great nation could be. We approve of our own conduct. Therefore it irks and hurts and harasses us to be accused, as we think, unjustly. Mr. Nehru does not give himself any airs of special virtue, and he has gone very far to disclaim any intention of leading or teaching the world. But the snippets and snatches of his speeches which our press system permits us to see are often, half a world away, construed as preachment. In March 1948, when some enthusiastic member of Parliament got up and asked him if India could not "lead" Asia, he replied: "What right have we to lead Asia? Have we shown ourselves worthy of any such task?" He has quite humbly said, over and over, that the task of his government is to guard India's independence and improve the lot of her people. In second place comes his desire to save the peace if possible, since the disaster of war might engulf everything that has evoked the energies of man since time began.
The Government of India carries with it, on international questions, so vast a section of the political terrestrial globe that it acquires an importance far out of proportion to its material strength. It has therefore some general responsibility akin to, although different from, that of the United States and the Soviet Union. Since its strength is moral, its words and deeds tend to have a moral overtone which is (rightly or wrongly) not acknowledged in the words or deeds of others. This can be harsh upon the ears of those who, with all due allowance for human weakness and error, are doing the best they can. The cause of peace would be best served if India and America, without military alliance or commitments hostile to other states, could become firm friends in the international arena, and above all at the United Nations. This would permit disagreement in detail--how else can friendship operate?--but should acknowledge that what unites us, our common devotion to democracy and peace, is immeasurably greater than anything that could divide us.