07 Aug, 1997    ·   7

Aabha Dixit looks into the fifty years of continuity in nuclear issues of India

If there is an area where tradition, continuity and a sprit of freedom have managed to prosper in the Indian policy, it is in the arena of Indian foreign policy. Through the five decades of Independence , a consensual approach to foreign policy making has been wide spread support for policies and initiatives that Congress and non-Congress governments alike have taken. The successful conduct of foreign policy has in large measure been the result of the strong foundation laid by the architect of India ’s foreign policy - Jawaharlal Nehru. It is entirely fitting that India ’s Prime Minister in its Golden Jubilee year is Inder Kumar Gujral, a self professed Nehru admirer, who has sought to conduct foreign policy in the Nehruvian vision.



Despite the presence of Prime Ministers who have taken personal interest in foreign policy, it has continued to remain insulated from any discernible personality cult enveloping it. While consensus cutting across party lines has been the dominant element of foreign policy in the past five decades, there is nevertheless an acceptance that it bears Nehru’s stamp on its numerous facets. In many ways, Nehru represented the bridge between the emotional and social urges of the freedom movement and daunting task of governing an independent country in a world which has seen radical changes following the end of the second World War. The truly nationalist moorings of Indian foreign policy allowed Nehru to craft India ’s foreign policy in the context of its times. Admittedly, the genius of Nehru lay in giving Indian foreign policy a vision, which has continued to be its guiding star fifty years later.



The particular stress on anti-colonialism and the fight against racial discrimination were drawn from experiences gathered during the freedom struggle. Similarly, Nehru’s advocacy for a world without nuclear weapons was rooted in the underlying philosophy of the Gandhian struggle - non violence. Taken together, this Nehruvian vision translated into a sort of natural leader of newly independent countries, which were seeking to find their feet in the post -World War II international system, that was driven by bloc politics and undergirded by a balance of terror which was predicated on an unprecedented nuclear arms race.



In India ’s fiftieth year of Independence , Nehru’s deep concern for the threat humanity faced from nuclear weapons continues to remain a major concern for the Gujral government. Throughout the CTBT debate, the Narasimha Rao and later the Deve Gowda governments steadfastly held on to the Nehruvian vision that any effort to achieve nuclear disarmament must be non-discriminatory and global in its approach. I.K. Gujral as External Affairs Minister masterfully handled the end game of the CTBT negotiations, creating an unprecedented consensus within the political and intellectual spectra. This allowed India to stand on principled grounds in objecting to the flawed CTBT. It may have cost India in terms of a seat in the UN Security Council, but the decision not to endorse the CTBT in its present form made every Indian walk tall.



Even in the post-CTBT situation, the Gujral government’s spirited defence of its nuclear policies and its refusal to be provoked into going overtly nuclear is another manifestation of the Nehruvian vision. While Nehru advocated the need for global nuclear disarmament, he was conscious to the underlying security needs of the country. By creating the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) within a year of Independence , Nehru was seeking not only to harness the atom for peaceful purposes, but also to safeguard the country’s security against all eventualities. The present government has been following this policy and it is a testament to Nehru that fifty years later, it continues to remain relevant.