From geopolitics to military strategy to national integrity, India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru committed one faux pas after another, creating several problems that pester the country to this day
Jawaharlal Nehru became India's first Prime Minister, thanks to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who arm-twisted the Congress into accepting him over the immensely popular and capable Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The Congress party's dynastic lackeys like to call Nehru the "architect of modern India". The claim, ironically, is true: Nehru is responsible for the lion's share of the problems that India has inherited from the 1940s through the early 1960s. Let us take a brief look at Nehru's monumental blunders, which went a long way towards shaping the India we all know.
1. Creating the Kashmir issue
Nehru single-handedly created the Kashmir issue that weighs India down to this day, firstly by refusing Jammu and Kashmir's accession to India when it was first offered in September 1947; secondly by accepting it only if the unconditional accession was made "temporary" and "conditional"; thirdly, by preventing the Indian Army from liberating the whole of Jammu & Kashmir from Pakistani invaders at the end of 1948; fourthly by needlessly internationalising the issue and lastly by engineering, despite opposition from Patel and Ambedkar, Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution that give special status to the state.
2. Refusing the Khan of Kalat's offer to accede to India
In 1947, the Khan of Kalat, a princely state in Balochistan, opted to join India rather than Pakistan. He sent Nehru signed accession papers that officially made Kalat a part of the Union of India. Nehru, for reasons best known to him, rejected Kalat's accession and returned the accession papers to the Khan, paving the way for Pakistan's invasion and annexation of Balochistan.
3. Obstructing Sardar Patel's plan to liberate Hyderabad from the murderous Nizam
After India's independence, Hyderabad's Nizam refused to accede to India, and unleashed a private army of over two lakh "Razakars" on the state's Hindu subjects, massacring at least thirty to forty thousand people, by conservative estimates. In response, Union Home Minister Sardar Patel decided to liberate the state using military force. PM Nehru opposed the plan and tried to scuttle it. He insulted and humiliated Patel, calling him "a complete communalist" in a meeting. Patel went ahead despite Nehru's best efforts, and launched Operation Polo that liberated Hyderabad.
4. Gifting Manipur's Kabo valley to Burma
The lush, fertile and resource-rich Kabo valley, which measures over 11,000 sq km, has been part of the kingdom of Manipur at least as far back as 1450, according to historical records. After the British annexed Manipur, they leased the valley to Burma in 1834, in consultation with Maharaja Gambhir Singh of Manipur. In return, Burma paid the kingdom of Manipur sicca rupees 500 monthly as compensation, with the clear stipulation that Manipur retained the right to reclaim the land at any time. The compensation was paid until Manipur became a part of the Union of India, at which point it became incumbent upon the Government of India to reclaim the land. However, instead of reclaiming the territory, Nehru gifted it to Burma in 1954.
5. Gifting the strategically located Coco Islands to Burma
The Great Coco Island and the Little Coco island form the northernmost part of the Andaman archipelago. India's former defence minister George Fernandes revealed that PM Nehru gifted these islands to Burma after India's independence. Subsequently, Burma handed them over to China, which has established an extensive electronic surveillance station on the larger of the islands, to keep an eye on India's military and naval activities in the Bay of Bengal, giving it a crucial strategic advantage in India's backyard.
6. Hostility towards Sardar Patel's restoration of the Somnath Temple
After India's Independence, Union Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel pledged to rebuild the Somnath temple that was last destroyed by the Mughal despot Aurangzeb. Nehru opposed the project tooth and nail, terming it "Hindu revivalism". Despite Nehru's hostility, the strong-willed Patel completed the restoration. When President Rajendra Prasad was invited to inaugurate the temple, Nehru "advised" him to dissociate himself with the event, in the interest of "preserving the secular fabric of the Indian Republic". Prasad too, ignored Nehru's advice.
7. Rejecting American & Soviet offers of a permanent seat for India at the UNSC
In 1950, soon after India's independence, the United States offered India a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. PM Nehru rejected the offer, saying that he would not accept any offer that came at the cost of China. In 1955, the US repeated the offer in tandem with the USSR, in a rare instance of agreement between the cold war enemies. Nehru again rejected the offer, insisting that priority be given to China instead of India. Nehru ensured that China got a Permanent seat at the UN Security Council, at the expense of India. Today, thanks to Nehru, China has unlimited opportunities to repeatedly harm India's interests at the UN.
8. Refusing the Sultan of Oman's gift of Gwadar port
The Sultan of Oman offered the port of Gwadar to India in 1958. Nehru rejected the offer. Pakistan subsequently bought the strategically-located port, which today is the lynchpin of China's CPEC segment of its massive Belt and Road project.
9. Preventing Nepal from re-joining India
In the early 1950s, Nepal's King Tribhuvan offered to merge Nepal with India. However, for reasons best known to him, Nehru rejected the offer, spurning the opportunity to regain India’s historic territory.
10. Rejecting US President Kennedy's offer to help India become Asia's first nuclear power
Much before China became the first Asian nation to test a nuclear device, US President John F Kennedy had offered to help India build and detonate one in the Rajasthan desert. Kennedy sent PM Nehru a hand-written note making the offer. Kennedy's letter emphasized that “Nothing is more important than national security”. Nehru turned down Kennedy's offer. Had Nehru accepted Kennedy's offer of assistance, India would have been the first Asian nuclear power, ahead of China. China would not have dared invade India in 1962, nor would Pakistan have, in 1965. Had Nehru accepted Kennedy's offer of assistance, India would have been a founding member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
11. Signing the most unequal treaty in history
In 1960, PM Nehru, for the sake of "friendship" and "goodwill" signed one of the most unequal, lopsided treaties ever — the Indus Waters Treaty, giving Pakistan ownership of over three-fourths of the water the flows through the Indus System of Rivers located in India. Pakistan reciprocated Nehru's gesture of goodwill by invading India just five years later.
12. Giving up on Tibet, placing India's water security and northern border at China's mercy
When indications mounted that China, under Mao Zedong, was preparing to invade Tibet, Nehru refused to even contemplate the idea of using military force to deter the Chinese. The invasion eventually happened in 1950, rendering India's northern border undemarcated and insecure, and placing Tibet's immense water resources, upon which India depends, squarely in China's hands. Furthermore, Nehru did not make any effort to settle the border dispute with the Chinese, which led to the 1962 war with China.
13. 1962 Himalayan Blunder: the India-China war disaster
Nehru's inept and myopic foreign policy, lack of foresight, hare-brained "forward policy", and grounding of the Indian Air Force led to India's humiliating defeat in the 1962 war with China, and the loss of the Aksai Chin peninsula among several other territories.
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Last Updated 4:15 PM IST