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Need to get out of ‘cult worship’ that Nehru era was ‘great years’: Jaishankar

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday took a critical view of some of the key decisions made by the Jawaharlal Nehru government, and said one needs to get out of this “cult worship” that the period from 1946 onwards was “great years” and the country did “splendidly”.

In the early years, it was very much “a Nehruvian ideological bubble” when it came to foreign policy and “vestiges of that continue, even today,” he said in response to a question during a session at the News18 Rising Bharat Summit here.

A career diplomat-turned-politician, Jaishankar spoke on a range of issues such as India’s role during G20 presidency, the criticism surrounding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, abrogation of Article 370, and India-China and India-Pakistan relations in the current context and the geopolitical scenario.

MS Education Academy

Asked about the legacy of the foreign policy of the government in the early years after independence, Jaishankar said, “You got Pakistan wrong, you got China wrong, you got US right, and we had a great foreign policy. So, put that aside.”

“I am not saying that today, the benefit of 2024, let’s look back 1954 or 1950, I am saying, somebody in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, as you were taking those decisions, stood up and said, ‘please, Mr Nehru, what you are doing, have you looked at this aspect of it’. So this is not hindsight, these are Nehru’s contemporaries who are questioning decisions which Nehru was taking at that point of time,” he said.

Jaishankar cites Ambedkar

The former foreign secretary cited Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s views on the Nehru-Liaquat Pact and views of B R Ambedkar on Nehru’s decisions to buttress his claim.

“So, this is not hindsight, this is not a political polemic. I am placing before the younger generation, historical situation, which is what I called the ‘road not taken’, that road was available and that road was marked,” he said.

“Now, I am not saying they were no-brainers, there are pluses and minuses, but we need to get out of this cult worship that everything from 1946 till, pick your year… that these were great years, and we did splendidly and if anything went wrong, other people were to blame.

“But Nehru’s foreign policy is such an impeccable theology that even today, whoever comes to power must follow it. And, any deviation is somewhere wrong,” Jaishankar said.

Asked if India not facing a two-front situation today, he said, “We have…we have always been, it is we who were in denial.”

The external affairs minister’s strong remarks on the opposition comes ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

“Companies are audited. After all, a country should also be audited, policies should be audited. People should look at what happened in the past with an open mind and a critical mind,” he said, adding he would also be very happy to discuss the last 10 years with anyone.

He argued that in the early years after independence, “it was very much a Nehruvian ideological bubble. Nehru was against America, so everybody was against America. Nehru said China is a great friend, everybody said China is a great friend. So, the vestiges of that continue, even today”.

“I mean, you have a concept called ‘Chindia’, and many of you will remember, who put that concept forward,” Jaishankar added.

On ties with Pakistan

On ties with Pakistan, he said, India’s relations with its neighbours at a formal level are “very minimal”.

It happened for two reasons, one is that India has “put terrorism fair and square at the centre of the relationship”.

Secondly, Pakistan’s reaction to the “long-awaited decision” on abrogation of Article 370, he said.

“So what would the opposition want us to do, not do (Article) 370, because it will upset Pakistan. Or talk to Pakistan, ignoring that they do terrorism. Actually, that is what the opposition was doing,” the minister said.

Jaishankar asserted that foreign policy is “not run as a global popularity exercise” and said, “if you have an appeasement mentality at home, you will take it outside”.

On Modi govt’s foreign policy

During the session, he was also asked about domestic politics and the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policies in the last 10 years.

“It is not an if, it is a when. When I go out and explain foreign policy of last 10 years to people, I would actually tell them, ‘Modi ki Guarantee works as much abroad as it does in the country’. It is Modi ki Guarantee which moved the whole Indian system in Operation Ganga wherein five ministries were deputed, Operation Kaveri, Operation Vande Bharat during Covid or checking on well-being of our people in the Gulf countries during the pandemic,” he said.

‘Modi ki Guarantee’ also applies in keeping fuel prices within reasonable range, the minister said.

“We have a national interest, and a national welfare in a way, we will do what it takes, we will send troops in the height of Covid to defend our northern borders, we will react to terrorism in a way that will deter any repetition of such attacks, works in different ways,” he added.

Jaishankar said he thought that today, part of the reason why people respond to foreign policy is that they can see India’s international credibility of weight or influence has “gone up”.

On criticism against CAA

He also responded to criticism of the CAA from the US and other parts of the world.

The CAA is about being “just and fair to people who were caught on the wrong side of history” at the time of Partition, he said.

“If you look at the predicament of these people, these are stateless people… stateless because of no fault of their own, because political leaders of a certain era got it wrong,” he said.

“Somebody is righting a wrong, they are not wronging anybody. They are actually righting a situation wherein a wrong has been done to many people,” Jaishankar said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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