India in the Post Colonial World
Address to the United Nations Jawaharlal Nehru
Chapter 40


You meet here, representatives of all nations of the world, or nearly all. Inevitably, you have behind you and before you the immediate great problems that confront more especially Europe, which has suffered so much.

May I say, as a representative from Asia, that we honour Europe for its culture and for the great advance in human civilization which it represents? May I say that we are equally interested in the solution of European problems; but may I also say that the world is something bigger than Europe, and you will not solve your problems by thinking that the problems of the world are mainly European problems; but may I also say that the world is something bigger than Europe, and you will not solve your problems by thinking that the problems of the world are mainly European problems. There are vast tracts of the world which may not in the past, for a few generations, have taken much part in world affairs. But they are awake; their people are moving and they have no intention whatever of being ignored or of being passed by.

It is a simple fact which I think we have to remember, because unless you have the full picture of the world before you, you will not even understand the problem, and if you isolate any single problem in the world from the rest, you do not understand the problem. Today I do venture to submit that Asia counts in world affairs. Tomorrow it will count much more than today. Asia till recently was largely a prey to imperial domination and colonialism: and it is an astonishing thing that any country should still remain unfree; and it is an astonishing thing that any country should still venture to hold and to set forth this doctrine of colonialism whether it is under direct rule or whether it is indirectly maintained in some form or other. After all that has happened, there is going to be no mere objection to that, but active objection, an active struggle against any and every form of colonialism in any part of the world. That is the first thing to remember.

We in Asia, who have ourselves suffered all these evils of colonialism and of imperial domination, have committed ourselves inevitably to the freedom of every other colonial country. There are neighbouring countries of ours in Asia with whom we are intimately allied. We look to them with sympathy; we look at their struggle with sympathy. Any power, great or small, which in any way prevents the attainment of the freedom of those peoples does an ill turn to world peace.

Great countries like India who have passed out of their colonial stage do not conceive it possible that other countries should remain under the yoke of colonial rule.

We in Asia regard it as a vital problem, because it has been a vital problem for us, and there is a question to which I want to draw attention--that is the question of racial equality, which is something which is laid down in the provisions of the United Nations Charter. It is well to repeat that, because after all this question of racial equality has frequently been spoken about in the Assembly of the United Nations.

I do not think I need dwell on any particular aspect of it, but I would remind this Assembly of the worldwide aspects of this question. Obviously there large regions of the world which have suffered from this evil of racial inequality. We also feel that there is no part of the world where it can be tolerated in the future, except perhaps because of superior force. It is obviously sowing the seeds of conflict if racial equality is not approved, and a menace to world peace and is in conflict with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The effects of this inequality in the past have made themselves felt in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world much more than in Europe, leading towards a conflict in the future, and it is a problem which, if it is nor properly understood, will not be solved.

It is a strange thing, when the world lacks so many things, food and other necessities in many parts of the world and people are dying from hunger that the attention of this Assembly of Nations is concentrated only on a number of political problems. There are economic problems also. I wonder if it would be possible for this Assembly to take a holiday for a while from some of the acute political problems which face it, and allow men's minds to settle down and look at the vital and urgent economic problems, and look at places in the world where food is lacking.

I feel that today the north is so tied up in fears, apprehensions, some of them justified no doubt, but where a person feels fear, bad consequences and evil consequences follow. Fear is not a good companion. It is surprising to see that this sense of fear is prevailing in great countries--fear, and grave fear of war, and fear of many things. Well, I think that it is admitted, or it will be admitted, that no aggression of any kind can be tolerated, because the very idea of aggression must upset the balance and lead to conflict. Aggression of every type must be resisted.

There are other forms of fear; there is the fear of war. In existing circumstances it is difficult for people to say that they will not defend themselves, because if there is a fear of aggression one has to defend oneself against aggression. We have to defend ourselves, but even in defending ourselves, we must not submit ourselves to this Assembly without clean hands. It is easy to condemn people. Let us not do so, for who are without blame, who cannot themselves be condemned? In a sense, all of us who are gathered here today in this continent of Europe--are there any amongst us who have not been guilty in many ways? We are all guilty men and women. While we are seeking points where error occurs, we should not forget that there is not one of us who is exempt from blame.

If we attend to this problem. and discuss in peace the psychology of fear, if we realize the consequences of what is happening, it is possible that this atmosphere of fear may be dissipated.

Why should there be this fear of war? Let us prepare ourselves against any possible aggression. Let no one think that any nation, any community can misbehave. The United Nations are here to prevent any fear or hurt, but at the same time let us banish all thought of an aggressive attitude whether by word or deed. However, I feel that few of us can altogether avoid this attitude, whether it is in the course of discussions before this Assembly or elsewhere. One tries to make one's points in the course of discussion, but there always rests a bitterness which complicates the problem still further. As I have already said, I ask this Assembly to remember that such great problems cannot be solved if our eyes are bloodshot and our minds are obscured by passion.

I have no doubt that this Assembly is going to solve our problems. I am not afraid of the future. I have no fear in my mind, and I have no fear, even though India, from a military point of view, is of no great consequence. I am not afraid of the bigness of great powers, and their armies, their fleets and their atom bombs. That is the lesson which my Master taught me. We stood as an unarmed people against a great country and a powerful empire. We were supported and strengthened, because throughout all this period we decided not to submit to evil, and I think that is the lesson which I have before me and which is before us today. I do not know if it is possible to apply this to the problems which face the world today. It is a terrible problem, but I think if we banish this fear, if we have confidence, even though we may take risks of trust rather than risk violent language, violent actions and in the end war, I think those risks are worth taking.

In any event, there are risks--and great risks. If it is a question of taking risks, why take risks which inevitably lead to greater conflict? Take the other risk, while always preparing yourself to meet any possible contingency that may arise.

We do not think that the problems of the world or of India can be solved by thinking in terms of aggression or war or violence. We are frail mortals, and we cannot always live up to the teaching of the great man who led our nation to freedom. But that lesson has sunk deep into our souls and, so long as we remember it, I am sure we shall be on the right path. And, if I may venture to suggest this to the General Assembly, I think that if the essentials of that lesson are kept in mind, perhaps our approach to the problems of today will be different; perhaps the conflicts that always hang over us will appear a little less deep than they are and actually will gradually fade away.

ResourceResearchReference

W.W. Norton
RESOURCE: World Civilizations
http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/workbook/ralprs40a.htm
Page created by Thomas Pearcy, Ph.D and Mary Dickson.
We welcome your comments. Please contact Steve Hoge, Editor.
Last revised July 9, 1997
Copyright (c) 1997. W. W. Norton Publishing. All Rights Reserved