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In the 1950s, India made one of its major blunders by rejecting the permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council put forward by the prime leadership of the USA, thanks to the flawed policy articulation of Nehru. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was a gem of a freedom fighter and a politician that the country had been blessed with. Rightfully regarded as the sole architect of the country, he was a made of utmost wisdom and insight. Gandhi did not want Congress to become a political party. He was of the opinion that Congress is a group of high-spirited freedom fighters which does not necessarily qualify them as good politicians. Nehru had an ideology best suited for a freedom struggle, adorned with Gandhi’s Satyagraha, honesty and morality, applying the same to India’s political decisions led to some seriously flawed foreign policy decisions. One of them was the rejection of the seat that would have otherwise paved India’s way to becoming a powerful nation in the international realm. It is the same seat that China sits on and vetoes out every possibility of India coming into the permanent council.

Foreign policy analysis is a sub-field of International Relations that enables one to look at policy-decisions retrospectively and analyzes their short-comings and this is precisely what this article aims at doing. Foreign policies are the strategies a country has towards other. This article deals with one such foreign policy of the past and critiques it. The methodological framework is borrowed from neo-classical realist school of thought. It would be explaining why the policy that our Prime Minister took on India’s entry into Security Council was detrimental. Although the issue has been a very secretive one, with Nehru himself refusing it in a parliamentary session in 1955, there are Russian documents and letters exchanged between Nehru and the Indian Representative to the USA have maintained the veracity of the fact (Harder 2017). The purpose of this article is not to check its veracity of the fact, but assuming the developments, it analyzes the decisions to understand its dynamics using the methodological framework of foreign policy analysis. In other words, it looks at Nehru’s ideology from a neo-classical realist policy; and finds the many faults and shortcomings of the foreign policy he adopted.

For over seventeen long years of his prime minister-ship, Nehru took the structuring of India’s foreign policy upon himself and at the expense of his ideologies. Nehru’s ideology resembles with the liberal school of thought. “He had unmistaken faith in the goodwill and honesty in the matters of international relations” (History and General Studies 2017). Any realist would argue that his faith and assumptions about state’s innate tendencies and power were mistaken. The neo-classical realists like Gideon Rose have emphasized that the state is essentially a power-hungry entity and all its actions should further the same very nature. The world does not run on morality and values. Accordingly, this nationalist sentiment of his has intruded in his policies. Being a freedom fighter, he was naturally an anti-colonialist and anti-racist. This naturally made him more apprehensive about joining hands with the west.

Nehru was a pioneer of the non-aligned movement. The non-alignment was a declaration of a country of not participating in the cold war. It meant that one should focus on one’s national interest and not to entangle oneself in other’s matters. On the contrary, mingling in international politics does not always mean that the nation is serving the national interests. Certain actions taken in the international realm that shall bring power to one also serves national interests. In the post-War period, Nehru did not want any further subjugation under the imperialist powers. He considered distancing India from the colonial powers of yesterday would be good for the revival of the country. He was not much an admirer of capitalism. He adopted the Soviet model of planning for India. Although, he was non-aligned in the Cold War, his support for the socialist ideology along with a geographical situality in the Eastern world drove India closer to the communist bloc.

Rose says that states are power-seeking entities and the way they behave depends on their position and relative power distribution in the international system. Neo-classical realists have claimed, “There is no perfect or immediate transmission belt linking material capabilities to foreign policy behavior” (Rose 1998, 151-152). They say that material capabilities are very difficult to be quantified. Robert Dahl says that it is the “relational” which is more important that the “material”. The latter may be ambiguous but the former isn’t. Any foreign policy is always relations and bilateral. The equation that is present between the two countries may be shaped by not only its material resources and riches, military, but also the history, culture, political systems or even mere perceptions about each other (Rose 1998, 158-160). The last factor of perception has always played a very important role in determining the country’s attitude towards the other. India, after its independence had been excitingly engaging in its foreign policy.

India’s increased distancing from the west and thereby closeness with the east played an important role in Nehru’s decision on rejecting United Nations offer. The main reason cited is Nehru’s inclination towards China. Nehru had elaborate plans on India’s relations with China, China being one of his most prioritized neighbors of all. He proclivity to integrate India regionally was highly focusing on China. “Integrating the People’s Republic of China into the international community by conceding its right to the Chinese seat at the Security Council was in fact a central pillar of Nehru’s foreign policy” (Harder, A. 2017). China has always been apprehensive about India’s perception. It is because even though China had been very materially powerful than India, it had a perennial suspicion over India. It somewhere knew India having the potential of replacing its chances from becoming the super power of the East. Considering China’s power and material relations with Russia who was the leader giving China less hopes of replacing the powerful USSR, it was very eyeful on India’s moves. Giving up the United Nations seat for a country that is nowhere close to being allies with India is what is flawed.

Had India accepted the offer, it would have given a powerful position to the country. India’s entry in the United Nations would have also created a balance of power. United Kingdom, France and USA from the capitalist bloc and Russia from the Communist, India as a non-aligned power and a representation of the colonized countries would have fared better representation for the developing post-colonial countries of the world. It would have been able to endorse the ideals of panchasheel better. India’s seat at the UNSC would help accommodate a representative from the non-aligned countries to the council, perhaps mitigating the UN’s cold war ineptitude. Although India took this patronization by USA as against its national interests, an international recognition may have aided India’s push towards securing its regional borders. Its global power status would increase and this would make China more cautious of its blunt behavior towards India. Prestige would have necessitated India’s global role and a domestic drive a potential super-power.


HISTORY AND GENERAL STUDIES. (2017). Post Independent India: Nehru’s Foreign Policy. [online] Available at: https://selfstudyhistory.com/2015/01/17/post-independent-india-nehrus-foreign-policy/

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/38628/13/13_chapter%207.pdf

Harder, A. (2017). When Nehru Refused American Bait on a Permanent Seat for India at the UN - The Wire. [online] The Wire. Available at: https://thewire.in/58802/when-nehru-refused-american-bait-on-a-permanent-seat-for-india-at-the-un/ [Accessed 8 Aug. 2017].

Rose, Gideon. “Neo-classical realism and theories of foreign policy”. World Politics. Cambridge University Press, UK. Oct- 1998, Pg. 144-170.


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Written By Aishwarya Sanas

BA (political science) student of St. Xavier's College, Mumbai

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