Select Speeches and Writings of Nehru



As the house knows, there is a proposal that India should undertake some responsibilities in regard to the, Chinese-civilians or nationals in the United States of America. I think, it may be said without undue exaggeration that India has played a significant role in times of difficulty. Often enough it was not a public role, but a gentle role of friendly approach to the parties concerned. This has sometimes helped in bringing them nearer to one another. We have never sought to be, and we have never acted as, mediators. The word ‘mediator’ is often bandied about. But there is no question of mediation between great countries. All that we have suggested and sought to bring about is that the great countries should face each other, talk to each other and decide their problems themselves. It is not for us to advise them what to do. We can at best remove some obstacles which have arisen during the last few years.

India’s contribution in this direction may perhaps be put in one word or two, Panchsheel, and the ideas underlying it. There is nothing new about those ideas except their application to a particular context. And the House will notice- that ever since these ideas of peaceful coexistence were initially mentioned and promulgated, not only have they spread in the World and influenced more and more countries, but they have progressively acquired a greater depth and meaning. That is, from being a word used rather loosely, Panchsheel, has begun to acquire a specific meaning and significance in world affairs.

I think we may take some credit for spreading this conception of a peaceful settlement, and above all, of non-interference. That each country should carve out its own destiny without interfering with others is an important conception, though there is nothing new about it. No great truths may be new. But it is true that an idea like non-interference requires emphasis because there has been in the past a tendency for great countries to interfere with others, to bring pressure to bear upon them, and to want these others to line up with them. I suppose that is a natural result of bigness. It has taken place throughout history.

This stress on non-interference of any kind-political, economic or ideological-is an important factor in the world situation today. The fact that it will not be wholly acted upon here and there is really of little relevance. You make a law, and the law gradually influences the whole structure of life in a country, even though some people may not obey it. Even those who do not believe in it gradually come within its scope.

The conception of Panchsheel means that there may be different ways of progress, possibly different outlooks, .but that, broadly, the ultimate objectives may be the same. If I may use another type of analogy, truth is not confined to one country or one people; it has far too -many aspects for anyone to presume that he knows all, and- each country and each people, if they are true to themselves, have to find out their path themselves, through trial and error, through suffering and experience. Only then do they grow. If they merely copy others, the result is likely to be that they will not grow. And even though the copy may be completely good, it will be something undertaken by them without a normal growth of the mind which really makes it an organic part of themselves.

Our development in the past thirty years or so has been under Mahatma Gandhi. Apart from what he did for us or did not do, the development of this country under his leadership was organic. It was something which fitted in with the spirit and thinking of India. Yet it was not isolated from the modern world, and we fitted in with the modern world. This process of adaptation will go on. It 'is something which grows out of the mind and spirit of India, though it is affected by our learning many things from outside. Likewise, this idea of Panchsheel lays down the very important truth that each people must ultimately fend for itself. I am not thinking in terms of military fending, but in terms of striving intellectually, morally, spiritually, and in terms of opening out our windows to ideas from others, and learning from the experience of others. Each country should look upon such an endeavor on the part of the other with sympathy and friendly understanding and without any interference or imposition.

This is the role India has played. However little has been this role, during these past few years the general policy which we have sought to follow to the best of our ability has been progressively recognised in other countries. It may not have been accepted by all, certainly not; some have disagreed with some parts of it or even the whole of it. But progressively there has been a belief in the integrity of the policy of India. There has been recognition that it is a sincere policy based essentially on goodwill and fellowship with other countries, with no ill will for any country.

From a speeh in Lok Sabha, September 17, 1955