Select Speeches and Writings of Nehru



It was a happy and wise thought of the sponsors of this conference to have convened it. Our meeting would have been important in any event but it has become more important because of the developments of the last two or three months when we have been made aware of the abyss stretching out before and below us. This conference would have attracted attention in the normal course, but that attention is much more because we meet at the time of this particular crisis in human history.

Today everything, including the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racialism, which is important and to which reference has been made repeatedly here, is over-shadowed by this crisis. Therefore, it becomes inevitable for us to pay attention to this crisis which confronts humanity. The great powers also watch us.

We call ourselves non-aligned countries. The word “nonaligned” may be differently interpreted, but basically it was coined and used with the meaning of being non-aligned with the great power blocs of the world. “Non-aligned” has a negative meaning. But if we give it a positive connotation it means nations which object to lining up for war purposes, to military blocs, to military alliances and the like. We keep away from such an approach and we want to throw our weight in favour of peace. In effect, therefore, when there is a crisis involving the possibility of war, the very fact that we are unaligned should stir us to feel that more than ever it is up to us to do whatever we can to prevent such a calamity coming down upon us.

If in this crisis some action of ours helps to remove the fear of war, then we have justified and strengthened ourselves. I know that the key to the situation does not lie in the hands of this conference. It lies essentially in the hands of the two great powers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, this conference or rather the countries which are represented in this conference are not so helpless that they look on while war is declared and the world is destroyed. The time, the place and the occasion are now and here to take up the question of war and peace and make it our own and show to the world that we stand for peace and that, so far as we can, we shall fight for it in the ways open to us. The power of nations assembled here is not military power or economic power; nevertheless it is power. Call it moral force. It does make a difference obviously what we in our combined wisdom feel and think about this issue of war and peace.

Some six, seven or eight years ago, non alignment was a rare phenomenon. A few countries here and there asked about it and other countries rather made fun of it or at any rate did not take it seriously. “Non-alignment? What is this? You must be on this side or that,” that was the argument. That argument is dead today. The whole course of history of the last few years has shown a growing opinion spread in favour of the concept of non-alignment. Why? Because it was in tune with the course of events; it was in tune with the thinking of the vast numbers of people, whether the country concerned was non-aligned or not, because they hungred passionately for peace and did not like this massing up of vast armies and nuclear bombs on either side. Therefore, their minds turned to those countries who refused to line up.

We have arrived at fi position today where there is no choice left between an attempt between negotiations for peace or war. If people refuse to negotiate, they must inevitably go to war. I am amazed that rigid and proud attitudes are taken up by the great countries as being too high and mighty to negotiate for peace. I submit that it is not their prestige which is involved in such attitudes but the future of the human race. It is our duty and function to say that they must negotiate.

I believe firmly that the only possible way to solve many of these problems ultimately is complete disarmament. I consider disarmament an absolute necessity for the peace of the world. I think that without disarmament the present difficulties, fears and conflicts will continue. We cannot expect to achieve disarmament suddenly even if this conference wants it. For the present moment the only thing which we can do is to lay stress on the need to negotiate with a view to getting over these fears and dangers. If that is done, the next and other steps follow.

I would venture to say that it is not for us to lay down what should be done in regard to Germany or Berlin which is the immediate cause of the present tension. It seems to me obvious that certain facts of life should be recognised. There are two independent entities: the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Government of the German Democratic People’s Republic. As things stand, we find the great City of Berlin divided by what might be called an international frontier. It is a very awkward situation, but there it is. West Berlin is very closely allied to West Germany and to Western countries and they have had access to it. I am glad that Mr. Khrushchev himself has indicated that that access will not be limited and it will be open to them as it is now. If that is made perfectly clear and guaranteed' by all concerned, I should imagine that one of the major fears and causes of conflict will be removed. I am merely putting this forward to indicate how some of the big things which are troubling the people are capable of solution even if the entire problem is not solved.

The most important thing for the world today is for the great powers directly concerned to meet together and negotiate with a will to peace. And if this conference throws its weight in favour of such an approach, it will be a positive step which we take in order to help.

May I say that the danger of war coming nearer has been enhanced perhaps by the recent decision of the Soviet Government to start nuclear tests? I regret it deeply because it may well lead to the other countries also starting the tests, and apart from the inherent danger of nuclear fall-outs, this brings us to the very verge of the precipice of war. Therefore, it has become even more urgent that the process of negotiation should begin without any delay.

I should like to refer briefly to some of our other problems. Many of the countries represented here have only recently become independent. They have tremendous problems and have, above all, the problem of making good economically and socially, because most of these countries are under-developed. It is right and proper that the affluent countries should help in this process. They have to some extent done so. I think they should do more in this respect, but ultimately the burden will lie on the people of the countries themselves. This problem has to be faced by each one of our countries.

There are some countries represented here which are struggling for their freedom. There is Algeria which has paid a fantastic price in human life and suffering in its struggle for freedom and yet which has not so far succeeded in achieving it. There is Tunisia with its recent extraordinary experience. I am referring particularly to Bizerta, which is a foreign base, because the very idea of foreign base in a country seems quite extraordinary to me. There are then the problems of the Congo. There is the horror of Angola. It is a closed book.

Then there is the situation in East Africa, where some countries, such as Tanganyika, have been promised independence. The situation.in Central Africa is not good. Further south in South Africa We have the supreme symbol of racial arrogance, racial discrimination, and apartheid which is an intolerable position to be accepted by any of us. And this is imposed upon South-West Africa in challenge to the United Nations’ decisions! All these problems crowd upon us. We have to face them.

The most fundamental fact of the world today is the development of new and mighty forces. We have to think in terms of the new world. There is no doubt that imperialism and the old lifestyle colonialism will vanish. Yet the new forces may help others to dominate in other ways over us, and certainly the under developed and the backward. Therefore we cannot afford to be backward.

We have to build in our own countries societies where freedom is real. Freedom is essential, because freedom will give us strength, and enable us to build prosperous societies. These are for us basic problems. When we think in terms of these basic problems, war becomes an even greater folly than ever. If we cannot prevent war, all our problems suffer and we cannot deal with them. But if we can prevent War, we can go ahead in solving our other problems. We can help to liberate the parts of the world under colonial and imperial rule and we can build up our own free, prosperous societies in our respective countries. That is positive work for us to do. Therefore, I venture to submit to this assembly that we must lay the greatest stress on the removal of this major danger of war today. Not only is this incumbent onus but if we do this we shall be in line with the thinking of millions and millions of people. Non alignment has received strength from the fact that millions of people are not aligned and that they do not want war.

Let us use this strength rightly, with courtesy and with a friendly approach so that we may influence those who have the power of war and peace in their hands. Let us try, if not to prevent war for all time, to push it away so that in the meantime the world may learn the ways of mutual co-operation.