Evaluating Nehru: a Philosopher but a Poor Political Leader
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Evaluating Nehru: a Philosopher but a Poor Political Leader

Nehru was more the philosopher than a statesman and despite this bent of mind he always wanted to be Prime Minister of India and worked in the direction only. He thus precipitated the partition of India and accepted the two nation theory of Jinnah and even prevailed on a reluctant Gandhi to accept partition of India. He also showed poor handling of China and lost 30,000 square miles

Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister of India from 1947-64. There is no doubt that he had a magnetic hold on the masses, but it is another story that he allowed the love of the people go unrequited as he created mundane problems without any solutions and left behind a legacy that bedevils the Indian state even now.

Nehru and Gandhi

Nehru was an aide of Gandhi and all his life was subservient to the great mans philosophy of ahimsa and non-violence. He was thus conditioned by an idealistic philosophy which in real terms has no place in real politick. This was Nehru’s greatest blunder as he tried to apply these unrealistic concepts in geo-political conditions in Asia and paid a terrible price with his humiliation and defeat.

More a Philosopher than a statesman

 Nehru was more the philosopher than a statesman and despite this bent of mind he always wanted to be Prime Minister of India and worked in the direction only. He thus precipitated the partition of India and accepted the two nation theory of Jinnah and even prevailed on a reluctant Gandhi to accept partition of India. The only way India could have been saved as a single entity was with Jinnah as Prime Minister. Nehru was averse to this and persuaded Gandhi to accept partition so that he could be prime Minister. All this is graphically illustrated in Leonard Mosley’s book “The Last days of the British Raj”.

Nehru after he became Prime Minister still lived in a make believe world of his own. This was divorced from reality and he created 3 insurmountable problems for India that have bedeviled the India state and will continue to do so for the next 100 years.

China Problem

Nehru’s handling of the China issue was flawed. He failed to realize that his opponent was Mao tse Tung a hard boiled revolutionary who had no time for Ahimsa and non-violence. He believed in his famous dictum “power flows out of the barrel of a gun”. Nehru implicitly trusted Mao and began an assiduous campaign to bring out China to world and earn respectability. In fact he was the man who introduced the then Chinese Premier Chou en Lai to the third world nations at the Bandung conference in 1955.

Nehru was hoodwinked by Mao

Despite the façade of Hindi Chin Bhai Bhai (brothers) Mao was assiduously moving to consolidate his position in Asia visa vie India. Earlier Nehru had been caught napping when the PLA invaded Tibet and he failed to react. In fact he was non plussed and thus surrendered the advantage of a buffer state so assiduously built by the British for 150 years.

He was also guilty of leaving the northern border undefended and he talked of the Himalayas as a natural barrier, unaware that mountains and snow are no longer barriers for any modern army. In addition unknown to Nehru a massive chunk of Ladakh called the Aksai Chin area of nearly 30,000 square miles was allowed to be occupied by China as India did not have any administrative set up in the region.

Follies of Nehru via a vis China

Nehru woke up after 10 years of Chinese occupation and ordered the army to establish forward posts. This was a silly decision as the army had not been modernized and was still carrying First World War .303 rifles. He thus precipitated a border war with China in 1962. A reading of Maxwell’s “India’s China war” brings out the follies of Nehru in provoking a border war with China. The result of the war was a foregone conclusion and Indian army got a bloody nose and Nehru’s international prestige was in tatters.

The Chinese also refused to recognize the Eastern border as delineated by the British known as the McMahan line. Thus he created a condition which became a win-win situation for China. Nehru showed that he had little knowledge of real politick and was out manoeuvred by Mao.


On the Kashmir issue his blunders have cost the Indian nation dear. Firstly, Nehru was a Kashmir Brahman and he wished to look after Kashmir himself. He thus took Kashmir out of the purview of the Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel. In the bargain he showed a particularly inapt handling of what is known as the Kashmir problem.

Inaction while the valley was Attacked

Firstly he kept sitting in Delhi when the Pakistan aided tribal’s invaded the valley. On the advice of Lord Mountbatten the Governor General he did not send the Indian army into Kashmir on the plea that the instrument of accession had not been signed by the Maharajah of Kashmir. The Sardar was recommending all along for an intervention, but Nehru with his high ideals and swayed by Lady Mountbatten with whom he had a soft corner did not act. The result was that the entire North Kashmir and Gilgit was lost and the raiders reached Srinagar airfield.

Losing his Nerve

It was only then that Nehru was allowed by Mountbatten to intervene and the Indian army was rushed to the valley. The Army in 6 months of fighting pushed the raiders back and was heading towards the Northern areas. Nehru had no stomach for a long war and despite the advice of the army he agreed for a cease fire and thus forfeited one third of Kashmir to Pakistan. He also made an extremely in appropriate statement that he would accept a UN sponsored plebiscite in Kashmir.

Permanent Gift of Nehru

The result now is that the Kashmir issue is boiling and Pakistan continues to hold 1/3 of Kashmir and also foments terror acts in the valley. Nehru has given India a perpetual gift.

There are many other things that Nehru did that have endangered the Indian state, but that will be in another edition. Nehru is thus not a great statesmen but a naive philosopher who wanted to be a leader and woefully failed leaving India with two problems that defy solution.

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