Question of Goa: Foreign Footholds

Jawaharlal Nehru in reply to debate on Goa in Lok Sabha, July 26, 1955

Yesterday I made a statement before the House outlining the policy that Government was pursuing in regard to Goa. I must express my deep gratitude to Members who have spoken in this House today of their broad appreciation of this subject and their general acceptance of the policy of Government. There have been some criticisms, but, on the whole, the area of agreement is very large and the area of disagreement limited and narrow.

There is no one in this House who requires any argument in justification of India’s claim to Goa. It is obvious. There is hardly any question that has come before this House which had such unanimous approval or agreement. The only questions that have arisen are as to the steps that might be taken to give effect to India’s claim. Even there, so far as I can understand, it is by and large the opinion of this House that the methods should be peaceful.

Now, although it does not require that anything should be said in justification of our claim to Goa, I shall, nevertheless, venture to mention a few facts, perhaps more for the benefit of others than for Members of this House. There is of course the geographical argument. The Portuguese Government claims that Goa is a part of Portugal. That remark is so illogical and absurd that it is rather difficult to deal with. You are suddenly transported into a land where logic does not prevail. To say that Goa is a part of Portugal is something in the nature of a fairy tale or nursery rhyme about the cat jumping over the moon. It has no relation to facts, and any kind of will, decree or law passed in Portugal is not going to make Goa a part of Portugal.

Reference is made to a number of treaties, more especially to those between the United Kingdom or England as it was then, and Portugal. And there is the NATO alliance. I think it has been made fairly clear by responsible people that the NATO alliance has little relevance to this question. It has been stated that under that alliance, a subject like Goa or indeed any other subject can be brought up for discussion, but that alliance is not by any means compelled to deal with such problems or go beyond its narrower periphery of action. We may, therefore, set aside the NATO alliance.

Then there are these treaties with the various British Governments. I think the first one is dated 1374. These treaties began, as far as I can remember, with an attempt by the then King of Portugal to protect himself against the then King of Castile, that is, Spain. This was soon after the Arabs, or the Moors, as they were called, were driven out of the Iberian Peninsula; and Portugal was rather afraid of Castile which was growing in strength. Some of the later treaties were aimed against the Hollanders as they were called, or the Dutch, who were spreading out. In the course of these treaties all kinds of provisions were made about the right of Portugal to go and raise armies directly in England. A provision in one of the later treaties might interest the House :

“That His Majesty of Portugal, or anyone whom he may depute, shall be permitted to raise and procure in this Commonwealth, that is, England, “soldiers and horses, to defend and secure himself against the King of Castile; ‘‘And that the military force, which he shall be at liberty to levy, shall not amount to more than 12,000, namely, 4,000 out of each of the three Nations of England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.”

Then we come to that famous treaty in which the town and port of what was called Bombaine was handed over at the time King Charles II of England married the Portuguese princess. There are all kinds of references to the port of Bombaine and Colombo, and that is the whole background.

I am mentioning these rather irrelevant facts to indicate how that picture of the world completely ceased to exist many hundreds of years ago. After that, there were treaties which were several times confirmed by subsequent treaties. In the treaty by which the town and port of Bombaine was handed over, there was a secret clause. It is that secret clause to which reference is often made, as it was under that secret clause that England promised to help and protect Portugal and her colonies in 1661. It might interest the House to know that in spite of these various treaties, a little before the First World War—I think in 1912—there were actually negotiations between England and Germany for a partition of the Portuguese Empire. The neogtiations led to other events including the War. But I merely mention this to indicate what value is attached to many of these ancient treaties. Of course, every constitutional lawyer and historian knows that any treaty or any agreement has to be interpreted in terms of the existing circumstances. If, for instance, Portugal, in terms of that treaty, claims today the right to raise an army directly in England, Scotland or Ireland, I have little doubt that the United Kingdom would refuse to acknowledge that fact, although it is there in the treaty. It is absurd, therefore, to talk about ancient treaties in these terms.

A treaty has to be seen in terms of the historical developments that have since taken place. So far as independent India is concerned, we are in no way bound by any old or modern treaty between other countries to which we have not subscribed, so that in no event are we concerned with the treaty between Portugal and England or other countries. But quite apart from the fact that we are not bound by them, I am trying to indicate that nobody else is bound by such ancient treaties, because they have to be construed only in the light of later developments. Some of these developments have been startling, like the independence of India. The independence of India was never conceived as the independence of a part of India, or as the independence of India excluding certain areas which may be controlled by some authority outside India. It is inconceivable that there can be independence of India with parts of India being held by an outside authority. The House will remember that some 140 years ago, even some time after the United States had established itself as a strong nation, there was the fear of interference by European Powers in the American continents, and this led to the famous declaration by President Monroe of the United States. This was in 1823, and the declaration said:

“The United States would regard as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition to itself the effort of any European Power to interfere with the political system of the American continents.” 

That is to say, any interference by a European country would be an interference with the American political system. I submit that in the existing conditions—I place my case quite clearly—the Portuguese retention of Goa is a continuing interference with the political system established in India today. I shall go a step further and say that any interference by any other Power would also be an interference with the political system of India today. That need not be called a particular doctrine; it is just a statement of the present policy. It may be that we are weak and we cannot prevent that interference. But the fact is that any attempt by a foreign Power to interfere in any way with India is a thing which India cannot tolerate, and which, subject to her strength, she will oppose. That is the broad doctrine I lay down. That applies in the existing conditions to the Portuguese retention of Goa. Therefore, for a variety of reasons like national unity, national security and others I need not go into, we cannot possibly accept such interference or such foothold. When a foreign Power has that foothold, it means that it is a foothold not of that country, but a group of countries with a large number of alliances, and therefore all kinds of possible dangers and entanglements might arise.

I do submit that the case of India in regard to Goa is as clear as any case that I can think of and it should not require really any great arguments to justify it. But various types of arguments are advanced by the Portuguese Government and they are strange. Therefore, I thought I could venture to repeat what I have said. I am not going into the old history of the Portuguese possession of Goa; but I think many Members will remember that this history is a very dark chapter of India’s history. I mention it because Goa is repeatedly referred to as a shining light of European culture. Opinions may differ on what European culture is. But I should like to put it to Europe and to the countries of Europe, whether they regard the culture represented by Goa today, or even by Portugal, as European culture at its highest and brightest. The religious argument has been employed. Hon. Members belonging to the Roman Catholic Church have spoken today in this House, and Catholics have spoken elsewhere. I do not think anything that will happen in Goa is going to affect our broad policy in regard to religious freedom. Hon. Members know how many Catholics have taken part in this struggle of freedom in Goa.

Therefore, let us be clear. From any point of view, there can be only one decision of this question and that is, merger with the Indian Union. One hon. Member said the fact of Goa being part of the Indian Union is not an arguable point. We do not go and discuss with the Portuguese Government whether Goa is to be part of the Indian Union or not. The only thing that we can discuss with them—I have no doubt the time will come when it will be discussed—is the manner of doing it, the legal or other steps that have to be taken. Our approach throughout has been, in the case of both French possessions and Portuguese possessions in India, that the other party should recognize this basic fact, and also tell us that defacto they are part of India. We do not mind if there is some delay. We are prepared to accommodate the other Government concerned in these matters. But, where the basic right is denied, there is no question of argument. Any argument or any negotiation with Portugal denying that right is not possible.

There is another point that I wish to make clear. When we say that this is a matter of special concern to the Goans, it does not mean that the matter is of less concern to other Indians. What was said was in connection with certain types of movement and agitation that were going on. The future of Goa, that is, the union of Goa with India, is a matter of special, intense, equal concern to every Indian including every Goan.

We now turn to the question of what are the methods to be employed. Acharya Kripalani put a straight question: whether our Government was pledged to non-violence. The answer to that is no, the Government is not. As far as I can conceive, under the existing circumstances, no Government can be pledged to non-violence. If we were pledged to nonviolence, surely we would not keep any Army, Navy or Air Force—and possibly not even a police force. I do not know. One may have an ideal. One may adhere to a policy leading in a certain direction and yet, because of existing circumstances, one cannot give effect to that ideal. We have to wait for it for some time. Acharya Kripalani reminded us of Mahatma Gandhi, saying that the Polish defence against the German armies might also be called satyagraha. Also Gandhiji defended—not only defended but in fact encouraged—the Indian Army going to Kashmir to defend Kashmir against the raiders. It is surprising that a man like Gandhiji, who was absolutely committed to non-violence, should do that kind of thing. So that, even he, in certain circumstances, admitted the right of the State, as it is constituted, to commit violence in defence. The Government of India, obviously, cannot give up that right in the existing circumstances. Nevertheless, we have made it perfectly clear that we shall use force only in defence and that we shall not provoke a war or start a war or adopt any aggressive tactics in regard to a war. That is our policy. Some hon. Members opposite talked about a limited war. Goa no doubt is small and India is big, but the idea of a limited war ignores the fact that the world is much more of a unit today, and far more in favour of peace, than it ever was before. I do not say that it is impossible for India or some other country to have a limited war. It may yield results too.

But whatever wars may have done in the past, in the present state of affairs in the world, no major war can bring the results aimed at. And if you rule out a major war, then you have to apply the same argument to a small war. Not that a small war is in essence the same as a big war—it is not—but because a small war helps also to keep up the atmosphere which creates a big war. Here we are fighting against these vague ghosts and phantoms which create cold war sometimes real fears, sometimes unreal fears. If we ourselves move away from that level and think in terms of some kind of police action or limited war, then we are injuring all the larger causes that we stand for, and possibly getting ourselves entangled in great difficulties. It being admitted and settled that the policy we should pursue is a peaceful policy, it is open to us to do much in terms of that' peaceful policy. Some Members referred to economic blockade. Obviously, it is open to us to pursue these policies, and many others.

Reference has been made to satyagraha—both mass satyagraha and individual satyagraha. The Government of India or any government does not talk of satyagraha in that way. An hon. Member suggested that the Government of India should lead a satyagraha movement into Goa. That* if I may say so with all respect, is a misapprehension of the functions of government, as if government was an agitational body agitating for somebody and against somebody else. No government will or can perform satyagraha. When I make that statement, naturally I am thinking of satyagraha in the normal sense. There may be some possible extensions of that move which are beyond my mind at the present moment. But satyagraha, as we know it, has been performed within our country against the governmental apparatus. But one government performing it against another government is, for the moment, not clear to me. Therefore, let us not get things mixed up. Many hon..Members who have had the privilege of being initiated into the satyagraha movement during this Goan campaign probably have had no previous experience of it. They have not understood either the technique or the theory of it, always excluding of course some hon. Members opposite who have that knowledge.

So far as our Government is concerned, we have nothing" to do with satyagraha. That is the governmental viewpoint. Of course, there may be a public viewpoint, apart from the governmental. A party can do so; but the Government cannot conceive of patronizing satyagraha. The most it can do is not to interfere, provided the satyagraha is within certain limits, provided it is non-violent, and provided also that it does not lead to a situation of violence on a big scale.

When we disapprove of mass satyagraha, it is not because mass satyagraha itself is wrong, but because the manner of conducting it is likely to lead to unforeseeable results and large-scale violence. It may cease to be satyagraha, and may Be compelled to turn in some other direction. If there were an adequate number of trained satyagrahis, they might perhaps carry on even mass satyagraha in a disciplined way. The House will remember how the archpriest of satyagraha, Mahatmaji, put a full stop to the whole movement and said : “Only one man will go now.55 Compared to him we are novices. We cannot pretend to understand the important points of satyagraha. But one thing is clear—that if we want a settlement of this question by peaceful methods, we should not do anything which, though peaceful in itself, leads to violent methods.

There has been a so-called constitutional statute introduced or sought to be introduced by the Portuguese Government in Goa, Daman and Diu. This is being done evidently to create some impression on the people there. This constitutional statute is a very feeble attempt at local reform. It gives absolutely no authority or power. Briefly speaking, the position even after this will be that out of 23 seats in a new council which is formed under a very limited franchise, eleven will be elected, that is, less than half. And even this council will not have much power. In fact, all power will remain in the hands of a handful of officials. Oddly enough, the position in Goa not only today but even after this constitutional statute will be that they will have less freedom—if I may use the word in a limited sense—than Goa had under the monarchy In Portugal. They go backwards there. Instead of there being, some advance in local reforms, opportunities have actually become more and more restricted.

I would again say that we cannot consider these matters from a purely narrow, local or even national point of view. Whether we like it or not, we have become part of an international community which is spread out all over the world. If we remember that, and if we remember that every action of ours has reactions elsewhere, just as other actions have reactions there, then perhaps we shall be able to judge these matters in the proper perspective.

Previous Post Next Post