India and the Outside World

Jawaharlal Nehru's speech at a public meeting, Ramlila Maidan, Delhi, 28 November 1954.

Our proceedings seem to have begun a little before time. It is a good sign to do work early. Radha Ramanji said just now that I am addressing a public meeting for the first time after returning from China. That is not quite correct, because I addressed a mammoth gathering at Calcutta the day I came back. I  think I have not seen such a large gathering in my life. Some put the attendance at the Calcutta maidan at ten lakh, others at fifteen lakh. One cannot be sure which figure was more correct. But it is true that I am speaking at a public meeting in Delhi after a long time. I had gone to China and some countries of Indo-China. There have been other developments in the country. You might have heard that before leaving for China, I had expressed a desire for a change of job for a few days. It is difficult to change professions in midstream. After all, a carpenter cannot suddenly become an ironsmith. But it is possible, though, to do the same thing in different ways.

Forty years or so ago, we were all filled with an overwhelming passion and desire to do something for our country. Then Gandhiji came on the scene and unleashed a veritable storm in India. All of us came under his influence. Our lives changed completely and a whole chain of events followed in which millions of people were caught up. All of us of that generation more or less were moulded by the experiences of those times. We become what we do. Those who lead lives of ease and leisure become weak in character. Children who are overprotected and overindulged find it difficult later on in life to deal with the realities of the world for they become soft in mind and delicate in body.

Human beings are moulded by their experience just as wrestlers become tough and strong by constant practice. They cannot learn wrestling by reading books. They need to practice. Similarly, the more you train your bodies and minds, the more alert will you become. This is true of nations as well. In the last thirty or forty years, we have had a great many experiences which have moulded us. In a sense, India is a storehouse of thousands of years of experience which have moulded us for good or bad. We are the products of thousands of years of history. But the events of the last thirty or thirty-five years in particular have had a tremendous impact upon us. During this period we have witnessed a great many ups and downs until India became free seven or eight years ago. We are bound to see more changes.

Recently, in one of my speeches, I said that many people from our country went to China, the Soviet Union, the United States and other countries and were influenced in various ways by what they see there. Those who go to the United States are blinded by the abundance and wealth in that country and get carried away. Others go to the Soviet Union and are equally carried away by another kind of impression. The same is true of those who go to China. So, as I said, thirty-odd years ago I went through a unique experience of being carried away which is enough for me and perhaps it is enough for the life of my country too. Now I do not get carried away when I go to other countries. I like some of the things that I see. But in many respects I feel that we are better than these countries. The same is true of any country. Another strange thing is that people who go abroad are full of praise of things that they see there. But when I ask them what they have seen in India, it appears as though most people have seen almost nothing. They are full of praise of the sights and sounds of other countries, but neither see nor make an effort to see what is happening in our own country. We must try to understand some of these changes and bear in mind a couple of things.

First of all, individuals or nations can grow only if they are firmly rooted in the soil. If they are uprooted and planted somewhere else, they will not be able to grow roots. If you try to uproot a nation and put it down somewhere else, it will be neither here nor there. There are big countries in the world, each good in its own way. There is no question of comparison. It is absurd to say that England is better than France or Germany. Each of them is an advanced nation and good in its own way. Similarly, it is absurd to feel that there can be any comparison between the nations of Europe and Asia. Each one of them has had thousands of years of history with its own language and literature. There are good as well as bad points in all of them. But any nation which gives up its roots, finds it difficult to grow. This is particularly true of an ancient nation like India. It is essential that we must have our roots firmly in our soil.

Secondly, it is equally important to let the fresh winds of change blow in from other countries. We must learn from others and benefit by their experience. It is not a good thing to shut ourselves off from the outside world as we had done for quite a few centuries. We were completely unaware of what was going on in the world. We were steeped in pride about ourselves and refused to learn anything new. So the world went ahead and ultimately subjugated us. Europe made rapid strides in science and technology, industrialization spread, and new kinds of weapons were invented, while we remained backward, steeped in our foolish pride and so, ultimately, we lost our freedom. So it is very important to keep abreast of developments in the outside world and learn from, as well as teach others. Both these things are equally important.

Look at the world around you. You read the news from other countries in the newspapers, no doubt. But do you realize what the situation in the world today is? You have to read between the lines to understand what is happening in India and the outside world. A couple of days ago, a small conference on atomic energy took place in Delhi. Atomic energy is like electricity, not new but something which has always been a part of nature. It has been harnessed by man now. After all it is only recently that electricity became an everyday thing. Just a hundred years ago, it was considered to be magical. In the two day conference on atomic energy, the best scientists from all over the country were present. India is not very advanced in this field compared to the big powers. We do not have the atom bomb nor do we have any intention of doing so. But let us forget about atom bombs for the time being, though it is difficult to forget it when it is constantly dangling over our heads. The important thing is that man has acquired a tremendous source of energy which will transform the world. The question is whether it is used for good or evil. If it is used for evil, it can bring about the extinction of mankind. On the other hand, if it is used widely it can contribute enormously to the progress of mankind. It is a great source of energy like electricity on which industries and ships and trains are so dependent today.

The discovery of atomic energy ushers in a new era in the history of mankind. You will find that in the next ten or fifteen years it would have transformed our way of life as electricity did in its day. If it is wisely used, it can produce enormous wealth and mankind will benefit in various ways. It can enable us to put an end to poverty in the world. On the other hand if it is used for evil, it can bring ruin upon the world. In short, the splitting of the atom has led to an enormous source of energy which can be used for various purposes.

You must have heard about the Alif Laila stories. In one story, a fisherman, once out fishing, caught a bottle in his net. The bottle had been sealed with the insignia of a great emperor of old. When he opened the bottle, feeling sorry that he had not caught a fish instead, out came some smoke which took on the shape of a human being. It was a jinn, a terrible thing to behold and the fisherman was frightened. The Jinn told him that he had been imprisoned in the bottle for twenty years having been put there by King Solomon. He had promised to make the man who released him the wealthiest in the world. Nothing happened for years and so he promised something else. After seven more years he said that he would kill the person who released him. The long and short of it was that the fisherman had to exercise great ingenuity to put the Jinn back into the bottle. Atomic energy is something like this Jinn. It had remained hidden for a long time and has now been released by man. It is there like a Jinn and nobody can say whether it can be kept under control or not. It is a revolutionary discovery in the history of the world. A revolution does not necessarily mean violence and chaos but something which changes society politically or economically. There have been political revolutions when regimes have changed, or as it happened in India when British rule was removed. Then there is another type of revolution in which the economic system changes. The third kind is a social revolution.

Now atomic energy is a revolutionary thing which can transform the world for the better or bring total ruin upon mankind. I am telling you this so that you may appreciate the fact that the world is on the threshold of great change. The big question-mark that is agitating the world today is whether man will have the wisdom to benefit by it or use it for evil which will lead to total ruin. 

In the face of something so revolutionary, all our other problems which generate such passions pale into insignificance. The old arguments and quarrels between various political parties, etc., seem old hat and irrelevant in the modern world. You must bear this in mind.

You must have heard about the great revolutions which occurred in China and the Soviet Union. The Russian Revolution took place nearly forty years ago and the Chinese Revolution occurred four years ago. They have changed the course of world history. But during the last few years since the end of the Second World War, a great revolution has been taking place all over Asia after centuries of subjugation. The Western powers had held them in bondage for centuries and now suddenly the countries of Asia have one by one begun to throw off their yoke. India and her neighbouring countries, China, Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan, have undergone great transformation. The old system has come to an end and there is a new vitality in the peoples of Asia. It was not enough to put an end to the old regimes. They have now become dynamic once more and are growing in strength day by day. Each one of them is facing the need to achieve rapid progress economically and of gaining strength and stature in the eyes of the world. They have learnt from past experience that the countries which lag behind are vulnerable in the ruthless world of today. 

In India, we have adopted planning in order to move ahead as quickly as possible. Essentially, this involves increasing national wealth by stepping up production. The surplus can then be invested in new tasks of development in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment from India. 

What is national wealth? It is not the money which is in the treasury. That is merely a symbol. The wealth of a nation consists of goods which it produces through its labour on the fields or in factories. The affluent nations of the world have amassed great wealth because they have adopted modern techniques of production, industries, electricity, etc. We must also learn these techniques.

The chief problem which India and China face is to increase production. I was recently in China. In many areas, India is ahead of China. We have more industries, more railways, roads, etc. So we have a slight advantage over them. In other things China is ahead. You must remember that only four years ago, a great revolution occurred in China. So the revolutionary fervour and zeal remains. It is true that the Chinese are extremely hard working and skilled. When a nation twice the size of India makes a concerted effort, it releases a great source of energy. China will undoubtedly go very far and we can learn many things from them. In my opinion, China can learn from us too. Just as we shall learn whatever we can from the United States, Soviet Union, China and others, so too can all of them learn something from India. 

We want friendship with all nations. We do not want to quarrel with any of them. We must give respect to others in order to beget respect for India.

Nowadays it has become the common practice for nations to hurl abuses and insults at one another. This is extremely vulgar and serves no purpose. We must behave in a civilized way, learn what we can from others and cooperate as far as possible with everyone. China and India in a sense face unique problems. We are the two largest nations in Asia and the world and also among the most ancient. Both countries have had a long and unbroken history of thousands of years. There have been ups and downs. We have stumbled and fallen. But we have picked ourselves up and gone on. Continuity has lent a certain strength to our two countries. India and China have demonstrated a deep inner strength over thousands of years. That is yet another bond between us. People have come in hordes into our land from other countries of Asia right from ancient time. History tells us that even the Aryans had migrated to India thousands of years ago and the present day Indian culture was born out of a synthesis of the Aryan and earlier cultures. Then came the Huns and the Turks. Hordes of foreign invaders poured in from Iran, Turkistan and China. I am not talking of a few individuals but waves upon waves of outsiders who came and settled down here. They were absorbed in the great ocean of humanity that is India. India has had a unique power to absorb ideas and peoples from outside. China too had this quality. Invading hordes occupied China and within a generation or two disappeared into the vast ocean of Chinese culture. It shows that a nation which possesses an inner strength is not easily cowed down by outside forces and influences. It benefits from them.

Well, a close relationship between India and China is very essential from various points of view. They are the two largest countries in Asia and close neighbours. We have a continuous border of more than two thousand miles, from the Himalayas to Assam. Our history shows that our relationship dates back thousands of years. I think there is mention of China in the Vedas and the Puranas, or rather of Chinese silk China-Patta—which came from China. Then about fifteen hundred years or more ago, Buddhism travelled to China. During the Buddhist period, people frequently travelled between the two countries. It is said that at one time ten thousand Indian monks were living in a Chinese town. It is possible that the figures were exaggerated. But thousands of people did travel to and fro. I am talking about fifteen hundred years ago. Therefore, for India, China as well as Asia and the world, the way the relationship between our two countries develops is crucial. The visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to India a few months ago was a historic landmark in our relations. Then I went to China. It is not a question of personalities or individuals but of the coming together of two great nations which makes it historic. It has had an impact on Asia and the whole world.

There was a great revolution in China. Revolutions are born out of the conditions which exist in a country. When the French Revolution took place, it was in similar circumstances. You cannot replicate the French Revolution in India. Conditions are different here. In Russia, too, the Revolution took place in the aftermath of their defeat in the First World War. In China, the Manchu rule had come to an end fortythree years earlier and the period which followed was marked by civil war and chaos. Then Japan invaded China and war broke out between the two countries. In short, China had no internal peace for forty years, and the population in the cities and the rural areas was completely ruined. There was no Government to speak of. No country can progress in such circumstances. China was ruined by the internecine fighting and the war with Japan which was followed by the Second World War.

I am trying to show you that revolutions do not occur in the air. The Chinese Revolution was born out of forty years of civil war. They have at last found peace. Those who feel that what has occurred in other countries should be repeated here, understand neither history nor realities. Must we also undergo forty years of civil war culminating in a revolution? That is absurd. It is meaningless to want chaos and ruin so that a generation or two later we may build anew. I am saying this because people are easily carried away, particularly our communist brethren, who have a great deal of enthusiasm, but very little common sense. They seem to think that slogans can be a substitute for common sense. It is most strange. I have just returned from China. It is, by and large, a communist country. Their Government is made up of well known communists, men of extraordinary brilliance, whose ideology has been moulded by thirty years of warfare and suffering and what not. Chinese communism is not a carbon copy of Soviet Marxism, but has been evolved out of their own experiences. I have great respect for their leaders who are extremely intelligent and are leading their country towards progress with great courage and daring.

They have the right to adopt whichever path they like. How can I advise them? Their circumstances are different and they know them better. Similarly, I would not permit them to advise me what I should do in India. You and I know our country better than they do. But our communist friends have been influenced by some literature written ninety years ago in Europe, describing the conditions which prevailed there then. No doubt, it is literature of very high quality and it is but right that people should be influenced by it. I too was influenced when I read those books. Then came the Russian Revolution which produced its own literature. Indian communists have been influenced by that too. But it is absurd that they want to link our conditions with conditions which existed in Europe ninety years ago or in the Soviet Union forty years ago. What I mean is that every nation learns and grows by its own experience. It learns from others too, but in its own way.

Why did Mahatma Gandhi succeed so well in India? It is because he was a product of the Indian soil and could recognize the real inner spirit and strength of India. So he made them his weapons to fight against British imperialism. His philosophy could be understood by even a simple peasant. He had no readymade slogans to be learnt and repeated at will. I am prepared to admire and respect the Chinese Government and organization. They have built something with great difficulty and I have no quarrel with their system. But if anyone suggests that we should copy China or the Soviet Union or the United States, I cannot understand that. I would say that such people have not yet mentally arrived in the twentieth century. They are still living in the past. The communalists are, of course, even worse. They live in an even remote past. It is people of similar mentality who ruined India a few centuries ago. The communalists today want to repeat the things which had led the country to ruin in the past.

There are three types of people in the world. One is the kind which learns from the experiences of others. They are considered the most intelligent. The second type consists of the people who learn from their own experience. They are of ordinary intelligence. The third kind are the ones who do not learn at all. These are completely useless.

India has a storehouse of thousands of years of experience. We have made many mistakes. We fell and were enslaved because of our disunity and internecine feuds in the name of religion and caste and what not. Other countries advanced in the meanwhile. All this is before us, that is the lessons that the history of India and Asia teaches us. What is one to say about people, who want us to follow the same path which led to ruin in the past? They are people who are capable of neither learning from others or from their own experience. I am truly amazed at their lack of intelligence.

You will forgive me if I praise my Government a little. The credit does not go to me or to my Government but to the whole of India. But the fact of the matter is that you will not find another example of a country, which had been until just seven or eight years ago under foreign domination, playing the role that India is, on the world stage and the respect that we have earned from others. It is because we are not easily swayed by the winds that have uprooted our neighbours. They have chosen to take sides and in the process they have been weakened and that is inevitable.

We, on the other hand, have tried to stand on our own feet. We have no enmity with any country, only friendship for all. It is a different matter that there are some powers who are upset with us for not toeing their line. But even they have gradually come round to the point of view that in everything that we do, there is complete honesty and integrity and no succumbing to external pressure or threats. Recently an Englishman visited India. I am not acquainted with him. I learnt from the newspapers that he was a prominent leader of one of their parties. He has written that he travelled all over Asia but found that it was only in India where the people were completely free from fear. He said that they had no inferiority complex. What I mean is that he was able to gauge that the people in India were able to lead normal lives as free citizens of a country without fear or showing off. It often happens that when there is fear, people tend to make a noise or show off. Those who are without fear can behave normally.

Many things have happened in India during the last six years which, in spite of all our faults have made a profound impression upon the world. What we have done in the past has made an impact and the foundations that we are laying for the future are making an even greater impression. India’s role has made a great difference in world affairs. It may be said that in the debate between war and peace, our efforts have managed to tilt the balance in favour of peace. That is a big achievement. I do not say that the entire credit goes to us. Others have also been involved. But we have played a major role.

I want you to look at what I have said in the context of the situation in the world. As I said in the beginning, we are living in a revolutionary era. Old debates and slogans become completely meaningless. We have to look at the world from a new angle. The communalist parties in India say things which have nothing to do with realities. They are living mentally in an age which is long past. They are unable to understand the problems of the modern age and so they resort to religion. On the other hand, those who consider themselves as great revolutionaries, like the communists, are equally backward in their thinking. They may succeed in fomenting violence, which anyone can do. But we in India have great problems to solve and it has to be done in the context of the atomic age. Can we hope to solve our problems by fomenting trouble and violence? Something which was relevant in the nineteenth century or even fifty years ago is no longer relevant today. We shall slip back if we try to hold on to them. Provincialism and communalism are completely outdated. We shall have to rid ourselves of them if we want to progress; There is something else which hurts me deeply. We do not wish to criticize or speak ill of any country. Why should we? We want friendship with everyone.

We know that we have many weaknesses and faults. How can we point a finger at others? We must try to follow our culture and civilization, no matter what the others do. But what would you say to Indians going abroad and criticizing their country? We must keep our differences to ourselves. We have the right to argue and criticize among ourselves. But what is the meaning of maligning India in a foreign country? I do not know what they think they are achieving. But it is clear that they are completely lacking in patriotic feelings. There is complete freedom of expression in India. But it is not a decent thing to run down our country before outsiders. People are of different types. But in my opinion, we should prevent two things. One is of people lacking in nationalism and patriotism. They are traitors to their country even if they live here. The other kind of people are those who foment violence and chaos.

As I told you, the Chinese Revolution occurred after forty years of civil war. Their history has been different from ours. During the same period of forty years, our history has been the history of Mahatma Gandhi and of nonviolent battles. We were moulded by the history, experience and thinking of that period which had evolved out of the traditions and memories of the past. If we stoop to violence, even if it is on a small scale, immediately we would be uprooting ourselves from the events of the last fifty years or so and ruin the country. Violence begets further violence and if the process continues, we will be ruined.

I am saying this because though this problem is not before us at the moment, our communist brethren feel that there can be no progress without chaos. Five or six years ago, they instigated riots in Telengana in Hyderabad, which were put down. They are welcome to sit in Parliament and work peacefully within the democratic framework. They have the right to do so but not to foment violence. They have not rid themselves of this notion yet. It is a different matter that they do not get the opportunity to do what they want. But they continue to foment trouble in small ways and keep the pot boiling. They cannot do anything on a large scale. But they instigate strikes and foment agitations even if they gain nothing in the process. Their only concern seems to be to foment trouble and set the people against the Government. Now they are facing great difficulties. In the beginning, they used to claim loudly that we were stooges and puppets of the British and so on. Even after Independence, the communists would not accept the fact. You can imagine the mentality which refuses to accept that India had become independent. Their vision is blinkered and so they are unable to accept the realities. For years they kept saying that India had not become independent and the Constitution and Parliament, etc. were superficial things. In fact, we were painted as puppets dancing to the British tune. They kept saying that our foreign policy was dictated by the British and Americans. They say so even now sometimes, though less vociferously. When they found that the whole world, including the Soviet Union whom they admired so wholeheartedly, thought differently and that our foreign policy was held in great respect because it stood for peace, they were in a dilemma. Their slogans are all copies from other countries. When those countries too said something else, they had nothing to fall back upon. So, now they are saying that India’s foreign policy is the right one to some extent but pressure from the West still operates. Well, they are aware that their arguments have lost force. So the communists are in a big dilemma as to what they should do because their mentality leads them to think only of violence, chaos and turmoil. When things are going smoothly, they cannot find fault and so they are weakened. They are constantly looking for complaints. After all, there are innumerable problems in India—poverty, unemployment, etc. Everywhere these self styled leaders stand up as the champions of the workers. You may have heard about the impending strike by bank employees. A Commission had been set up and ultimately the Government took a decision.

I will not go into details because it is a complex matter. Then we appointed a very able judge of the Bombay High Court to go into the matter fully again and to advise us. It was a special case and since there was a doubt in our minds that all the facts were not in our possession. We did something that no government would normally do. We said that we were prepared to have another look at our own decision. We appointed a man of integrity who had nothing to do with the Government to go into the matter and report to us. I cannot understand what more any Government could have done. But in spite of that, the communists have instigated them to go on strike. You can imagine who is likely to benefit by it. It is only the bank employees who will benefit but not the public. After all, a bank is there for the benefit of the people. If that is not forthcoming and the people are put to difficulties, what is the use of the bank? After all, the matter is being examined fully. There is no other alternative.

We have said that we are prepared to change our decision provided the Judge’s findings indicate so. Yet the employees are bent upon a strike. It is obvious that life will not come to a halt in the country. There may be some temporary loss to trade, industries and some nuisance to the public. That is why I feel that those who favour chaos and turmoil in the country as a policy cannot have the interests of the nation at heart. They cannot tolerate that India should make progress. My complaint with the communists and others is that they fail to consider national interests and look only to narrow party interests. They malign the country when they go abroad. We must be careful particularly at the present moment which is a great testing time for us. We have succeeded so far in the eyes of the world. But we have to take into account our own strength. It is obvious that there is no magic formula to put an end to all our weaknesses and problems.

The Soviet Union has made great progress. But you must bear in mind that they have taken forty years to do so. It did not happen all at once. Their progress is based on forty years of hard work and effort. Similarly the advance of the United States has been the result of nearly two centuries. It requires hard work. A nation cannot advance by shouting slogans or making a noise. In my opinion we have laid the foundations of progress during the last six or seven years. We shall be able to progress faster during the Second Plan period.

Each target requires a certain approval and effort. For instance, if we set before us the target of putting an end to unemployment within the next few years, you can imagine what a gigantic task it would be. Millions of people are unemployed and jobs would have to be generated for all of them. The problem is particularly acute in the rural areas. The National Extension Service is expanding rapidly. It has reached nearly seventy thousand villages so far. Fifty thousand villages a year are being covered. This shows the rate at which we are progressing.

I want you to consider these fundamental things because then you will realize that there is only one way in which we can progress and that is by maintaining unity and not indulging in thoughtless activities. I want to warn you against the communal parties. There are a number of them among the Hindus. Though the Muslim League has gone to Pakistan, others here are emulating its example. The communalists are not very large in number. But the whole concept is extremely poisonous and harmful. Please do not imagine that I am maligning the millions of Muslims who live in India. If you make that mistake, you will be falling into the very pit we are trying to avoid. There are a few people who indulge in such activities. Some newspapers in Delhi seem to specialize in it. But ultimately the responsibility for encouraging communalism rests with the Hindus. After all, since they are in a majority, the country will naturally lean in the direction that they follow. If they go wrong, the nation will go wrong too, and it will have a bad influence on others. Therefore, it is mindless to say that we are only copying Pakistan. Whatever Pakistan does, it will have to bear the consequences of its action. 

I am convinced that friendship between India and Pakistan is absolutely essential. If you ponder carefully, you will realize that if we want to progress, we cannot afford to fritter away our energies in futile internal squabbles or disputes with other countries, Pakistan or anyone else—we shall undoubtedly be hurt even if Pakistan is hurt. So it is not wise to fly into a passion and say things which aggravate feelings in both countries. That would be harmful to the country and the great national tasks that we have taken up.

I have no enmity with Pakistan. I want that there should be peace, friendship and cooperation between India and Pakistan. So long as I have the strength, I shall devote all my energy into that task. We must resolve our differences by peaceful methods. I regret to say that Pakistan’s internal condition is not good. It is not a question of comparisons. But they have been following the wrong policy from the beginning. When a country is founded on communal principles, it is difficult for it to pay attention to other important issues. For the last one year they have been having a debate about drawing up a Constitution. Well, they have every right to do what they like. We do not wish to interfere. But you can see how they have got stuck. If we get involved in communalism, we too will get stuck similarly. There can be no progress. Pakistan has the right to do what it wants. But if anyone tells me that we should copy Pakistan, my reply would be that it would not be very wise.

Making progress is our goal. How can we allow India to lag behind? There is a great uproar over communal and provincial issues. I have no objection to the way people want the boundaries of various provinces to be demarcated. But I have strong objection to any effort at dividing the country, emotionally and mentally, weakening the national unity, in the name of province, religion, caste or community. No matter what you call it, these sentiments militate against the unity of India. They are harmful at all times but particularly now, when the world is passing through a critical period. When we are trying to progress step by step with all our energy poured into the task, such activities would be a stab in the back. Those who want to do big things must be big-hearted. Narrow-minded people cannot do big things. We have taken up the task of ameliorating the condition of thirty-six crores of people and getting rid of poverty and disease. There can be no task more important than this. How can we afford to get involved in squabbles? I would say that we have to wage a ruthless war against disunity and tendencies which divide us into compartments. Above all, we must fight against the caste system which has divided and weakened us in the past, kept people in so many separate compartments. Unless we do so, we cannot go ahead in this world.

You ask me about China. The greatest strength of China lies in the fact that there are no barriers dividing the people. So when sixty crores people work together, as they do in China, they are bound to progress. Who can stop them? There must be unity among the people and no barriers dividing them. The caste system with its rituals and taboos, which have bound us rigidly in the past, has become completely irrelevant in today’s world. We are moving towards a new age and India must fit into it.

We must bear all these things in mind and look at what is happening all around us. China is a great country which is progressing very fast. Soon a troupe of artists is coming to India and you will be able to see them perform. They will be in Delhi for four or five days and give performances in the stadium and other places. Perhaps you may not understand their music, which is entirely different from ours. When Indian music is sung in Europe it is difficult for them to understand it. We have invited the Chinese troupe because we want to establish closer ties. 

Well, what is the message that I want to give you on my return from China? I did not see anything new that I had not already read or heard about. The only difference is that seeing something with one’s own eyes makes a greater impact. Then I went to Indo-China where every nook and corner is full of telltale signs of the impact of India’s ancient culture. You can find exquisite examples of art and culture there which may be difficult to find in India. Their old monuments, language, dance form, all bear India’s imprint. The people of India had gone there over 1500 years ago with their arts and culture and influenced them profoundly. It is the same story in Cambodia—the ancient Kamboja. Its capital of Angkor has temples of such grandeur and beauty that I was amazed at the excellence of the architects who built them. There is one monument in Angkor which is considered to be unique in the world. It is an immense one and has been standing for over a thousand years. Today it is in a bad state of repair in parts. But the architectural beauty is unsurpassed. Legends from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are engraved on stone all around the temple walls. You cannot find such fine work even in India.

Angkor Vat is a symbol of sublime aesthetic quality. It is only when a nation is highly evolved that it can produce work of such excellence. Temples are built today in Delhi and other places in India. They are huge in size but nobody can praise them for their artistry. After all, a building needs not only bricks and mortar but imagination as well. The Taj Mahal is famous throughout the world not because it is built of marble, for there are many such in Delhi, but because of its unmatched beauty of design and execution. The Taj Mahal has managed to capture the spirit of a nation. The credit must go to the excellence of the architects and masons who built it. It is artists like them who went out to Cambodia and Indonesia and built temple and other monuments which stand to this day. We must strive to recapture that excellence.

I saw the impact that ancient India had made on the countries of South East Asia. Please do not forget that the people of India had not gone there with armies to fight and conquer. Their conquests lay in the realm of letters and arts. Indian arts and religion and literature exerted a profound influence on those countries. Similarly, China was another great country which exerted its influence upon the countries all around it. That is why the region in between bears the joint names of India and China and is called Indo-China. Both countries exerted great influence on the region, particularly in the realm of arts, literature and ideas. The strange thing is that our forefathers more than two thousand years ago had the spirit of adventure to travel far and wide. Their daring and courage fills one with amazement. What kind of people were they and how did the ideas of taboo and caste system develop so rigidly later? We were bold enough at one time to cross thousands of miles of ocean braving great dangers to spread our arts and religion and ideas in distant places. Yet, just a few centuries later, we find that we had closed our minds to the outside world and were content to sit like frogs in the well, in our narrow compartments of caste and what not. You can see how India grew in stature and exerted a profound influence on the world and then went into decline when the people became narrow-minded and caste-ridden. Foreign travel became taboo and if any persons dared to cross the seas, they were declared outcastes.

When my father went to Europe, he was declared an outcaste. Things are changing now. We must get out of our narrow mental ruts and let the fresh winds of change blow into the country. We must strive to regain that spirit of daring and courage which led us to great intellectual efforts and scientific and spiritual discoveries. Those are the signs of a great nation. We must progress in peace and friendship with all nations.

I want to tell you one thing more, and that is, that in a fortnight’s time we are going to have a guest here. The President of Yugoslavia, Marshall Tito is coming to India. I should like to remind you that during the last War, German forces had overrun Yugoslavia and nearly one fourth of the population was wiped out in the struggle for freedom. Yugoslavia is a strange country in the sense that though it is a communist country, it has not adopted the Russian brand of communism. It has evolved its own ideology. In fact that has led to some misunderstanding with the Soviet Union. Whatever, it may be, a great man from a great country is coming and it is obvious that we shall give him a warm welcome. Please say Jai Hind with me. Jai Hind.


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