Did Nehru Give India’s Permanent Seat At UNSC to China in 1950?

Historians and experts say that offers were made by the US and Russia but they were merely ‘feelers’ to test India.

5 min read
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(Editor's Note: The story was first published on 17 June 2020 and is being republished from The Quint's archives in the light of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah repeating the claim on Tuesday, 13 December.)

A day after the violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh, misleading claims about former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru giving India’s seat in the United Nations Security Council to China are flying thick and fast.

Rishi Bagree, a Twitter user shared a tweet and wrote, “Those trending #WeakestPMModi must note that their Fav PM Nehru passed UN permanent Security Council seat, part of Arunachal & Aksai Chin to China.”

Historians and experts say that offers were made by the US and Russia but they were merely ‘feelers’ to test India.
An archived version can be found here.
(Source: Twitter)

In a subsequent tweet he said that Nehru “gifted” the seat which was first offered to India and called it an “American bait”. The same claim was shared by many others on the micro-blogging site.

Historians and experts say that offers were made by the US and Russia but they were merely ‘feelers’ to test India.
An archived version of the tweet can be found here.
(Source: Twitter)
Historians and experts say that offers were made by the US and Russia but they were merely ‘feelers’ to test India.

Let’s take a look at the offer which was made and if Nehru had indeed “gifted” India’s seat to China.

US Made an Offer in 1950

Congress leader and former UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor had said in an interview in 2004 that Nehru “declined a US offer” to India to take a permanent seat at the UNSC in 1953, and said China be given the seat instead.

Even in his book ‘Nehru – The Invention of India’, Tharoor writes that Nehru suggested the seat, held by Taiwan till then, be offered to Beijing instead. Nehru was reportedly known to have said that “the seat was held with scant credibility by Taiwan.”

Further, a March 2015 report by historian Anton Harder titled ‘Not as the Cost of China’ shows that the US had begun mounting pressure on India for a permanent seat as early as 1950, wanting her to take the place of China.

Harder acknowledges that “integrating PRC into the international community by conceding to China’s right to the seat” was in fact the “central pillar of Nehru’s foreign policy.”

A 2002 Frontline article by historian AG Noorani on the ‘Nehruvian Approach’ also cited a 1955 note written by Nehru on the US and Russian offers to the UNSC. In this note, Nehru had acknowledged that suggestions were made by the US “Informally” but India was not “anxious to enter the Security Council” at that stage.

“Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Security Council. We cannot of course accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council. We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place and then the question of India might be considered separately.”

Did India Reject Another Offer Made Later?

Noorani’s article also refers to the 1955 offer made by USSR to India for a permanent seat in the UN. According to Noorani, the Russian offer to India was merely a “feeler” to test India. Why?

Because while the 1950 offer made by the US was done with an intent to keep China – another Communist bloc – from entering the UNSC, the Russian offer was made at a time when the USSR and China’s alliance had reached a certain height.

To substantiate his claim, Noorani cites the minutes of the meeting between USSR Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin and Nehru on 22 June 1955, when the offer was made.

Over the meeting, Nehru acknowledged that the US offer was an attempt to “create trouble between India and China”. He further said that India’s membership would entail a revision of the UN Charter, which would not have been advisable at the stage.

The excerpt used by Noorani in his article read:


Nehru: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject to controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council, it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China’s admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted. What is Bulganin’s opinion about the revision of the Charter? In our opinion this does not seem to be an appropriate time for it.

Bulganin: We proposed the question of India’s membership of the Security Council to get your views, but agree that this is not the time for it and it will have to wait for the right moment later on. We also agree that things should be taken one by one.

A report by The Hindu, dated 28 September 1995, also quotes Nehru categorically denying having received any offers regarding a seat for India in the UNSC.

In a statement made made in reply to a Lok Sabha question, he said:

“There has been no offer, formal or informal, of this kind. Some vague references have appeared in the press about it which have no foundation in fact. The composition of the Security Council is prescribed by the UN Charter, according to which certain specified nations have permanent seats. No change or addition can be made to this without an amendment of the Charter. There is, therefore, no question of a seat being offered and India declining it. Our declared policy is to support the admission of all nations qualified for UN membership.”

The Quint has earlier debunked similar claims in 2019 when China had blocked India’s bid to designate JeM founder Masood Azhar as a global terrorist in the United Nations Security Council.

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