Did Nehru Reject Offers for a Permanent Seat in the UNSC Twice?
From Nehru having been attacked post the 1962 war to Nepal expressing a desire to accede to India, here’s the truth.
After China blocked India’s bid to designate JeM founder Masood Azhar as a global terrorist in the United Nations Security Council, claims of Nehru having rejected an offer for India to be a permanent member in the council twice have resurfaced.
Earlier, a set of viral images regarding Nehru’s policies in the 1962 Indo-China war, claims that India was offered the proposition of being a permanent member of the UNSC, and Nepal’s wish to merge with India were doing the rounds on the internet.
Here is look at the three viral photos.
Now let us tackle these claims separately.
CLAIM 1: DID NEHRU REJECT A PERMANENT SEAT TO THE UNSC TWICE IN THE 1950s?
The second photo claims that Nehru rejected the offer for a Permanent seat at the UNSC twice – once in 1950 and once in 1955.
Before we look at these claims, it is to be noted that in 1945, when the UNSC was formed, India was not an independent country.
The 1950 Offer
In a 2004 interview to The Hindu, former UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor said 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.
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 AG Noorani on the ‘Nehruvian Approach’ also cited a 1955 note written by Nehru on the US and Russian offers to the UNSC. Nehru wrote:
“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.”
The 1955 Offer
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.”
A clipping of the article was republished by The Hindu from it’s archives on 15 March 2019.
CLAIM 2: WAS NEHRU ATTACKED POST SINO-INDIA WAR OF 1962?
The original AP caption on the photo read:
“A security man grabbed Indian Prime Minister Nehru to keep him from plunging into a riotous crowd at a meeting of the Congress Party in Patna, India, January 1962. Later in the year, Communist China’s attack on India plunged Nehru into new troubles.”
When Alt News backtracked archived news articles from January 1962, it chanced upon an article by The Indian Express dated 5 January 1962, which reported that a stampede had broken out at the Congress plenary session.
The report read:
“At one stage, an angry Nehru, completely oblivious to his own safety, used his fists and hit out at security men and Congress leaders who prevented him from jumping into the crowd…”
Another report from Florence Times said that the stampede occurred in Patna after a demonstration by peasants turned wild, resulting in 24 people being injured.
CLAIM 3: DID NEHRU TURN DOWN NEPAL’S WISH TO MERGE WITH INDIA?
The third photo claims that in 1947, then Nepal PM Matrika Prasad Koirala conveyed his country’s wish to join with India.
This claim is misleading on multiple counts.
First, Matrika Prasad Koirala was not the PM of Nepal in 1947 – he was PM from 1951–1952 and then 1953-1955. In 1947, the Prime Minister was Juddha Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana.
Second, it was Nepal’s King Tribhuvan who is reported to have expressed his desire to form a ‘federation’ consisting of the borders of Nepal and India, and not a merger.
Speaking to The Quint, professor SD Muni, an expert on India-Nepal relations, clarified:
“King Tribhuvan did not offer to merge, but reportedly proposed to form a federation with India in the 1950s. There is supposedly a letter to this extent, which the Ministry has refused to disclose – those who have seen this letter claim there was an offer. However, Nehru is said to have reject this offer.”
Akansha Shah, a Nepalese journalist, also asserted that while there were definitely no talks of a ‘merger’, King Tribhuvan had proposed a joint handling of defence and economic issues between the two countries. However, this proposal never saw the light of day, as Nehru was not in favour.
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