On foreign policy there are some studies by A.P. Rana, Kanti Bajpai and J.N. Dixit. The essence of the argument in these analyses is a study of the complex international system today and the continuing relevance of the essence of Nehru’s policy, particularly nonalignment in the post-Cold War era. There is a very rigorous analysis by V.N. Datta of the factors leading to the Partition of British India in 1947. The Partition once again is discussed briefly in Dr. Karan Singh’s concluding essay. Of special interest to the students of national security is the paper by K. Subrahmanyam on defence matters. This is important because it explains the personal and institutional failures behind the 1962 debacle. At the same time it does not exaggerate its importance in the totality of independent India’s evolution. Subrahmanyam particularly notes Nehru’s contribution to building up a self-sufficient defence mechanism. There are some pieces of great interest to the students of Nehru’s evolution as a political leader before he became Prime Minister. The article by B.R. Nanda on Nehru, Bose and Gandhi is of special interest in this connection, containing, as it does, a detailed analysis of the disintegration of the Congress organization in the late thirties.
Rafiq Zakaria’s and Karan Singh’s sad wistful revaluation of the many ‘might have beens’ in the subcontinent during the forties give a three dimensional picture of a very difficult and anguished phase in our national history.
There are some interesting pieces on Jawaharlal Nehru and the institutions he founded. There is a brilliant piece by Andre Beteille bringing out the dilemmas of the nation builder. Very informative and useful to the contemporary student is Pushpa Bhargava’s assessment of the scientific institutions which Nehru established and the scientific temper which he encouraged in ordinary people, not merely professional scientists. There is also an equally interesting analysis of social forces at work in the country today by Suma Chitnis. At the end of a long analysis of Indian society today, the scholar brings Nehru into the picture and “revists” him most effectively. One of the finest pieces in this remarkable collection is Romila Thapar’s essay on Nehru: Nationalism and History. Here we get an objective picture of Nehru, the non-historian who wrote popfular history to educate himself, his daughter and the darling masses for whom he lived.
The introductory piece at the beginning by Rafiq Zakaria and the final essay by Karan Singh give a personal touch to this compilation of carefully objective, impersonal assessments. This reviewer was parituclarly charmed by Zakaria’s memories of his contacts with Nehru as a teenager. Like him, I also read the Autobiography in 1936 immediately after its publication. Apart from anything else, it introduced us to the delights of modern English poetry by the quots from T.S. Eliot and Roy Campbell. Nehruf had a distant but friendly relation with Wavell; like the Viceroy, the future Prime Minister also loved collecting “Other Men’s Flowers”. One wishes there was a full-fledged study of Nehru the writer in this collection. In the 20th century there is only one parallel to him, as a writer politician, Winston Churchill.
A.K. Damodaran, former diplomat, has written a book Jawaharlal Nehru: A Communicator and Democratic Leader.