Nehru’s Word: A united Asia for world peace
Though Non-Aligned Movement was formally inaugurated in Belgrade in 1961, Asian Relations Conference in 1947 was 1st step in that direction. Excerpts from Nehru’s speech at its opening plenary session
Friends and fellow Asians,
What has brought you here, men and women of Asia? Why have you come from the various countries of this mother continent of ours and gathered together in the ancient city of Delhi?... We meet here not to discuss our past history and contacts but to forge links for the future.
And may I say here that this Conference, and the idea underlying it, is in no way aggressive or against any other continent or country? Ever since the news of this Conference went abroad, some people in Europe and America have viewed It with doubt imagining that this was some kind of a pan-Asian movement directed against Europe or America.
We have no designs against anybody. Ours is a great design of promoting peace and progress all over the world. For too long we of Asia have been petitioners in Western courts and chancellories. That story must now belong to the past. We do not intend to be the playthings of others. In this crisis in world history Asia will necessarily play a vital role.... Europe and America have contributed very greatly to human progress....
But the West has also driven us into wars and confilcts without number and even now, the day after a terrible war, there is talk of further wars in the atomic age that is upon us. In this atomicage Asia will have to function effectively in the maintenance of peace. Indeed, there can be no peace unless Asia plays her part..., the whole spirit and outlook of Asia are- peaceful, and the emergence of Asia in world affairs will be a powerful infiuence for world peace.
Peace can only come when nations are free and also when human beings everywhere have freedom and security and opportunity. Peace and freedom, therefore, have to be considered both in their political and economic aspects. The countries of Asia, we must remember, are very backward and the standards of life are appallingly low. These economic problems demand urgent solution or else crisis and disaster might over- whelm us.
We have, therefore, to think in terms of the common- man and fashion our political, social and economic structure so that the burdens that have crushed him may be removed, and he may have full opportunity for growth. We have arrived at a stage in human affairs when the ideal of ‘one world’ and some kind of a world federation seems to be essential .... We, therefore, support the United Nations structure which is painfully emerging from its infancy. But in order to have ‘one world’ we must also, in Asia, think of the countries of Asia cooperating together for that larger ideal....
We seek no narrow nationaltsm. Nationalism has a place in each country and should be fostered, but it must not be allowed to become aggressive and come in the way of international development. Asia stretches her hand out in friend- ship to Europe and America as well asto our suffering brethren in Africa.... We must help them to take their rightful place in the human family. The freedom that we envisage is not to be confined to this nation or that or to a particular people, but must spread out over the whole human race.
That universal human freedom also cannot be based on the supremacy of any particular class. It must be the freedom of the common man everywhere and full opportuni- ties for him to develop. (Extracts from the speech, reproduced in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Second Series, Volume 2. Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)