Nehru’s Word: I'd rather have goodwill and cooperation than logic

"We attach more importance to a decision arrived at through goodwill, than to the merely logical decision, for logic is a very feeble and unworthy substitute for goodwill"

PM Jawaharlal Nehru replies to President Truman’s words of welcome on his arrival in the US, October 1949. (Photo courtesy: Truman Library Institute)
PM Jawaharlal Nehru replies to President Truman’s words of welcome on his arrival in the US, October 1949. (Photo courtesy: Truman Library Institute)

Jawaharlal Nehru

The ongoing general election in India is witnessing a struggle between the people of India who want to preserve the secular and democratic character of the Indian republic and political forces that are seeking to retain power by all means, fair and foul, including open recourse to hate speech against a particular community. This is not the direction that the architects of modern India wanted the country to take. In a speech in Lok Sabha in December 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru underlines that hatred for a fellow human being degrades a person, that all differences must be settled through discussion and debate, and that how you arrive at a decision is more important than the decision itself.


Talking about religion in the broad sense of the word, the votaries of the Hindu religion in our country greatly outnumber the others. Nobody is going to push them from that position; they are strong enough. Therefore, it is their special responsibility to see that people following other religions in India feel satisfied that they have full freedom and opportunity. If this principle is applied, most of these troubles and grievances will disappear.

About a month ago a huge meeting was held in Calcutta which was a kind of public reception to the Soviet leaders who were here. Reference was made to the Panchsheel at that meeting. I ventured to say that Panchsheel was no new idea to the Indian mind and that it was inherent in the Indian thinking and the Indian culture.

Panchsheel ultimately is the message of tolerance. I quoted at that mighty meeting Asoka’s edicts and said: “This is the basis of Indian culture and Panchsheel flows from it.”

By thinking of Panchsheel and peaceful coexistence in this wide, warring world, we have gained a measure of respect and attention. We have been able to gain this respect because our thinking has been correct and based on principles which are not opportunist, and also because the broad policies we have laid down have not been very divergent from the action we have taken; that is, there has been an approximation between our ideals and action in foreign policy.

I do not say they coincide absolutely, but there has been an approximation, and this has been a source of strength to us. It is the conflict between one’s ideals and one’s action that leads to bad results and to frustration in the individual, group or nation.

Where individuals, groups or nations are able to act according to their ideals, they achieve results. In our struggle for independence, we were fortunate in being largely able to combine our ideals with our day-to-day activities.

May I, in passing, mention two matters not only because they are relevant, but because we have been criticised in foreign countries with regard to them? The two questions are Kashmir and Goa. We are accused by our critics of talking loudly about peace and anti-colonialism and following a different policy in Kashmir and Goa.

I think that when history comes to be written, Kashmir and Goa will be the brightest examples of our tolerance, of our patience and of the way we have suppressed our anger and resentment at many things in order to follow the broad idealistic policy that we have laid down.

I was saying that I was not concerned greatly with boundaries. I am concerned with two things; first, our principles, and, secondly, the manner of approach to problems, that is to say, how we discuss these matters, how we decide them, and how we accept the decisions made. That is more important than what we decide.

When people of varying opinion meet, how do they decide things? The method of democracy is discussion, argument, persuasion and ultimate decision and acceptance of that decision even though it might go against our grain. Otherwise, the bigger lathi or the bigger bomb prevails and that is not the democratic method.

The problem is the same whether atomic bombs are involved or street demonstrations. I do not object to demonstrations, but I object to their violence. There are democratic ways of demonstration too. The atomic bomb symbolises tremendous violence but it does not poison one’s personal thinking so much as smaller violence does.

When a man hates his neighbour, and cannot pull on with him, he is degraded as an individual. The hatred of an individual, group or, community, the hatred of a Hindu for a Muslim or the hatred of a Muslim for a Hindu or a Sikh is much worse….

It does not matter how you divide or subdivide one state or two states or three or four states. That is a matter which we could consider on administrative, economic, linguistic and other grounds; The basic thing is that after having done that, do you create goodwill and cooperation amongst the people who Iive there? If you do not, it does not matter how much you justify the decisions made by census figures and arguments and maps….

Apart from official approaches to the problem (of states’ reorganisation), we have met literally hundreds and hundreds of persons, in groups of five, 10 or 20, coming from almost every state of India. We have listened to them and we have discussed with them, because we want the greatest measure of agreement and cordiality.

We attach more importance to a decision arrived at through goodwill, than to the merely logical decision, for logic is a very feeble and unworthy substitute for goodwill. I would rather have goodwill and cooperation than logic. We have proceeded that way.

How far we shall succeed wholly in creating goodwill I do not know. But I am quite positive that, whether the government does or does not succeed, this House can succeed in giving the right lead to the country. If something is wrong about our decisions, we can consider them quietly later on…

This year we celebrate an event of high significance — the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha. Let us remember the message of this greatest son of India whose light has illumined not only our country but the world for these thousands of years. That message was inscribed later by the great Asoka on rock and stone which stand today to bear witness to the truth that has guided India through the ages.

It is only by the recognition of this great truth that our country and the world will prosper. If the world denies and repudiates it and goes along its violent courses, it will perish.

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former professor of history at JNU and former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)

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