Letter to Krishna Menon from Jawaharlal Nehru

(26th June, 1948.)

Air mail

No. 903 - P.M.
New Delhi,

The 26th June, 1948

My dear Krishna,

I am writing to you about Indo-Soviet relations. There has been a progressive deterioration in them and I think the time has come for us to clear this matter in so far as it is possible of being cleared with the Soviet Government. We have, therefore, asked our Ambassador in Moscow to have a frank talk with Novikov, the Russian Ambassador here yesterday. Bajpai, at my instance, had a talk with Novikov, the Russian Ambassador here yesterday. A note of these conversations will be sent to you separately.

I can understand a certain feeling of irritation in Russia in regard to the attitude taken up at the United Nations General Assembly last year. I was not myself very happy about something that our delegation did but we were so absorbed then with our troubles here that we could not follow events carefully. But whatever our delegation did was not done because of any pressure from any other country or bloc. Our people are not wholly conversant with European or other developments and they may occasionally make mistakes.

In regard to Korea there has been Russian resentment also about our attitude. As a matter of fact what we have been doing lately has been definitely not liked by the Americans. It may not be wholly to the liking of the Russians but it is inclined towards their view point more than previously. We did so not because of Russia or America but because we thought in the circumstances that was the right thing to do.

The Russian attitude towards India has become progressively one of' condemning and running down the Government of India and all its works. Articles in some Russian periodicals contain bitter criticisms and we are continually being referred to as some kind of a stooge of the Anglo-American bloc.

Further the Communist Party in India, which presumably will never go against the main trends of Russian foreign policy, has been adopting not only a hostile attitude but particularly a rebellious attitude. We have information that this general attitude and change of policy was adopted at the instance of some delegates from Russia some months ago. That change of policy affected not only India but Burma, Malaya, etc. Exactly what the object of that policy is not clear except that it creates enormous difficulties and might, as in Burma, weaken the whole structure of Government. It does not seem to lead to any constructive results unless weakening and disruption itself is the objective aimed at. Obviously Communists in India are small in numbers and not strong enough to do anything constructively. This policy results in antagonising large numbers of people in India, and isolating the Communists. As most people connect this policy with official Russian Government policy a part of this antagonism is transferred to the USSR.

Our Ambassador in Moscow has written to us repeatedly that she finds that she can do nothing very useful there. Apart from very limited official contacts she has no adequate contacts even with the Russian Government and none at all are permitted with the Russian people. All foreign Embassies in Moscow, probably with the exception of the Slav Embassies are completely isolated and live in a world of their own. Even Russian teachers of the language were withdrawn from our Embassy, so also some servants. This was not directed against the Indian Embassy specially but applied to all the Embassies.

Our Ambassador has not been permitted to visit various parts of the USSR, notably in Asia, where she wanted to go. In contrast with this the Jambekars, whom you know, were feted in Moscow, they had a long interview with Stalin, they were given special planes to go all over the USSR. We might almost say that a deliberate discourtesy was intended for our Ambassador or at any rate it was made clear how different was their approach to a Communist from India as compared to an official representative. The result of this is a certain feeling of frustration in our Embassy in Moscow. My sister wrote to me that she had the sensation of a moral defeat that she could not get on or do anything worth-while. She disliked intensely the atmosphere of the Foreign diplomatic colony and she really was isolated from social contacts.

I think we should have a clearing up of all this. Naturally we may not see eye to eye with the Soviet in many matters but there is no doubt that there has been a great fund of friendship with the Soviet in India. That fund is gradually disappearing chiefly because of the attitude of the Soviet towards us.

Novikov, the Russian Ambassador here, is going soon to Moscow on leave. We thought that it was desirable for him to be acquainted with our view point on this issue before he went so that he could convey it to his Government. We want friendship and cooperation with Russia in many fields but we are a sensitive people and we react strongly to being cursed at and run down.

The whole basis of Russian policy appears to be that no essential chance has taken place in India and that we still continue to be camp-followers of the British. That of course is complete nonsense and if a policy is based on nonsensical premises it is apt to go wrong. Obviously we are influenced by certain circumstances and we cannot always ignore those circumstances. Our general reactions whenever any pressure is sought to be applied upon us by any country is to resent it and may be to go against it.

At the present moment the USA Government is not too pleased with us for various reasons and indeed the American Ambassador here told us the other day how much he regretted that nothing substantial had been done in improving Indo-American relations during his regime. Our newspapers/often/ are very irresponsible. They are drunk with the new freedom and seldom understand the intricacies or foreign affairs and policy. They criticise American and Russian policy alike sometimes rather vigorously.

I thought I should let you know all developments here so that you may keep in line with them. I hope that our frank talks in Delhi and Moscow will remove some misconceptions and pave the way for better understanding of each other.

I telegraphed to you yesterday that there was no chance of my going to England in July. At the earliest I might visit Europe about the middle of September or may be a little later. I want to go there because I want to get out for a while from India and view things in perspective. But I really cannot be sure of what I shall do. Here in India some kind of crisis exists continuously. Unfortunately I have to play an important role in all these developments and my absence may lead to grave difficulties. There is Hyderabad of course and Kashmir but there is also the growing deterioration of the economic situation here. All manner of other problems also arise which though local have an effect on our Government. Hence it is very difficult to say for certain whether I shall be able to go abroad or not. I promised the Mountbattens that I will try my utmost to go out but apart from that promise, I do feel that I should go for my own sake if for nobody else’s.

Our Constituent Assembly, that is the Constitution making body, has been unfortunately postponed and will now meet by about the middle of October. That is rather a nuisance and might come in the way of my visit to Europe or at any rate might limit it.



Shri V.K. Krishna Menon.
N.M.M.L. J.N. (S.4), Volume No. 10, 226-228.

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