NEW DELHI: The recent assertion by some ruling party leaders that late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected an offer to make India a permanent member of United Nations Security Council is based either on ignorance, or more likely, it is a deliberate effort to malign Nehru. And also to gain votes in the forthcoming general election by brazenly re-writing history to derive political mileage there from.

Let us look at facts. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed to have 'four policemen' to take care of peace in the global village as World War 2 was about to end.

The charter of the United Nations was being drafted. Essentially, the US Department of State did the drafting with UK, USSR, and a few others playing only a marginal role. Roosevelt chose US, USSR, UK, and China as the 'policemen'. They will be the permanent members with veto power.

Winston Churchill with his imperialist mind- set was not pleased to have a non-European power treated as equal to UK. But, the adroit negotiator that he is, Churchill told Roosevelt that he would agree to China provided Roosevelt agreed to France.

Roosevelt agreed. Stalin was scandalized to see China, a non-European power elevated to a position to sit in judgment over Europeans. However, he agreed.

The Peoples Republic of China came into being in September 1949 and US refused to recognize it despite Nehru's advice to Truman. Even after the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Nehru repeated his proposal to Truman to talk to China and end the war.

Truman refused, the war was fought, US failed to win and a cease-fire was declared along the 38th parallel that divided the two Koreas. If Truman had listened to Nehru millions of Koreans and ----- US soldiers would not have died in vain.

In August 1950, the US State Department approached Ambassador Vijayalakshmi Pandit and she wrote to Nehru. "One matter that is being cooked up in the State Department should be known to you. This is the unseating of China as a Permanent Member in the Security Council and of India being put in her place." She added that she had discouraged the State Department. Nehru wrote back reiterating that there was no question of India's taking China's seat. He added, "India because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the security council. But we are not going in at the cost of China."

Incidentally, the offer by the State Department was made after the USSR had come back to UN after it walked out in January 1950 in protest against the US refusal to admit China into UN. Obviously, it would not have made any sense for India to have responded positively to the US offer. It need not be added that US had no business to make the offer as the USSR would have vetoed it.

In 1955, Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin brought up the same matter with Nehru on a visit to Moscow. No offer was made, but it was just a feeler as the record below shows:

[Nikolai] Bulganin: Regarding your suggestion about the four power conference we would take appropriate action. While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

JN [Jawaharlal 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.

Nehru wrote a note on this on return making it clear that it was not an offer. Incidentally, just as the US offer was not serious as USSR would have vetoed it, the US would have vetoed the USSR proposal.

In short, there were two 'offers' , one in 1950 and another in 1955, but neither was serious.

Minister Arun Jaitley by referring to Nehru's letter dated August 2, 1955 to Chief Minister about an offer made by the US way back in 1950 is either himself confused or wants to confuse his interlocutors.

Can we practise what we preach: Satyameva jayate!

Ambassador K P Fabian, retired from the Indian Foreign Service, is the author of Diplomacy : Indian Style

(Cover Photograph: Jawaharlal Nehru with Eleanor Roosevelt and then Indian Ambassador to the US Vijayalakshmi Pandit).