Chapter

Address by the Prime Minister of India1, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. Secretary's Department
Published Date:
November 1958
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It is an honor and privilege for me to welcome you on this occasion, to welcome all of you who have come here to this great gathering but more especially those who have come from distant countries. We are happy that you decided to hold this conference of these great international financial agencies in Delhi. We are happy for various reasons. One is because this would enable us to know you better and to learn much from you and enable us to express our gratitude for the help that these agencies have given us in the past and in the present. Another is because I think it might be somewhat profitable for many of you, distinguished delegates, to have an opportunity to have a glimpse into our minds in our own environment.

I am not referring to this particular conference, important as it is, because conferences, more or less, are the same in any part of the world and more or less the same people gather there, but it is the environment that counts and normally you are surrounded —you have been in the past surrounded—by Europe or America. It is good, therefore, that for a change you should feel the sun of Asia and all the other things also that pertain to this part of the world.

I do not mean to say that Asia is one solid whole, thinking alike and acting alike. Of course not. And yet, there may be certain common features in it. Even now you have the problems of Western Asia which are peculiar to it. You have the great tensions and dangers at present in the Far East of Asia and you have the problems of Southern Asia. They are different. But the main connecting link is that there is tremendous ferment and change in Asia, whether East or West or South.

It is an important factor to remember further that Asia is not a country which has only recently come into the light, if I may say so. Not too long ago, let us say 300 years ago, if such a conference could have met in those days, it would probably have found that, apart from other spheres of thought, even in the technological sphere Asia was rather ahead of the rest of the world. It is well to remember that. Something happened then, and very probably it was the fault of Asia, which stopped its future progress and caused it to become static, rather even stagnant if you like, while the countries of Western Europe and America went fast ahead and brought about what is called the industrial revolution, which had powerful reactions on the way of life and even on the way of thinking of those peoples who underwent that change, and gradually the position as it existed round about 300 years ago was changed vitally.

Europeans—the Westerners—came to India because India was a producer, not of raw materials but of manufactured goods which went to Europe and everywhere. It had as high a standard of living as most other countries—sometimes higher.

Now changes took place and, with an ever-increasing rapidity which made the industrialized communities of the West wealthier, their resources also grew accordingly, while in Asian countries we actually went backward. We did not even stay where we were. We went backward, for a variety of reasons into which I need not go, and the fact that some big cities arose and some other faint reflections of industrialization were evident in the countries of the East did not at all affect this major premise that these countries of Asia went backward in general welfare, in general living conditions and per capita income, partly because the population was growing and production was not keeping pace with it, while in the industrialized communities of the West the advance was rapid. It is well to remember this, and this process has been a marked one for 150 or 170 years.

Up to the end of the eighteenth century, India was still considered to be a fairly big manufacturing country. All that has changed, of course. Now, while this happened in India or elsewhere—I say India repeatedly as an example more than as a specific country because what I say, I think, applies to most countries in Asia, perhaps some in Africa too—whatever the reasons may have been the fact remains that in the final analysis we arrived at a stage when there is a vast difference in living standards, and all that goes with it, between the highly industrialized countries and communities and the non-industrialized ones.

And what is even more significant is that that gap is ever increasing. It is not being bridged. The pace of progress through the development of science and technology is tremendous where they have been developed through industrial means, whereas other countries like India struggle hard just to keep themselves going. They have this struggle for survival, not for show. It is a life and death struggle for the nation as a whole, not for a group here or a group there, but for the 400 million people that live here. So I want you to feel this human element in our thinking, in the continual strain and struggle with which we have to face this problem.

No doubt we have to look upon it from the point of view of resources, money and all that. That is important. One cannot function in the air. But even more important is the human element in it. Even more important are the tremendous ferments going on in the minds of millions, hundreds of millions of people, which cannot easily be controlled by resolutions of conferences, this conference or any conference that we may hold anywhere.

Asia is and will continue to be in an explosive state, because the recent changes of the last few years or so have unleashed a giant. The political changes and the rest have unleashed a giant which had been kept out politically, economically, and in other ways for an age, for 150 years or more. But now it has been unleashed, not entirely but considerably. And naturally it does not propose to behave as when it was in leash, either in the political domain or in the economic domain, but prefers to make mistakes and stumble and fall and rise up, rather than be pulled and pushed hither and thither. And above all, it wants to make good. It does not want to continue as a starving continent or a starving country which is living on the verge of subsistence or existence. Whether it will be possible to do so or not, the future will show. But there are these tremendous and vast urges, and often these urges make them act wrongly, in wrong directions. Let us try to restrain these people from acting in the wrong direction. But let us try to understand the long suppressed urges coming up. These needs are there and the needs are justified. Who are we to criticize, if people want better food, better clothings, and better living conditions? We are of the view that they should have them. All of you want them to have these. So this is the position which has to be understood.

And we are inevitably tied up in the political problems of the world. We try on the one side to build up the world, and on the other there are constant tensions, the cold war, the war scare, and the like, pulling the world back and keeping it on the verge of danger and almost of utter disaster. The two do not fit in. One comes in the way of the other. At any rate, I hope that in considering these matters, this political aspect should be kept out of the considerations of problems of this nature. It cannot be wholly kept out, I know. But one should try to keep it out, because the more we get tied up with these political problems connected with the cold war, the more I think we miss the opportunity of serving the objectives we seek to serve, and the more our motives begin to be questioned, as if they are not motives to help but rather to serve a political objective. Again, if that questioning comes in, doubt creeps in and much of the good we seek to do goes out.

The world is in a political sense divided in various ways today, the communist world, the anticommunist, and some other countries which may be called noncommunist, though not supposed to be ranged in any anti group. But I think that is there. And yet the major division of the world today, I think the real division, is the division of the industrialized communities or the developed communities, and the undeveloped communities. And whether you talk of a communist state like the Soviet Union which has become an industrialized state or the many noncommunist states that are highly industrialized, though they may differ in their politics and economic theories, in the final analysis, they worship the same gods—the god of industrialization, the god of the machine, the god of higher production and the utilization of nature’s power and resources for the greatest advantage. In how they do it, they may differ, but they follow the same path, more or less; while the underdeveloped countries struggle hard for a bare subsistence and the realization is increasing that if they do not increase their productive capacity substantially more than their population increases, well, they remain where they are, or they go down and down. And that is the basic problem.

Some people may say, talking about our Plan, that our Second Five Year Plan is beyond our resources, or too ambitious. Well, it depends on how we look at these things. Perhaps there is justification in some saying that—if one looks from a strictly cautious point of view—about resources alone. But these resources themselves depend on so many factors, including that tremendous uncertain factor—the human factor. If you look at the needs of the situation, the urgent, vital, and essential needs of the situation, then our Plan is a feeble plan, and I should say, far from being big. These are the needs of the situation. So one has to meet these needs if we have to solve these problems, and one should find some way of doing it. And if we do not, somebody else will find a way, for we cannot ignore the problem by merely shutting our eyes to it.

That is the real difficulty for us. It is the difficulty—again I repeat it—not before us only, but before any country engaged in this tremendous adventure of pulling oneself up from this undeveloped, backward state to a state where development comes rapidly, where industrialization and progress are much more rapid than population increase or anything else.

The key to progress today in the final analysis is through science and technology, the key to material progress—let me correct myself—is that. I do not say there are no other aspects of human life; there are, certainly, which are very important. But the key to material progress is through science and technology and their application. And when these are applied, there are social consequences which change the social climate of the people undergoing these changes, just as the mental climate of Europe and America has changed. So these things also change.

These are some of the considerations which I venture to place before this distinguished audience because they are important considerations which trouble us.

We have always to be alert and we have always to think of facing this major problem and not by-passing it or ignoring it. It is a problem of nearly 400 million people passionately wanting better conditions, and we have always to think of how to distribute the small surplus we have, and whether we are to give it to them and give them contentment or to keep a part of it for investment in the future. All these difficult problems we have, but the point is this. All these hundreds of millions of people in Asia, who may be rightly or wrongly directed, have to be considered and developments have to be made on the right lines. A superficial remedy would not do any good. As I just said, only 300 years ago, Asia was even technologically very advanced, but something happened in the last few years. The fact is that there are the natural resources and there are the human resources of Asia, human resources not merely in numbers but in ability. I have no doubt that, given a chance, it would produce scientists and technologists as good as any. It is the chance that is wanting, this chance to pull itself out. It is not merely the question of Asia or Africa but the rest of the world. The rest of the world cannot be happy, without imbalance, unless it pulls up the undeveloped countries also. The world is too closely knit now to live its life apart from each other. Therefore, it becomes a problem for all of us, whether we are more fortunately situated or not, to see that these imbalances go and especially that a feeling of contentment spreads among those people today who are in such utter need of the primary necessities of life.

I hope you will forgive me for giving expression to some ideas that I have in my mind. I dare not speak to you about the specific subjects that you will no doubt consider, because you are or most of you are high experts in international finance. I dare not talk to you about subjects about which I do not know very much, but I do know something about humanity in Asia, in India. I know what moves and disturbs continuously the millions of minds. I referred to it and I wanted to say something about it to you so that in thinking about your monetary or financial problems you may have this background somewhere at the back of your mind, of these vast millions who are no longer quiet and who ought not to be quiet. They have no reason to be quiet. Nobody must keep quiet; it is quite wrong. They have kept quiet long enough, and they have suffered long enough for their needs of life. It is true that we cannot satisfy those needs by talk. They have to be worked for. I know today that no country can progress just by outside help. If a country or people want to make good, they have to bear the greater part of the burden themselves. It is true that in such cases it is very difficult to make good progress without help, without some initial help to push them forward, and most countries have that initial help. Therefore, we think that these underdeveloped countries deserve help, not only for their good but for the good of the world, so that they may be pulled out from this difficult state of backwardness, underdevelopment, and poverty. I realize, nevertheless, that the main effort must come from their own people. If the people do not make that effort, nobody else’s effort is going to pull them out. I am quite sure that that effort is going to be made, is being made, and will be made still more, so far as this country is concerned. Naturally, it will make it easier at this time for us to have the cooperation and help of others, both for the good of the individual countries concerned and for the larger group of humanity.

On behalf of my Government, I bid you a cordial welcome again.

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