The Realpolitik Thrust of Nehru’s Foreign Policy

Below is the videographed lecture of mine on this topic on Augst 8, 2017 at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, uploaded to

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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15 Responses to The Realpolitik Thrust of Nehru’s Foreign Policy

  1. However sir,could i ask you as to what you have written in your book NUCLEAR WEAPONS AN INDIAN SECURITY ? Got that a year ago & since then i have become enlightened a little bit regarding your work. My Question is as to what you yourself has written regarding Nehru & the successive dispensations thereafter, i mean is there an iota of DOUBT that Nehru did a Strategic Miscarriage in the 50s regarding the ONE CHINA POLICY ? What world are we living in ? Had i been the Prime Minister ,right now i would had symbolised him as a WAR CRIMINAL,rather than being a visionary leader.

    • Nehru’s China policy was flawed as much in its conception as implementation, it is true. But as per the archival evidence in my book ‘N-Weapons and Indian Security’, it was because after the Kashmir ops which the army had struggled in, he lost faith in the Indian military and sought to neutralize China through diplomatic means, and succeeded for most of the 1950s.

  2. Prithvi Patil says:

    Sir, if u hypothetically were sought to advise PM Narendra Modi as Blackett had to Nehru, particularly with respect to India’s power dynamics visa vis China, what would that be?

  3. 1) Until you have at least two, preferably three, mountain strike corps raised and battle ready (by transferring material and manpower assets from two demobilised strike corps for the plains/desert), Agni-5 + in the conventional realm — Brahmos Block II & III steep dive supersonic cruise missiles, & Su-30s will keep the Chinese threat bottled up.
    2) Geostrategics-wise, onpass the nuclear-tipped Brahmos soonest to Vietnam — if you don’t have the stomach for so daring a move, then expeditiously transfer several dozens of the Brahmos on priority basis for installment as Vietnamese coastal battery with on line of sight of the South Sea Fleet HQrs on Sanya base, Hainan.
    3) Make haste to substantively flesh out a cooperative scheme with the Japanese maritime forces
    4) Hurry up in constructing and and operationalizing the Agalega North & South Island naval and air base for forward positioning of air and naval units, and set up naval/airbase in northern Mozambique. (All these extra-territorial bases have been available to India for a while now.)

  4. devraj says:

    Sir,indian made t90 failed in tank competition in is main tank that india will use in any war with china.But chinese made type99 qualifed for next round.Serious relaibility issue for indian t90 stocked in india fight china with such relibilty issues of tanks

  5. Arijit says:

    Dear Bharat ,

    Well said about Pandit Nehru . We forget that most of our perceptions ( some of them very correct ) are created and structured only for electoral gains in India. Blaming politicians is easy , looking into the nature of our society is difficult .

    Its a pity that we have very few known historians whose books or opinion or analysis are heard off or spoken about in the public . All we have is ” Tu tu main main ” on TV that passes of debate on our new glorified Doordarshan channels and heresay . This constitutes in modern India as historical discussion and analysis .

  6. Satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Does our SFC as of today, have the ability to obliterate five large PRC cities ? If so, backing out from our no first use commitment would suffice to keep PRC from any aggression.

    • See a response by me above.

      • Satyaki says:

        Bharat Sir,

        But tactical 1st use gives the other side the opportunity for a full fledged strategic first strike. What I meant was that there should be an explicit possibility of SFC “throwing the sink” in the event of a setback during conventional PRC aggression. If SFC has the ability to take out five major PRC cities, that by itself should deter PRC from any serious mischief. That leaves PRC with the option of highly localized tactical actions: this is a game two can play.

        This is why I believe such a stance at this juncture would deescalate the Dolam crisis within a few days.

  7. The tactical strike case, I have developed, besides the Atomic Demolition Munitions emplaced in main mountain passes used as channels of ingress as a “passive-defensive” (so loved by GOI) tripwire, is precisely that this move is credible; just threatening to go fully strategic at first instance far from being a deterrent could, given our history which is very much part of the deterrence mind game, could well lead to the adversary calling our bluff. No premium in going ballistic at the start.

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