By Prof. M. Venkatarangaiya, M.A.




Many people are apt to think that the real division today is between a Communist and a free world. But this is not true. It is only a superficial view of the international situation. The real division is between a belligerent and a neutral world. The former consists of both the Communist and the anti-Communist regions. Its primary characteristic is the waging of the cold war and making active preparations for a hot war. The neutral world is outside it. It is neutral as between the belligerents. Just as the belligerent world has been trying to include as much of the neutral world as possible within its fold, the neutral world in its turn has been attempting to bring into its fold as many of the countries of the world as possible. The question at issue is whether neutralism or belligerency will triumph.


The whole of Europe, of America, and of Australia is a part of the belligerent world. There is no State in this area which is not committed to an alliance with either Soviet Russia or the United States. The only seeming exceptions are Sweden and Yugoslavia. The former is the only real neutral country. The latter is getting both economic and military aid from the United States and may be rightly regarded as a part of the anti-Soviet bloc. The other Continents to be considered are Africa and Asia. In Africa there are only a few independent States. Most of the Continent is still colonial in character and forms a part of the West European imperial system dominated by Britain, France and Belgium, and allied to the United States. Egypt and Abyssinia are the two independent States which are in a position to say whether they will join the belligerent or the neutral fold; but so far the influence of the Ethiopian State has not been much and it may be ignored for purposes of the present discussion.


The situation in Asia is highly complicated. It is here that one finds the conflict between belligerency and neutralism in an acute form. This arises out of the fact that a large part of northern Asia–Siberia–is a province of U.S.S.R. Politically it is a part of Europe. The other fact is that the People’s Republic of China is intimately associated with the Soviet Republic in all matters of foreign policy and is thus a part of the belligerent world. Of the smaller States, North Korea and Vietnam are also Communist. Among the others Japan, South Korea, Formosa, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey are openly allied with the United States and are receiving economic and military aid from her. It is true that Iran has not yet formally joined the Middle East Defence Pact sponsored by Britain and America, but there is every likelihood of her joining it in the near future. When we therefore speak of the neutral world in Asia, it may be said to consist of Indonesia, Burma, Ceylon, India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Compared with the belligerent world this is very much smaller in area and population. It is also poorer in material resources, although there is vast scope for development.


The foremost exponent of neutralism in the world is India. Her leadership is–though informally–recognised, so far as this point is concerned, by the other neutralist States. The characteristic feature of this neutralism is that it doesn’t regard the issue of Communism versus anti-Communism as the primary issue of the world today. Even if this is considered to be the primary issue, it is of the view that the issue can be settled peacefully and not through recourse to war or threats of war. It doesn’t therefore regard Communism–and Soviet Russia and China–to be an enemy against which all the non-Communist nations of the world should join forces. For the same reason it doesn’t regard the United States and its allies as friends of the cause of freedom and democracy everywhere. This is the reason why the neutralist States are not prepared to ally themselves for political and military purposes either with the Communist belligerents or the anti-Communist ones. They want to keep themselves aloof from either. This is the nature of their neutralism. A second feature of their neutralism is that they are totally against war as a method of settling international disputes and they do not want to join either side if a war breaks out between them. This was made eminently clear by Pandit Nehru when he declared in the Lok Sabha recently. “We have absolutely no intention of throwing ourselves in war even if the rest of the world goes to war. Let there be no doubt about it. We will not go to war even if there be war all over the world.” Other neutralist statesmen, thinking more or less on the same lines as Pandit Nehru, have, it is true, not expressed themselves so clearly and so forcibly as he has done, but there is no doubt whatever that it is the spirit of their neutralism.


It should not, however, be thought that the neutralist attitude is only a negative one of not becoming aligned with either of the belligerents prosecuting the cold war. There is also a positive side to this, though it is not ordinarily emphasised. It consists in the view that what the countries now included in the neutralist zone need is economic development and that all the resources at their disposal should be directed primarily to enhance their national income, to raise the standards of life among their masses, and bring about their cultural and spiritual reawakening. Almost all the countries in the neutralist area were till recently under the imperial rule of Europeans–in some cases direct as in South East Asia and India, and in other cases indirect, as in the Middle East–and they are naturally afraid of European rule being established in a new guise or its being replaced by American rule. The positive aspect of their neutralism also consists in their determination to safeguard and maintain their political independence and sovereignty. They are as much against American and British interference–indirect in many cases–in their internal affairs as against the infiltration tactics pursued by the Communist States through the domestic Communist parties found in all these neutralist States. This again was recently reasserted by Pandit Nehru when he observed: “The charge was made, and rightly too that Communism interfered in other countries. But non-Communist countries also interfered in other countries’ affairs. How were they going to get over it?”


If the real division is thus between the belligerent and the neutralist world, the conclusion follows that the salvation of man-kind lies in the enlargement of the area of neutralism and the shrinking of the area of belligerency. What are the prospects of evolution towards such a state of affairs? What is the direction to which recent events point out?




Among these events note should be taken of a few significant ones. One is the announcement made by the British Government that it has started production of Hydrogen. Bombs–which have so far been manufactured only by the United States and Soviet Russia. In defence of this course the Government stated that if the West did not use “the full weight of our nuclear power, Europe can hardly be protected from invasion and occupation–with all that this implies both for Europe and the United Kingdom.” A month later there came the announcement from M. Edgar Faure, the new French Prime Minister, that France would make the Hydrogen bomb–either alone or in conjunction with other European nations. On the same day President Eisenhower of United States made it clear that the accumulation of Atomic weapons which has been going on in his country was not merely for show but for actual use in war. He stated that the U. S. has been active in producing various types of nuclear weapons and that, in any situation where those weapons could be used on strictly military targets, he saw no reason why they should not be used exactly as bullets were used in other situations. That the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons with the same easy conscience as bullets in any war that may arise, is a point which has tremendous significance. No mission like that of Attlee to President Truman at the time of the Korean war to prevent the use of A-Bomb will be undertaken in future, or will have any chance of success if undertaken. This consideration gains immense strength when we note that, from a recent statement made by Sir Winston Churchill, the Americans are free to send such bombs from their bases in Britain without asking for British consent. Nuclear weapons therefore have thus come to stay as a part of the regular weapons of warfare. Some of the so-called peace-loving nations have been engaged in construcing plants for the manufacture of atomic energy for industrial and agricultural purposes. But when it is understood that it is not a difficult process to transform industrial factories into centres for manufacturing military weapons–as almost all countries have done during periods of war in the past–one need not draw a distinction between countries engaged in directly manufacturing nuclear weapons and those constructing factories for the peaceful use of atomic energy. Preparation therefore for a nuclear war is going on at a more rapid pace today. This is one outstanding feature of recent developments in international affairs.


The setting up of a united command over all the armies of the satellite Communist States in Central and Eastern Europe by Soviet Russia is another step in this preparation for war. The ratification of the pacts for rearming Germany by the French Parliament–on which there was doubt till recently–belongs to the same category. These pacts recognise the sovereign independence of West Germany, her membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and her right to raise twelve army divisions of 500,000 men as a part of the NATO organisation for Western defence. Soviet Russia has tried her best both by threats and propaganda to prevent this ratification. But her efforts have failed. If therefore a war were to break out in the belligerent world, there is every certainty that Soviet Russia will have to fight with German armies as she did in the days of the Kaiser and Hitler.


It is in this atmosphere that the U. N. Sub-Committee on World Disarmament has been meeting in London. Representatives of U.S.S.R., U.S.A., Britain, France and Canada are on the Committee. But the nearly two months’ deliberations have not brought the problem of disarmament nearer, though at one time there were hopes of some kind of compromise between the Soviet view on one side and the view of the other States on the other. The Soviet delegate has again come forward with the old contention that there must be an immediate destruction of all nuclear weapons before any steps can be taken to reduce conventional armaments. This is a view which has never been acceptable to the non-Soviet States and there is nothing unreasonable in their point of view. Although nuclear weapons are more destructive than conventional weapons, no State will be justified in destroying them so long as war remains a legitimate method of settling international disputes. Those who are carrying on a crusade against the use of nuclear weapons should realise that what is at fault in the world situation is war as an instrument of settling disputes. Before a party which has superiority in any kind of weapons can be persuaded to destroy them, there must be an outlawry of war. If any effective method can be devised for this purpose–so far no such method has been devised–then there will be no piling up of nuclear weapons or any other kind of arms. Neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations has succeeded in outlawing war or creating and enforcing measures of collective security. Because Soviet Russia is not as strong as the United States in the matter of nuclear weapons, it is advocating their destruction. But what will be the situation created by destruction? The U.S.S.R. and her ally China have more than half the population of the world at their disposal, which will enable them to raise armies far outnumbering those that can be raised by the United States and her allies and equip them with deadly conventional weapons. Disarmament can be a success only when war is outlawed or when, in the matter of conventional weapons and the numbers of armies, the two belligerent blocs obtain a sort of equality and are unable to resort to any kind of aggression. All talk therefore of disarmament has become unreal, even though conferences are being held for the purpose. No attempt is being made to root out the causes of the armament race. It is only the external symptoms of it that are being attacked.




What is true of the Disarmament Conference is equally true of similar other political conferences which are now-a-days being suggested for easing the world tension–which is  regrettable fact–and for settling the disputes between East and West. Proposals for a high level conference between the four ‘Great’ powers have become more vociferous in recent months. They emanated first from Soviet Russia. The other three powers did not agree to a conference, on the ground that it was aimed by Soviet Russia at sabotaging the ratification of the pacts for rearming Western Germany. They pointed out that the time for such a conference would come only after their ratification. Now that almost all the important parties to the pacts have ratified them, there should be no delay in such a conference assembling and settling the controversial issues. Though the atmosphere has become more favourable to such a meeting, there are still doubts expressed, especially by the Western statesmen, as to the outcome to it. This is because several such conferences in the post-war period have failed. The Western statesmen feel that they may be used only for propaganda purposes. Moreover there is no likelihood of the two parties agreeing on any solution for the controversial issues between them. Among these issues are the unification of Germany, the future of Austria, the unification of Korea, the problem of Formosa and the future of Indo-China. It is quite possible to carry lengthy discussions on each one of these, but so far no one has been able to suggest a course of action which will be .acceptable to both the parties. To hold a conference, when both parties know that there is no likelihood of its arriving at satisfactory decisions, will serve no useful purpose. It will only result in creating more bitterness.


            We are living in a world of paradoxes. No one wants war because every one realises that neither party will win a victory and that the destruction which a nuclear war will cause is too terrible even to think of. It will, as people say, mean the end of a civilisation as it has all along been understood. But all the belligerent nations–and they constitute the major portion of the world–are making preparations for war. Some of their statesmen say that there is no likelihood of war in the near future. In a recent debate on Foreign Affairs in the British House of Commons, Sir Winston Churchill said that a major war was most unlikely in the next three or four years. Similar views were expressed by President Eisenhower. From the neutralist world Pandit Nehru observed: “I do not think there is any immediate danger of war in the near future. Nevertheless I am sorry to say that the situation generally in the world has hardened. It has become more difficult of solution...” It will thus be seen that the paradox consists in the belligerent nations making preparations for an event which they think will not happen and which they do not want to happen. This is the picture of international affairs which we get from a survey of recent events. There will be less of tension in the world if, for some time, the great powers accept the situation as it exists today and cease to talk about them. They must cease talking about the reunification of Germany or Korea or Indo-China etc. Things will settle themselves with the passing of time, when new forces are sure to emerge.




The question that now arises is to what extent the Afro-Asian Conference which is shortly meeting in Indonesia and which is representative of almost all independent nations of Asia and of Africa, will ease the world tension. No straight and direct answer is possible to a question like this. There is no possibility of the conference coming to any decision on the fundamental issues which have created the tension. Some or the States represented at the conference–Pakistan, Iraq. Turkey etc.–are part of the anti-Communist bloc and some others, notably China, belong to the Communist bloc. They have their own convictions and points of view. They look at each other with suspicion. They won’t come to any agreement, for instance, on issues like the SEATO, the Turko-Iraqui Pact, Formosa and so on. The only questions on which they may come to some understanding are colonialism and racialism. It is quite possible for them to pass a resolution condemning both and calling for the emancipation of Malaya, Indo-China, the African countries like Tunisia, Morocco, Congo etc., from European yoke. They can also pass resolutions on the Apartheid policy of South Africa, the British atrocities in Kenya etc. But one should remember that today no one upholds racialism or colonialism. As doctrines, both are dead. The only question is what should be done to put an end to them and to what extent the nations represented in the Afro-Asian Conference are prepared to work together to put an end to them. Are they going to resort to any action to bring about the withdrawal of the British from Malaya in Asia, and from Kenya in Africa, or of the French from Tunisia and Morocco. There doesn’t seem to be any prospect of their doing this. At the most the conference may lead to an exchange of ideas on some harmless topics. No agenda which will contain any of the controversial issues of the day–the position of Chinese populations in S. E. Asian countries, of the Indians in Ceylon or Burma–will be accepted by all the States represented; and a conference like this cannot come to any decision by a mere majority vote.


Perhaps there are two directions in which the conference may be effective. One is in the cultural sphere. For nearly two centuries there have not been close and intimate contacts among the Afro-Asian countries. This was in contrast to ancient and medieval times when there was a large amount of intellectual and spiritual intercourse among them, as a consequence of which Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese and Islamic influences became widespread. There is now a greater need for each of these countries to know what is best in the thought and in the way of life of others. There is a possibility of a growth of better understanding among them as a result of this increasing knowledge. Exchange of teachers and students and of cultural missions may become better organised as a result of the conference.


The other direction is economic, although the conference may not contribute substantially in the matter of developing the prosperity of the people in Africa and Asia. One reason is that there are already organisations like the Colombo Plan for achieving this purpose. The other is that any real economic development depends upon aid which can be got from the advanced countries of the West like the United States and Britain which are in a position to spare funds for capital investment. The aid which one Afro-Asian country can afford to another is not much. But the conference can discuss the nature of the economic problems with which all of them are faced. There is a good deal of similarity among them, as almost all of them are among the ‘undeveloped’ areas of the world.


Perhaps the conference will serve the greatest purpose by showing to the nations of the West who were all along dominating the East–and who still cherish the hope of continuing to dominate it and solve its problems without any reference to local populations and their governments–that there is an Afro-Asian point of view, that it is a view which must be recognised and given proper and adequate weight if world problems are to be solved on right and equitable lines in future, and that the United States or Britain will achieve no success whatever in their objectives if they try to settle Asian or African questions in the traditional way. The conference therefore will serve as an eye-opener to the West and will thus mark a new stage in the history of the world. It will proclaim that the so-called backward peoples and the coloured nations have come into their own and are resolved on taking a prominent and active part in the affairs of the world. The conference will be a visible symbol of Asian and African resurgence.




No reference is made in this survey to the trouble spots in the world which are causing headache to statesmen. One of them is Formosa. Of course there is now much more talk of the islands of Matsu and Tuemoy which are close to the shores of China and which the People’s Republic is more determined on liberating. It is not clearly known whether the United States will care to help Chiang in defending those islands, and it is this uncertainty which makes the situation in the Formosa Straits rather grave. But opinion is gaining ground that the United States should not involve itself in the defence of these islands, and that if guarantees are forthcoming from China that no war will be waged by her to get Formosa and that she will wait for a peaceful settlement of the issue, it will be best for the United States not to concern herself with these small offshore islands. America’s allies as well as neutral States like India are trying to influence American policy on these lines. China has a great opportunity of showing to the world that she is prepared to enter into some kind of compromise for easing the world situation. We in India are showing extraordinary patience in regard to enforcing our right to Goa. A similar policy of China in regard to Formosa will raise her in the estimation of the world.


The other trouble spot is South Viet Nam in Indo-China. Here the situation has become complicated for a variety of reasons. Though the Geneva Agreement spoke of an independent Indo-China completely freed from French rule, the French still occupy an influential position in the country. They have their armies and they have not ceased from interfering in the internal affairs of the States. Complication is also the outcome of the presence of the United States and the misundertandings between her and France in regard to the persons who should hold authority over South Viet Nam and the policy they should follow. There is next the sad neglect of all responsibility by Bao Dai, the titular ruler of South Viet Nam, who prefers to be an absentee in France and who is perhaps interested in the growth of anarchy and confusion so that he may return in his own time and play the role of the restorer of order. So this area has become the scene of a civil war, and this makes it difficult to organise general elections in 1956 as envisaged in the Geneva Agreement. The United States and her allies are determined to see–cost what it may–that no Communist government established here or in Laos or Cambodia, but the situation is so chaotic and disorderly that it will be a wonder if Communist parties do not take advantage of it. Australia and New zealand regard the maintenance of an anti-Communist government in this area as necessary for their own defence. The conditions here are more or less volcanic. If something can be done to neutralise this area effectively and prevent the infiltration into it of Chinese and American authority, the trouble may become less. But, for the time being, no State in the neutralist area is strong enough to bring this about.

The third trouble spot is the border between Israel and Egypt. Clashes have already taken place here. Much of the trouble arises out of the unwillingness on the part of Egypt and other Arab States to recognise that Israel has come to stay and that it is not possible for them to destroy this new and infant State. Another complicating factor responsible for the trouble here is the effort made by the Anglo-American bloc to organise military pacts in this area. Some of the Arab States do not want any open and direct military alliance with the West, and that group is led by Egypt. There is a right royal battle going on here between the belligerent world and the neutralist world.


We thus see that the world situation has not improved very much in recent months. It has, on the other hand, deteriorated in several areas.


April 3, 1955.