The last survey of international affairs was made just a few days before the meeting of the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung. The present survey is being made a few days before the meeting of the four great powers at Geneva for what have come to be known as “Summit talks”. This is the first time that the heads of the U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Britain and France are meeting after the second world war. Much is being expected of this meeting; and the attention of the whole world is directed towards it. It may therefore be relevant to consider what the factors are which have made this meeting possible and what effect it is likely to produce on international affairs.


The Geneva meeting may be best characterised as the meeting of parties fighting a war for settling the terms of a cease-fire or a truce. Such a meeting takes place when fighting results in a stalemate and when the parties recognise that neither of them can gain its objectives by continuing the war. This is now the position at which the parties to the cold war have arrived. This cold war has been going on for the last ten years. It has brought notable accessions of strength to either side. With  the triumph of Communism in China, the Communist side gained great advantage and this had encouraged it to plan aggression in Korea and begin the Korean War. Meanwhile the anti-Communist side led by the United States organised the Marshall Aid Plan and succeeded in creating and strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which brought under its control and direction the resources of the highly industrialised states of Europe outside the Communist fold. The inclusion of West Germany in this organisation and its rearmament raised controversial issues and the U.S.S.R. tried its best through diplomacy and threats to prevent this inclusion and rearmament. But its efforts failed. West Germany has become a fully sovereign State, a member of the N.A.T.O., and is to raise an army of half a million as its share of the N.A.T.O.’s defence forces. One of the reason why the U.S.S.R. has come to the conclusion that there should be a truce in the cold war; is this failure of hers to prevent the rearmament of Germany. Similarly in the Far East, Japan has become a military ally of the United States. These are some of the crucial factors that have compelled the U.S.S.R. to rethink about the whole strategy of the cold war and to conclude that a victory against the West, with which Germany and Japan are allied, is not easy of achievement.


But more crucial than this is the realisation by both sides that a nuclear war–and that is the only kind of war for which both sides have been making preparations all these years–is sure to destroy both of them. That nuclear warfare would be fatal to both, that in such a warfare there can be no question of a winning or losing side, and that it will even bring about the destruction of the human race itself, has been repeatedly stated by very many eminent persons all these years. In spits of this the United States has gone on piling its stock of H. Bombs. The U.S.S.R. also entered the field some years ago and its stockpile has also been on the increase. It is only now that they have come to see that, as the Soviet Disarmament proposal of May 10, 1955 put it, “Science and Engineering have now produced the most destructive means of annihilating people”, and not merely the annihilating of the rotten capitalist system. There has been a similar change in the views of the American statesmen. Their thinking now is different from that of Truman in the days of the Korean War when he practically decided on using the atom bomb, and when he would have used it but for the timely intervention of his British allies. One reason why in those days the Americans did not consider atomic warfare with the same seriousness as they do now, is their view that the U.S.S.R. had no atom bombs and that it would take a long time for her to manufacture them. But the situation has now completely changed. The Americans are aware now that Soviet Russia has a stockpile of A and H bombs and also efficient plants for producing more and more of them. Moreover the lead which America has in this matter is of no practical significance. If the U.S.S.R. has enough bombs to destroy the United States, there is no advantage for the latter in having three or four times the number of bombs which the former possesses. Unlike President Truman, President Eisenhower and his top advisers hold the view that in consequence of the advent of nuclear weapons, there is no longer any alternative to peace. Both sides therefore have come to realise the futility of relying on nuclear weapons for the realisation of the objectives of their foreign policy.


Another factor which has brought about a change in climate of opinion–and this applies with greater force to U.S.S.R. than to the United States–is the adverse effect which the abnormal expenditure on armaments is producing on national economies. To divert the manpower and the material resources of a country to the raising of military forces and to the manufacture and accumulation of armaments beyond a certain point causes immense suffering and misery. Even in advanced countries like England where the standard of living is high, increasing expenditure on armaments is not very popular as the masses do not like any lowering of the standard of comfort to which they have become accustomed. This has been one of the points of difference between the left wing of the British labour party led by Bevin and the right wing led by Attlee. The situation is much worse in countries like France. There has recently been a controversy as to whether the desire of the Soviet statesmen to do something to relax the world tension (for which they bear a large responsibility) is the outcome of the difficulties which they are facing in the domestic economy in their country, especially in the field of agriculture and the supply of food. Some of the Western statesmen have expressed the view that it is this internal weakness and the opposition which the Soviet authorities are called on to overcome from their own subjects, who are not able to get an adequate supply of even the bare necessaries of life, that is responsible for the conciliatory policy which they are now determined to adopt. This of course has been denied by Soviet statesmen. They have been repeating that they have taken to negotiation through a conference not because of their weakness but of their strength. Our own Prime Minister expressed his conviction that the West would be wrong to believe that Russia’s recent conciliatory line stems from necessity imposed by internal weakness. All this may appear to be academic, but the point to be noted is that the economy of all, countries–and especially of the Communist ones–is severely strained as a consequence of the increasing expenditure on armaments, and they are therefore in a mood to negotiate for a ceasefire in the cold war. This also is the explanation for the less aggressive attitude of China towards the United States. China’s population is growing. The Communist government has embarked on a policy of industrialisation and economic expansion in other directions. It is therefore beyond her means to maintain an army of three to four millions on a war footing.


A fourth factor which is also responsible for the changed outlook, especially of the Soviet statesmen, is the increasing self-confidence and self-assertion of Communist China. Of course, China was never a satellite of the U.S.S.R. in the sense that Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria etc., are satellites. But she is today much stronger than what she was in 1949. At the Geneva Conference 1ast year Chou-En-Lai displayed a spirit of initiative which was somewhat unexpected and this spirit is sure to grow stronger in the coming years. There is a strong national spirit among the Chinese. This expressed itself in the past in the form of a revolt against the West. Among the Western Powers which exploited her when she was weak was Russia. The Chinese could not have forgotten this. There is therefore no guarantee that the new government of China would continue to be firmly tied to Soviet Russia. As one writer has put it, it might well be tempted to play off the Soviet Union and the Western Powers against each other. If that should become its policy the Soviet Union would find its freedom of action reduced. It has not yet become its policy. But there is a possibility of it. This also has had its own influence in altering the attitude of Soviet statesmen towards, the cold war. A similar change is found in the United States. Public opinion, which was extremely anti-Communistic all these years, is slowly realising that it is impossible to destroy Communism either in China or in Eastern Europe and that co-existence is the right kind of policy.


Another factor which has played its part in the moves of the parties to the cold war to talk of a ceasefire and a truce, is the effort of our Prime Minister in that direction. The relaxation of world tensions and the promotion of international understanding and goodwill have been among the most cherished objectives of his foreign policy. It was this that prompted him to keep India outside the two power blocks. It was not a passive neutrality that he adopted. It was, as he often stated, a dynamic one. By keeping in close touch with the governments in both the blocs, by his more intimate discussions with the British statesmen as the head of the most important members of the Commonwealth, and by the lead which he has been able to give to the neutral nations in Asia and to the peoples of Africa, he has been able to shape world public opinion in the direction of a policy of peace. It was a great triumph for him to have brought round Chou-En-Lai to his point of view. Many might have thought that, after the rebuff received by his government from China on the question of Tibet, there could have been no understanding between him and the Chinese authorities. But he was not a petty-minded politician. He realised the situation and made it a point to establish more intimate relations with new China. And he has succeeded in this. At the Bandung Conference China played as important a part as India. Earlier than this he and the Chinese Foreign Minister issued the famous Communique containing the five principles which ought to constitute the basis of any country’s foreign policy in the world today and this sealed the bond of friendship between the two countries. It was with a view to create a better international understanding that, after the Bandung Conference, Pandit Nehru sent his personal ambassador, Sri V.K. Menon, to Peking, to London, to Washington, and it was with the same objective that he undertook his tour to Moscow, Warsaw and Belgrade. India is not a small power. Though she has not a large army or navy or air force, she has moral power behind her and it is this that has enabled Pandit Nehru to influence the course of world politics. If the heads of the States which have been carrying on the cold war for the last ten years are now willing to meet in Geneva, the credit for bringing this about should to a great extent go to our Prime Minister.


What is it about which talks will be held at the summit in Geneva? The conference has no specific agenda. Moreover it is understood that it will sit for only a few days. It is not therefore possible to discuss specific political issues and settle them. Its main purpose will be to establish an atmosphere of mutual confidence. It will have achieved a great deal if the heads of States leave it with the conviction that every one is sincerely and wholeheartedly anxious to bring about a truce to the cold war. It is necessary for the public not to expect more than this from the conference. The issues that divide the two power blocs are very many and highly complicated. Several of them cannot be settled unless it be in a more representative conference. They can’t for instance solve the problem of Germany unless they have by their side the representatives of the two German States. They can’t solve the problem of Formosa unless they have the representatives of the Chinese government. And these are only two of the large number of problems which have created world tension.


Among the general problems they may have to discuss are those relating to disarmament and to spheres of influence. There is inter-connection between them. Disarmament will have to concern itself with matters like a ban on nuclear tests, peaceful uses of atomic energy, production of bombs by nations which are not now producing them, the kind of persons that should constitute the international inspection commission, and the use of Soviet Veto in the early stages before nuclear weapons are absolutely prohibited. It is now felt that no inspection commission will be able to prevent completely the concealment of the manufacture of nuclear weapons. A certain amount of risk has to be faced in this connection. Moreover there will not be any agreement on the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons until there is a corresponding agreement on the use of conventional armaments and their strength. The heads of States will have to come to some understanding on these matters.


The question of spheres of influence is equally important. If every nation honestly adheres to the five principles as laid down in the joint Communiques issued by Pandit Nehru and the Prime Ministers and heads of States of China, U.S.S.R., Poland, Yugoslavia etc., the question of spheres of influence may not appear to be very important. But the point to be noted is that these five principles are of such a general character that, when it comes to a question of their application in any particular case, each party may interpret it in its own way. It is like the dispute that arises under the same law between any two citizens in a State. Both think that the law is in their favour. It is only because of the existence of recognised courts of justice that such disputes are peacefully settled–the courts laying down the application of law to the particular dispute that has arisen. In respect of the five principles there is no such recognised court. Each party becomes a judge in its own cause. And difficulties crop up. This is the reason why the disputes between nations that may arise in their attempts at applying the five principles do not have the character of legal and justiciable disputes. They are political in their nature, and the only way in which they can be prevented from becoming sources of war is by the powers at Geneva coming to some understanding on their respective spheres of influence for the time being. If there is a guarantee that the West won’t interfere in Europe beyond the present boundaries of the non-Communist world and that the U.S.S.R. will not interfere beyond its present sphere of influence; and similarly if there is a guarantee that China will not extend its influence into S.E. Asia, and the U.S. will not give any kind of help to nationalist China in the conquest of the mainland, there will be a relaxation of world tension. It is general questions like these that will be discussed at Geneva, and the Communiques issued will be more or less similar to those joint statements issued from the capitals of various countries which were recently visited by Pandit Nehru.


One event of importance in the period during the survey was the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Organisation at San Francisco. All the sixty member nations participated in it and their representatives delivered speeches on the part which it played and which it has to play in the peaceful settlement of international disputes. It was remarkable that no one wanted to scrap it, even though several referred to some of its failings. It was significant that every one expressed the view that the world today cannot have even that modicum of peace which it has, except through an organisation like the U.N. Most of the speakers wanted that a more liberal policy should be adopted in admitting new members. Very few were serious in expressing the need for revising the Charter or removing the Veto power which five of the States now possess. All this is another proof of the psychology of the people today. We are living in a world full of difficulties and tensions. It is not possible to put an end to all of them and create a perfect world. We can only make small repairs here and there. It is better therefore to be satisfied with some kind of patchwork than hankering after utopias and carrying on wars to establish such utopias.


July 10, 1955.