The United Nations has grown in the eleven years of its
existence. This year, particularly, it has assumed an even more
important position in world affairs than previously. Of course,
even if the United Nations did not do anything wonderful, the
mere fact of the United Nations itself has been of great
significance to the world.
But recently the United Nations has shown that it can face
problems courageously and deal with them with a view to their
ultimate solution. Perhaps, of the many things that have happened
in recent years, this is the most hopeful. It may be that the
United Nations decides something occasionally which is not
agreeable to some of us. That is bound to happen. But the point
is that it provides a forum like this, representing the world
community, which can deal with the problems and, if not solve
them all at once, can positively try to solve them and
ultimately, I hope, succeed.
In spite of the difficulties and the apparent conflicts,
gradually the sense of a world community conferring together
through its elected representatives is not only developing but
seizing the minds of people all over the world. That is a great
event. I hope that, gradually, each representative here, while
obviously not forgetting the interests of his country, will begin
to think that he is something more than the representative of his
country, that he represents, in a small measure perhaps, the
Quite apart from the problems which we have to face, an aspect
which worries me often is the manner of facing these problems. It
is because of that that I welcome this development of a sense of
facing the problems from the larger point of view of the world
and of the principles which are laid down in the United Nations
Charter which should gradually be translated into effect.
You will forgive me if I refer to something which has very
powerfully influenced my own country. I represent a generation in
my country which struggled for freedom, and in a particular way,
under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. The one major lesson that Gandhiji impressed upon
us, in season and out of season, was how to do things, apart from
what we did. Objectives and ends we all have, but what is
important is how to proceed in attaining an objective so as not
to create a fresh problem in the attempt to solve one problem;
never to deal even with the enemy in such a way as not to leave a
door open for reconciliation, and for friendship.
In this respect, our country and the United Kingdom did set a
good example when we came to an agreement resulting in the
independence and freedom of India, and resulting, further, in
friendship between the two countries. It is rather a unique
example that we who, for generations past, had come into conflict
with each other, with resultant feelings of ill‐will and
hostility, nevertheless‐having solved the problem of the
independence of India‐could forget that past of hostility and be
friends. Credit for this is due to both the parties, but, to some
extent, is certainly due to the manner of approach that we had
under the guidance of Gandhiji. There were many occasions in
India when there was tremendous anger and bitterness at something
that had been done: our people may have been shot down or beaten
down in the public streets.
But on no occasion, even when passions were excited, do I
remember an Englishman being unable to walk unharmed through even
a hostile crowd in India. That is rather remarkable. I do not say
that Indians are more peaceful or better than others. They are as
feeble specimens of humanity under stress and strain as any, but
have had this repeated lesson driven into their heads. Once or
twice, when our people misbehaved,
Gandhiji took a step which enraged us younger people at the time.
He stopped the whole movement. He said: "You have misbehaved.
Stop it". I do feel that there is something in it, whether dealing with national or international problems. Wars come, and
whether wars have been good or bad may be argued. But after the
war we often find that the problems that we have to face are more
difficult than those before the war. The problems have not been
solved, even though victory has come. The question, therefore, is
to solve problems and not have perhaps even more difficult
We cannot afford to take a short‐term view. We must look ahead.
The only way to look ahead assuredly is for some kind of a world
order, One World, to emerge. If that is so, nothing should be
done, even in the excitement of the moment, which comes in the
way of the evolution of that order. Nothing should be done which
increases hostility, hatred and bitterness. There is plenty of
hatred and bitterness in the world today.
We all feel it. We cannot become angels, nevertheless our actions
in a larger way as individuals and as nations might perhaps be so
controlled, without giving up a single principle or opinion that
we may hold, as not to make the path of reconciliation difficult.
Recently we have had, apart from the normal major problems of the
world, two developments, which have engaged the attention of this
august Assembly. Whether it was in Egypt, or in Hungary, both
were very important and very unfortunate happenings, yet perhaps,
having an element of good in them too, not in the act itself but
in the consequences.
Many things have emerged from these which personally I welcome.
The one big thing that has emerged is that world opinion
represented in the United Nations Assembly, and elsewhere, is
today a strong enough factor not to tolerate what it considers
wrong. That is a very important factors, which in future will
probably deter or make more difficult any such aberrations from
the path of rectitude by any nation. Every country, weak or
strong, will have to think twice before it does something which
enrages world opinion. That itself shows the development of some
kind of a conscience for the world.
Wars and other conflicts take place because essentially something
happens in the minds of men. In the constitution of UNESCO it is
stated that wars begin in the minds of men. Therefore, it becomes
important that any decision we may arrive at must not lead to
greater bitterness. The attempt should be to solve the problems
and not merely to exhibit our anger at something that has
happened; although there may be cause for anger and annoyance. We
are working for the future. That future can only be of cooperation
between countries based on freedom of nations and
freedom of individuals.
In regard to the events in Egypt and Hungary which are being
dealt with by the Assembly, I can offer no suggestion except what
I have said by way of an approach to these problems: that is, the
way of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean passivity. It means
something active. It does not mean forgetting any principle that
we stand for, and is laid down in the Charter. It is of the
greatest importance that the United Nations, as all of us, should
keep in mind the Charter, which is the basis.
It may be that we cannot give effect to the Charter quickly
because the world is imperfect. Nevertheless, we should move in
that direction step by step. The first thing to remember and to
strive for is to avoid a situation getting worse and finally
leading to a major conflict, which means the destruction of all
the values one holds.
Because of the development of various new types of weapons, war
has really become an impossible proposition for the world or for
any sane country. Wars have been terribly bad previously, and we
have seen that wars have not solved any question. Negatively,
they might have done something; positively, they have not solved
The positive side consists in working actively for peaceful
solutions based on principles and at the same time based on the
future co‐operation of the world. We have to live at peace with
our neighbours. Today, with the various developments, every
country is practically the neighbour of the other. Therefore, we have to work for co‐ operation among all countries of the world.
Unfortunately, we have had what is called the cold war. The cold
war is better than a hot war or a shooting war. But the idea of
the cold war is the very negation of what the United Nations
stands for. It is a negation of what the constitution of UNESCO
says: that wars begin in the minds of men. Cold wars mean
nourishing the idea of war in the minds of men. Gandhiji was
devoted to non‐violence and preached this principle all through
his life, and yet he said: "If you have a sword in your mind, it
is better to use it than to nurse and nourish it in your mind all
the time. Take it out, use it and throw it away, instead of being
frustrated in yourselves and always thinking of the sword or the
use of the sword and yet superficially trying to avoid it."
I submit to you that this idea of the cold war is essentially and
fundamentally wrong. It is immoral. It is opposed to all ideas of
peace and co‐operation. Therefore, let us be clear in our minds
as to what the right way is.
We have, as we know, all kinds of military alliances. I am quite
sure that at the moment, as we stand today, all these pacts and
military alliances are completely out of place. They are
unnecessary even from the point of view of those people who think
they benefit from these. I may admit for the sake of argument
that they were necessary at an earlier stage when conditions were
different, but in the circumstances of today I do submit that
these pacts and alliances do not add to the strength of any
nation. They only create hostility, leading to a piling up of
armaments and making disarmament more and more difficult. If it
is our objective that we must have peace, then it follows
necessarily that we must not have the cold war. If we must not
have the cold war, it follows necessarily that we must not
buttress our idea of peace by past military establishments and
pacts and alliances. All this seems to me to follow logically.
I have no doubt that all the peoples of the world are
passionately desirous of peace. I doubt if there are any people
anywhere who desire war. Certainly the common man all over the world desires peace passionately.
If that is so, why should we not follow the path of peace? Why
should we be led away by fears, apprehensions, hatreds and
We have seen and we know that the presence of foreign forces in a
country is always an irritant; it is never liked by that country.
It is abnormal and undesirable. It does not conduce even to
producing that sense of security which it is meant to produce.
With the methods of war developing today, any war which takes
place is likely to be a world war, with missiles hurled from vast
distances. In such a context, even the practice of having places
dotted all over with armed forces and bases becomes unnecessary
and is merely an invitation to some other party to do likewise,
and to enter into competition in evil and wickedness.
How are we to face this problem? I know that we cannot put an end
to it by passing a resolution, even in the United Nations General
Assembly. However, if we are clear in our aims, we can work
surely towards that end. Connected with the cold war is the very
important problem of disarmament. We all know how difficult it
is. I remember that long ago the League of Nations had a
Preparatory Commission for Disarmament. It worked for years and
produced dozens of fat volumes of arguments and discussions,
which the League of Nations itself later considered. But these
came to nothing.
No manner of disarmament can make a weak country strong or a nonindustrial
country the equal of an industrial country. Nor can it
make a country which is not scientifically advanced the equal of
a country which is. We can, however, lessen the chances of war
and the fear of war through disarmament. Ultimately, the entire
question is a question of confidence and of lessening the fear of
one another. Disarmament helps that purpose, although it does not
equalise conditions. The dangers remain.
What possible steps can we take to create a climate of peace in
the world? I feel that we must aim at two or three things.
One is that, according to the Charter, countries should be
independent. The countries that are dominated by another country
should cease to be so dominated. No country, or at any rate very
few countries in the world, can be said to be independent in the
sense that they can do anything they like. There are restraining
factors, and quite rightly. In the final analysis, the United
Nations itself is a restraining factor in regard to countries
misbehaving or taking advantage of their so‐called independence
to interfere with the independence of others. Every country's
independence should be limited in this sense. The first thing,
however, is to have this process of the independence of countries
extended until it covers the whole world.
Secondly, the maintenance of armed forces on foreign soil
anywhere in the world is basically wrong, even though such
maintenance is with the agreement of the countries concerned.
Again, the notion that a country can ensure its security by
increasing armaments is being exposed. Such a policy leads only
to a race in armaments so that the balance of arms would vary but
little. I do not see how we can progress towards peace so long as
countries think in terms of speaking to each other from a
position of strength. If we could remove these armies and,
simultaneously, bring about some measure of disarmament, I
believe, the atmosphere in the world would change completely. The
natural result would be a much more rapid progress towards peace
and the elimination of fear.
We have seen in the last two or three months how the world reacts
to what it considers evil‐doing. That is one of the healthiest
signs apparent. A country which indulges in wrongful actions does
so because it believes it can carry some part of world opinion
with it. If it cannot, it is difficult for it to proceed. We have
seen that even the biggest and the strongest of nations cannot
impose their will against world opinion.
Therefore, we have developed a very strong protection against a
country which acts wrongly.
I do feel strongly that the events in Egypt and Hungary have introduced in their own way a certain new phase in historical
development. This phase must be dealt with by this august
Assembly and by all countries with understanding and sympathy,
not with anger or with the desire to humiliate anybody. If our
approach leads to something wrong or something that we do not
want, then we have erred.
I submit to you that we have come to a stage in world affairs
when a choice has to be made. We really cannot go on following
the old path which leads to no particular destination except the
preservation of force and hatred. To go back to what I ventured
to suggest at the beginning, means are as important as ends. If
the means are not right, the end is also likely to be not right,
however much we may want it to be right.
Therefore, here especially, in this world assembly to which all
the nations of the world look, I hope an example will be set to
the rest of the world in thinking always about the right means to
be adopted in order to solve our problems. The means should
always be peaceful, not merely in an external way in the non‐use
of armaments, but in the approach of the mind. That approach will
create a climate of peace which will help greatly in the solution
of our problems.
Speech by Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in the United Nations General Assembly, New York, December 20, 1956.