Commonwealth. In the same year India’s constitution was completed.
Reflecting the vision of Nehru and his colleagues, it defined the new India as
a “democratic socialist secular republic.” Each of those adjectives is laden
with significance and for better or for worse, they have helped shape India
into what it is today.
The democracy that modern India’s founding fathers envisaged was one
in which each citizen would have a say, by way of free speech and via the
ballot box. The secular nature of the fledgling nation would ensure that all
religions and creeds were equal, despite the fact that the overwhelming
majority of Indians were Hindu.
Benevolent Socialism, Controlled Capitalism
The socialist aspect was harder to define and adhere to. The Congress party
was too fractious even then to adopt an out and out socialist platform. Even
during its most left-wing period, in the 1950s, the party included a vocal
conservative faction. The prime minister himself was a Fabian, with his
democratic socialist beliefs shaped by the policies he was exposed to during
the 1920s and 30s. But Nehru had also seen the damage that Marxist-
Communist policies had caused to political rights and sustained economic
growth in the Soviet Union. Hence, in the national interest he tried to wield a
form of socialism in which the flow of capital would be controlled by the
Nehru’s vision of a vast public sector, idealistic though it was, ultimately
gave rise to a host of problems. Red tape, inefficiency and corruption, long
manifest in the system, became even more entrenched. State-owned
industries, protected from competition, became complacent and churned out
shoddy products. Scarce capital was wasted on propping up failures in the
public sector. Bribery became a way to get around cumbersome bureaucracy
at all levels.
India’s Non-aligned Policy
For all his commitment to economic and social policymaking, perhaps
Nehru’s greatest passion lay in the realm of diplomacy and international
policy. In the 1950s, along with