Had Jawaharlal Nehru not been self-centred, India and Pakistan would have been one country, the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday, adding that while Nehru was gifted with experience, mistakes do occur.
“Mahatma Gandhi wanted to give the prime ministership to (Mohammad Ali) Jinnah. But Nehru refused. He was self-centred. He said, ‘I want to be PM’. India and Pakistan would have been united (had Jinnah been made PM). Pandit Nehru was very experienced. But mistakes do happen,” the Dalai Lama said.
He gave the analogy in response to a question from a student at the Goa Institute of Management on how one could be sure about one’s decisions and how to avoid mistakes.
Preceding the interaction, the Dalai Lama spoke on India’s ability to merge its rich traditional knowledge with the modern facets of education. He also stressed the need for dialogue and debate on a range of subjects.
“We need more people to come together and talk and debate on aspects linked to India’s ancient knowledge, such as ahimsa and compassion. We also need to find ways to reduce conflict amongst ourselves,” he said.
When asked what she made of the observations, historian Mridula Mukherjee said, “With due respect to the Dalai Lama, who has made great sacrifices for his people, he is clearly misinformed. “You cannot blame any one person for the Partition of India. It was caused by long-term factors rooted in the British policy of divide and rule. Pt Nehru was as much against the Partition as any nationalist would be. But we must remember the ball was always in the British court.”
The British, she said, kept insisting on Indians sorting out their differences among themselves but MA Jinnah continued to be recalcitrant. “The Mountbatten Plan was a plan for the Partition of India. The British refused to hand over power to the Congress. What option did Gandhi or Nehru or Patel have?
“As far as Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that Jinnah could be PM goes, it was only a goodwill statement. Gandhi had, way back in 1942, named Nehru his successor. In democracies, people, not individuals, choose and make leaders.”