India After 1960

India After 1960

After 1960, economic and social development was slowed down by demographic pressure, despite international aid provided for the second and third five-year plans. Foreign policy events almost permanently conditioned the government’s action. Until 1959 the dominant problem had been the continuing tension with Pakistan over the Kashmir question. In that year, the Tibetan uprising and its harsh repression diverted attention to the Himalayan borders, where the so-called Mac Mahon line, agreed at the Simla tripartite conference of 1914, had never been recognized by the various Chinese governments. The uncertainty of the boundaries led to a series of border incidents, while lengthy negotiations were in vain. Although committed in that direction, Nehru’s government was able to achieve propaganda success through the short campaign with which the army easily overcame the resistance of the 3,000 Portuguese soldiers garrisoned in Goa (December 19, 1961). Portuguese India was annexed; but the easy success took away all credibility from the overt non-violence of Indian politics, while generating excessive trust in the armed forces. This confidence proved unwarranted when the situation at the Tibetan border deteriorated. On October 20, 1962, large Chinese contingents attacked and overwhelmed the Indian defenses in the eastern sector, reaching a short distance from the Brahmaputra valley. Surprisingly, the Chinese, victorious across the board, a month later they unilaterally declared a cessation of fire and retreated behind the starting lines. The mediation of non-aligned countries (Colombo conference, December 1962) was unsuccessful and a formal armistice was never concluded; but since then there have been no major incidents in the Himalayan area.

The brief war of 1962 marked a marked turning point not only in India’s politics but also in its international position. It meant the end of the policy of peaceful coexistence governed by the principles (pañca śī la) established at the Bandung conference of 1955; in the long run it also put an end to India’s policy of equidistance and international influence as the moral leader of a third force, now unreal. Congress maintained its prominence on the political scene, despite the decline in seats in the January 1962 elections. On Nehru’s death in May 1964, he was succeeded by LB Shastri, a rather lackluster figure conditioned by the party’s conservative wing.

In the meantime, relations with Pakistan returned to the fore. At the time of the tension with China there had been a rapprochement, the best result of which was the agreement of 19 September 1960 for the equal distribution of the waters of the Indus and the five rivers of the Panjāb. Then the frictions resumed. First, in 1964 there was serious unrest in East Bengal, after which some 200,000 Hindus fled to India. A meeting of Shastri with the Pakistani president had no concrete results and in May-June 1965 there were fights of a certain gravity due to the uncertainty of the border of the coastal Maremma (Rann del Kutch) on the border with Sindh; the matter was later resolved by arbitration. More serious was the resumption of hostilities in Kashmir, region that the government was integrating more and more fully into the Union. A Pakistani offensive (The September 1965) was answered an Indian counter-offensive in the area of Lahore; there were fierce battles of armored vehicles and the conflict threatened to spread for an ultimatum (later withdrawn) from China to India. The UN Security Council succeeded in imposing a truce, but a real armistice occurred only through the mediation of the USSR (Tashkent conference, January 4-10, 1966); however, the generic agreements concluded there did not resolve any problems.

LB Shastri died of a heart attack in Tashkent on 11 January and his post as prime minister was taken by India Gandhi, daughter of Nehru. It found the country in a rather difficult situation, also because the insufficient rains of 1965 and 1966 had caused a severe famine and therefore a heavy economic situation; in 1966 the rupee had to be devalued. Other disturbing clues were the Communist victory in the Kerala provincial elections (1965) and the student unrest of 1966-67, due to poverty, overcrowding of universities, etc. Therefore, the general elections of February 1967 still retained the majority in Congress, but with a significant downsizing. In March 1967, small local revolts broke out in Naxalbari and other places in the foothills of Bengal, led by the extreme wing of the Communist Party of Chinese Observance; the terrorist and guerrilla activities of the so-called Naxalites constituted a serious embarrassment to the government for several years. Even the language problem was not easy to solve, given the strong opposition of the South to the imposition of the use of Hindi: the official use of English was further extended. Within the same psychological framework and at the same time, new federal units were created to satisfy local needs for linguistic autonomy. The Hindi-speaking districts (state of Hariana) were detached from the Panjāb; from Assam the territories of the north-eastern border (Arunachal Pradesh), of the Naga tribes (Nagaland, after a three-year warfare), of the hills of Jaintia and Garo (Meghālaya) were detached, of the southern mountains between Burma and Bengal (Mizo). Some of the federally governed territories were elevated to states of the Union.

In July 1969 the precarious financial situation induced India Gandhi to nationalize the 14 major banks, obtaining the fierce hostility of the conservative wing of Congress headed by the Minister of Finance M. Desai; and in November there was a split in the party, although the majority of congressmen remained loyal to Gandhi. For some time the two factions fought each other in parliament, until the situation was clarified by the elections of March 1971, which represented a great victory for the prime minister.

By now, however, Indian political life was dominated by the question of East Bengal, where separatist ferments had been bloodyly crushed by the Pakistani army (March-April 1971). India was forced to give temporary asylum to huge masses of refugees (it was said to be about ten million), and soon began to grant its full support to the guerrillas. Faced with the danger of a Sino-Pakistani agreement, India concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the USSR on 9 August, which granted important military supplies. Covered in this way, on December 3, 1971, Indian troops crossed the border. The brief war, limited almost to Bengal alone, ended with the surrender of Pakistani forces in that region (December 16). Thus began its difficult existence the new state of Bangla Desh (v.), with which India concluded an assistance treaty. Finally, after many difficulties over the repatriation of prisoners of war, a series of agreements between 1972 and 1975 established a modus vivendi with Pakistan. For India 2014, please check

This war also had significant repercussions. First of all, the agreement with the USSR and the open hostility shown during the war by China and (to a lesser extent) by America led to the formal end of equidistance in foreign policy as well. Internally, to the meager results of the fourth five-year plan (1969-1973) was added the indefinite postponement of the fifth plan, made impossible by a new drought (1972-73) and above all by the world oil crisis that hit India as all other non-producing countries. Passive trade balance, inflation, etc. however, they did not prevent the implementation of the first Indian plutonium nuclear explosion experiment, which took place in May 1974, which caused general protests in Asian countries.

The growing difficulties, the increasingly rigid authoritarianism of the prime minister, the arrest of various opposition leaders led to an increasingly tense situation, despite the proclamation of a state of emergency. In early 1977 India Gandhi deluded himself that he could obtain popular support for his politics and called electoral rallies, at the same time removing the state of emergency. The opposition, merged into the new Janata party, took advantage of this to conduct an intense and skilful electoral propaganda. The elections of March 1977 resulted, to general surprise, a complete disaster for Congress and for India Gandhi who was not even re-elected to Parliament. On March 24, 1977, a new government took office, headed by the eighty-year-old Morarji Desai,

Presidents of the India during this period were the philosopher S. Radhakrishnan (1962-1967), the Muslim Z. Husain, who died in office in 1969, VV Giri (1969-1974), another Muslim, Fakhr ud-din Ali Ahmad, died in office in 1976, and thus BD Jatti.

India After 1960