The Nehru Commonwealth
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Towards the end of the Second World War, British politicians of all parties reflected on how Britain and the settler-based Dominions, with a combined population of 80 million, might be able to hold their own with the obvious rising power of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They concluded that the possible answer lay in united Commonwealth action on major questions of foreign policy, and it was the degree of imperial cooperation displayed during the war that had made such a concept imaginable. Tt was the scale and solidarity of support from overseas which for a time made it possible to think of the Commonwealth as a power which might speak on level terms to the USA on the one side and the USSR on the other.’1 During the war, five million servicemen had been enlisted by the Empire, and the 14th Army in Burma was the largest in the world operating as a single unit with one million men, of whom nearly three-quarters were Indian.2 It was as a global Empire that Britain liked to project itself — wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill played on the old patriotic themes and used the imperial idiom. But in reality, the Second World War had accelerated the progress of the Dominions to international maturity and propelled the South Asian national movements towards self-government. The attention of the Dominions after 1941 centred on Washington and not London, because they wanted access to the fulcrum of power, and they were no longer willing to accept Britain’s leadership automatically on all matters.
KeywordsPrime Minister Foreign Policy Round Table British Government North Atlantic Treaty Organization
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- 19.A fuller treatment of South Asia and the Commonwealth is found in Krishnan Srinivasan’s ‘Lost Opportunities in South Asia’, Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge, Occasional paper 5, 2003.Google Scholar
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