The Pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement: India's First Contacts with the Communist Yugoslavia, 1948–50

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  This article focuses on the pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the friendship between Pandit Nehru and Tito from Yugoslavia. It explores the various levels of contacts between Indians and Yugoslavs in the second half of the 1940s, among
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  The Pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement: India’s First Contacts with the Communist  Yugoslavia, 1948–50 NATAŠA MIŠKOVIC´  Abstract is article focuses on the pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the friendship between Pandit Nehru and Tito from Yugoslavia. It explores the various levels of contacts between Indians and Yugoslavs in the second half of the 1940s, among communists, diplomats, United Nations delegation members and participants of a Yugoslav trade delegation to South Asia. Special attention is given to the question of why Yugoslavia was a rather uninteresting or even hostile country to India in the years immediately after the end of World War II, but grew to be an attractive partner in the aftermath of Tito’s break with Stalin, when the country tried to survive between the Anglo–American and Soviet blocs. In their first ever joint statement, dated 22 December 1954, at New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Josip Broz Tito, President of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, underlined the fact that both countries relied on powerful movements of national liberation: e author is at the Historical Institute, Department for Eastern European Studies, University of Zurich. INDIA QUARTERLY 65, 2 (2009): 185–200SAGE Publications: Los Angeles • London • New Delhi • Singapore • Washington DCDOI: 10.1177/097492840906500206  186  N  ATAŠA   M IŠKOVIC ´  India Quarterly 65, 2 (2009) : 185–200 3. e similarities of historic background and social and economic conditions of their respective countries and the fact that they have emerged as independent nations, through powerful movements of national liberation, have endowed their understanding of each other and of their countries with a deeper significance and given to their friendly relations a greater ease and facility.4. Yugoslavia and India have devoted their energies, both in the domestic and international fields, for the promotion of peace and methods of negotiation and conciliation as a solvent of international conflicts and problems. (…)5. e President and the Prime Minister desire to proclaim that the policy of non-alignment adopted and pursued by their respective countries is not ‘neutrality’ or ‘neutralism’ and therefore passivity, as sometimes alleged, but is a positive, active and constructive policy seeking to lead to collective peace, on which alone collective security can rest. (…)(MIJ: KPR I–2/4–1, sheets 737–741. Joint statement by the President of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia and the Prime Minister of India, New Delhi, 22 December 1954) e statement, reproduced here in its most important paragraphs, is a powerful declaration for an active and independent policy to promote peace in the world, three months before the start of the Bandung Conference in  April 1955. It was the starting point of a ten-year-long cooperation and friendship between Nehru and Tito, and laid the foundations for the Non-Aligned Movement. However, relations between Nehru’s and Tito’s governments date back several years from their first direct meeting. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in December 1948, a long series of increasing contacts had taken place at various levels, which served to increasingly strengthen relations between the two countries. In the beginning, the two respective national liberation movements, praised in the joint statement, proved to be rather an impediment. e Yugoslav communists had denounced Nehru as a bourgeois accomplice of Anglo–American imperialism, whereas the Indian government distrusted the Yugoslavs because of their pro-Soviet agitation, also in India. In the following, I endeavour to reconstruct the history of contacts between India and Yugoslavia during the second half of the 1940s, drawing on documents from Marshal Tito’s Cabinet (Kabinet Maršala Jugoslavije), pre-served at the Museum of Yugoslav History (Muzej istorije Jugoslavije, referred to as MIJ) in Belgrade, and from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. My main focus is to analyse how and why Indians and  Yugoslavs became interested in a closer partnership. Taking the basic facts about the Indian freedom struggle as given, I first outline the rise of Marshal Tito as leader of the communist partisan guerilla in Yugoslavia. I then ex-plore the relations between Indian and Yugoslav communists in the aftermath of World War II. e main part of this article discusses the consequences of the Tito–Stalin split with regard to India. Tito’s success in maintaining the independence of his country awoke the curiosity of the Congress as much as it brought the initial CPI’s admiration to an end. On the other hand, the expulsion from Soviet protection forced Yugoslavia to look for allies in places where it had not expected them before. is study is part of a research project at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), which explores the personal relationship of the three founders of Non-Alignment, Jawaharlal Nehru, Josip Broz Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser, combining a historical–anthropological, ‘life world’ methodology with reflections from post-colonial studies and political history. 1  ‘Life world’ is a methodological concept putting the  perspective   of historical actors, in this case 1  Swiss National Foundation Project No. 100012–117941/1 University of Zurich (www.hist.uzh.ch/oeg ). e term ‘life world’, or ‘the world of life’, was first developed by philosophers such as W. James and Edmund Husserl. German sociologist Jürgen Habermas introduced the division between the life world of individual actors and systems as the market, bureaucracy, or the legal system. Swiss–German historian Heiko Haumann insists on integrating systemic elements into the life worlds: Systems never act on their own, but through men. Haumann   The Pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement   187 India Quarterly 65, 2 (2009) : 185–200 Pandit Nehru, Marshal Tito and Colonel Nasser, into the focus of analytical attention. Literally speaking, the researcher attempts to look through the historical actor’s eyes, trying to learn how he or she might have seen his or her world, and by this method reconstructing the past. is includes a micro-historical view on the actor’s surroundings, beliefs and everyday life, as much as attention to macro-historical developments in the political and socio-economical field. Such an approach demands a high degree of self-reflection by the researcher, mirroring his or her own srcins, environment and socio-cultural imprint in the lives of the historical actors. To a certain extent, the project endeavours to translate into the past what Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, in her lecture at the University of Zurich on 16 February 2009, demanded from researchers: to learn from ‘the other’ instead of treating it as an object of research. The Yugoslav Background: Tito’s Rise to Power   Yugoslavia was founded in 1918, at the end of World War I. e National Council of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which emerged from the ruins of the Habsburg Empire, decided to unite with the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, which had gained independence from the Ottoman Sultan a few decades earlier, in 1878. e declaration was signed in Geneva on 9 November 1918, and the Serbian King accordingly became King of the Serbs, Croats and Slowenes, later of Yugoslavia. e new state proved to be fragile. e people who joined to form a new  Yugoslav nation did not come to an understanding about the legitimation of the state and the division of power, with the Serbs tending to dominate the others by drawing on their already existing governmental infrastructure and the Croats feeling unsatisfied on principle as many wished for a state of their own (Goldstein 1999; Jelavich 1983; Pavlowitch 2002; Ramet 2006). In World War II, the Germans overran Yugoslavia in April 1941, and the King and his government fled to Britain. Hitler divided the country into nine parts and imposed a repressive policy to subdue and exploit the territory for Nazi interests. A cruel war of everybody against everybody spread between German, Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian occupying forces, monarchist and/or nationalist Serbian guerillas, fascist Croatian militia and pro-Yugoslav communist partisans. More than a million, or 6.4 per cent of the total pre-war population lost their lives (Graovac 2007: 186). e western allies initially supported the monarchist Serbian guerillas, the so-called chetniks (from ceta: band). After the conquest of Italy in June 1943, they re-evaluated which party east of the  Adriatic would be able to eliminate the most Germans: these were the partisans of Marshal Tito. e British had already installed a military mission at Tito’s headquarters some time ago. 2  ey were intrigued by his toughness and success. Despite their calculating rationality, they imagined him as a kind of Robin Hood, as Vladimir Velebit, a high-ranking partisan offi cer and later ambassador to Great Britain, remembers:  understands the life world as an interface, where individuals and systems multiply (Miškovic 2008: 18–20). Pioneering studies using this approach have been conducted by researchers such as Carlo Ginzburg and Natalie Zemon Davis, who through microscopical reconstruction of individual’s lives such as the miller Menocchio’s, the impostor Martin Guerre’s or the geographer al Hasan al Wazzan’s, vividly brought back into light the time that these people had lived in. 2  Commanders of the mission were Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a Scottish adventurer, soldier, diplomat and a role model for James Bond, and later on F.W.D. (later Sir William) Deakin, an Oxford scholar in the service of Winston Churchill, both of whom sent very favourable accounts to their superiors (Maclean 1980; Pavlowitch 1992: 41). Maclean remained attached to Yugoslavia during his whole life and entertained life-long personal friendships with Yugoslav offi cials (Šuvar 2001).  188  N  ATAŠA   M IŠKOVIC ´  India Quarterly 65, 2 (2009) : 185–200 Churchill was of a romantic nature, and Tito’s personality as a guerilla who had formed his own powerful army attracted him. At that time, he dedicated more attention to Tito and the Yugoslav partisans than to any other personality or European army fighting against fascism (except the Red Army). (…) Churchill imagined Tito as a kind of Robin Hood, fighting and leading his people in order to reconquer the throne for his King, who, empoverished, had been chased out of his country. (…) Although he was a convinced anticommunist, he later recognised Tito and the partisans, because he was a realistic politician who foremost followed the interest of Great Britain and the aim to defeat fascism. (…) (Šuvar 2001: 460f). 3 By the second half of 1943, the partisan forces were by far the strongest army in the Western Balkans. At that point, Tito decided to institutionalise his People’s Liberation Movement as the only legitimate provisional gov-ernment of Yugoslavia, skillfully communicating his intentions to the Soviets at the right moment and in a way they could not oppose. Tito was a most loyal follower of Stalin, but ambitious, self-reliant and also vain, always clean-shaven and carefully dressed even when living in the forests. He liked to copy Stalin’s forms and styled himself Marshal of the partisan army soon after the Soviet leader had received the title of Marshal of the Soviet Union (Pavlowitch 1992: 43). At the Tehran conference, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt accepted Tito’s claim to power and granted him every possible aid and support. When he was almost captured by the Germans in May 1944, the Allied Forces evacuated him to a British military base in the Adriatic and saved his partisan army back in the mountains of Bosnia. e British then put him under pressure to accept an agreement with Ivan Šubašic, a Croatian Peasant Party politician selected by the Allies to form the future Yugoslav post-war government. Tito formally declared he would not raise the question of the monarchy until after the war nor would he intend to force communism upon Yugoslavia (Pavlowitch 1992: 44f). Churchill, eager to secure this agreement and to meet the romantic guerilla fighter, came to Naples to talk to him in person. Tito was flattered, but he did not trust the British. His collaborators even feared for his life and did not want him to go in the first place. Churchill was disappointed at Tito’s (by English standards) crude appearance, but the agreement was confirmed. On 12 September, the exiled  Yugoslav King in a famous BBC announcement appealed to all his subjects to support Tito. 4  But the latter was worried about the situation back on the mainland and secretly organised his evacuation to Moscow. Churchill was furious, but Tito’s plans worked: With Stalin, he discussed a military intervention in Serbia, cleverly arranging this operation as a formal Soviet request to enter Yugoslav territory, which resulted in a de facto recognition of the communist liberation movement. Was Tito informed that Stalin and Churchill had secretly agreed, during a meeting in Moscow in October 1944, to share their influence on Yugoslavia fifty-fifty? 5  eir talks were still 3  All translations from Serbo-Croatian by the author. e British seemingly combined their own legends and admiration for proud, romantic heroes with the so-called Kosovo cult, widely popular in the United Kingdom during World War I, which celebrates the suppressed Christian Serbian people liberating themselves from Muslim Ottoman rule (Miškovic 2008; Trgovcevic 1996). e British fascination with Tito is well expressed in Sir Fitzroy Maclean’s writings (Maclean 1980). Maclean remained a close friend of Yugoslavia until his death in 1996 (Šuvar 2001). On orientalist views on the Balkans see Todorova 1997. 4  Vladimir Velebit and Churchill, both present at the meeting, wrote about it in their memoirs (Šuvar 2001: 460; Pavlowitch 1992: 46). Tito refused to meet the king and never publicly revoked his intention to install communism in Yugoslavia. 5  e meeting between Stalin and Churchill took place from 9 to 11 October, the common talks with American envoy Averell Harriman ended on 18 October. Immediately after the end of the war, it looked as if the British had lost ‘their’ share entirely. But after 1948, Stalin did not attack Yugoslavia although the west did expect it (Heuser 1989: 18; Dimic´ et al. 2004: 266ff.).   The Pre-history of the Non-Aligned Movement   189 India Quarterly 65, 2 (2009) : 185–200 in progress, when Tito’s troops, with Soviet help, conquered Serbia from the retreating Germans. Belgrade was liberated on 20 October, after a fierce battle which lasted several days. Pressed by the Allies, Tito and Šubašic agreed on a common provisional government on 1 November. e war in Yugoslavia lasted seven more months, until the German capitulation on 15 May 1945.Tito was celebrated in Europe as the only leader of an anti-fascist resistance movement who had won the war from his own strength. His ascendance to the leadership of Yugoslavia was undisputed: the western Allies asked for a nominal regency of the pre-war king and the inclusion of a few of his ministers. Tito disposed of this hindrance without much hesitation. Soon after the international recognition of the new state in March 1945, the communists organised an election campaign fashioned as a plebiscite for Tito and his movement. All candidates for the Constituent Assembly had to subscribe to the so-called Popular Front (Narodni Front). Opposition parties who declined to join faced obstruction. When they called for boycott, the communists had about 200,000 names deleted from the election registers. e Popular Front accordingly won more than 90 per cent of the seats in the Constituent Assembly (Steindorff 2007: 193). Its first act was to abolish monarchy and to proclaim the ‘Federal People’s Republic Yugoslavia’ (FNRJ). e new Constitution of 20 January 1946 closely followed the Soviet Constitution of 1936. Tito took Yugoslavia under his firm control, assisted by his three close collaborators and deputies, Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj and Aleksandar Rankovic. Yugoslavia was therefore the first European country to establish a socialist system according to the Soviet pattern. Its independent position granted the country high regard among the victorious Allied powers. As with the Congress in India, the powerful partisan liberation movement provided the new state with legitimation and identity. Early Contacts between Indian and Yugoslav Communists  Yugoslavia was now ruled by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY), which was part of the international communist network led by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). National communist parties enter-tained contact persons or agents in as many of their brother parties as possible, and there was a lot of travelling and exchanging of delegations to explore and develop fields of cooperation and socialist brotherhood. In the case of communist-ruled countries like Yugoslavia, these bonds were cultivated parallel to offi cial diplomatic ties. Tito, who in one person united the duties of president of the state, chairman of the CPY and head of defence, was in a position to control CPY’s actions. ough they were organisationally different institutions, the division between party politics and offi cial policy were not always maintained. In some cases this was intended, but sometimes the ideological enthusiasm of offi cials had to be checked by their superiors. 6  Matters were different in India. e Communist Party of India (CPI) had left the Congress in 1945 and acted more or less in conspiracy. Ridden by inner factionalism, it abandoned its Congress-friendly policy at the Second Congress in Calcutta in February 1948, immediately after Gandhi’s assassination. When Mao won the civil war in China in September 1949, the CPI leadership ‘declared war on the Indian state’, hoping for a red revolution, with the known disastrous results (Chandra et al. 1999: 203–09; Guha 2007: 97). 6  is is demonstrated in a case from Yugoslav–Egyptian relations: Yugoslav envoy to Cairo, Mr. Šahinpašic, acted as an advisor to the Egyptian communist party in his own authority, and went as far as to ask his superior Vladimir Velebit for governmental support. Velebit called him to order (Petrovic 2006: 28, fn. 33).
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