Focus on India
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 Oct 1967, p. 93-106
Chaudhuri, General J.N., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
India—its history and civilization. Her cultural and philosophical values. Politics. British rule and its effects. India since independence in 1947: economy, population, health, food production, politics, external relations, and other indicators of her society. India's faith in the Commonwealth. Optimism for India's success in the future.
Date of Original
12 Oct 1967
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
OCTOBER 12, 1967
Focus on India
CHAIRMAN, The First Vice-President, E. B. Jolliffe


The following lines undoubtedly are familiar to everyone here:

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat.

They were written at the turn of the century by the poet, Rudyard Kipling, who was born in India of English parents and spent much of his childhood there. A great deal has happened since Kipling wrote these oft-quoted lines, and although they have endured as poetry, they have certainly not survived as prophecy.

Today, we find the Republic of India--a centuries-old Eastern civilization, rich in population (the most populous in the Commonwealth), culture, and traditions--carrying on an ever-more active and fruitful exchange with nations of the West. Fully independent, but by its own free choice retaining fraternal bonds within the Commonwealth, India is engaged in a dramatic and spectacular undertaking to bring together Western technology and her own time-honoured wisdom in a way that will usher in a new era of physical and material well-being for her people. In this context, the prophetic words of India's Nobel Prize-winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore, have the ring of truth:

Now the door has opened to the West

and gifts in hand they beckon and they come--they will give and take, meet and bring together none shall be turned away

from the shore of this vast sea of humanity that is India.

To provide us with an up-to-date look at India, we are honoured to have an eminently qualified guide and interpreter in the person of our speaker today. On his father's side he is the eldest son of a distinguished family from East Bengal. His maternal grandfather was the first president of the Indian National Congress. He received his early education at St. Xavier's College in Calcutta and later at Highgate School in London. Obtaining a nomination to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1926, he was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1928 and joined the 7th Light Cavalry. An appreciation of his distinguished military career thereafter may be gathered from the following selected highlights.

In 1940 he went overseas with the 5th Indian Division and saw service in Sudan, Eritrea, Abyssinia and the Western Desert. He rose from the rank of Captain to Lt.-Col. in two years and was present at the capitulation of the Italian Forces in Italian East Africa. For his services he was awarded the OBE and three times was mentioned in Dispatches.

Recalled to India, he was appointed Senior Instructor at the British Staff College in Quetta and in 1941 led a regiment of the Indian Armoured Corps on a trek of 3,000 miles to join the fighting in Burma. The regiment, which then went on to lead the allied march to Rangoon, won great renown for its part in the fighting. In 1946, our speaker was promoted Brigadier in Malaya and the same year was selected to command the Indian Victory Contingent to London. Following a course at the Imperial Defence College, England, in 1947, he returned to India and was appointed Director of Military Operations and Intelligence at Army Headquarters.

In 1948 he became Governor of Hyderabad State, where he also functioned as Chancellor of Osmania University and Chairman of Deccan Airways. In the years following, he occupied important military posts and led an Indian Military Delegation to China. In 1962, he was promoted to the rank of General and took over as Chief of the Army Staff. He held this position until June, 1966, and for his services was presented with India's second highest award by order of the President.

In addition to being a distinguished military man, our speaker, has displayed notable talent as a writer and literary critic. He has written two books on military themes, and he has been Military Correspondent and a literary reviewer for one of India's leading newspapers. A further facet of his talents and interests was demonstrated during his term as Chief of Army Staff when he founded, and was first president of, the Delhi Symphony Society -an organization designed to promote Western music in the Indian capital.

Our guest assumed his present position on July 19, 1966, six weeks after his retirement from the Indian Army. He is located in Ottawa and his wife resides there with him. One of their two sons is married, has two children, and works for a business concern in Calcutta. The other son is studying in London and will be going to India in the near future.

Gentlemen--it is now my pleasure and privilege to present a celebrated soldier, an accomplished author, and an honoured representative of his country, His Excellency, General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri, High Commissioner of India in Canada.


For centuries India was a legend; a civilization which nursed philosophies that transcended space and time. India was also a dream of riches that beckoned many a wandering conqueror. The excavations of Mahenjadaro and Harappa, which began in the 1920s under Sir Mortimer Wheeler, now show that the beginnings of Indian culture go back five millenniums before the birth of Christ when the Indus valley civilization flourished. It was a startling discovery that communities 50 centuries ago lived in solid brick houses, in well laid out cities with underground drainage, that they had metallic implements and the wheel. Evidence shows that this was an indigenous civilization which had relations with the contemporary civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Like all civilizations it weakened and died. Two thousand years later the nomadic pastoral Aryans came in from the North-West and settled in the Gangetic plains. This was not a single gigantic migration, it was a series of waves over five centuries. The Aryans were worshippers of God through nature, a facet that is best seen in the poetry and hymns of their primary literary and religious work--the Rig Veda. This masterpiece was followed by three other Vedas and then the Upanishads, all of which show a remarkable ferment of thought and inspiration. The Upanishads which form the basis of Vedanta philosophy, the true roots of Indian philosophy and culture, represent a remarkably scientific pursuit of spiritual truths in the depth of experience.

Two important characteristics of this culture deserve mention--tolerance and the power of absorption. The former comes from a basic pronouncement of the Vedas: EKAM SAT: VIPRA BAHUDHA VADANTE, "Truth is one; sages call it by various names". It is this dictum that made India, throughout her history, give room and equality to people of all faiths. In India we have had Jews since before the birth of Christ, Christians from A.D. 58, Zoroastrians, religious refugees from Persia, from the 8th century and even in this century, Buddhists from Tibet. Today in India there are 11 million Christians -more than half the population of Canada--and 55 million Muslims, making it the second largest Muslim country in the world.

Indian culture has also shown a remarkable capacity for analysis and absorption. We have been enriched in every field by the coming of Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Bactrians, Scythians, Huns, Turks, Jews, Zoroastrians and finally the Europeans, in particular the British.

This, in the barest outline, is the basis of Indian culture and in understanding India, it is necessary to comprehend her cultural and philosophical values. In the march of history many a great civilization has had its rise and fall. The civilization of India has been no exception though perhaps in her case these values have never been lost sight of. However, time both harms and heals. Many of the laws enacted by the Aryans became over-rigid losing sight of their original purpose. The caste system was devised by the Aryans as a method of co-operative living based on the principle of "from each according to his ability". Movement from caste to caste was possible. Later this degenerated into rigid compartments with the priestly and warrior classes claiming superiority by birth. The necessity for keeping land from fragmentation, a vital necessity in an agrarian community, eventually produced the malpractice of child marriages. Families wanted to ensure inheritances. The ban against killing cattle was originally imposed to preserve livestock, the backbone of a pastoral economy. Later it acquired a superstitious religious significance. Elaborate ritual began to corrupt simple worship, something not unknown in Europe. Again, as in the West, powerful religious reformation movements in the form of Buddhism and Jainism built up in the 6th century s.C. While Buddhism spread to many lands in Asia far beyond the shores of India, within India itself it was not considered a separate religion. The teachings of the Buddha became another school of thought and philosophy in the imposing galaxy of Hindu metaphysics. Politically, despite some strong rulers at the top, the heterogeneity of India always remained a factor to be considered. One should not be surprised by this heterogeneity for the country was made up of various ethnic groups, with great variations of climate and terrain. In Western Europe, an area smaller than India, the same heterogeneity creates problems of which we are all aware. When the booming days of colonialism started and Western eyes began looking outwards, European traders--the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the English--found this heterogeneity useful firstly for trading concessions and then for colonial annexation. It was easy to play one ruler against another. The East India Company, a private trading concern, who were strongly supported by their Government, ultimately managed to eliminate their European rivals and British rule came into being.

British rule in India lasted about 180 years and its effects -both good and bad--are of great significance in assessing India today. The whole country for the first time came under one central rule, though here it must be remembered that 526 Princely States nominally were autonomous. Secondly, the impact of English as a language exposed the country's substantial intelligentsia to the rejuvenating influence of European liberalism, new political, social and economic institutions, changing basic values and literary trends and finally modern science and technology. The effect of this new Western outlook on an ancient civilization produced much intellectual re-valuation which led to a renaissance of Indian thought. A new sense of nationalism was born while a growing attitude of critical self-analysis made educated people question many of the old traditions and practices that had seeped into society during periods of decadence. Social and religious reformers like Raja Mohan Roy, Aurobindo Ghosh and Dayanand Saraswati started to revitalize philosophy and religion. A new dynamism and a trend to modernity became visible everywhere. This period produced other great giants, men like Rabindranath Tagore in the field of letters, and botanists like J. C. Bose, both incidentally winners of the Nobel Prize. A new national movement, the Indian National Congress founded in 1885 by an Irishman, Allan Octavian Hume--and whose first President was my grandfather W. C. Bonnerjee--under a succession of leaders like Tilak, Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehrus, father and son, stirred the whole nation to a new sense of pride and a wish to win political independence.

Though autocratic in itself, another good effect of British rule was the attachment to democracy which it had engendered in the people of India. While the principle of democracy was not unknown to India, for even in ancient times the system of village councils functioned, the necessity for a parliamentary system became understood and even today, surrounded by despots and dictators, India is determined to maintain a democratic government. Four free elections, the largest in the world, based on adult suffrage and equal rights for women, have been held since independence. The principle of an independent judiciary, free of political or administrative pressures, is also a valuable legacy of the British rule.

While these were the positive results of British rule, there were also because of the colonial concept, the inevitable harmful effects. India was used as a dumping ground for British manufactured goods, the economy of the colony being developed only to supply raw materials needed by British industries. India was not allowed to benefit by the great industrial revolution of Europe. The result was that while the population continued to rise, the natural resources of India remained undeveloped and the Indian industrialist was strongly discouraged. Agricultural production fell because of a feudal land tenure system with a British-created absentee landlord or Zamindar acting as the middleman. There were 23 famines in India during the 180 years of British rule. Progress throughout the land was uneven, because the Princely States, who ruled half of it, varied from the medieval to the modern.

Finally British conservatism basically good in conception, prevented them from interfering in traditional, social and religious matters. This, in fact, gave strength to conservative elements among the Indians. Outmoded social customs and traditions which would have eroded in the normal process of evolution continued to exist. Whatever little social legislation like abolition of "satee" and the prevention of child marriages was enacted during the period, was due more to the powerful initiative of Indian intelligentsia in the face of British reluctance.

When India became free in 1947, the country inherited much of value but also great problems of social, economic and industrial backwardness. The first task which the national Government of India tackled after independence was the development of economic potential in order to raise desperately low standards of living. But development requires large capital outlay and technical know-how. In a country where the per capita income was les than $60 at independence, it is hard to raise enough capital. Also, India was faced with the need to bring about economic development at a pace much faster than the European powers of the 19th century. India had to plan her economic development to achieve the most effective and balanced utilization of the country's resources in the shortest time. Many friendly countries have come to India's aid with development capital and technical know-how and among them Canada qualitatively has given us the maximum help. During three Five-Year plans India has invested $43 billion in development projects, of this, 80% of the capital was raised from internal sources and only 20% comes from external aid which is mostly in the form of loans.

Indian economy has not yet reached the take-off state or the stage of self-generating growth while our standards of living are far from a satisfactory level. In making up the leeway of centuries, and competing with the problems of heredity and environment, undoubtedly many errors have been made. However, together with these errors one should not overlook our achievements during the last 17 years of planned development.

Since 1950, the economy of India has grown at a compound annual rate of 3.8%. Industrial output has increased by 150%; steel production has risen from 1.4 million to 6.6 million tons; installed electric power has been stepped up from 2.3 million to 10.1 million Kilowatts. Production of cotton cloth has gone up by 80%, sugar by 200%; production of machinery has gone up from $45 million-worth to $750 million; refined petroleum products have reached 11.3 million tons from virtually nothing. Over 100,000 small-scale industries have sprung up in all parts of India. The indigenous manufacture of railway wagons has gone up to 33,500 a year and today the Indian railways which are a nationalized concern, carry 5.8 million passengers and I/2 million tons of freight each day. India is now exporting steam locomotives, passenger coaches, freight wagons and track material to East Africa, Hungary, Burma and Thailand. Strange though it may seem, we are exporting machine tools to West Germany, Czechoslovakia and the U.S.A., railway equipment to the U.K., U.S.A., Malaysia and Hungary; refrigerators to Hungary, heavy water to Belgium; telephone equipment to the Soviet Union, surgical goods to Canada; sugar mill machinery to Uganda and textile machinery to West Germany, the U.K., Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Thirty per cent of India's population can read and write today which is double that obtaining in 1947. The number of children going to school has more than trebled to 72 million. At the university level, the number of students has gone up to 1.7 million from a mere 200,000 in 1947; the number of universities which was 16 in 1947, is now 70 and the number of affiliated colleges has increased from 533 to 2,373. As against 38 institutions in India, providing degree courses in engineering and technology with a total admission capacity of 3,000 students, today we have 118 degree institutions with an admission capacity of 21,000 a year. For diploma courses in various branches of engineering, there are 249 polytechnics with an annual admission capacity of 40,000.

In the field of public health, plague has been completely wiped out, malaria cases have dropped from 750 million to 500,000 cases per year; deaths from cholera and smallpox have come down to a tenth of what they used to be. As a result life expectancy has gone up from 32 to 50 years.

I do not want to tire your patience with a number of statistics but I believe some of them are necessary to give you some idea of the progress made in the last few years.

As a result of 20 years experience, there are two areas of the economy where we are now puttting in a maximum effort. One is in food production and the other in the control of population. Food production in India has actually gone up by 61.8% between 1950 and 1964-from. 54.9 million to 89 million tons-as a result of various multipurpose irrigation projects and the increased use of fertilizers and improved seeds. These projects and other irrigation works so far cover only 20% of the arable land leaving the remaining 80% dependent on the monsoon. In the last two years two consecutive failures of this monsoon have not only brought near starvation to millions of people in the areas affected but naturally have adversely affected the economy as a whole. Canada among several other friendly countries has generously come to our aid in this food crisis. Our new food policy, directed towards self-sufficiency by 1971, is based on four practical points. These are:

(1) The use of high-yielding varieties of seeds on an increased acreage. Experiments have shown that the new variety of paddy would yield 7,000 to 8,000 lb. of rice per acre instead of the present 1,400 to 1,500 lb. The Mexican variety of wheat would also yield an eight-fold increase in crop.

(2) The increased use of fertilizers, pesticides, and improved implements and machinery. Our present need for fertilizers is 2 million tons although our production capacity at the moment is only 600,000 tons. We have been seeking foreign collaboration in setting up fertilizer factories and these efforts have met with considerable success. (3) The emphasis on irrigation from large scale multipurpose projects to small irrigation schemes. (4) The provision of easy credit to the cultivator through the creation of Agricultural Credit Cooperatives in all States.

These steps have already started showing results and in a very recent statement the Director General, FAO, was optimistic that India could fulfil her target of food selfsufficiency by 1971. This year, the monsoon has so far been good and we estimate the crop yield at 90 to 95 million tons which should almost meet our requirements.

We are well aware that an increase in food production by itself is not enough unless measures are taken to control the growth of population. India's population today stands at 495 million and it has been increasing at 2.4% a year. Thus the annual increase comes to 12 million. An increase in life expectancy of about 20 years has also added to the population crisis. A network of 22,000 family planning centres has been set up all over the country staffed by medical personnel whose services are free. During the last two years 2.2 million males have undergone Vascectomy. For women the intra-uterine contraceptive device popularly knoVa as the "loop" has been found to be suitable to Indian conditions and a factory at Kanpur is making 30,000 loops a day. I have always said India's motto for the present should be "Loop before you leap". I might add that there is no religious prejudice in India against family planning. In addition to this, the pill and other contraceptives are also in use though on a smaller scale. Our goal is to bring down the birth rate from the present 41 per 1000 to 25 by 1976 and it looks from present indication the goal can be reached.

Finally, I would like to touch on the political aspect. In the last election 251 million voters freely exercised their franchise and the way they did it, I suggest shows a remarkable maturity. In 9 out of 17 provinces the ruling Congress Party was voted out of power but at the centre the voter kept the Congress as the only viable single party. The Congress was taught a lesson but stability at the Centre was not sacrificed. The voter in India has unfortunately a difficult choice. A clear-cut two or three party system as in the U.K. or in Canada has not yet evolved because of historical circumstances. The Congress before independence was, strictly speaking, a national movement for the sole purpose of winning independence. There could be little difference with this goal and people of all ideologies joined together for this purpose. After independence if the Congress, as suggested by Mahatma Gandhi, had dissolved itself, the formation of political parties based on clear-cut ideologies would have taken place. But Congress continued to function as a political party, though a few groups like the Communists and subsequently the Socialists separated out. The fact that leaders of the stature and mass appeal of Jawaharlal Nehru were at the head of Congress also made many people who did not completely agree with Congress policies remain with the party. After the last election, the process of ideological polarization seems to have started. A number of Congress dissidents have formed a front. The old Congress party no longer has the steam roller majority it enjoyed for many years both at the Centre and in the Provinces or, as we call them, States. A new relationship of mutual understanding is growing in the relations between the Central and State Governments but naturally there is a trend for greater autonomy on the part of States. I see exactly the same thing in Canada. These changes and expressions of will are in the very nature and spirit of democarcy: the effect is strengthening not weakening.

In the field of her external relations India has problems mainly with China and Pakistan. With Pakistan, our desire has always been to have friendliest relations. There are hardly two countries in the world that have more in common for we have shared a common history, culture, language and even religion. Every birth creates problems and a cesarean birth complicates these problems. Adjustment is bound to take time. I am quite sure that given time we shall have the friendliest relationships with Pakistan to our mutual benefit. This is one of the goals towards which I work both in my official and personal capacities.

China poses a more difficult problem. Despite our differences and active hostility on China's part, manifested in 1962 and again very recently, we are anxious to settle our differences in a civilized manner by discussion across a table. We still maintain an Embassy in Peking. Despite our efforts there is little response, perhaps because of the internal struggle. How, where and to whom does one talk?

There is one more important aspect of India's external relations. This is her faith in the Commonwealth. Consistent with the aspirations of the Indian people, India became a republic in 1950 and sought continued membership of the Commonwealth. This was accepted primarily due to the enlightened initiative of Canada. India has since then been a Republic within the Commonwealth accepting the Crown as head of the Commonwealth. This structural change, inMRted by India, has made it possible for the other non-white countries of the old empire to join freely this great family Association, an association which cannot but do good. I might add that our relationships with Britain are today warmer and friendlier than they were in the years preceding independence. There are more branches of British banks and more British businessmen in our country today than there were in 1947 and many of the old links remain with British institutions, commercial concerns and expertise. Naturally, from time to time there are differences of opinion but none of these are over-serious and all of them are resolved within the framework of the Commonwealth.

I hope that this talk of mine has given you some aspects of my country, its successes, its failures and its aspirations. Despite our ancient history, as a free country we have only existed for 20 years. This is not a very long time. We have received much assistance in our efforts from our friends, particularly Canada; and in the 14 months I have been High Commissioner I know from personal experience how rich and understanding that friendship has been. I, like the majority of my fellow countrymen, am aware that the main burden lies not on our friends but on ourselves. I am convinced we shall succeed. If I was not, I wouldn't be standing here today.

by John Irwin.

Thanks of the meeting were expressed

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Focus on India

India—its history and civilization. Her cultural and philosophical values. Politics. British rule and its effects. India since independence in 1947: economy, population, health, food production, politics, external relations, and other indicators of her society. India's faith in the Commonwealth. Optimism for India's success in the future.