Axis’ allies

It’s not just Shashi Tharoor: India made a joint bid along with Germany and Japan, Brazil tagging along, for a permanent UN security council seat on Sep. 22. Sometimes history has a way of sneaking up on you: The U.S. pushed the UN to offer India the same seat, with veto power, in 1955, but Nehru unbelievably gave it up in favor of China, which invaded India seven years later (via the Acorn).

“…India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place, and then the question of India might be discussed separately.” –Jawaharlal Nehru

Ah, Nehru’s idea of realpolitik. India’s alignment with Axis powers is nothing new. During WWII, Indian nationalist Subhash Chandra Bose met with Hitler to get him to give up Indian POWs fighting for the British (thanks, Turbanhead). The plan was to convert them into an army fighting for Indian independence. The plan fell through, and Netaji eventually carried out a different plan with Japanese support:

the Indian Legion came to a rather sad end… the Germans would be unlikely to get anywhere near India. Second, after Bose left Germany in 1943, the Legion was left without an effective leader… Now they knew they weren’t going to be fighting for India’s freedom, and their morale and discipline disintegrated. Many deserted, some joined the French resistance, and the rest disappeared in the chaos of the German retreat.

Bose’s biggest frustration in Germany had to do with diplomatic recognition. He wanted Germany to officially recognize India as independent, and him as the leader of a government in exile. This the Germans refused to give him. The reasons lay partly in apathy, partly in the Master Race mentality, and partly in the peculiarities of Hitler’s vision of the post-war world.

Hitler was not entirely comfortable with the idea of helping Indians – whom he saw as racially inferior – to defeat the British. The British were Aryans, after all… He was perfectly willing to use Bose to make trouble for the British, but he had no long-term interest in India’s future, one way or another.

Prior to the independence movement, Indian soldiers fought for Britain in WWI, and there is a memorial in Hindi, Urdu and English in Brighton, England for these soldiers. In WWII, there was even a destroyer named the HMS Sikh, along with the HMS Gurkha. They should’ve made it an aircraft carrier — Sikhs have greater surface area up top :)

8 thoughts on “Axis’ allies

  1. WOW, I never knew India actually gave up a permanent seat in the security council, in favor of CHINA?

    Seriously, some of policies post Independence really mucked things up and haunt India today.

  2. Manish, this is interesting. why did Nehru decide to give up the seat in favor of china? any idea? And now we are trying again after so many years..strange decisions. I forgot all my indian history, thanks for this article..Netaji and hitler pact…very strange. I think at the end no one knew when and where subhash chandra bose met his end…

  3. why did Nehru decide to give up the seat in favor of china?

    He was trying to stay on China’s good side and probably the USSR’s as well. The U.S. wanted India to take China’s place as a way to counter communism.

  4. India also was the leader of the “Non Aligned” nations. By being involved in the security council as permanent member, that would put it under pressure.

  5. thanks so much Manish for clarifying.. I wonder why india being a democratic country always favoured a ex-communist country like USSR over a democratic country like USA.. may its the location (asia) and trying to be good neighbour or protecting the country from neighbours. Manish any comments on this….

  6. How can one say Hitler had no intrests in India’s future one way or the other?

    He always had intrests in the “Arab future”, and even set up orginizations where Arabs could visit Berlin and make plans for the “Greater Arabia” which the “New Germany” would asist them in building.

    People love to hate Hitler the RACIST and refuse to see the historical, true Hitler the IDEALIST.

    Maby Hitler had intrests in both the future of England AND India, just as he did for the Arab countries, and Asian countries.

  7. Josef Goebbels wrote in his diary on 1 March:

    “We have succeeded in prevailing upon the Indian nationalist leader, Bose, to issue an imposing declaration of war against England. It will be published most prominently in the German press and commented upon. In that way we shall now begin our official fight on behalf of India, even though we don’t as yet admit it openly”.8 On 14 March, he remarked of Bose, “He is an excellent worker.”9 The fall of Singapore was a signal for Netaji to broadcast his first official speech over the Free India Radio, repeating his vow to fight British imperialism until the end. This he followed with a declaration of war against England, although at that stage such a pronouncement could only be symbolic. Netaji had not yet obtained an Axis declaration in support of the freedom of India that he pressed for in the supplement of his first memorandum to the German government. That government was of the opinion that the time was not ripe yet for such a declaration and unless a pronouncement of this nature could be supported by military action, it would not be of much value.

  8. All the Indians of the Leauge claimed they were treated beautifully by the Germans as they always had. And Bose may not have gotten everything he wanted, but to say that his work in Germany was a waste is an insult, the Germans surly did not feel that way.

    Here is an expert from “Ranjan Borra” in his book:

    Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian National Army, and the War of India’s Liberation

    A few words must be added regarding the Indo-German cooperation and comradeship during the critical days of World War II when the Legion was formed. None could describe it better than Adalbert Seifriz, who was a German Officer in the training camp of the Legionaries. He writes, Agreeing to the proposal of Bose was a magnificient concession and consideration shown to the great personality of Bose by the German Government in those critical times when all German efforts were concentrated on the war … The mutual understanding and respect between Indians and Germans and the increasing contact between them in the interest of the common task made it possible for the Indian Legion to sustain and keep up discipline right up to the German capitulation in 1945. During the period of training and even afterwards the comradeship between Indians and Germans could not be destroyed … A meeting with Subhas Bose was a special event for the German training staff. We spent many evenings with him, discussing the future of India. He lives in the minds of the training staff members as an idealistic and fighting personality, never sparing himself in the service of his people and his country … The most rewarding fact was the real comradeship which grew between Indians and Germans, which proved true in dangerous hours, and exists still today in numerous cases. The Indian Legion was a precious instrument in strengthening and consolidating Indo-German friendship.13 A report of Hitler’s visit to the Indian Legion headquarters in Dresden was given by Shantaram Vishnu Samanta (one of the Legionaries) during a press interview in India, after his release from an internment camp. According to his statement, Hitler addressed the soldiers of the Legion after Netaji had left for East Asia. He spoke in German and his speech was translated into Hindustani by an interpreter. He said: You are fortunate having been born in a country of glorious cultural traditions and a colossal manpower. I am impressed by the burning passion with which you and your Netaji seek to liberate your country from foreign domination. Your Netaji’s status is even greater than mine. While I am the leader of eighty million Germans, he is the leader of 400 million Indians. In all respects he is a greater leader and a greater general than myself. I salute him, and Germany salutes him. It is the duty of all Indians to accept him as their führer and obey him implicitly. I have no doubt that if you do this, his guidance will lead India very soon to freedom. A statement by another soldier of the Indian Legion, who remains anonymous, has a somewhat different version. It stated that both Netaji and Hitler took a joint salute of the Indian Legion and a German infantry. In addition to comments cited earlier, Hitler was reported to have made these remarks as well: German civilians, soldiers and free Indians! I take this opportunity to welcome your acting Führer, Herr Subhas Chandra Bose. He has come here to guide all those free Indians who love their country and are determined to free it from foreign yoke. It is too much for me to dare to give you any instructions or advice because you are sons of a free country, and you would naturally like to obey implicitly the accredited leader of your own land.14 However, reports of Hitler’s visit and address to the Indian Legionaries are not confirmed from any other source. Netaji would be leaving Germany on 8 February 1943. On 26 January, “Independence Day for India,” there was a great party in Berlin where hundreds of guests drank his health. On 28 January, which was set aside for observance as the “Legion Day” in honor of the Indian Legion, he addressed the Legion for the last time. It is believed that his departure was kept secret from his army. So, there were no visible emotions among the men; no gesture of a farewell. The impression Netaji was leaving at the Free India Center was that he was going on a prolonged tour. So there were no signs of any anxiety. Except for a few top-ranking German officers and his closest aides, hardly anybody was aware that within a week-and-a-half he would be embarking on a perilous journey: a submarine voyage through mine-infested waters to the other side of the world. In his absence, Nambiar settled down in his job as his successor and soon gained respect of the Legionaries.