When UK considered reconciling with ‘traitor’ Subhas Chandra Bose
LONDON: To the British, iconic leader Subhas Chandra Bose was an “enemy” and “traitor”, but Downing Street considered reconciling with his legacy in 1993 during the India visit of then prime minister John Major, who was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
Newly released classified documents at the National Archives show the occasion was considered appropriate to reconcile with Bose in the way the British had with others who rebelled in former colonies, such as Aung San in Myanmar and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
Major visited New Delhi in January 1993. He was the first British premier to be invited as the chief guest since 1947 and the visit was seen as the West showing confidence in post-ayodhya India.
Proposing the gesture of reconciliation during the visit, Alan Rosling, special advisor in Downing Street, wrote to Rodric Braithwaite, Major’s foreign policy advisor: “(Prime Minister PV Narasimha) Rao has gone out his way to resurrect Bose as a figure to counterbalance the Nehru mantle.
“We are quite happy to rehabilitate other ex-colonial leaders who fought us…(my) experience of India is that such a gesture would be welcomed as closing an uneasy chapter in Indo-british relations.” The idea was that Major could “capture massive publicity and goodwill” in India by signalling the reconciliation with Bose, whose Indian National Army aligned with the Japanese and fought British forces in Myanmar and the northeast during World War 2.
The proposal, however, was opposed by Foreign Office officials, including the then British envoy to India, Nicholas Fenn, who “strongly” advised against the attempt at “retrospective reconciliation with Bose, a controversial figure in Indian history”.
Subhas Chandra Bose