When UK con­sid­ered rec­on­cil­ing with ‘traitor’ Sub­has Chan­dra Bose

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - CORPORATE BUZZ - Pra­sun Son­walkar let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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

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