Nehru’s Bandung

Non-Alignment and Regional Order in Indian Cold War Strategy

June 2024 9781911723189 392pp
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This book sheds light on a neglected aspect of India’s Cold War diplomacy, starting with the role of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Congress government in organising the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung in April 1955. Andrea Benvenuti shows how, in the early Cold War, Nehru seized the opportunity accorded by the conference to transcend growing international tensions and pursue an alternative vision: a neutralised Asian ‘area of peace’, underpinned by a code of conduct based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence.

Relying on Indian, Western and Chinese archival sources, Nehru’s Bandung focuses on the policy concerns and calculations, as well as the international factors, that drove a sceptical Nehru to support Indonesia’s diplomatic push for such a gathering. It reveals how, in Nehru’s estimation, Bandung also served a further important purpose—securing China’s commitment to peaceful coexistence, without which stability in Asia would be illusory.

Nehru’s support for an Asian-African conference did not derive from an emotional commitment to Afro-Asian internationalism. Instead, it stemmed from a desire to promote a ‘third way’ in an increasingly polarised world, and to forge a stable regional order—one that would enhance India’s external security and domestic prosperity.


‘This is absolutely a book for our times. Benvenuti takes the reader beyond traditional patterns of Cold War historiography. He explores new perspectives on mid-range powers other than the US, Soviet Union and China, and embraces this major shift with vigour. This is a really important and scholarly account of complicated and constantly shifting regional politics.’ — Anne Deighton, Emeritus Professor of European International Politics, University of Oxford

‘A compelling account of India’s role in the Cold War, which has hitherto received limited attention. Given recent developments in the international arena, pressures on the current world order, and the movement towards a multi-polar world, this could not be more timely.’ — Ang Cheng Guan, Associate Dean and Professor of the International History of Southeast Asia, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

‘This is the first detailed attempt to reconstruct Nehru’s role in organising the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung, drawing upon an extensive and often overlooked body of archival resources.’ — David Martin Jones, Visiting Professor in War Studies, King’s College London

‘A thorough, clear and insightful explanation of how and why Nehru’s grand aspiration that a new India could forge a new Asia came to grief when it hit the hard brick wall of the Chinese pursuit of national interests.’ — Brian P. Farrell, Professor of History, National University of Singapore

‘The book’s genius is to use Nehru as the main window onto events, showing diplomacy-in-the-making, as newly independent Asian countries attempted to reshape international relations in the 1950s. Benvenuti reveals the motives, diplomacy and tensions behind attempts to encourage “peaceful coexistence” with China, achieve Indochina’s neutralisation, and forge a non-aligned path in the face of American opposition.’ — Karl Hack, Professor of Asian and Imperial History, Open University


Andrea Benvenuti is Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations at the University of New South Wales, teaching twentieth-century international history at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He holds a DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford. His current research focuses on the Cold War in Asia.

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