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‘Germany felt that Russia should invade India’

2 December, 2021 17:18:04
‘Germany felt that Russia should invade India’

November was the month when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose established the Free India Centre in the German capital of Berlin in 1941. This centre subsequently became the hub of his interactions with the then German government, and these are the focus of the tenth edition of ‘The Anita Dialogues’ featuring guest panelists Dr Anton Pelinka, professor of political science and nationalism studies at the Central European University of Budapest and former professor of political science at the University of Innsbruck, and Kiran Mukerji, architect and half-German son of Brajalal Mukerji, one of the founders of the Indian National Army (INA). Of course, alongside them is Netaji’s daughter Dr Anita Bose Pfaff.

The Anita Dialogues is a series of monthly conversations with Dr Bose Pfaff, aired on YouTube and conducted by Sampriti, an organisation of Bengalis in Germany, to mark the 125th year of Netaji’s birth. The conversations, which will continue until February 2022, are being moderated by Sampriti’s founder and current president, Shaibal Giri. 


Dr Pelinka, who has authored the book ‘Democracy Indian Style: Subhas Chandra Bose and the Creation of India’s Political Culture’, talks about Netaji’s strategy of aligning with any power opposed to the British in his quest for India’s independence, which led him to approach the German government, though “he was not a friend of Nazi philosophy or Nazi racism”. The problem was, Netaji’s protest against the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 effectively isolated him. As Dr Pelinka points out, “He had some friends in the German Foreign Office, but Hitler completely ignored him… Germany was never willing to sign any declaration in favour of Indian independence…” In part, Dr Pelinka ascribes this to Netaji’s “misunderstanding” of the Nazi government, and refers to how in 1940, Hitler proposed to then Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov that Russia invade India in order to discomfit the British!

Headed by ACN Nambiar, the Free India Centre was primarily responsible for managing relations with the European Axis powers, supporting and recruiting volunteers for the Indian Legion of the Waffen-SS, operating Azad Hind Radio, and preparing for the provisional Indian government to be formed in southeast Asia with Japanese support. The centre also had branch offices in Paris and Italy, and was essentially treated as a diplomatic mission by Germany. 

Mukerji, whose father married German citizen Eva Marie in 1943, talks about how his father was one of the principal speakers on Azad Hind Radio, where he broadcast in Bengali. “He couldn’t speak to his family, but knew they could hear him on the radio and knew he was alive,” he says.

For more such fascinating anecdotes and extremely illuminating insights into how important a role the Free India Centre truly played in the struggle for Indian independence, do tune in to ‘The Anita Dialogues’ from the link provided above.

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