IN A LONDON hotel, two prime ministers sit down to breakfast. One is tall, lean, white-haired and speaks in a raspy, unmistakably working-class Australian accent. In public and private he smokes a pipe near constantly. The other is a protégé of Mahatma Gandhi who has spent over ten years detained in British colonial prisons in India, whose charisma and erudition have made him world famous; his preferred dress is an achkan, a knee-length coat. On this morning in April 1949, it’s fair to say, they appear to passers-by quite the odd couple.
The two men discuss a dispute that has brought newly independent India to the verge of leaving the Commonwealth. India seeks assurances that the postwar Commonwealth is a genuine association of free and equal members, not ‘led’ by a still-imperial Britain. In the words of the Indian leader who sits here at breakfast, India needs to know that the... Read more
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