Nehru was an Indian nationalist leader and statesman who became the first prime minister of independent India in 1947.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born in Allahabad, the son of a lawyer whose family was originally from Kashmir. He was educated in England, at Harrow School, and then at Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied law at the Inner Temple in London. He returned to India in 1912 and practised law for some years. In 1916, he married Kamala Kaul and the following year they had a daughter, Indira.
In 1919, Nehru joined the Indian National Congress which was fighting for greater autonomy from the British. He was heavily influenced by the organisation's leader Mohandas Gandhi. During the 1920s and 1930s Nehru was repeatedly imprisoned by the British for civil disobedience. In 1928, he was elected president of the Congress.
By the end of World War Two, Nehru was recognised as Gandhi's successor. He played a central role in the negotiations over Indian independence. He opposed the Muslim League's insistence on the division of India on the basis of religion. Louis Mountbatten, the last British viceroy, advocated the division as the fastest and most workable solution and Nehru reluctantly agreed.
On 15 August 1947, Nehru became the first prime minister of independent India. He held the post until his death in 1964. He implemented moderate socialist economic reforms and committed India to a policy of industrialisation.
Nehru also served as foreign minister of India. In October 1947, he faced conflict with Pakistan over the state of Kashmir, which was disputed at independence. Nehru sent troops into the state to support India's claim. A United Nations ceasefire was negotiated, but Kashmir remains deeply unstable to this day.
Against the background of the Cold War, Nehru developed a policy of 'positive neutrality' for India. He became one of the key spokesmen for the non-aligned countries of Africa and Asia, many of which were former colonies that wanted to avoid dependence on any major power.
Despite efforts at cooperation by both countries, Indian-Chinese border disputes escalated into war in 1962 and Indian forces were decisively beaten. This had a significant impact on Nehru's declining health. He died on 27 May 1964.
Two years later Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, became prime minister. With an interruption of only three years, she held the post until her assassination in 1984. Her son Rajiv was prime minister of India from 1984 to 1989, but he too was assassinated.