Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Mänttä
Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Mänttä
A major guest visited, stood in the headline of an image report published in the personnel magazine Tehdas ja me (Mill and us), when ”Mänttä ended up in the national and international spotlight” in June 1957. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrived at Kuorevesi airport on a DC3-aeroplane on Wednesday morning June 19th accompanied by Finland’s Foreign Minister Johannes Virolainen. On the airport they were met by R. Erik Serlachius, director of G. A. Serlachius Ltd, along with a bunch of journalists that the police steer away from the guest. According to the photographs, local security measures seemed small-scale.
In Mänttä, Nehru was given a guided tour at the mill, the head office, Mäntänvuori hill area and Tammikangas residential area where the guests were even able to enter the home of Teofiilus Rajamäki. The guests also had time for a short visit at Serlachius estate at Huhkojärvi where a girls’ gymnastics show was organised for them to see. At Vuorenmaja skiing cabinet the journalists “occupied such firm positions, so that Nehru and our mill owner were caught in a persistent crossfire.” Nehru seemed very satisfied with what he had seen and he, on the other hand, captivated the inhabitants of Mänttä with his modesty, reported the personnel magazine. Moreover, his personality seemed to have charmed the mill owner’s spouse and daughters, who waved for the guest in a royal manner as he climbed into the aeroplane.
The first Prime Minister of India since the country become independent, Nehru made a three-day-trip to Finland and visited also other Nordic countries on his journey. In Finland he visited Lastenlinna Children’s hospital, Finnish Parliament and had a meeting with President Kekkonen. During his mandate as Prime Minister, Nehru initiated broad economic and social reforms which helped India get organised as a unitary and modern state. His influence extended also to international politics.
The visit to Mänttä may have been related to the first Finnish-Indian bilateral development project realised in Punjab in 1957–58 which emerged as a result of Nehru’s trip to Finland. Two Finnish experts in forest and wood industry spend a good half a year in the Dehra Dun Forest Research Institute in the northwestern India where they acquainted themselves with Himalayan coniferous forests. Subsequently, four Indian foresters spend one year on a scholarship in Finland. The idea behind the cooperation was to promote Finnish planning and machinery import, if pulp or paper mills using the coniferous trees of the mountain areas had been established in the region.
Nehru was renowned as an envoy of peaceful international relations. A small country, Finland’s engagement in development and other co-operation was considered a means to build world peace. Promoting human justice and all humans’ equal right to enjoy economic and cultural welfare was considered a way to get to that point. Humankind would have the resources for this if it wasted less power in war preparations.
President Kekkonen referred to Nehru’s visit in his New Year’s address in 1958. In addition to the Indian Prime Minister, the Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrustschev also visited Finland around the same time. However, good external relations were threatened by ever accelerating arms race. “Even though all nations aspire to live in peace, mistrust and fear have led to a situation where peace is deemed secured only by arming oneself as far as space.”
Tehdas ja me 3/1957
Virtanen, Rauli. Kaivoja Köyhille? Suomalaisen Kehitysyhteistyön Vuosikymmenet. WSOY, 2013.