Why can’t India and the U. S. end their spat?

BLAIR FRASER, after three months in Asia, turns his spotlight on one problem that surely can be solved—the growing breach between these two world leaders that makes things easier for the Communists

February 15 1955

Why can’t India and the U. S. end their spat?

BLAIR FRASER, after three months in Asia, turns his spotlight on one problem that surely can be solved—the growing breach between these two world leaders that makes things easier for the Communists

February 15 1955

Why can’t India and the U. S. end their spat?

BLAIR FRASER, after three months in Asia, turns his spotlight on one problem that surely can be solved—the growing breach between these two world leaders that makes things easier for the Communists



AFTER THREE MONTHS of travel in eleven countries of Asia a reporter becomes inured to the insoluble. Starvation, ignorance and disease; political instability and economic crisis; the threat of chaos and the certainty of want—all these are manifest from Jordan to Japan and back again, and each creates a problem of staggering difficulty and complexity.

In all Asia only one major problem stands out as relatively easy, relatively simple, something that could perhaps be solved by an act of will. This is the growing estrangement between India, natural leader of free Asia, and the United States, leader of the whole free world—a breach that goes far beyond India alone and affects the struggle against Communism all over Asia.

No visitor to either country can doubt that the estrangement exists and is growing wider. American press and public, even American officials, speak of India almost as an enemy. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whose own people tend to regard him as an infallible superman, appears to many Americans a fellow traveler or a fool, or both.

In fact, of course, Nehru is a great man of proven courage and wisdom, but also of proven human frailty. His foreign policy is “non-alignment,” which Americans prefer to call “neutralism” a deliberate attempt to stand between the two great power blocs and take sides as seldom as possible. Nehru argues that it’s more important to keep one major nation uncommitted, and with some claim to impartiality, than it is to present a common front on every international issue however trivial. In application, though, his policy often strikes even his best friends as a willingness to condone the Communist conspiracy while magnifying every mote in the eye of Western democracy.

But Nehru does speak as the authentic voice of India, and India is the only free and stable democracy between the Mediterranean and the eastern shores of the Pacific. India has a strong government whose hold on the people’s loyalty is unquestionable, and an economy which though still in difficulty is making visible progress. No other Asian country has both these advantages and most of them have neither.

India with her 350-odd million people is bigger than the rest of FYee Asia put together. Indeed it is hardly an exaggeration to say that India ¿s Free Asia—that if we haven’t got India on our side we haven’t got Asia at all.

Most observers from Canada and other allied countries wish the U. S. were more inclined to share this view. They think Washington should put more value on the friendship of India, less on a rabble of puppets and pensioners like Chiang Kai-shek, Syngman Rhee and the preposterous gangsters of South Viet Nam.

What really annoys them, though, is the

Continued on page 73

India and the U. S.


needless and frivolous aggravation of this enfeebling breach between two great democracies. On both sides, but especially perhaps on the Indian side, ill feeling is being fed by behavior that can fairly be called childish and silly.

Policy disagreements alone would not create the bitterness that exists. Such warm friends as Canada and Britain also disagree with the U. S. on some of the same points, without serious damage to the friendship that binds us all together. In India there is more than disagreement. There is a consistent pattern of hostility that sometimes amounts to mean, petty persecution of Americans.

I flew to Calcutta from Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, with a young American who is in Asia to find ways of helping Asian people with U. S. dollars. As we buckled our seat belts | for the landing, I suggested that we have dinner.

“You’d better not wait for me,” he said. “I’m an American. Last time I came here it took me two and a half ! hours to get through Customs and j Immigration. But you—with your Canadian passport you'll go through in ten minutes.”

He had a little better luck this time. It wasn’t more than half an hour after I had got through—time enough to make a few phone calls, send two cables and read the evening papers—when he too was free to come for dinner. But since he was staying in Calcutta only six hours on his way to Hong Kong, even this delay seemed a bit more than common sense required.

Condone Bureaucratic Bias

In Karachi, West Pakistan, a group of American officials chartered an airplane to take their children to a school in the hill country of northern India. Twelve children made up the entire passenger list. Every one of them carried either a diplomatic passport or a special passport, and their baggage was the sole cargo on the flight. Nevertheless it took them five hours to get through Customs and Immigration at New Delhi.

Another U. S. official in Karachi has a boy at school in the same cool northern region of India. Last July the boy wrote to his father to send some warm clothing for the fall. The father sent it. Late in August he received a communication from the Customs office in Bombay, requesting forty-five dollars for duty on the used clothing. He sent the money. By December the clothes had not yet arrived, and the boy was feeling very chilly.

Nobody imagines that this behavior of petty bureaucrats is actually commanded by the Government of India. But neither is it forbidden, although it is notorious. It’s an expression at the lowest level of an attitude that permeates the Indian government all the way to the top. Most of the men around Prime Minister Nehru today have an anti-American bias.

Nehru is “infatuated,” in the words of one Indian journalist, with V. K. Krishna Menon, who as India’s chief delegate to the United Nations has probably annoyed the Americans more and oftener than any other Indian. Nehru wanted to have Krishna Menon in his cabinet to help him with foreign affairs, and was very much annoyed when other ministers balked. (One told a friend of mine he intended to resign if Krishna Menon entered the cabinet.) But though Nehru now seems to have

“Many public men say only wliat they think Neliru would most like to hear”

dropped his plan for promoting his friend, Krishna Menon remains a most influential voice.

Menon’s anti-Americanism is chronic, habitual, and goes far beyond the confines of foreign policy. He lived for eighteen years in London where he made many close friendships in the left wing of the British Labour Party, and His view of the U. S. is very much that of Aneurin Bevan.

Among those who echo Menon’s anti-American views is K. M. Panikkar, onetime ambassador to Red China and now ambassador to Egypt. Panikkar is not the power he once was in New Delhi, hut he still has some weight. And around and below these well-known names are others the average Westerner has never heard of, all singing the same tune.

In many interviews with Indian officials and politicians I don’t recall one who ever mentioned that U. S. dollar aid to India totaled a hundred and four millions in 1953. On the other hand, few failed to mention all the major policy disagreements between India and the U. S., usually in a way to suggest that they all sprang from American perversity or ignorance. The tone was always either bitter or patronizing, and sometimes it was both.

I asked a great many people why this attitude was so widespread in the government service. The most sardonic answer, but one of the most convincing, came from a shrewd old Indian journalist: “Many public men

say not what they think, but what they think Nehru would most like to hear. If they got the idea that he’d rather hear praise of the U. S. and criticism of the USSR, they’d begin at once to talk like registered Republicans.”

But why should Nehru prefer to hear them run down the U. S.?

“I think our Prime Minister is a great man and I am proud of him, but he is also the vainest and most conceited man I have ever known in my life. He wants to be a power in world affairs. He wants to be consulted, to feel he is shaping great decisions. The British know this, and play up to it. The Americans don’t.”

If there’s any truth in this analysis, and it does seem to fit at least some of the facts, some Americans have gone out of their way to make matters worse. Partly by sheer ill luck, partly because of wounded vanities on their side too, U. S. spokesmen have often aroused needless animosity in India.

It was ill luck, for example, that a very able U. S. ambassador in India some years ago had a voluble wife who detested the country. He did his job conscientiously and well, as Indians now admit. She undid any good he had been able to do by trumpeting, on more or less public occasions, her low opinion of India and of all things and persons Indian, especially the Indian prime minister.

There have been other slights, though, not merely unlucky but official and deliberate. On several occasions, and most recently in planning the Geneva conference on Korea and Indo-China, American delegates have insisted on keeping India out of committees or councils in which India would like to have been included. Canadian and British statesmen place a high value on India’s carefully cultivated ability to play a middle role between the two power blocs. Americans tend to treat India as if she were hardly distinguishable from an enemy.

One of the worst examples of the! gratuitous affront came a little more than a year ago, during Vice-President Richard Nixon’s visit to India and Pakistan. Vanity may have had something to do with it, too.

Nixon’s stay in New Delhi was not a success. Indians say he got exactly the same treatment as their own VicePresident Radakrishnan had got in Washington not long before. Apparently it was less glamorous than the reception Nixon had in other places like Formosa, Thailand and (later) Pakistan. Whether or not it had any effect on his judgment, Nixon gave several people the impression that he was offended at being treated as a Veep instead of as a VIP.

Just after Nixon left for Karachi Robert Trumbull, the able and respected correspondent of the New York Times in New Delhi, also flew to Karachi. Trumbull then wrote an interpretive story for his paper which named no source, but which the Government of India instantly took to be an interview with Vice-President Nixon. It was written in careful moderate language, but it could be boiled down without undue exaggeration into a harsh sentence:

United States policy is to isolate India and undermine Nehru.

In any case, that was New Delhi’s interpretation of the story, and it came as a shock. Nixon and Nehru had had an hour’s conversation the week before, and although Nixon hadn’t said much he had left behind the impression of general agreement with the views Nehru expounder!. The Karachi interview was a painful letdown.

Aid a Pretext for Enmity

It came just at the moment when the new program of U. S. military aid to Pakistan was being worked out. Washington had been assuring New Delhi that in providing arms and munitions to Pakistan the U. S. was not doing anything unfriendly to India. The Indians hadn’t believed this anyway, but after the Nixon incident they regarded it as deliberate hypocrisy.

To many Americans living in India the military aid to Pakistan seems unwise. Its defenders say it is merely another link in the globe-encircling chain of U. S. allies against the Communist bloc. Pakistan is a firmly friendly nation, they say, that isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted among anti-Communist powers; the treaty itself provides that these U. S. arms mustn’t be used against India or any other country friendly to the U. S.

Still, the aid program was offered at a time when Tndia and Pakistan had agreed after six years of bickering to start plans for a plebiscite in Kashmir. Kashmir is a onetime princely state that now is claimed by both countries, and in 1947 was a cause of open war between them. India has held most of it since the cease-fire; Pakistan has been urging a plebiscite among its Moslem population which India has found repeated pretexts to stall off. For various complex reasons the Kashmir dispute lies at the root of every major issue between India and Pakistan, and its settlement is essential to a stable peace on the Indian subcontinent. U. S. military aid gave India a pretext for breaking off the Kashmir negotiations, which now are back where they were five years ago.

It also gave ample pretext for Indian

hostility toward the U. S. The hostility had existed before—some people think it contributed to the U. S. decision to arm Pakistan—but it certainly became more intense and more widespread. One journalist of pro-Western views explained the Indian reaction thus: “Rightly or wrongly we are not afraid of Red China. China is far away across the Himalayas, and we don’t think she is threatening us. But the United States is threatening our security by arming our enemy. So the U. S. is a danger to us and China is not; that’s how it looks to us.”

Of course the U. S. agreement with Pakistan stipulates that the arms shall not be used for aggressive purposes, but Indians brush that aside:

“Americans are so naïve as to think that because they told the Pakistani not to use the arms against India, the Pakistani won’t do it. But the U. S. has no troops in Pakistan to stop them from doing it. The tribesmen will be across our border before the Americans even know it, and then they will hold a post mortem in Washington and decide that Pakistan shouldn’t have done it.”

In spite of these plausible arguments, though, and in spite of the fact the U. S. intends to give Pakistan as much military aid as her army and her economy can absorb, it’s pretty hard to believe that India is afraid of Pakistan. Indians outnumber Pakistani about five to one, and this proportion is roughly maintained in their armed forces. India has considerable resources of heavy industry, Pakistan has next to none. India has a stable, fairly efficient government; Pakistan has not. There is some ground to fear an irresponsible outburst by a Paki-

stani government trying to divert attention from social and economic ills at home, but this danger existed anyway.

Although no settlement in Kashmir is yet in sight, and both sides say this is essential to peace, the atmosphere in both countries has improved noticeably. Any gesture of friendship is prominently displayed in the Press. Prime Minister Mohammed Ali of Pakistan has in his living room a large, personally inscribed portrait of Prime Minister Nehru. At a recent press conference Nehru was asked to comment on some act or utterance by Pakistan; he answered: “I have nothing to say about Pakistan except to wish her well.”

Not long ago Ghulam Mohammed, Governor-General of Pakistan, paid a brief visit to the Indian city of Lucknow which had been his home for many years before partition. He spoke of Lucknow and of his old friends there with great warmth and feeling, and his remarks appeared on the front pages of all the leading newspapers in both countries.

Pakistan’s leading opposition party, which has an excellent chance of winning a general election whenever Pakistan holds one, is committed to a platform of friendship and co-operation with India as the first aim of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

These things strengthen the hope that even military aid to Pakistan, though admittedly the sorest of all the real policy issues between India and the U. S., might be smoothed over by resolute good will and good nature on both sides. As for the other policy issues, Indian comment on them is markedly milder than it used to be.

One, for example, is the recognition of Red China and the support of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on Formosa. When I interviewed Prime Minister Nehru in New Delhi four years ago he spent some time decrying the Formosa policy of the U. S. and arguing that the U. S. should recognize the Communist regime, even though the Korean War was then in full swing. This time, though it would be too strong to say his views had changed, he certainly presented them with different emphasis.

This time he talked more about the coastal islands, those small Nationalist strongholds that lie just off the China coast and are used as bases for Chiang’s air attacks on the Communist-held mainland. Nehru thought China could not tolerate such a threat to her security, and would have to dislodge Chiang’s forces from these nearby bases. (The new U. S. defense pact with Chiang pointedly omits any guarantee to protect these coastal islands.)

Nehru went on: “I am not speaking now of Formosa—that is a very big question—but these little islands are a real threat to China and are actually being used for attacks here and now.”

When he called Formosa “a very big question,” did he mean it was a problem with no easy solution? What did he think could or should be done about Formosa?

“It’s not for me to suggest a solution,” Nehru said. “Both sides say that Formosa is rightfully a part of China—that is not only Chinese Communist doctrine, it’s American doctrine. Of course it started with the Cairo Declaration during the war, but it’s been repeated often enough since then, and even since the Communists came to power on the mainland.”

“However,” he added, “I certainly would not wish to see Formosa captured by war, or become the cause of a war.”

But what alternative did he see? It was obviously impossible to hand over Chiang Kai-shek and his six hundred

-thousand soldiers to the Communists without a fight. Was there any alternative to considering Formosa a part of China? Could it become independent?

“I don’t know what the solution is,” Nehru replied, “but I would say this: Any solution to a problem as big as that must come about step by step. The first step should be to stop the fighting there. Then we might find a way of going on to another step.”

Obviously, this is very close to President Eisenhower’s view of the Formosa problem. Since he reimposed the order to the U. S. Seventh Fleet to “neutralize” the Formosa Strait and prevent attacks in either direction, he has brought about precisely the ceasefire that Prime Minister Nehru recommended.

I asked Nehru about his opposition to the Southeast Asia Defense Organization, set up by U. S. initiative at the Manila Conference last summer. Partly because of India’s hostility to the whole project the only Asian nations in the pact are Thailand, the Philippines and—belatedly and not very enthusiastically—Pakistan.

Nehru said: “I am convinced that

China has no aggressive intentions, no aims at conquest outside her own borders. She has a colossal internal problem. When I visited China they talked to me of three or even four Five-Year Plans merely to lay the foundations of a socialist state. After that, they thought they might be able to start to build. These people are not seeking unnecessary external problems. They’re not an insecure government.

“I’m quite convinced they have no designs of aggression on neighboring states unless they think those states are being used, or are going to be used, as bases for an attack on China.”

A Quote from Ernie Bevin

Was that his real objection to the Southeast Asia Defense Pact, then, that it might plant this suspicion in the Chinese mind?

“Exactly. I think we must remember that China has some reason to fear attack. We hear prominent people in the United States—I don’t say the American Government, but people who could easily be mistaken for spokesmen of the American Government —proclaiming their intention of hitting China a mortal blow. The American Government is certainly nursing the enemies of China, Chiang Kai-shek and Syngman Rhee, and giving them supplies and weapons with which to attack China.

“When I was there they told me a great deal, and with full details, about the attacks Chiang is making on the Chinese mainland. Not only bombing attacks, but parachuting ammunition and weapons and wireless sets to his agents on the ground. These things are actually going on. The regime on Formosa is an actual threat to China - of course the regime in China is also a threat to Formosa, but I’m trying to put this as it appears to the Chinese. They have reason to think they’re in danger.”

He thought that was why China felt it necessary to keep ten million men under arms. Didn’t he think there was any possibility that this huge army might be an aggressive threat?

“I’ll tell you a story,” Nehru said. “At the first Colombo Conference in 1950 the then Foreign Secretary of Britain, the late Ernie Bevin, was talking about Russia. He said: ‘We

made a serious mistake with Soviet Russia after the 1917 revolution. We behaved in a way that convinced the Russians we were their enemies. We made them feel beleaguered, encircled. Now we have to reckon with the

psychology that our attitude created.

“ ‘I hope we’re not going to make the same mistake with China,’ Ernie Bevin said.”

It’s a familiar point of view, especially in India, but I was struck by the Prime Minister’s tone. He spoke without heat, calmly and reflectively, with none of the indignation he sometimes reveals when he talks about world affairs. As he said (not quite accurately) at the beginning of the interview, “I don’t criticize what other governments say or do unless it’s something directly affecting India.”

A shrewd European diplomat suggested a reason for the mild attitude of Nehru, much milder than that of the average Indian you meet, toward such policy questions as the Southeast Asia Defense Organization: “I think

Nehru realizes at the back of his mind that he might be wrong in his judgment of China’s intentions, and the United States might be right. In that case, of course, India would have cause to be thankful that some defense preparations had been made. He can never say this publicly, of course, because it would damage his cherished policy of

‘non-alignment.,’ but I’m quite sure the feeling is there.”

From an Indian elder statesman I heard a strong confirming opinion: “Nehru was more disturbed by his visit to Red China than he has indicated in public. Two of his cabinet ministers told me the Prime Minister came back much cooler toward the Chinese Communists than before.

“It was partly because he’d got no satisfactory assurances from Premier Chou En-lai about the activities of the overseas Chinese. As you know, there are twelve million Chinese in various

i6To Indian eyes, U. S. foreign policy is like a mansion built on quicksand”

countries of south and southeast Asia, and they could be a serious political threat. Nehru had counted on getting some firm agreement with Chou En-lai to restrain them. All he got was a meaningless platitude—Chou said they were either loyal naturalized citizens who’d cut off their ties with China, or else they were loyal Chinese who took no part in local politics. Nehru knew, of course, that this was nonsense, and it bothers him.

“The other thing that cooled him off was more flattering to China but no less serious to India. Nehru was more than impressed, he was alarmed by the industrial progress of Communist China. He thought China was going ahead faster than India, and it gave him quite a scare.”

But if these sobering second thoughts have come to the Indian Prime Minister, they certainly have not come to the average Indian politician or journalist. Among them there’s still a strong sympathy for the new China, not as a Communist power but as an Asian one.

“We feel proud,” an intelligent, conservative Indian economist said, “to see an Asian nation holding hexown as a great power in the world. We ourselves were so long under European dominance that we had almost come to believe Europeans were all-powerful, and it gave us a thrill to see an Asian country like ourselves standing on her own feet.

“Also, we think the present government of China is China’s last chance. After a century of weakness and disorder she has at last got a strong central government, but if this one fails then China is doomed for a long time to come. When we see the United States trying to overthrow that government and put China back into weakness and chaos, that seems to us really a wicked policy.”

Americans find this attitude pretty hard to take, after all the American blood shed in Korea for no American interest except the general one of collective security. They find it hard that they should be regarded as wicked aggressors by people to whom they have freely given massive amounts of aid, without asking anything in return. And Indians, even the most intelligent, seem to be singularly obtuse about realizing this natural American reaction.

The Eastern Economist, one of the best periodicals in India, made a shrewd observation in a recent issue:

The point that India needs to come to an understanding with the United States should be as obvious as the point that India has to come to an understanding with the People’s Republic of China. Why is it then that, while Indian opinion is so ready to recognize the latter point, it is so unready to recognize the former? This is a question to which observers both here and abroad have been slow to find an explanation. In India itself the point is not even entertained; unconsciously, for the most part, it is by-passed. We consider ourselves to be supremely realistic in regard to the People’s Republic of China. We argue that the People’s Republic of China is a fact and a momentous one, and therefore it cannot be ignored. Nobody seems to be concerned about the equally indisputable px-oposition that the United States is a fact and, for the present, an even more momentous one.

But if India tends to turn a blind

eye to the fact of American power, Indians can fairly charge that Americans have the same blindness to the strength and status of India.

To Indian eyes, American foreign policy looks like a maixsion built not merely on sand but on quicksand. Its farthest eastern bastion is ex-enemy Japan, a beaten and dispirited country whex-e no one has any solution to an economic problem increasingly desperate, or any suggestion how Japan can get on without massive American aid.

Recently, under U. S. urging, Japan has launched a rather half-hearted rearmament pi'ogram. It is a somewhat specious invasion of the postwar Japanese constitution which the U. S. itself dictated, and which forbids Japan to have any armed forces. It is also regarded by the average Japanese as a mere attempt to recruit American mercenaries. As a result, even though unemployment in Japan is serious and growing, there has been a disappointing response to the call of the National Defense Force.

Oxitshine the Motley Crew

The next American allies on the eastern rim of Asia are two outright pensioners, Syngman Rhee in Korea and Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa. Then, after passing the tiny and virtually defenseless British colony of Hong Kong, we come to the fantastic mess in Indo-China—where the best Uncle Sam can hope for is another pensioner, and the worst is a bloodless and legal Communist victory.

The Philippines, a shaky and struggling democracy; Thailand, an ancient, corrupt and complacent dictatorship; Pakistan, racked by a political crisis that now seems almost chronic—these complete the tally of America’s Far Eastern allies.

Indians may be pardoned for believing that their country is more important than all this motley crew put together. India is the only country in all Asia which is both stable and free; it is bigger and stronger and healthier than all the rest of the continent outside the Bamboo Curtain. To talk about a Free Asia without India is obvious nonsense, they feel.

Indians are hurt as well as annoyed when their policy of “non-alignment” is mocked or damned as “neutralism.” They aren’t neutral, they insist; they are for freedom and against Communism. But they do believe it’s important that some nation or group of nations stay outside the two great power blocs as long as possible, to act as go-betweens if the opportunity should arise. Once or twice, as foxexample ixx Indo-China, the oppoi-tunity has arisen already. Why, Ixxdians ask, should they be execrated if they value this unique, detached position somewhat more highly than an obscure and soon-to-be-forgotten vote at United Nations?

Canadian observers, friendly as they are to both India and the U. S., find it painfully easy to see both sides of the argument. Most of them think both parties are wrong in several ways. But even more strongly they think that nothing of real importance, no fundamental conflict of interest or intent, divides these two great democracies. If only both Washington and New Delhi could be convinced of this and stop scolding each other, the cause of freedom would be strengthened all over the world. if