Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Participants: The President
Secretary Acheson
Prime Minister Nehru
Sir Girja Bajpai

The President received Prime Minister Nehru at 4:30 this afternoon. Sir Girja Bajpai and the Secretary of State were present. The interview lasted three quarters of an hour.

The President hoped that the Prime Minister was enjoying his visit, expressed his desire that he should have a real opportunity to see and know the people throughout the country, and assured him that he would have a warm and enthusiastic welcome. The Prime Minister spoke feelingly of the impression which the visit was making upon him.

The President referred to his deep concern for the welfare of the Indian people and of the people throughout Asia who were facing problems of the greatest magnitude. He spoke of the difficult transition being made in Indonesia, throughout Southeast Asia and in India, and expressed the earnest hope that this transformation could be made peacefully and speedily.

The Prime Minister noted that a great change had come over all the Asian peoples. They no longer accepted poverty and misery with resignation and believed that an organized effort was capable of improving their situation. All of this great change was being expressed politically through the growing nationalism in Asia. It was this nationalism which had completely outmoded the colonial status. Wherever it came in conflict with colonialism there was trouble. Wherever that obstacle was removed, progress was possible although other difficulties still existed. The President observed that we in this country have been through the same experience. We had found that the solution of the colonial problem was not the end. It had taken a great civil war to teach us that we must live peacefully together and it had taken involvement in two world wars to bring home to us that we could not be independent of peoples beyond our shores. He devoutly trusted that the people of India would not have to repeat our experience. The Prime Minister agreed and asserted his determination that the problems which confronted India must be solved without conflict. He stated that perhaps the most pressing of the Indian problems had to do with the relation of people to the land. He said that over the past few decades both the total number and the percentage of people living on the land and living by agriculture had [Page 1751] increased, and that it was necessary to reverse this trend to increase industrialization and to increase the productivity of agriculture. He thought that the critical time was in the next few years and he mentioned he had spoken to the Secretary of State last evening about the Indian desire to acquire a stockpile of approximately one million tons of wheat. The importance of this was both to reassure the people that the food supply was secure and also to bring about a reduction in the price of wheat which had a controlling influence on all other prices in India.

The President observed that twenty years ago half of our population lived by agriculture whereas now only twenty-nine percent did so. However, we had increased both the production rate and the total output of agriculture. We were now faced with the possibility of agricultural production in excess of the present purchasing power in the world. He mentioned that if the peoples of India and China could purchase an amount of cotton equal to one ounce per person there would be an actual shortage of cotton. He said that we would be glad to cooperate with India in our mutual interest in the matter referred to by the Prime Minister.


The President referred to the Kashmir situation as one of the problems which he hoped fell within the Prime Minister’s determination to solve without conflict. The Prime Minister assured the President that this was so. He reviewed the circumstances which led to his belief that an important and perhaps basic element in the Kashmir situation was to solve this problem on other than an adherence to one nation or another on a religious basis. He thought that determination on a religious basis would have a deeply unsettling effect upon the Moslems living in India and upon the Hindus living in Pakistan. He discussed the Indian conception of the secular state which the President said was thoroughly in accord with American institutions and ideas. The President again stated that his only concern was to be of assistance in the common aim of maintaining the peace and obtaining a just settlement.


The conversation then turned to the situation in China. The Prime Minister expressed his view that the basic situation in China was that the agrarian revolution, which had begun many years ago but had been intensified in 1911, had been so mishandled by the Kuomintang that power had fallen by default in the hands of the Communists. He thought that they were not desired in China but were accepted in the absence of any other apparent force interested in dealing with the problem. He thought that Communism was alien to the Chinese mind [Page 1752] and that foreign domination would be deeply resented. He believed that the course of events would restore Chinese nationalism as a governing force and would weaken the subservience to Moscow.

In regard to recognition, he thought that India’s proximity to China put India in a somewhat different position from that of other countries and indicated a leaning toward early recognition. The President hoped that this was a matter in regard to which the non-Communist countries could consult and if possible concert their action. The Prime Minister agreed that there should certainly be consultation.