Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Rusk)

top secret

Subject: NSC Staff Paper, “Position of the US with Respect to Asia”1

NEA is of the opinion that the subject paper presents what is in effect a North and East Asian policy. South Asia is relegated to a secondary and even minor role. India, the dominant nation of South Asia, will not accept such a role, and any US policy which presumes that it will is doomed to failure—as an Asia-wide policy.

The over-emphasis on North and East Asia reveals itself many times. Section 5 points out that if Japan were added to the communist [Page 1209] bloc the balance of world power might become dangerously weighted against the US. A similarly specific assessment of the dangerous implications of communist domination of India and Pakistan is lacking. It may be argued that, if achieved by means short of war, communist domination of these two countries would be even more adverse to our interests than communist control of Japan. If India and Pakistan fell to communism, it would almost certainly be impossible for the West to retain any foothold on the Asian continent, with the possible exception of South Korea. We should be reduced to the minimum offshore defense line discussed in Section 20. The loss of Japan would not necessarily entail such a withdrawal from the mainland of Asia.

Section 15 states that US ability to exert influence in terms of power and prestige flows primarily from our occupation of Japan and our rights in the Philippines and other Pacific islands. This may be true in North and East Asia, but in South Asia our influence is not primarily so founded. To the contrary, South Asia tends to suspect that our activities in the Western Pacific reflect imperial ambitions.…

The NSC Staff concept of a Pacific Association again looks to North and East Asia. (The term itself is a misnomer if it is intended to include the South Asian countries.) We know that the Philippine Republic, Korea and presumably Japan would welcome the realization of this concept—particularly because of its security aspects; we know equally well that India would at present oppose it—particularly because of its security aspects.

In summary, it appears to NEA that the NSC Staff has approached the problem of Asia with an “either-or” attitude, i.e. we must concentrate on either Japan and North and East Asia, or India and South Asia. NEA holds that we can and must, in formulating policy for Asia, give full consideration to the special circumstances and potentialities of both areas and of the intermediate Southeast Asian area.

  1. Dated December 30, p. 1215.