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


Subject: Interpretation of Prime Minister Nehru’s Southeast Asian Tour, and Shifts in Indian Foreign Policy

Prime Minister Nehru toured Southeast Asia from June 2 to June 26. A symbol of Asian anti-colonialism and always sensitive to the mood of his audiences, the theme of his speeches was a strong attack against Communism instead of against the continued existence of European colonialism in Asia which it might so well have been. The tone of his speeches was set by an address delivered in India just prior to his departure in which he asserted that the Communist Party in India is purely terroristic. He affirmed his Government’s intention not to tolerate its activities, and warned that India would not permit interference from China or elsewhere.

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In Indonesia1 he said that the world had changed and that the “new imperialism” was a greater danger than the relics of colonialism. He talked of the ideological dangers lurking in Southeast Asia and decried the extremist movements which have undermined the solidarity of the Asian nationalist movements. He told his listeners to bolster their freedom lest outside influences “come to sweep it away like a broom.” He bluntly told the Indonesians that they must forget their old animosities, live peacefully, quit depending on outmoded slogans, get to work and avoid Communism. He referred to the confident relations between the Indians and the British and bespoke East-West cooperation.

The Prime Minister talked to his audiences in Southeast Asia as few foreigners would have dared. In Rangoon his remarks were strongly anti-communistic; advocating peaceful progressive socialism, he warned the Burmese of the danger of forcing socialism on the people.2

Nehru’s statements are to be interpreted as an extension into the international field of his domestic campaign against Communist tactics. If Communism does not change its tactics in South and Southeast Asia he may continue to take the offensive against it, not only in India but elsewhere. In speaking so frankly Nehru served our interests admirably. Following Nehru’s visit to Indonesia our representatives were informed that Indonesia had no intention of recognizing Viet Minh or of convoking an Asian conference on Indochina.

During Nehru’s absence from New Delhi, his principal adviser on foreign affairs, Sir Girja Bajpai, told Ambassador Henderson that he was preparing a memorandum to the Prime Minister, the burden of which would be that India should adopt a more “positive” foreign policy. Nehru’s Southeast Asian performance may well have been the first manifestation of this more positive foreign policy. In this context, the second manifestation was undoubtedly India’s acceptance of the Security Council’s Resolution of June 27 on Korea,3 even though it was accompanied by an explanation that it did not involve a modification of India’s foreign policy of friendship with all countries. Significantly the statement did not reiterate India’s neutrality in the cold war. It is important to remember the frequently received advice from top Indian officials not to worry about public statements but to judge only on actions.

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If the maximum advantage of India’s trend in policy is to be realized it is imperative that it receive no public acknowledgment and that emphasis be placed exclusively on India’s “splendid cooperation” with the United Nations.

  1. For documentation on U.S. policy with respect to Indonesia, see vol. vi, pp. 964 ff.
  2. For documentation on U.S. policy with respect to Burma, see ibid., pp. 229 ff.
  3. For text, see vol. vii, p. 211.