Policy Statement Prepared in the Office of South Asian Affairs1
Regional Policy Statement: South Asia
estimate of the situation
Stability in South Asia
All the South Asian countries have non-Communist governments, and the region enjoys an uneasy stability. The existence of popular political leaders and trained administrators enabled India, Pakistan and Ceylon to establish effective national governments upon their recent attainment of independence. The great majority of the peoples of these three countries and of the older independent nations, Afghanistan and Nepal, acquiesce in the rule of the present governments.
The region faces serious threats to stability inherent in mass illiteracy, communalism, poverty, disease and, in large areas of India [Page 246] and East Pakistan, hunger. These threats are the more serious in India and Pakistan in view of the widespread popular expectation that economic and social betterment would follow independence. Moreover, the region’s natural resources are incompletely surveyed and underdeveloped, and it is industrially and technologically retarded. The improvement of these conditions requires large capital expenditures. As the low productivity of the region affords little margin for capital formation even under the most peaceful conditions, and as indigenous savings are traditionally solidified in land or precious metals and jewels, or dissipated in speculative ventures, a significant part of the required capital must be sought from extra-regional sources.
In the short term, the communal tensions and the numerous political and economic disputes between India and Pakistan constitute the greatest danger to the stability of South Asia. Progress toward the settlement of these disputes remains discouragingly slow, and the possibility that the two major powers of the region may resort to war cannot be excluded. Other important dangers are the Afghan-Pakistan dispute over the status of the Pathan tribesmen and India’s serious food shortage. Foodgrain production in India falls some ten percent short of subsistence requirements, and the sizeable imports required to narrow the gap impose a severe drain on inadequate foreign exchange resources.
Communism does not immediately threaten the governments of South Asia. The USSR is not exerting in this region the direct pressure evident in Iran and Indochina. The Kremlin apparently considers that the economic and social difficulties confronting South Asia are such that it can in time bring the region under its sway through propaganda and subversion directed at labor and the peasantry. It utilizes for these purposes internal Communist elements in all the South Asian countries. However, in Afghanistan and Nepal these elements are a negligible force, due in no small part to the vigilance exercised by the two governments. Ceylon harbors three small Communist parties—two Trotskyite, one orthodox—but their doctrinal and other differences prevent effective opposition to the government. In Pakistan the Communists, aided by the Soviet Embassy in Karachi, have acquired considerable influence in press circles, among the intellectuals and in certain labor unions. Although a small but aggressive Communist Party exists in India, the government has taken vigorous and reasonably effective steps to limit its activities and influence.
The prospect for the period 1950 to 1955 is that, barring intraregional warfare or widespread famine in India, the non-Communist [Page 247] elements now governing in South Asia can be expected to retain power. Their position will, however, become increasingly precarious if foreign economic aid is not forthcoming to assist them in containing the region’s inherent threats to stability. The alternatives to the present ruling elements appear to be extremists of the revolutionary left or of the chauvinistic right.
International Posture of South Asia
Despite the sovereignty of Afghanistan and Nepal, South Asia was for all practical purposes a part of the British Empire until the United Kingdom recognized the independence of India, Pakistan and Ceylon in 1947 and 1948. The region is still closely associated with the British as India, Pakistan and Ceylon remain within the Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom has special treaty relationships with Nepal. The British retain large investments and commercial interests in the region, and the South Asian governments have accepted military, economic and other assistance from the United Kingdom. Sterling balance releases have enabled India and Pakistan to maintain an inflow of essential imports. These two countries and Ceylon have joined the other Commonwealth members, except the Union of South Africa, in the preparation of a Commonwealth program to facilitate economic rehabilitation and development in South and Southeast Asia.
The close ties between the region and the United Kingdom have not, however, resulted in the open alignment of South Asia with the Western democracies in opposition to Soviet imperialism. The South Asia countries, particularly India, publicly avow their wish to remain neutral in the cold war and to develop friendly relations with the Soviet bloc as well as the Western democracies. They attempt to avoid giving offense to the USSR, and all except Nepal have recognized the Communist regime in China. The Soviet bloc has vacillated from truculence to flattery in its relations with the South Asian governments.
The South Asian position derives from its preoccupation with internal problems and its determination to prevent foreign interference in its affairs. The region suspects the Western European nations and the United States of attempting to maintain an imperialist position in Asia and of discriminating against non-white peoples. Thus, India, which is discreetly eager to head a South and Southeast Asian regional association, regards the natural bases of such an association as anti-colonialism and neutrality in the cold war.
There is little immediate prospect that a regional association will develop in South and Southeast Asia. Ceylon and Nepal fear India’s size and potential power, and would be reluctant to enter into regional [Page 248] arrangements which might pave the way for Indian domination of the region. Pakistan is unwilling to accept a position subordinate to India and seeks to counter-balance India’s greater strength by developing close relations with its Moslem neighbors to the West.
South Asia’s suspicions of the United States and its predisposition to neutrality notwithstanding, the governments of the region have in practice recognized a closer affinity of interests with the United States than with the Soviet bloc. On crucial issues in the United Nations, the South Asian members—Nepal and Ceylon are not yet members owing to Soviet vetoes—usually find themselves in opposition to the Soviet bloc. In the economic sphere, fears of foreign capital as the supposed instrument of economic imperialism have not prevented the South Asian countries from looking to the United States, sometimes impatiently, for economic aid. They have also sought continuing sources of military matériel in the United States, thus far with meager success. It is significant that India, Pakistan and Ceylon accord transit and landing rights to United States military aircraft.
For the period 1950 to 1955, assuming a continuation of the cold war, the international posture of South Asia offers the possibility of bringing about a gradual strengthening of the association between the region and the Western democracies. Should the cold war become hot in that period, the Western democracies would be faced at worst with neutrality in the region as the United States Government has received top secret, informal assurances from high officials of all the South Asian governments that their countries would not be found on the Soviet side in the event of war.
Domestic Limitations on United Stales Policy toward South Asia
Certain domestic factors limit the nature and effectiveness of United States policies with respect to South Asia. We cannot, first of all, assume by ourselves the responsibility of maintaining or raising the living standards of the region or defending it against aggression. Our resources, great though they may be, are not equal to this burden. In the second place, the existence of racial discrimination in the United States will constitute a constant impediment to our winning the full understanding and confidence of the South Asian peoples. Thirdly, the United States public still has only a limited interest in the region and is only gradually developing some conception of its problems. Such public attitudes as exist are typified by a warm-hearted desire to assist the underprivileged peoples of the region on a humanitarian basis or by impatient demands that South Asia adopt forthwith an aggressive anti-Communist posture. During the period 1950 to 1955 some increased public understanding of South Asian problems may be anticipated.[Page 249]
united states objectives
The United States national interest requires with respect to South Asia:
- Development of sound enduring friendly relations between the United States and the various countries of the region.
- Continuance in power of non-Communist governments in the countries of South Asia and their strengthened ability and determination to maintain peace and resist Communist imperialism in Asia.
- Increased South Asian participation in and responsibility for the solution of problems arising in Asia.
- Development of an attitude in South Asia which would assist the United States and its allies to obtain the facilities required in time of peace or in the event of war, and which would prevent the USSR from obtaining military support or assistance from these nations, either directly or through the use of their facilities.
- Access by the United States and friendly countries to the resources and markets of the region and the creation of conditions which would lead the governments of South Asia to cooperate in denying resources to the Soviet bloc.
- Voluntary association of the countries of South Asia with the United States and like-minded countries in opposition to Communism.
united states policies
United States objectives with respect to South Asia can best be pursued by:
- Pressing for the early settlement of intra-regional disputes;
- Developing closer consultative relationships with the South Asian governments on world issues, particularly those arising in Asia;
- Maintaining an impartial position between the several countries of South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan, by positive evidences of friendship to all;
- Providing technical assistance to the South Asian governments in their efforts to develop the human and material resources of the region;
- Reaching an early decision to extend financial aid to the South Asian countries for projects which have a popular appeal in the region and promise early and obvious results;
- Cooperating with the South Asian governments in their efforts to maintain internal stability;
- Supporting non-Communist, pro-democratic elements in the region;
- Stimulating a fuller understanding in the region of the aggressive objectives of international Communism and the constructive aims of the United States and the other Western democracies;
- Conducting a vigorous domestic information program to acquaint the American people with the aspirations and problems of the region;
- Working closely with the United Kingdom in the attainment of our mutual objectives in South Asia;
- Coordinating United States, United Nations, United Kingdom and Commonwealth programs for assistance to the region;
- Encouraging cooperation among the countries of the region for constructive purposes, at the same time avoiding any appearance of inspiring the establishment of an Asian regional organization to include the South Asian countries; and
- Enlisting increased participation of the South Asian countries in international efforts to promote world peace and economic progress.
lines of united states action
- Encourage and support UK and Commonwealth initiative to expedite equitable settlements of the Indo-Pakistan disputes over Kashmir and other political issues.
- Take the initiative in attempts to facilitate a settlement of the Afghan-Pakistan dispute over the status of the Pathan tribes, discouraging as long as possible the submission of this issue to the United Nations Security Council or General Assembly.
- Should India, Pakistan or Afghanistan continue unresponsive to further efforts to improve Indo-Pakistan and Afghan-Pakistan relations, consider withholding diplomatic support and material assistance as a penalty for intransigence, or offering such support and assistance as an inducement to cooperation.
- Should the Indo-Pakistan or Afghan-Pakistan disputes lead to serious hostilities in the region, initiate action in the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire and take such unilateral non-military steps in support of the Security Council action as the circumstances indicate. Care should be taken to avoid Security Council action which could be construed as sanctioning unilateral Soviet military intervention. Should any belligerent disregard the cease-fire order, endeavor to mobilize the full weight of United Nations sanctions and pressure against the offending country.
- Undertake on an informal basis more intimate consultation with South Asian governments on our foreign policies and contemplated actions in the foreign field, and encourage those governments to consult more frankly with us.
- As part of the foregoing consultations, at appropriate times explore with the South Asian governments possible solutions, where practicable within the UN framework, of such problems as the future of Korea, the future of Formosa, a peace treaty with Japan and arrangements [Page 251] for Japanese security, Chinese representation in the UN and the future of Indochina.
- Include from time to time in speeches and other public pronouncements of the President and of the Secretary and other ranking officers of the Department friendly expressions of support for the present South Asian governments. In view of the anachronistic oligarchies existing in Nepal and Afghanistan, expressions of support should be directed toward governmental efforts to improve the lot and meet the nascent democratic aspirations of the people rather than toward the Afghan and Nepalese governments as such.
- Maintain where practicable discreet and friendly contact with non-Communist, pro-democratic elements in South Asia in opposition to or otherwise not associated with the present governments.
- Maintain close liaison with the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand looking toward the maximum practicable coordination of US, UK and Commonwealth policies and actions directed toward mutual objectives in South Asia.
- Support the applications of Nepal and Ceylon for membership in the UN.
- 11. Initiate or support the selection of South Asian governments and their nationals for appropriate important UN organs, agencies and positions.
- Expand the training program for South Asian language and area specialists.
- Widen the scope of Foreign Service observation in South Asia by increasing the mobility of personnel at existing posts or by establishing new posts in localities now inadequately covered.
- Exert our influence in the International Monetary Fund and directly with the parties to bring about a settlement of the Indo-Pakistan exchange rate dispute.
- Direct technical assistance to the region under the bilateral Point Four program toward (a) the specific requests of the South Asian governments, (b) the amelioration of regional food problems, and (c) the removal of other impediments to economic development. Emphasis should be placed on the training of indigenous personnel rather than the assumption of operational responsibility by experts from the United States.
- Extend all appropriate assistance to such private United States investors as may show an interest in the region.
- Conclude treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation with India and Pakistan, and subsequently with other South Asian countries, making such departures from the “standard draft” treaty as may be required by the special circumstances of the region and as do [Page 252] not controvert fundamental principles of United States foreign economic policy.
- Encourage the South Asian governments to develop tax and other economic regulatory structures which do not inhibit private investment, foreign or domestic.
- Support reasonable loan applications of the South Asian governments to the International Bank or to the Export-Import Bank.
- Endeavor as a matter of urgency to obtain Congressional authorization and appropriations for a program of economic grant aid to the countries of the region, particularly to India and Pakistan, directed toward meeting the capital requirements of essential projects to increase, in order of priority, agricultural, mineral and industrial production.
- Should it become clear that the foregoing program will not materialize before July 1, 1951, seek funds during the 1951 fiscal year to finance the sale of an additional 573,000 long tons of grain sorghum (milo) to India at the concessional price of $1.40 a hundred-weight.
- Utilize every opportunity to support indigenous efforts to bring about agrarian reform by democratic methods.
- Maintain close liaison with the Commonwealth organization for technical and developmental assistance to South and Southeast Asia.2
- Encourage the development of trade and other economic relations between the region and Japan.
- Take a more active and constructive part in the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
- Meet as far as possible in the light of other demands of higher priority the requirements of the South Asian countries for military matériel not available from other sources and required to maintain internal stability and to strengthen resistance to Communist imperialism. Unless the Kremlin should adopt a more aggressive posture toward South Asia and the countries of the region should close ranks to meet this threat, materiel should be provided to the South Asian countries only on a reimbursable (non-grant) basis.
- Provide adequate opportunity for qualified South Asian armed forces personnel to receive specialized training in United States Defense training centers.
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- This statement was drafted by Mr. Elbert G. Mathews, Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs.↩
- The Commonwealth Consultative Committee on South and Southeast Asia published on November 28, 1950, a report known as the Colombo Plan which called for the economic development of the area. Documentation on U.S. interest in the activities of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee, not here printed, is included in Department of State file 890.00.↩
- Drafted by E. G. Mathews.↩