The Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry) to the Ambassador in India (Henderson)

official informal

Dear Loy: Your letter of January 8 to George McGhee (now in Istanbul) is extremely helpful, even though it makes unpleasant reading.1 I am not surprised at your conclusions, since certain of the officers in SOA have maintained for some time that we cannot expect the British to be completely frank with us, and that they do not necessarily look with favor on any increase in our activities or influence in South Asia—even though these are in no way directed against the British, and in the long run should redound to their advantage. It is also becoming more and more apparent to me that the so-called Commonwealth mechanism is somewhat shaky, and that we cannot count on it for complete cooperation in our various efforts to extend assistance to South Asian Commonwealth countries.

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I am afraid the Kashmir case has demonstrated pretty clearly that the British have no real desire to “take the lead” in settling interregional disputes, and I am willing to believe there is a strong basis for your suspicion that they will endeavor to pass to us most of the blame for whatever happens in connection with this case.

The apparent efforts of the British to play up to India at the expense of their relations with Pakistan is understandable up to a certain point as part of a supposedly realistic or cynical policy of flattering the most powerful government in the region, but I am somewhat puzzled by the almost brazen manner in which the British have recently appeared to ignore the sensibilities of the Pakistanis. If the current British attitude toward the Kashmir problem is to be taken as an index, it would appear that even Liaquat Ali Khan’s2 holdout in connection with the Commonwealth Conference has not made a very deep impression. I cannot help feeling that if the British take Pakistan’s friendship for granted they will eventually alienate the gov eminent and the people; and if they intend to prevent further deterioration of their relations with Pakistan by fastening the blame for the Kashmir imbroglio on us, I question whether the Pakistanis will be fooled. British policy toward Pakistan and India in this connection, and toward our activities in South Asia, appear to be somewhat unimaginative and disturbingly opportunistic. While it would probably do little good for us to attempt to point out the error of their ways, we must avoid letting the British think we are laboring under any illusions.

I hardly need add that if Mr. Nehru is making a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge between the US and Great Britain, he is following an alarmingly short-sighted policy, and any efforts which the British may be making to exacerbate relations between the US and the Indian Government are even more deplorable. However bitter the British may be over the fact that they are no longer a first-class power, and are dependent on the US for their survival as an independent nation, their dog-in-the-manger attitude in South Asia is inexcusable. I suppose we have no choice but to regard the spectacle more in sorrow than in anger, and to try to make it clear that they are only hurting themselves and the cause of the non-Soviet powers and their friends.

The incident reported by Mrs. Taylor3 is indeed depressing and I can quite believe Nye’s remarks were typical of the current British [Page 2117] approach to the Indians. I know you are missing no opportunity to let your British colleagues understand that we are not as naive as they choose to believe, and that we do not understand the logic represented by Nye’s remarks to Rajagopalachari. Your suggestion that no action be taken in Washington with regard to the Nye–Rajagopalachari conversation will be followed. As a matter of fact Donald Kennedy was asked before he went to London last week to avoid reference to any specific cases whatsoever in the course of his discussions with British officials of relations between US and UK representatives in South Asia.

With warm personal regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

Burton Y. Berry
  1. The letter from Mr. Henderson is not printed. In it, the Ambassador expressed the belief that the United States could not trust the British to represent the Anglo-American partnership in South Asia; the United States, he said, must work with the British but not place itself in British hands. Mr. Henderson also expressed dismay that during the past 2 months British officials, instead of merely listening to criticism of American policies from Indians, were now inclined to take the lead in criticizing the United States. (891.00/1–851)
  2. Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  3. Mrs. Clifford C. Taylor, wife of the agricultural attaché at the American Embassy, had informed the Ambassador of a recent conversation between British High Commissioner Sir Archibald Nye and Indian Home Minister Chakravarti Rajagopalachari wherein Sir Archibald made several comments on the United States lack of understanding concerning the seriousness and tragedy of war due to its never having experienced war in its own land.