Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1



  • Report on India by Ambassador Bowles.


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Chester Bowles
  • Mr. Edwin MartinS/MSA
  • Mr. Donald KennedySOA

I expressed solicitude about the Ambassador’s difficulty with his ear [Page 1649] and he responded that the doctor had reported the situation was partly good and partly bad—good in the sense that no operation was involved, at least now, and bad because the doctor was not sure anything could be done about the trouble. The Ambassador then said he was very pleased to have this opportunity to talk to me, to which I responded that he had done a colossal job for us and that I was very proud of his accomplishments.

In reporting on the improvement of relations between India and the US, Ambassador Bowles said that various factors were responsible. One important reason was that the Communist Party in India had now emerged as the opposition party. At his suggestion Nehru had had investigated the means by which Communists were obtaining funds to carry on their propaganda. It had been established that these funds were derived from the sale of pro-communist books sent in gratis from Moscow. Moscow Radio has recently attacked Nehru and this had had an effect upon the Prime Minister. As to Korea, Ambassador Bowles believed that the Indians now understood the facts and supported our position on prisoners of war 100 percent, although they were critical of the way we had handled the problem. He also thought that Nehru no longer held any illusions as to China. He had told Nehru that the Russians wished to keep China at war in Korea because that kept them dependent upon Russia for supplies and matériel. In this way they were kept dependent upon Russia and therefore in the Russian camp.

Ambassador Bowles believed that the officials of the GOI now understood better the Indochinese question.2 On recent occasions they had not pressed their previously expressed views so forcefully but had rather seemed to “skim lightly” over the question. I commented that the French would like to get out but could not find a way, and it was very fortunate for us that this was the case.

Ambassador Bowles said that the information program was now in good shape—a few months ago it was in bad shape—and in the near future it should be a really good program. The Ambassador felt it was a “flop” to try to sell the “American way” as perfection. We should humble ourselves and admit our errors. He did not want more money for the information program but would desire a different allocation. Students in universities were 25 percent communist, and he had in mind increasing his cultural affairs staff in order that officers could get to the various universities about three times a year. He hoped that these visits would be followed up by letters, and in certain cases by donations of books.

The big question was, “Will they succeed or will they not?”. A typical Indian will say that private enterprise in democracy worked in the West where time was available but will it work here in India [Page 1650] where results must be achieved under forced draft. This Indian will say that we must prove that our system will give better living quickly. The Indians, the Ambassador said, need confidence in themselves. He had told his Indian friends that they had accomplished much more in the last three years than the Russians had in any three year period. For example, the Bhakra Dam was much larger than anything in Russia, and it was 50 percent completed. I asked if there were enough trained people in India to take on a greatly expanded program, to which the Ambassador replied that that was part of our job. We would have to have trained by June of next year 14,000 people, by December of this year 5,000. The Ford Foundation was cooperating marvelously in its training venture. It would also be necessary to do some dramatic things. For example, the Rockefeller people had estimated that by 1956 malaria could be eradicated at a cost of around $17 million. There were 80 million cases in India and about 1 million deaths every year. Once the program was carried this far the states would be forced to carry it on because of the demand of their people.

Ambassador Bowles said that we could accomplish our economic objectives in India and still see it go communist—something more was needed than merely economic progress, and this something was of the spirit. There was now complete confusion in India as to what kind of economy they should have as a result of their economic progress. The Ambassador referred to a letter he had written Mr. Thorp on the subject of incentives;3 he had suggested that possibly a World Bank mission might be sent to India to develop recommendations as to the long-range pattern of the economy.

I asked what India was doing about the population problem. Ambassador Bowles said he believed that increased productivity would provide one part of the answer. As a result of this there would be a decreased need for large families which in the past had been looked upon as an insurance against old age. At some stage too many children became a burden. The Ambassador recognized that diverse incentives would be necessary in order that increased production of food could be maintained. Increased availability of consumer goods was not the only answer. Additional schools and hospitals would also help. Otherwise increased efficiency in agriculture would lead to more leisure rather than to more food in total.

I said it looked like a massacre to go to Congress for more money now. We had a problem on how to present a request of the sort that the Ambassador recommended. Would we do it under Point IV or as something special? This question had been fudged in connection with present legislation, and the Ambassador could help us sort it out. I believed we could do much more for the Ambassador’s program next January. There would be new faces in Congress and in the Administration, [Page 1651] and we should have ready for them what we thought was sound and necessary.

Ambassador Bowles said he liked to think of a mythical Indian. This Indian would look at the world struggle and consider where he would likely find himself in the future. Once this Indian came to the conclusion that democracy might not succeed, he would start to hedge his position. When this happened we would be on the way to losing India.

Ambassador Bowles asked if it would be possible to pick up any unused funds from other programs. Mr. Martin said that there was a ten percent transfer provision which gave some flexibility, but with the substantial reduction in the Administration’s program imposed by Congress, he thought there would be quite a wrangle over the allocations which the Administration would have to make. Ambassador Bowles agreed that everybody would fight for his own program and that in the final analysis the top officials of the Department would have to judge the relative priority. Mr. Kennedy asked if it would be possible to speed up the spending of the money which would be available for the 1953 program in anticipation of an approach to Congress in January. I added that the slowness in getting the 1952 program underway had caused us some difficulty in justifying the larger amounts for fiscal 1953. Ambassador Bowles said there would be difficulties in the way of spending the money provided as quickly as that. Tube wells, for example, which were an important part of the Indian program, might take as much as two years to complete. Ambassador Bowles also said that India was afraid of deficit financing and in some ways he thought their fiscal policy was too sound. This approach, together with the present high tax level in India, made it very difficult for the GOI to provide rupees for the community development program. This program required a ratio of 8 to 1 between rupees and dollars. As an illustration of the GOI’s attitude on fiscal policy, the Ambassador said he had been surprised to learn that the government was already setting aside out of their development fund rupees in anticipation of repayments on the wheat loan, although these repayments were not due to start for another four years.

I said that I would like to talk to the Ambassador again, later in the week, on this matter, and also I particularly wished to discuss with him the colonial question on which he had written me.

As he was leaving Ambassador Bowles suggested the establishment of a sort of NATO board to develop an overall plan of propaganda. He did not think that we could carry the whole load of information and propaganda in India; representatives of other countries should do their part. When people like Norwegians came to India they could also play an important role in “selling the Western line.” As a matter [Page 1652] of fact, nationals of other countries might have more success than Americans. This effort of course would require careful planning and coordination. I said this idea seemed to have a lot of merit and should be carefully examined.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was drafted by Kennedy of SOA on June 11.
  2. For documentation regarding Indochina, see volume xiii.
  3. This letter has not been found in the Department of State files.