S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, “NSC 5409—Memoranda”

Draft Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council1

NSC 5409

United States Policy Toward South Asia

(India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ceylon and Nepal)

i. general considerations

1. The United States is profoundly concerned with the future of South Asia because of its strategic location, manpower, natural resources, and growing influence in world affairs. South Asia is a major battleground in the cold war, where the efforts of leaders in some countries, such as India, to satisfy the basic needs of their peoples within a democratic framework are being tested against developments in Communist China. The loss of South Asia to communist control, although not now imminent, would be a serious psychological and political defeat for the West.

2. All of the governments of South Asia are independent, non-communist, and basically friendly to the United States. The different [Page 1090] traditions, institutions and current attitudes of the South Asian countries often obscure the extent to which their fundamental objectives are similar to those of the West. Some of these countries presently cooperate with the West to a limited extent and others, with U.S. assistance, could become useful allies in the future, even though they are presently weak militarily and economically, compared to the United States.

3. There are, however, serious restraints to close association with the United States in every case except that of Pakistan. India is committed to a policy of non-alignment in the East-West struggle which often leads it to oppose Western policies. Its leaders sometimes give the impression that they are speaking for other countries of free Asia. Nepal is closely dependent on India. Afghanistan is vulnerable to Soviet economic and military pressure. Ceylon presently is marketing most of its rubber in Communist China. Emotional barriers to closer relations with the United States also exist; i.e., the United States is cooperating closely with the former great colonial powers (particularly France) and has, despite its good record in colonial affairs, become associated in South Asian minds with memories of European colonialism, with what they regard as “economic imperialism,” and with color discrimination.

4. The problems of the countries of South Asia are formidable; serious political issues are intensified by grave economic difficulties. The governments in the area are in varying degrees concerned with remaining in power, establishing workable and lasting democratic political institutions, improving economies suffering from agricultural and industrial underdevelopment and population pressure, and resolving internal conflicts created by rapid social evolution. In addition there are bitter disputes between countries of the area over a variety of issues.

5. Three of the South Asian countries, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Their continued participation subjects them to the stabilizing and moderating influence of other members of the Commonwealth and strengthens their psychological bonds with the West. This association affords an additional channel which can be employed, as appropriate, for the furtherance of United States objectives in the area.

6. Communist imperialism elsewhere in Asia gives special urgency to progress in the solution of South Asia’s problems. The threat to the area arises not so much from the danger of communist military aggression as from the danger of internal disintegration, subversion and communist diplomatic pressure. Although subversion is not now serious, it may become so if economic and social progress is not achieved in the South Asian countries. If India does not achieve substantial economic and social progress through democratic processes, [Page 1091] and on the other hand, Communist China appears to be moving forward through totalitarian methods, the peoples of South Asia may turn to communist leadership and methods for a solution of their own problems.

7. United States policy in South Asia must necessarily give particular emphasis to the primary powers in the area—India and Pakistan. India, with a population of over 365 million, is the most powerful politically, economically and militarily of the South Asian countries (although by United States standards it is economically and militarily weak), and ranks as a major industrial nation of Asia. It has the greatest potentiality of any South Asian country for making a longterm constructive contribution to the free world, although its policy of “non-involvement” inhibits close cooperation. India is, however, confronted with a number of serious problems, including popular demand for an increase in the standard of living, desirability of an increase in food production, availability of funds for economic development, and the rapid increase in India’s population which is being augmented at the rate of 1.4 per cent, or nearly 5 million persons annually. U.S. assistance has been largely devoted to agriculture, most directly to increasing the annual production of food grains, which is an important part of India’s Five Year Plan. Pakistan, with its 78 million population separated into two parts by a thousand miles of Indian territory, is weaker than India. It does possess, however the greatest current potential, next to Turkey, for contributing to Middle East defense. Both India and Pakistan have serious need for outside assistance to realize their potentialities.

8. Effective military defense of South Asia is contingent upon the military cooperation of the countries of the area both among themselves and with the Western powers. These countries have not, however, been inclined to cooperate, although they are more aware each year of the dangers which the Communist bloc presents. Regional disputes, depressed economies and fear of involvement in a major war have deterred them from cooperation in regional defense. India, the strongest power, advocates a policy of “non-involvement”. In recent months Pakistan, however, has indicated a willingness to enter into closer defense relations, through an area arrangement as with Turkey, or directly with the United States.2 An arrangement with Turkey might, at a later stage, be expanded to include other Middle Eastern states, particularly Iraq and possibly Iran. Pakistan’s membership in such a defense arrangement would be most desirable. The possibility of U.S. military aid to Pakistan has provoked a severe adverse reaction in India.3 A result may be intensification of differences in U.S.-Indian [Page 1092] relations and possibly more friendly Indian relations with the Soviet bloc, although there would probably not be any major change in India’s foreign policies.

9. United States emergency assistance, and developmental and technical aid, are currently strengthening the governments and economies of the South Asian countries, creating among their peoples a more friendly feeling toward the United States, and helping to overcome the psychological objections of these countries to closer association with the United States, although only time can cure some of their deep-seated prejudices.

10. The period of the next few years is likely to be one of continuing economic difficulties which must be surmounted if adverse political developments are to be avoided or confronted successfully. United States policy may be a strong factor in determining whether the countries of the region will continue to develop in the democratic framework or will fall under communist control.

ii. objectives

11. Strong, stable and responsible governments in South Asia, friendly to the United States and having the will and ability to resist communism from within and without.

12. Greater cooperation and closer affiliation among the South Asian countries and between them and the free world, and full recognition by them that their national interests are best served thereby.

13. Perceptible improvement in the basic economies of the South Asian countries.

14. A posture of military strength in the area contributing to area stability and as appropriate to the defense of the free world.

iii. courses of action

A. South Asia in General


15. Give particular emphasis to the maintenance of cordial official and personal relations in all areas of contact, and where possible increase those areas of association.

16. Vigorously pursue effective information and education programs designed to broaden support for actions consistent with U.S. policies and to diminish susceptibility to communist appeals.

17. Encourage greater participation in all UN activities by South Asian countries which are members of the UN.

18. Assist through the UN and by other feasible means in the settlement of disputes between the various countries.

. . . . . . .

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20. Assist the governments of the area to develop their natural resources, particularly agricultural, and their basic industrial potential, including the provision of technical assistance and limited economic aid.

21. Foster South Asian conditions and governmental policies favorable to the investment of indigenous and foreign private capital in such economic development of the area.

22. Be prepared to extend emergency aid as circumstances justify on a case-to-case basis to alleviate unexpected food shortages or the effects of natural disasters.

23. Encourage and assist where possible South Asian states to expand their trade with friendly neighboring countries, with the United States, and with other countries of the free world.

24. Continue diplomatic, psychological and propaganda efforts to discourage and where possible prevent shipment of strategic materials to the communist bloc.

25. Encourage judiciously and, as appropriate, provide guidance for such action by South Asian governments in the general area of land reform as will contribute to increased agricultural production and internal stability.


26. As politically feasible, seek to obtain (a) the use of military and strategic facilities in South Asia, including communications, transit and base rights and (b) the right to operate forces in the area upon the threat of and during general hostilities.

27. Encourage participation of the nations of South Asia in regional defense arrangements coordinated with those in adjacent areas.

28. Provide to selected South Asian nations limited military aid, reimbursable or grant, contributing to the maintenance of internal security and the defense of the area.


29. Utilize the above political, economic and military courses of action whenever necessary and practicable to encourage cooperation with the United States in attaining its objectives in the area.

30. In the event of an attempted communist seizure of power in a South Asian country:

Continue supporting its non-communist government and attempting to secure similar support from other free world nations.
Consider contributing military support if necessary and useful.

31. In the event of an actual communist seizure of power in a South Asian country, consider supporting a non-communist government, attempting to secure similar support from other free world nations, and contributing military support if necessary and useful.

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B. India

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

32. Recognize that India exerts a growing influence in world affairs (particularly in UN matters and in issues between the United States and the Soviet bloc) while avoiding actions which appear to support India as the leader of the free Asian nations.

33. Continue and increase close consultation with the Government of India on matters of policy and encourage it to consult more frankly with us, without permitting Indian opposition to deter us from taking actions which are clearly in the U.S. interest.

34. Make clear to India that by providing military assistance to Pakistan, the U.S. is not seeking to make Pakistan the dominant state of South Asia.

35. Encourage India to remain united.

36. Support the continuation in power in India of elements which are non-communist and friendly to the United States, recognizing that at present the incumbent Congress Party comes closest to fulfilling these specifications.

37. Seek to develop India’s eventual participation in a common front against communism.

38. As practicable, exploit differences between India on the one hand and the Soviet bloc and Communist China on the other so as to discredit communism.

39. Seek to insure that in the event of general war India will make available manpower resources and strategic facilities for mutual defense efforts with the West.

40. Recognize that for the present India’s policy of “non-involvement” will continue; and make use of India as a mediator when it is in U.S. interests.

41. Continue to support representation of India on UN bodies to an extent fully appropriate to its status as a major Asian power.

42. Continue to make clear to India that the Kashmir issue should be settled by mutual agreement between India and Pakistan, that the United States is willing to assist through the UN and by other means, but that the United States has no ulterior motives or hidden objectives which would be fostered by settlement in favor of either country.

43. Seek through official statements and communications media full recognition by the Government and people of India, of (a) the communist threat to India (b) U.S. support for India’s independence and (c) the contribution which the United States is making to India through economic and technical aid.

C. Pakistan

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

44. Support the present government of Pakistan so long as it remains friendly to the United States, and seek to insure that any successor [Page 1095] government is not Communist controlled and is friendly to the United States.

45. Continue and increase close consultation with the Government of Pakistan on matters of policy and encourage it to consult more frankly with us.

46. In carrying out U.S. policies in South Asia, make maximum use of Pakistan’s favorable attitude toward the West.

47. Seek greater participation of Pakistan in a common front against communism.

48. Make clear to Pakistan that our objective in the Kashmir issue is a solution acceptable to both India and Pakistan and that in this issue we are not prepared to support either country against the other.

49. Encourage Pakistan’s participation in any defense association which is judged to serve the interests of the United States. Priority should be given to the establishment of such an arrangement between Pakistan and Turkey.

50. Seek to insure that in the event of general war Pakistan will make available manpower, resources and strategic facilities for mutual defense efforts with the West.

51. Give special consideration to Pakistan in providing grant military assistance, in view of Pakistan’s attitude and key position among the countries of South Asia with respect to military collaboration with the West.

D. Afghanistan

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

52. Support the continuance of the government in its present form in the absence of conditions under which a more representative government could come into existence without the serious threat of chaos or of the advent of power of a group subservient to the Soviet Union.

53. Discourage Afghanistan’s Pushtoonistan claims.

54. For the present refrain from encouraging Afghan expectations that the United States will extend military assistance.

55. Avoid giving the impression that the U.S. favors participation of Afghanistan in a regional defense arrangement at this stage, without foreclosing the possibility of such participation at a later date.

56. In the event of overt attack on Afghanistan by Soviet forces:

Attempt through diplomatic measures to arrest the action and to obtain prompt withdrawal of Soviet forces.
If unsuccessful, decide in the light of the circumstances existing at the time what further action to take through the UN or otherwise.

E. Ceylon

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

57. Endeavor to maintain the friendly relationship between the United States and Ceylon which continues despite the strains imposed by Ceylon’s trade in rubber with Communist China.

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58. Support the retention by the UK of military facilities required by the free world in time of peace or in the event of war.

59. Continue to urge Ceylon to discontinue its trade in rubber with Communist China.

60. When Ceylon discontinues its rubber shipments to Communist China and indicates its willingness to assume UN obligations, be prepared:

At Ceylon’s request, to extend technical assistance.
To support Ceylon’s application for UN membership.

F. Nepal

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

61. Encourage further progress toward a representative government in effective control of the country.

62. Encourage Nepal to strengthen its internal security and armed forces with Indian assistance.

63. Encourage Nepal to continue its efforts to reorganize and improve its economic and financial institutions for the benefit of its people.

  1. The source text and the Study Prepared by the Staff of the National Security Council (infra), along with a cover sheet and background note dated Feb. 19, 1954, from James S. Lay, Jr., the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, were circulated to members of the NSC, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence for their consideration as NSC 5409, “United States Policy Toward South Asia”.

    Lay explained in the background note that the enclosed draft statement of policy was being transmitted for the NSC’s consideration at its meeting on March 4, 1954, that an NSC staff study was also enclosed for the NSC’s information in connection with the draft statement of policy, and that there would be circulated separately a Financial Appendix for the NSC’s information. (See Lay’s memorandum to the NSC, Mar. 2, 1954, p. 1120.) Lay also informed the addressees in this background note that the draft statement of policy, if approved, would supersede NSC 98/1, “The Position of the United States With Respect to South Asia” (for the text of NSC 98/1, dated Jan. 22, 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 2, p. 1650); and that, if approved, the NSC should submit the draft statement of policy to President Eisenhower with the recommendation that he approve it, direct its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and designate the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, “NSC 5409—Memoranda”)

    At its 187th meeting on Mar. 4, 1954, the National Security Council considered and adopted the draft statement of policy contained in NSC 5409, subject to an amendment set forth in NSC Action No. 1052 (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “Record of Actions by the NSC, 1954”), and submitted NSC 5409 to President Eisenhower for his consideration. (See the Memorandum of Discussion at the 187th Meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, Mar. 4, 1954, p. 1126.)

    On Mar. 8, 1954, Executive Secretary Lay circulated another memorandum to the members of the NSC, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence notifying them that President Eisenhower on Mar. 6 had approved the statement of policy contained in NSC 5409, as amended. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, “NSC 5409—Memoranda”)

  2. For documentation, see volume ix.
  3. For documentation regarding the granting of U.S. military aid to Pakistan, see pp. 1818 ff. and volume ix.