234. Telegram From the Ambassador in India (Cooper) to the Department of State1

1662. On Friday2 evening at Nehru’s residence, as reported,3 Krishna Menon said he would like to talk to me after Prime Minister’s statement in Lok Sabha following day.4 Saturday afternoon he called at my residence and talked one and a half hours.

Menon said he had talked at Bandung with Chou En-lai many times, sometimes with Nehru present, oftener alone, and that at least one talk lasted five hours.

Speaking of official attitudes, Menon said GOI convinced Communist China not expansionist. When I asked for facts he said he would not argue about Korea, but today Communist China was not aggressing against any country; had declared at Bandung it would not aggress; had concluded overseas Chinese nationality agreement with Indonesia, and would do so with Thailand, Philippines and others if permitted. He said India and Burma had no fears of Communist China.

Regarding Taiwan Menon said GOI considers Chou’s Bandung statement made in good faith. Said Chou’s statement did not represent new attitude as he (Menon) had told Secretary Dulles in Washington China would negotiate. As stated in Nehru’s April 30 speech, GOI was willing use good offices if requested, but whether requested or not would continue explore possibilities negotiation and that was reason he would go to Peking.

At this point Menon remarked further statements to be made by him did not necessarily represent GOI’s views on Chou’s position, but his own thinking, which was tentative. Said Communist China appeared not desire hostilities at this time but would not be “bullied”. [Page 537] Said he did not see any possibility of formal negotiations at this time, or statement by Communist China receding from announced position, or agreement to cease-fire in words …5 i.e., a formal agreement, or submission to UN. He foresaw steps, not necessarily publicly agreed, which could relax tensions and later permit negotiations.

  • First step suggested by Menon as exploratory was to ascertain whether both parties will accept in good faith idea of negotiations and some preliminary basis therefor, and make certain no hostilities break out. He suggested period of around two months for exploration.
  • Second stage would be one where actions by both sides would be taken to relax tensions. He said return of Chinese students was one step taken by the US. Next step might be release of US airmen, followed by US restraint on Nationalist firing on Chinese Communists. Speaking of possible steps to relax tensions Menon said he and GOI had urged Chou release US airmen, and that if they were released Chinese Communists would probably continue to insist they were spies. (Said Chinese Communists did not consider evacuation Tachen peaceful action because they said it was purely military, accompanied by “scorched earth” action, and forcible evacuation civilian population.)

Menon said if foregoing and other steps materialized more definite proposals for negotiation could be initiated by GOI or the UK. Said Chinese Communists in his view would ask that negotiations cover total US-Chinese relations. Further that Chinese Communists would not at any stage surrender idea of sovereignty over Taiwan but this should not prevent steps going forward over a period of time lasting from one year to as much as ten years to reach final settlement. Said such a process was only alternative to war.

Menon said GOI believes Communist China will never be Russian satellite and that possibility of US–Communist China settlement greater than US-Soviet settlement. Said purpose of his trip to Peking was to explore flexibility of Chinese Communist position.

Menon asserted again and again that GOI position, as stated in Nehru’s April 30 speech, was not biased and that he was not biased. Menon’s tone was moderate. Nevertheless it seems clear to me that he accepts Chinese Communist position re sovereignty over Taiwan and holds that ultimate settlement would require ousting Nationalists. Menon was vague as to channels for bringing about US–Communist China understanding, as to subject matter, and as to limits on various stages of negotiations.

[Page 538]

Menon said he would ask Nehru to talk with me, though Nehru would discuss only general principles and not details. I think there is possibility that Menon may tell Nehru more has been accomplished by his talks than the facts would justify. In this connection Nehru’s statement April 30 that governments concerned (presumably including the US) have not been unaware of Chinese Communist willingness to negotiate may be result of an exaggerated report by Menon to Nehru re Menon’s conversation with Secretary.6 Nevertheless it is clear that Nehru is confiding subject to Menon. Menon ended by saying he was talking to me because “they” believed I had been sent to India not merely as Ambassador but as a “listening post”. My response was that I would report our conversation.

At one point in the conversation Menon remarked that he had great respect for the Secretary and his integrity. At another point he urged that our conversation also be brought to the personal attention of the President.

Menon said he would likely want to see me again before leaving for Peking. In view possibility of further talk with Menon and fact I am to dine with Nehru May 5 I should appreciate all pertinent background and guidance Department may be able to provide.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/5–155. Secret; Priority.
  2. April 29.
  3. Telegram 1646 from New Delhi, April 29, reported on the dinner held the previous evening. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/4–2955)
  4. In his April 30 statement, Prime Minister Nehru reported on the Bandung Conference and announced that Menon would be visiting Peking. (New York Times, May 1, 1955)
  5. Ellipsis in the source text.
  6. Reference may be to Menon’s March 15 conversation with President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles; see footnote 5, Document 156.