145. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1
1829. On Friday May 20 Pillai asked me to call. On my arrival he said that the subject of our conversation was one of great importance to relations of the Government of India and the U.S. He began his conversation by saying that there were many rumors about the activities of the USIS and its alleged subsidization of Indian newspapers and individuals and that these rumors had become the subject of conversation among members of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister himself. Said these rumors aroused suspicions of U.S. motives and suspicions were fed from time to time by certain people (he did not describe “people” or say whether they were in Government of India). Finally he said that certain instances enumerated below had aroused questions by Prime Minister himself. They are as follows:
- Information that USIS pays Pratap2 newspaper for publishing material which it supplies, subsidy reported to be 15,000 rupees a month.
- Identical language in articles printed in Pratap and Karachi newspapers on same day, critical of visit of Chou En-Lai, which led Government of India to believe prepared by USIS.
- Report that financial assistance given or promised by U.S. Consul General Bombay3 to paper called The People.
- Report that Pratap upon initiative of “American Embassy” undertook translating into Urdu the article of Mrs. Krishna Hutheesing which appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal.4 Also reported that U.S. bought large number copies this magazine for distribution in India and tried to secure its publication in various Indian languages. Further that it paid Pratap for publication of the article. Pillai said Nehru “terribly upset and disturbed about the article” which was written by sister.
Most important statement made by Pillai was that Nehru believed that if these charges are true that U.S. is purposely trying to undermine him in India before Indian people. Pillai interjected at time surely U.S. would not do this. What would happen if Nehru were not the head of the government? Continuing on the subject, Pillai said suspicions of officials about U.S. attitude were strengthened by unfavorable press reports regarding India received almost [Page 280] daily from U.S. He said that he did not attach as much importance to these as some members of the Cabinet because he knew there were many favorable articles. Mentioning Time and Life, he laughed and said that Prime Minister was not much concerned about their articles. After he had finished, I said to him that I had no knowledge of the general suspicion until my first press conference when several members of the Indian press had asked me about subsidization of Indian newspapers by the U.S., and I had responded by saying I would not accept any assumption that subsidization has occurred. I then said to Pillai that I could categorically deny all of the above reports and could also state that the U.S. did not subsidize any Indian publication or individual. He was polite about this and said that he would accept fully my statement.
He then countered by saying that from Indian experience with the British before independence he knew as did Government of India that British maintained secret organizations about which other British officials had no knowledge, and Government of India knew British still maintained such agencies. I took this as implying that Government of India believed U.S. had organizations about whose activities preceding Ambassadors and I would not know. Said Government of India took a serious view matter, and would be difficult for frank consultation on U.S.-Indian problems and advancement our relations if this suspicion continued. He said Prime Minister Nehru would want talk with me after I had communicated with U.S. Government. Pillai’s attitude friendly, saying it difficult talk about this subject but necessary suspicions be cleared up. Although Pillai very fair I felt he too had some belief report U.S. activities. In concluding his recital of rumors Pillai told me these had been base of his suggestion to me soon after my arrival that it might be wise limit USIS reading rooms to those cities in which U.S. Government had diplomatic or consular establishment.5 He said he would have gone into his reasons at that time except that he believed it best for me to have opportunity observe our operations here.
To clear up this situation I am sure that Government of India will expect me to say that I have made an investigation of these specific instances. Further I am sure Government of India expects me give the Prime Minister assurances regarding U.S. Government’s agencies activities in India. Since this raises obviously fundamental question regarding basic objectives of USIS … we are developing problem and will forward our conclusions and recommendations soonest. Indeed, regarding above assurances there was some indication [Page 281] Pillai contemplated they be formulated by possibly the Secretary and transmitted through me.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.91/5–2355. Secret.↩
- Pratap was an Urdu-language newspaper published in New Delhi.↩
- William T. Turner.↩
- She had written an article about her brother and sister, Nehru and Madame Pandit, for the January 1955 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal↩
- Reported in telegram 1579 from New Delhi, April 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.91/4-2055)↩