146. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State 1

1849. Department pass Streibert. Embtel 18292 reported factually gist my conversation with Pillai re alleged activities official Americans in India tending undermine Prime Minister and his policies. This telegram summarizes my conclusions and recommendations after discussions with Willson, Bartlett, Flanagan, Blue (Weil absent on vacation), Kaufman.3

At very beginning I wish make clear it my opinion and that of staff of longer service here that USIS has faithfully followed United States policy and has shown judicious restraint in activities so as not engender opposition and suspicion of GOI.

Embassy aware GOI has been concerned with scope and effect USIS activities. Understand Nehru cautioned both Ambassadors Bowles and Allen that USIS was not to fight cold war within India. Laboring under this injunction but having compelling obligation to state American position on cold war issues emphatically, USIS has proceeded with prudence.

But insofar as information available here, this is first instance in which GOI has:

Raised issue of subsidization at request of PM Nehru who considers if subsidization is fact, it represents purpose of United States to undermine him and his policies;
Made request for highest level answers to alleged specific instances of United States subsidization;
Stated it takes serious view of matter and hopes United States Embassy will put stop to practice as if fact of practice established.

As stated Embtel 1829, my answer must be quite clear to GOI. I believe I can truthfully say to Pillai and Nehru that USIS has not, does not, and will not resort to subsidization by any form in order elicit what we consider to be items in journals or newspapers favorable to our cause.

Further, I can point out that, far from undermining GOI, USIS has continually devoted sizeable portion its resources to actively supporting economic and social programs of GOI. For example, series of 20 motion pictures made by USIS in India were all devoted towards depicting progress being made by India under Five-Year Plan. In addition, I shall point out that most important single publicity organ of USIS, American Reporter, has as matter of policy in almost every issue in four years of its existence carried articles paying finest tribute to India’s efforts.

If necessary convince GOI I am being fully frank, I intend point out USIS assistance to publishers in encouraging publication of American books under book translation program. I can explain it my understanding GOI has long been aware this activity which at all times has been conducted in aboveboard manner.

There only one situation of which I have received knowledge which might be misunderstood by GOI. This was purchase by USIS from magazine Thought of 5,000 pamphlets written by Indian trade union leader Shastri entitled “My China Diary”,4 which were distributed by Thought on basis of list agreed to by USIS and Thought. This seems to me borderline arrangement which on facts could not be deemed unfavorable to GOI, but which as general principle would undoubtedly be considered by GOI as type of arrangement to which they might object. I shall not, however, bring this matter up unless they initiate it.

Department … has fuller information than I have submitted regarding … activities which I hope will be taken into account in response of Department.

Unless Department, USIA, or CIA have information contradictory to above, I propose flatly and firmly to inform Pillai and Nehru specific rumors he mentioned are completely and utterly without foundation. I assume that in any statement I make concerning practices of our information services, there has been nothing done by any other agency which would contradict my proposed statement, but I must be informed fully about this. If I should make firm [Page 283] representations which are not true in fact, it would impair my usefulness here.

However, I believe there is a more important issue involved, not fully disclosed by Pillai but which may motivate the thinking of PM and his Cabinet. It has been clear to me since coming here that deepest disagreements between United States and GOI lie in our foreign policy and the assumptions upon which our policy is based. When reasons for our policy are explained by American Embassy and USIS, in accord with State and USIA guidances and instructions, then they contradict many assumptions upon which GOI foreign policy is based. I suspect that what may be really troubling Nehru and GOI is the thought that American officials in India are trying to convince Indians of correctness of American foreign policy and desirability of its support, which by implication suggests rejection of Nehru’s foreign policy. If this basic reason, then ultimate effort of Nehru may be to reduce to greatest possible degree or stop USIS in efforts to fairly present United States policy. This, to me, is position which we could not accept and which we must oppose. Such a GOI position would contradict our conception of free information and would represent adoption by GOI of their own kind of iron curtain. In this context, therefore, it seems natural that USIS as public voice and interpreter of United States Government should be target. Feel certain GOI aware that USIS, with extensive operating mechanism and trained personnel stationed at key points, delivers continuing impact throughout India.

Another illuminating factor is recent experience of New York Times business representative Bailey5 in India, who was seeking permission to have overseas edition of Times printed here. Bailey reported after three months unavailing efforts he found much active anti-American attitude in high government circles. In my view this New York Times experience indicates unwillingness of GOI to have full coverage of United States policy developments plus sober American editorial reactions made available to its citizens.

It possible that basic question of freedom of United States to state and interpret persuasively within India United States foreign policy may have to be discussed with Pillai and Nehru. If I am to be in strongest position to advance our views on this basic question, [Page 284] then I must for my own information be fully informed on any operations by official agencies of United States other than USIS.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.91/5–2555. Secret.
  2. Supra .
  3. Clifford H. Willson was the Director of the Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA) in India; Frederic P. Bartlett was the Counselor for Economic Affairs; Thomas E. Flanagan was chief Public Affairs Officer; William L. Blue was First Secretary and Consul; T. Eliot Weil was the Counselor of the Embassy; and Walter J. Kaufman, Jr., was Embassy attaché.
  4. “From My China Diary” was written by Brajkishore Shastri.
  5. John T. Bailey of the International Edition.
  6. Flanagan wrote to Damon on this matter on June 1 and 11. He indicated that paragraphs 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12 of this message had been drafted by USIS personnel at New Delhi. While pleased by the support of the Embassy, Flanagan called for “prudence” and “restraint,” given the lingering climate of Indian suspicion and the close scrutiny USIA operations would likely come under in the future. He saw little to be gained under that circumstance from distributing anything which Nehru or his colleagues could view as being critical of the Prime Minister personally. (Department of State, USIA/IAN Files: Lot 61 D 233, India-New Delhi PAO—Jan.–June 1955)