151. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1
388. On August 23, Pillai revived USIS issue. He said he regretted raising issue again as he had thought matter closed after my talks with PM reported Embassy telegram 1901,2 but PM had decided as GOI policy that information centers of foreign countries could not be maintained except at locations of Embassy and consular offices. Therefore US was asked to close all centers except Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta. He then brought up following matter, which leads me believe decision is not based altogether on policy expressed by Pillai, but derives from dislike and suspicion of information program emphasized in my talks prior reported. He showed me letter written by USIS PAO Lucknow dated August 8, 1955, to unnamed individual as follows:
“This is to bring to your notice that it is occasionally possible for this office to recommend those interested persons who may be desirous of visiting the United States at some period during their professional career. As we are bringing our records up to date on the subject, and if you are interested, it would be appreciated if you would fill out the attached form and send it to me at your earliest convenience, in order that we may have your name and particulars for recommendation should the opportunity ever arise.
“With kind regards,
“Royal D. Bisbee, Jr.,
He said addressee was family friend of PM who had not requested visit US and letter had been interpreted as improper. Pillai [Page 292] himself thought it in bad taste. This led me to make following statement to Pillai:
- Explaining generally Department “leader” program I said it was possible addressee had indicated interest in US visit and if he had not, it was possible that letter was normal inquiry or perhaps there was mistake in addressee. If issue was simply one of procedure and possible impropriety, it was a matter which could be discussed and corrected and information centers should not be closed on such incident.
- If the emphasis on this incident grew out of attitude which had been expressed to me in my former talks over USIS, that program of USIS was directed against GOI, then issue was one which deserved serious consideration. If this true ground of complaint then argument would apply equally to information centers Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras. I said I raised these two questions because the introduction of the letter incident did not seem to accord with GOI position that closing of centers was solely one of policy applying to all countries.
Pillai reiterated decision was one of policy alone, saying no country other than US had centers except in cities of Embassy or Consulate establishments, noting that UK had closed one of its centers and saying that Tass request to send four additional representatives to India had been refused.
Bisbee, PAO Lucknow, came to Delhi with full records which include questioned letter addressed to Shive Nath Katju the son of Defense Minister.3 Bisbee says Katju had previously indicated interest in visit US but had answered Bisbee’s letter saying in substance it was offensive to him. Bisbee’s records show identical letter addressed to other nominees and all had accepted. USIS say letters of same general type used throughout India and there is no record of previous addressees taking offense. I think it evident that Katju had communicated with father who had raised question issue with Nehru. USIS and Embassy preparing memorandum on “leader” program as Department of State program, legislation supporting it, history in India and its purposes. I will give to Pillai for study and request he submit to Nehru. Then it is my intention to talk to Nehru. My plan for talk is to inquire what grounds decision based, raising points (1) and (2) above and possible exploring GOI attitude toward free exchange of information. Please convey information to Streibert and give me advice and suggestions. I must note Pillai [Page 293] told me he believed PM and Cabinet had made firm decision and would not retreat from decision that centers be closed.4
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.91/8–2655. Secret. Repeated to Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.↩
- Document 148.↩
- Kailas Nath Katju.↩
- In telegram 483 to New Delhi, August 30, the Department of State and USIA approved Ambassador Cooper’s plan to talk to Nehru. He was advised to request more details on how the information centers had been offensive to the Indian Government. Additionally, he was to express the belief that the centers were of benefit to the areas they served. (Department of State, Central Files, 511.91/8–2655)↩