157. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Department of State 1

Dulte 20. Eyes only Acting Secretary from Secretary for President.

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Dear Mr. President:

I arrived at Ceylon this morning and it cheered me to receive your message.2 It is difficult in the course of these trips to give much continuous thinking to problems other than those in the immediate area, but I cannot wholly dismiss from my mind the critical situation in the Near East and I am glad if my “thinking-aloud” message3 fitted in with your own thoughts. Of course all of these matters require careful staffing which I cannot supply here.

I had a most interesting, and I think rather significant two-day meeting in India. Most of the time I spent with Nehru. He had completely cleared his calendar for the two days of my visit. The first day we had three and one-half hours together just the two of us, in a most intimate way. I was amused that toward the end of the conference he was sitting on the back of the sofa with his feet on the seat. We really took our hair down. Then we met again for nearly two hours yesterday, and I had several intermediate talks with him at various social functions.4

The one distinct impression that I gained is their almost pathological fear of Pakistan. I, of course, knew they did not like our alliance with, and armament program for, Pakistan, but I never appreciated before the full depth of their feeling. I had assumed that India with its far greater population and economic strength would feel relatively immune from any serious threat. However, they feel that Pakistan, or at least West Pakistan, is essentially a military state, largely run by the Army, that they are a martial people, that they are fanatically dedicated to Islam and may develop the urge to attack India or at least to try to take Kashmir or parts of it by force. Their fear is I think accentuated by somewhat of a guilty conscience in that they have themselves in effect taken over Kashmir by force and ignore the UN requirement of a plebiscite. There are border incidents and the whole position bears an unhappy resemblance to the Israeli-Egyptian situation.

I do not think we can alter our Pakistan relationship which is of great value, but I do think that we must try to handle it in ways which will give maximum assurance to India that our military aid will only be used for purely defensive purposes.

Nehru appreciated your invitation to him. He made no positive reply because his schedule is tight for he has elections of his own coming up in the fall and his Parliament will be in session until almost the date of the Commonwealth conference. However, my strong hunch is he will accept.

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Our own talk was of such an intimate character that I think he would like to have something of the same character with you running two or three days.

One most disturbing fact is that they are thinking of buying some military planes, I think IL–28 types, from the Russians. I had already been told by Selwyn Lloyd5 that this was a possibility, and he indicated that if these planes with Russian technicians were coming, then he was dubious whether they should sell the Canberras with special equipment.

Nehru led up to this subject with obvious caution and gave quite a story as to the background trying to make it appear as innocent as possible. I told him as a first reaction that I could only tell him frankly that I felt it would greatly vex our relations.

Last night at dinner I told him that ever since he had first mentioned the subject to me, I had been worrying about it, and that I felt I ought to tell him before leaving that I thought the consequences would be very bad indeed. I said to him, “Why do you do this? You can buy planes from the British. You can buy planes from us. I cannot see why you should buy planes from the Russians knowing that it would make it almost impossible for US to carry on its efforts assist you materially in your second five year plan. That will be hard enough anyway, and this arms deal with Russia, I feel, would make it impossible. I know you will not change your attitude because of foreign pressure and I do not mention the subject in that spirit. I do think that you ought to know what are the probable consequences and then you yourself can judge what is the best course for India.”6

I had a long and somewhat difficult press conference, which I accepted with some considerable misgivings but on the strong advice of John Cooper. Several hundred people were there, and the questioning was dominated by Communist and strongly anti-American elements of the press who repeatedly tried to trap me with loaded questions. However, I think on the whole the conference justified itself, and the general impression that I got, up to my midnight hour [Page 311] of departure was, that on balance it had been productive. The very fact of exposing myself in this way was, I think, regarded as evidence of the integrity of our purposes.7

Faithfully yours


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.11–DU/3–1156. Secret.
  2. Tedul 27 to Colombo, March 10. (Ibid., 110.11–DU/3–1056)
  3. Dulte 14 from Karachi, March 8. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 663)
  4. See Document 156.
  5. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  6. In order to conclude the sale of the Canberra bombers, the British were willing to take a financial loss and divert production intended for the Royal Air Force. Nehru, however, still thought the British price too high and the projected schedule of delivery too slow. Earlier, the British had gained U.S. approval to sell the planes to the Indians with specialized bombing equipment. The Indians, however, sought a still classified 1,000-lb. low-drag bomb, which was intended for supersonic and not subsonic aircraft such as the Canberra. Moreover, it was an external bomb while the Canberras were fitted for conventional internal bombs. The United States was not prepared to sanction its release at this time to the Indians though the British believed it would be the final sweetener. Documentation on this subject is in Department of State, Central Files 791.5622, 791.56, and 396.1
  7. In a letter to Dulles, dated April 14, Cooper asserted that the Secretary’s visit had “produced positive results,” and that the press conference had been a success. He disclosed that when Pillai informed him of India’s decision to buy British planes he referred to the Secretary’s conversation with Nehru. (Ibid., 110.11–DU/4–1456)