207. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, March 19, 19581


  • Call of the Vice President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, on the President


  • President Eisenhower
  • Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
  • Donald D. Kennedy, NEA, Department of State
  • Clement E. Conger, U/PR, Department of State

After opening felicitations during which Vice President Radhakrishnan conveyed greetings from Mr. Nehru, Prime Minister of India, the President recalled the pleasant time he spent with Mr. Nehru on the occasion of his (Nehru’s) last visit to this country, and especially mentioned that the subject of Kashmir had been brought up during their conversations.2 He had gained the impression at that time that the Indian Prime Minister was hopeful that progress would be made in the matter. The President added that he thought that settlement of the Kashmir problem was very essential to progress in the area. The Vice President of India said that given good will on both sides, the matter would be settled. He referred to the fact that religion was the basis for the partition of India and Pakistan and felt that this was not an acceptable principle. The President said that Prime Minister Nehru had made that point to him personally [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

Dr. Radhakrishnan referred to the political situation in Pakistan and said that although President Mirza was not the responsible head of government of the country, he was the one who was holding it together. So far Pakistan had not even been able to hold an election. The President commented that where conditions of that sort occurred parties looked for a scapegoat.

The President said that to his mind it was incomprehensible that there had not been settlement of the issues between India and Pakistan. The two countries had a common cultural background and even common blood. The only thing that stood between them was religion. He thought it was tragic. The President went on to say that the United [Page 427] States tried to be good friends to both countries. We did not take a position one way or the other; if we did, then we would lose any influence we might have. But nothing would be more wonderful for peace than a rapprochement.

The Vice President of India expressed gratitude for the assistance which the United States had recently given and had given on previous occasions. He felt that progress had been made and that India would succeed. This success would be of great importance as an example to the area. He also wanted to say that what was also so important was the feeling of moral support which the people of America gave. He felt that support every time he came to this country. The President expressed the view that as long as people have a sense of accomplishment they will move forward, and after a certain point is reached progress would achieve a geometric progression.

The President referred to our military program and the great burden of arms which this country had to carry. He said some might disagree with our approach; but we believed that it was necessary to do what we were doing. However, he had very much in mind the possibly adverse effect what we were doing might have with regard to our maintaining our way of life and free enterprise system. We were not yet at a critical state, but sometimes people became hysterical and the possibility existed that we might lose our free institutions in defending them.

The Vice President of India referred to the free institutions in India including free elections and courts of law, and mentioned the resignation of the Finance Minister, T. T. Krishnamachari, as an extreme example of how democratic institutions functioned in India at the present time. The President said that we were a supporter of the purposes and ideals of the Government of India; that we had our differences but that they were not vital. The Vice President added that what was important were the basic values related to human rights and freedom for the individual, and agreed that differences between the two countries were not in an area of great significance.

Dr. Radhakrishnan then referred to the fact that he was speaking tomorrow afternoon at Columbia University as a guest to deliver this year’s Gabriel Silver lecture. The conversation ended with the President mentioning that he had been responsible for starting this series.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Confidential. Drafted by Kennedy. Eisenhower was briefed for this meeting with Vice President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in a memorandum of March 17 from Acting Secretary Herter. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.9111/3–1758) Radhakrishnan was in Washington for an unofficial 2-day visit, March 19–20. Another copy of this memorandum of conversation is ibid., 033.9111/3–2458. Dulles spoke with Radhakrishnan on March 19 about Pakistani-Indian relations, among other matters. See Document 22.
  2. For a memorandum of Eisenhower’s conversation with Nehru on December 19, 1956, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. VIII, p. 331.