182. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India 0

1677. Ambassador Nehru saw President afternoon October 261 to deliver letter from Prime Minister2 concerning serious developments on Sino-Indian frontier. Letter consists of description of Chinese aggression followed by operative paragraph in which PriMin says that he is confident that India in this hour of crisis “shall have your sympathy and support.” (PriMin’s letter has appearance of circular communication to friendly heads of state and text being pouched.)

President told Ambassador that he would reply immediately to PriMin’s letter assuring him that he of course had our full sympathy and support and that we were prepared to demonstrate this attitude in ways which might be helpful to him within our capabilities. President was receptive to Ambassador’s suggestion that reply should contain no reference to arms or to aid. Ambassador said last he had heard from Delhi was that Indian Government still thinking in terms of purchasing arms.

Ambassador was also told that President would instruct Ambassador Galbraith to discuss situation with PriMin and to hold himself available to sort out with PriMin and other Indian officials India’s needs and desires and specific ways in which we might be helpful.

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President asked Ambassador what would be effect on Krishna Menon’s future of Indian reverses. He said that Krishna Menon was an Indian problem and that we were not going to say anything about him but added that he was not an Indian asset. Ambassador replied that political considerations would undoubtedly require that Krishna Menon be kept on as nominal Defense Minister. On basis of his information he judged that PriMin had in fact taken over Defense Ministry and would run it with assistance of defense advisory group composed of senior military officers, all of whom opposed Krishna Menon.

Thrust of President’s comments to Ambassador Nehru were that we were ready to be of assistance and when Indians told us what would be most useful we would work out terms and procedures.

For Ambassador: In connection with your determining an appropriate time for you to begin exploration with PriMin of Indian needs and desires and how we may be of assistance Presidential letter3 will be sent to you during weekend.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 691.93/10-2762. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cameron, cleared by McGeorge Bundy and Kaysen, and approved by Grant. Repeated to London and Karachi.
  2. A memorandum of Kennedy’s conversation with Nehru, prepared by Kaysen, is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, India, General, 10/26/62-10/27/62)
  3. Nehru’s letter, dated October 26, is ibid., Nehru Correspondence, 10/1/62-11/10/62.
  4. See Document 187.