206. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India0

2172. Eyes Only for Ambassador from Secretary. We have just forwarded to you second letter from Nehru today anticipated in your 1889.1 As we read this message it amounts to a request for an active and practically speaking unlimited military partnership between the United States and India to take on Chinese invasion India. This involves for us the most far-reaching political and strategic issues and we are not at all convinced that Indians are prepared to face the situation in the same terms. I recall that more than once in past two years I have expressed to various Indian representatives my concern that their policy would lead to a situation where they would call upon us for assistance when it is too late rather than give their and free world policy any opportunity for preventive effectiveness.

It is not our purpose now to rehash the past but to look at present situation in its fullest reality. The essential question is whether Peiping is now engaged in an all-out assault on India or is pushing its territorial claims up to the extreme limits of Chinese pretentions. Nehru’s latest message indicates his assessment that the Chinese are determined to push far beyond disputed areas and that this is in fact a genuine attack on India.

If this is so then it is apparent that India is faced with the necessity of mobilizing every possible resource in its support and that every other question must be subordinated to its own defense and national existence. It seems that, therefore, PriMin must now consider maximum diplomatic, political and military effort to encompass the following:

The enlistment of full Pakistani cooperation at whatever cost in terms of lesser question between the two countries including Kashmir. The United States cannot give maximum military support to India while most of India’s forces are engaged against Pakistan over an issue where American interest in self-determination of the peoples directly concerned has caused us since 1954 to be sympathetic to Pakistan’s claims. To put it in most brutal terms, India may now face a choice between Pakistani assistance in the defense of India and some kind of satisfaction of Pakistan’s interest in the Kashmir question.
We have seen little evidence thus far of India’s attempt to mobilize the traditional commitments of the British Commonwealth. We [Page 401]believe the defense of India is in the first instance a Commonwealth problem though there are no formal treaty commitments within that structure. If India considers that it is faced with a war against China, it would be very difficult for the United States to give maximum assistance without the fullest participation of at least the old Commonwealth and without the elimination of such anomalies as normal Commonwealth relations with Peiping and the shipment of large supplies of foodstuffs from Canada and Australia to Red China. India must, we think, insist upon maximum Commonwealth support in its struggle against China. Specifically, any requests for assistance made of us should also be addressed to the British.
A third factor is the United Nations. We can understand that Nehru might have been reluctant to raise question of Chinese aggression in United Nations so long as he had any hope that Russia would not be forced to support Peiping. On the other hand, the full mobilization of world opinion against Red China could bring to bear political, economic and psychological pressures on Peiping which would add strength to the relative ineffectiveness thus far of Indian arms. In any event, full United States support for India would be much easier and more palatable to the American people if there were near unanimity in the United Nations that this was an aggression rejected by the entire world community, and on which India had the widest possible international support.
Further, we have seen little evidence that India has attempted to mobilize the political and practical support of other nations in southern and Southeast Asia also bordering on or near Red China and interested in resistance to Red Chinese expansion. India’s heretofore cavalier attitude toward communist penetration Southeast Asia is obviously an obstacle to Asian solidarity in this situation, but a maximum diplomatic effort to trade support for support with these countries is clearly called for.
Latest message from PriMin in effect proposes not only a military alliance between India and the United States but complete commitment by us to a fighting war. We recognized this might be immediate reaction of a Government in a desperate position but it is a proposal which cannot be reconciled with any further pretense of non-alignment. If this is what Nehru has in mind, he should be entirely clear about it before we even consider our own decision.

There are strong reasons why the United States should not appear to be the point of the spear in assisting India in this situation. The most impelling of these is that our role might force Moscow to support Peiping. We shall be considering here whether there is anything we can constructively say to Moscow about China’s reckless and provocative action because there is some reason to believe that Moscow is also very much worried about the dangerous possibility. I would emphasize, however, [Page 402]India must mobilize its own diplomatic and political resources, seek the broadest base of support throughout the world and, more particularly, enlist the active interest and participation of the Commonwealth.

Please let us have your comments on the above urgently before we reply to the PriMin’s latest letter to the President.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 691.93/11-2062. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Rusk, cleared by the President, and approved by Talbot.
  2. Dated November 19. (Ibid., 691.93/11-1962) [Regarding Nehru’s letter, see Documents 203 and 204.]