55. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • Kashmir; Military Aid to India; Burma

In your memorandum of April 8 to Mr. Talbot1 you asked four questions. The questions and our replies follow:

[Page 117]

[Here follow responses to the President’s first three questions concerning the India–Pakistan dispute.]

4. I am concerned about the situation in Burma. Can the Indians do anything about it?

India can do little to help in the tangled internal situation and trends in Burma. Burma fears Red China. Despite historic similarities in the foreign policies of India and Burma, Indian influence is not welcomed by Burmese leaders. The Burmese object to all foreign (especially big power) influence and their receptivity to Indian suggestions is further inhibited by a general distaste for Indians derived from their experience with Indians in Burma. The high-level personal rapport between Nehru and U Nu, which formerly contributed to cooperation between the two countries, does not exist under Ne Win. The Burmese presumably also sense a lack of sympathy on the part of the Government of India for their domestic policies. This stems in part from the imprisonment of U Nu, an old friend of Nehru’s, and in part from Burmese nationalization measures which strike hard against the Indian minority and Indian commercial interests in Burma.
Although Indian strategic planning is quite inadequate, the Indians in their purely military planning seem to be taking into account the possibility of a Chinese thrust through Burma. Defense against invasion through Burma is, of course, a much more complicated business than the defense of the northern passes.
As the Indians make military preparations against such a threat they will also need to improve relations with Burma. An essential prerequisite is for the Indians to think of the Chinese threat in subcontinental terms and to understand the threat in its many forms. To be successful they must be prepared to meet it as a military invasion, as subversion, as a political and psychological offensive.2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–1 INDIA-PAK. Secret. Drafted by David T. Schneider, Officer in Charge of India-Ceylon-Nepal Affairs, and Turner C. Cameron, Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs, and cleared by Donald L. Woolf of SEA; M. Gordon Knox, Deputy Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs; Harriman; Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs; and William Bundy.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. In a memorandum of April 23, McGeorge Bundy informed Rusk that the President had an additional question “with respect to the situation in Burma, about which you’ll recall he expressed his concern, asking whether the Indians could do anything about it.

    “Granting that the Indians can do little to help, at least in the short run, the President would like to know whether there is anything more we can do about Burma than we are already doing. Are there any ways in which we could get closer to Ne Win and influence him against pursuing so pro-Chinese a course?” (Ibid.)

  4. Rusk’s initials appear in an unidentified hand, indicating Rusk signed the original.