101. Telegram From the White House to the Embassy in India 1

CAP 65102. Eyes Only for Bowles from Bundy. President and all rest of us here can well understand your distress at Shastri postponement,2 [Page 217] but I can assure you that this decision taken with best interests India as well as US thoroughly in mind. It is not to be construed as merely a conditioned reflex to decision disinvite Ayub.

In point of fact USG, with Vietnam and host of other problems on its plate over next few months, and with aid bill having rocky passage through Congress, is in no position talk turkey with Shastri just now. Nor for that matter does Shastri seem from here to be as yet in any position to say much to us. So rather than have merely a polite get-together with neither party yet ready for constructive palaver, the President prefers that we both do our homework and get aid bill passed first.

You should know that President feels deeply a Shastri visit here could focus unwelcome attention on the fact that we’re spending biggest single chunk of our aid money on an enterprise which isn’t going anywhere fast. Add to this the risk of undue focus on the fact that our two largest clients don’t seem able to live on the same continent with each other without constant bickering. Regardless of the causes, this doesn’t go down well here.

It also makes the time most unpropitious for those here who feel that US interests dictate consideration of a package of major help for India in return for some quite far-reaching understandings with respect to: (a) non-proliferation; (b) more sensible economic policies; and (c) movement toward Pak/Indian reconciliation. As we see it, Indians are not ready to talk sensibly about this yet.

So larger interests, as well as immediate problems, argue for accepting any short term affront to Indian amour propre in the interest of a more productive visit later. Am sure you see this loud and clear.

Thus our chore at this point is to find ways and means of softening the blow. Very much will also depend on your own ability to say convincingly that postponement must not be read as any more than what it is—a feeling on the President’s own part plus that of all his advisers that the time would simply be riper in the fall. In [Page 218] short, the President says he respects your understanding of the Indians but wants you to respect his understanding of the Congress. Good luck.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, India, Exchanges with Bowles. Secret; Immediate. [text not declassified] Drafted by Komer. The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the telegram were revised by hand by Bundy. The final paragraph was revised and expanded by Komer.
  2. Bowles reacted to the instruction to inform Shastri that his visit to Washington was being postponed in a telegram for the President and the Secretary in which he emphasized the consequences he felt would follow. He wrote of the “profound shock and resentment which will be felt by Shastri personally and which will be reflected throughout GOI and in press if he is disinvited under these conditions.” Given Ayub’s recent dealings with China, Bowles could appreciate the reasons for postponing Ayub’s visit, but he felt that if the objective was to be tough with Ayub there was all the more reason to encourage Shastri’s visit. Canceling both visits, he concluded, would be viewed in India as appeasement of Pakistan and an affront to India. (Telegram 2920 from New Delhi, April 15; ibid., Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 10, April 15–May 31, 1965)
  3. Rusk reinforced this message with a personal cable to Bowles the same day emphasizing that it was important for Bowles to see Shastri with news of the postponement in coordination with McConaughy’s approach to Ayub, lest the Indian Government receive the news indirectly. (Telegram 2161 to New Delhi, April 15; ibid.)