104. Telgram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State 1

2932. Deptels 2161,2 2165,3 Rawalpindi’s 374 to Dept. Since PriMin Shastri is out of town until Sunday evening I delivered President’s [Page 222] letter to L. K. Jha. I also noted that postponement of Shastri and Ayub visit has leaked in Washington.

Jha read letter and expressed his disappointment and concern. His concern was compounded as we assumed it would be by linking of withdrawal of Ayub Khan invitation with that of Shastri.

I stressed that only reason why two actions appeared to be coupled was that both visits happened to fall in same time span and President found it essential to clear his schedule because of crisis in Southeast Asia. Indeed all engagements that did not deal directly with urgent domestic questions or Southeast Asia were being simultaneously cancelled or postponed.

Jha replied that he could readily understand pressures to which President referred. However fact that Ayub Khan and Shastri visit were being cancelled simultaneously would surely lead to feeling within India and abroad that Shastri, who was opposing Chinese both militarily and politically, has been linked with Ayub Khan who has been cooperating with Chinese, and that Americans are indifferent to this distinction.

Misunderstanding in India will be compounded by leak to which I referred and fact that Paks armed with American weapons are pressing in Kutch border area will lead further to confusion. I admitted that there are bound to be some misunderstandings and confusion in press. However it is our task to minimize this confusion and to make sure that postponement which I believe to be wise under circumstances did not lead to unnecessary difficulties for all of us.

Although President and administration understood India’s unaligned position, fact of matter was the GOI had often mishandled its public relations in such way as to create misunderstandings and in some cases resentment.

For instance, we knew Indians had worked most effectively behind scenes in regard to Southeast Asia situation at Belgrade and elsewhere and we were hopeful that they would continue to do so. However their failure publicly to recognize that we are in fact fighting their battles as well as our own creates a sense of disappointment. In that regard I was hopeful that PriMin would be able to make strong case in Moscow for more forthcoming Soviet position in support of some form of Johnson plan.

Jha picked up my reference to Moscow by stating that PriMin had always linked Moscow and US visits together and had deliberately arranged to go to Moscow before going to Washington so he could report to President progress that he had hoped to make there. Under present conditions Jha felt sure PriMin would wish he were not going to Moscow.

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We then turned to problem of how best to handle situation here in India. Jha said he would get PriMin on telephone in next few hours. We agreed to coordinate with GOI as best we could press handling both in Washington and here in India. Admittedly leak had created serious difficulties for us all but we would do our best to ease problems for both govts. Jha particularly asked USG hold its announcement until he has talked to Shastri.5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 INDIA. Secret; Flash; Limdis. Repeated to Karachi and passed to White House.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 101.
  3. In telegram 2165 to New Delhi, repeated to Karachi as telegram 1152, April 15, the Department warned that news of the postponement of the Ayub and Shastri visits was leaking in Washington. It was therefore “imperative” for both countries to agree quickly upon press statements relating to the postponements. The Department transmitted proposed drafts to be used as models. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 PAK)
  4. Document 103.
  5. After a telephone call to Shastri, Jha reported to Bowles that Shastri was deeply disappointed. Jha indicated that the Indian Government would issue a press release stating that the postponement was agreed upon as a result of President Johnson’s heavy schedule, and that there would be further discussions concerning rescheduling the visit. (Telegram 2934 from New Delhi, April 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 INDIA) In Washington, Rusk called in Ambassador Nehru, gave him a copy of the letter to Shastri, and explained the reasons for the postponement. Nehru’s reaction was that postponement of the visit on such short notice was “an act of discourtesy” certain to cause resentment in New Delhi. (Telegram 2175 to New Delhi, April 17; ibid.)