92. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1
1641. For the President and SecState from Harriman. Following is summary of major impressions gained in 3–1/2 days concentrated discussions.2
I have visited India four times in the last six years, the last time in 1962 in connection with India’s emergency arms needs.
I feel today quite a new attitude towards US and the world situation reflected by Indian officials as well as press. I almost felt I was in a different country. With one exception, discussions with Indian Ministers and officials were relaxed and frank with full agreement on such matters as aggressive intents of Red China, need to prevent Reds’ take-over in South Vietnam and SEA, willingness to consider objectively our policies and work with us for common objectives in other areas of world. They show greater confidence in their ability to solve India’s economic problems with increased production in agriculture and industry and have greater understanding of need to develop private sector by both domestic and foreign investment, although not yet taking all necessary actions.
On other hand, Indians still are over-hopeful of Soviet Union’s good intents, fear effects our tougher attitude toward Soviets, and are concerned that our policies toward Hanoi will bring Moscow and Peiping together again. They want to continue play non-aligned role although they are considerably disillusioned with Sukarno and Nasser.
They want to work with us on nuclear controls but don’t want to spoil their non-aligned image by bilateral security arrangements. They show a more pragmatic and less doctrinaire approach to political and economic matters, but are somewhat held in check by loyalty to interpretations of Nehru’s principles and purposes.
I had the feeling that I could talk freely with them without fear of being misunderstood and that we could reach understandings on a much broader area. They are, of course, still suspicious and fearful of some of our policies and methods, i.e., that we will fail to take advantage of what they consider Moscow’s willingness to come to agreements on [Page 198] nuclear and arms controls, political settlements in Europe, etc. and although they don’t want us to leave South Vietnam before an effective agreement, they fear we may overly react against Hanoi and thereby bring Red China and Soviet Union into the conflict.
I feel our economic and military assistance is beginning to pay off, but if we don’t continue, economy will not expand to breakthrough to self sufficiency, and military capability will not be sufficient to act as deterrent to Red Chinese aggression—first in Nepal and Bhutan and later Assam.
Ambassador’s absence first two days gave me better opportunity to get to know country team. I was favorably impressed by all—political, economic, information and military, and by the coordination under Bowles’ vigorous and spirited leadership. Gen. Johnson, who was with me in 1962 has excellent relations with Indian Military. Chief of Staff General Chadhury spoke highly of him and our cooperation in general. There is no doubt army has made good progress in every way during last two years but air force is dangerously weak. Indians are prepared to emphasize air requirements in next year’s aid program requests and I hope we can fill them.
Indians are still stubborn over Kashmir settlement and relations with Pakistan are most unsatisfactory. Indo-Pak settlement is still number one problem and should have our continued attention in concert with British.
The one exception to my generally favorable reaction in talks with officials was with Swaran Singh, Minister External Affairs. I felt I was arguing with Krishna Menon again. Not that he is Communist-inclined but because he took critical attitude on most all our policies. Bowles tells me Swaran Singh has little influence and hopes he will be replaced. Bowles does his business with Prime Minister and capable Foreign Office officials, as well as other Ministers direct.
Press reaction to my visit was generally good with understanding editorials on our policies in Vietnam and fair reporting on my blunt statements.
Surveys show public have increasing respect for and confidence in US.
All in all, I am much more hopeful of India and feel we can expect her to play more effective role towards free world objectives.3
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to New Delhi and passed to the White House.↩
- Harriman subsequently submitted a report on his trip to President Johnson, which included a 1-page summary of his visit to India. (Memorandum for the President, March 15; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (II))↩
- McGeorge Bundy forwarded a copy of this telegram to President Johnson on March 10 with a covering note in which he made the following comment: “I think it is good and accurate. We all feel that between now and the Shastri visit we shall have to look hard at our policy toward India.” (Ibid., Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 9, 3/3/65–6/30/65)↩