151. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State 1

15268. Subj: Indo-U.S. Relations in Indian Public Arena: Thereʼs No Place To Go But Up.

Summary. During previous troughs in Indo-U.S. relations, American officials and private Americans caring about health of Indo-U.S. relations frequently comforted selves that while government-to-government relations temporarily low, there such substantial bedrock of goodwill for America among Indian people, equilibrium bound to be re-established in time, almost as law of nature. Most competent Indian and foreign observers today agree with Senator Percyʼs comment in August 9 Indian Express that Indo-U.S. relations at “all-time low.” What makes present crisis in confidence particularly important and [Page 419] disturbing is accumulating evidence that old easy-going assumption about unshakableness of Indiansʼ private fondness for America is outdated, and that events of past six-months have seriously drawn down fund of goodwill. Recognizing that during this period there have been, as always, some Indian officials, media representatives, and other influential intelligentsia working overtime to place U.S. policies in worst possible light, fact is that even after American spokesmenʼs careful, cogent explanations of those policies, vast majority of Indians who have commented, including many old friends, profess confusion about American purposes in South Asia and chagrin about American actions. Single most damaging factors during past spring and summer, from which most other specific criticisms of U.S. derive, concern military sales: (a) U.S. decision not to ban all military shipments to Pakistan upon outbreak hostilities East Bengal, and (b) subsequent public fuzzing of specifics of military sales program, resulting in serious questions about U.S. credibility across broad range of foreign policy/ defense issues. End summary.
Recent letter to me from Gandhian friend of U.S. suggesting Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit to U.S. good time for U.S. and Indian officials to assess what respective peoples think of each other, has prompted me to review public indicators of Indian views toward U.S. over past six-months. Our depressing conclusion is these months have seen injection into Indo-U.S. equation of Indian public bitterness which will not be easily erased. Unlike earlier storms in our relationship, at level of public consciousness, suspicion and hostility are broad, deep, and on present evidence, durable. We note following indicators:
Ambassadorʼs Mail. Volume extremely heavy since beginning East Pakistan crisis. Includes playwrights, journalists, professors, school teachers, lawyers, businessmen and common people—many of whom say they have not previously written Ambassador of any country. Themes have become all too familiar: (i) desire to create South Asia power balance causes U.S. to “equate” Indian and Pakistan; (ii) U.S. at worst assisting Yahya to crush democracy (eleven professors of Rajasthan University), at best “silent spectator to genocide” (high school teacher in Bihar); (iii) U.S. “arming” of Pakistan and warming of Sino-U.S. relations has driven isolated India further unto arms of USSR, which may radicalize Indian political process (e.g., leader in history Osmania University, businessman in Kerala, agriculturist in Punjab); (iv) irony of U.S. providing “arms” to Pakistan and assisting refugees who are victims; (v) U.S. gains nothing from its policy in present crisis; sample comment: “What is it America stands to gain by keeping alive flame of torture in subcontinent?”; (vi) some writers profess continued friendship for American people, but contrast administration unfavorably with “land of Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy” (frequent quote). Prominent Delhi advocate, declaring self member of Congress Party [Page 420] who believes strong Indo-U.S. relations important to India, wrote in mid-August: “Every right-thinking person in India is entitled to know … whether American Government places Pakistanʼs interest above Indian interest … I am writing to get clarification so Indian minds are cleared of mist that has developed due to present steps by American Government.”
Letters to Editor. Though volume has decreased somewhat past month, hostile letters continue as near daily feature. Themes which have not changed appreciably since beginning are same as those in letters to me. Notably, long-time friends of U.S. have joined critical chorus: (i) G.L. Mehta, former Ambassador to U.S. and life-time President Indo-America society, in letters to Times of India and Indian Express in late July and early August professed self “outraged by U.S. policy of U.S. administration on arms supply, economic aid to Pakistan … if conscience of American nation is alive, it must realize what grievous wrong is being done through present policy its government”; (ii) J.J. Singh, resident of U.S. nearly four decades as head of India–America League has written several letters, including one to Times of India August 4 re alleged U.S. “insistence” GOI accept UN observers—“same old pernicious game of equating India and Pakistan … (also) Machiavellian scheme to make Mukti Bahini unpopular in eyes of world. Let Mr. Nixon and others of his ilk rest assured freedom fighters of Bangla Desh … will not be awed by scowls of big powers.” Others have written: (i) (U.S.) “short-term national objectives being pursued in utter disregard of values cherished by civilized society.” (Hindustan Times July 8); and (ii) American Government … could not but be expected to support venture of death and destruction by Pakistan.” (Times of India September 2).
Editorials. Since Embassy and USINFO have reported in detail all significant editorials, and since themes much same as in correspondence noted above, will not repeat substance here. However, would highlight that: (i) editorial and analytical comment on East Pakistan crisis remains heavy in most papers, with U.S. strong secondary villain. More broadly, almost every editorial appearing on fast-changing power relationships in Asia suggests U.S. has committed itself to side of Pakistan and China, Indiaʼs putative enemies; and (ii) edits [editorials] critical of U.S. appear in vernacular and English papers widely divergent political/ideological orientations throughout country. Notable, for example, that Indian Express, largest chain in India, which considered by Indians as rightist and normally pro-American, has been leading pack in shrill anti-U.S. diatribes.
Treatment of News. Suspicion of American motives has, since beginning of crisis, been reflected in ways news stories written and headlined. Normal Indian journalistic tendency to sandwich speculation with straight news has become more pronounced. This particularly [Page 421] evident in reports on alleged U.S. views/efforts on such issues as U.N. observers in India and Pakistan, relief assistance in East Pakistan, and AID Pakistan Consortium meeting. Illustrative of insinuative headlining are these from Statesman, which probably has been least hostile to U.S.: (i) September 17 headline “UK Sends Relief Boats to India, USA to Pakistan,” over Geneva datelined report of British and U.S. efforts to assist food distribution in waterlogged East and West Bengal; and (ii) September 10 headline, “Aid to Pakistan Without Curbs—Rogersʼ Appeal To Congress,” over item reporting Secretaryʼs Congressional testimony designed to obtain unfettered aid legislation which would assure greater funds for Bengali relief assistance in both India and Pakistan.
Returns from Indian Institute of Public Opinion poll reported New Delhi 14579.2 Poll indicates dramatic decline past year in U.S. prestige in India.
Private comments of Indian officials, citizens, friendly diplomats. Unlike previous Indo-U.S. contretemps, mission officers have during present one heard no expressions of private understanding or support for relevant U.S. policies. Friendliest thing that has been said (e.g., Congress M.P. R.P. Sinha, and some of less shrill MEA officials) is that U.S. attempt to push GOP into constructive actions in East Pakistan by maintaining dialogue proved unavailing and should be abandoned. Many question how arms policy serves U.S. interest. Ranking officials have generally been tart. Indian Army Commander in Chief characterized U.S. actions as “stupid.” Chief Justice of Supreme Court, my close personal friend and long-time admirer of U.S., said at dinner party at residence shortly after signing of Indo-Soviet treaty: “I have always been friend of U.S. and opposed to communism. Now I wonder whether I should review those positions.” And so on, across broad social/economic spectrum, as U.S. officials and families traveling throughout India have found. Illustrative is poignant occurrence during recent visit of EmbOffʼs wife with Indian friend to latterʼs home on Punjab border with Pakistan. Elderly family retainer, who occupies declining years with daily newspapers, questioned how hostess could bring American to “our home if Americans helping Pakistan prepare for war.” Commonwealth and other friendly diplomats return to Delhi from trips across country with sober tales of low esteem in which U.S. currently held.
Indians are emotional people who frequently over-react in ways Westerners consider immature. Recognizing this, it is all more important that U.S. policies toward South Asia in time of crisis be examined to ensure that likely emotional/psychological implications for this [Page 422] populous and important country of our actions or inactions carefully understood and factored into policy equation. We suggest that as part of preparation for Mrs. Gandhiʼs U.S. visit, U.S. officials seized with South Asian problems take new look at policies toward this area with that end in view. As brilliant, articulate, U.S. trained director of MEAʼs legal division recently pleaded with EmbOff, U.S. policies toward region over next period should be carefully calculated to strengthen forces in India which stand for moderation, reason, and constructive international activity, lest field be preempted by indigenous obscurantist forces who will prey upon average Indianʼs feeling that India relatively isolated and drive country in unwholesome policy directions in domestic and external security fields.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US. Limited Official Use. Repeated to Islamabad, London, USUN, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and Dacca.
  2. Not found.