97. Telegram 14451 From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1 2

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  • Discussion With Foreign Minister Swaran Singh
I met Foreign Minister Swaran Singh on November 17 at my request for a “quiet tete-a-tete” pursuant to Sisco’s letter of November 4. I refrained from taking anyone with me, but Swaran Singh had Foreign Secretary Kaul and Joint Secretary (Americas Division) Menon to take notes.
I told the Foreign Minister I was acting under instructions to seek specifics on allegations made by Prime Minister Gandhi and himself to Secretary Rogers. I said several of these allegations reflected on my conduct of the American Mission, and I was most anxious to rectify any legitimate complaints which he and GOI might have. That set Swaran Singh off on a long-winded explanation of how much he and other GOI officials thought of me and none of the statements he had made were intended to reflect upon me. After about fifteen minutes of this monologue, I was able to refer specifically to Mrs. Gandhi’s statement that “there is a great deal of interference in our internal affairs ... it is support to people who are against us ... in my father’s time it was to those people who opposed him.” (State 175720) This launched Swaran Singh into another monologue. (He is very talkative, and it is difficult to get him to marshal his thoughts or to confine himself to specific point at hand.) He dealt at some length with assertations that GOI had substantive evidence that prior to Prime Minister Nehru’s death, several of his political opponents were financed by American funds, if not from USG then from American friends supporting his opponents. When he stopped for breath, I tried to narrow the focus by saying I had no knowledge about those days. But since Mrs. Gandhi made her statements in the present tense, I was particularly interested in any current interference in internal affairs of India, and would want to put a stop to it. Swaran Singh replied he had given some specific points to the Secretary, and he then repeated the allegation “that Embassy has [Page 2] more contacts with opposition groups, and in particular one party, that with Indian Government officials.” (State 176436)
In connection with alleged financing of opposition candidates or parties, I asked if he had information since Mr. Nehru’s death or, more specifically, in year and half since I have been in India. He said yes but not in form that would stand up in court. He added it was more in nature of suspicion, and many stories had come to GOI concerning help to political activities of opponents of government. I told him that I and other members of mission had had several direct or indirect approaches along this line and we were adamant that we would not contribute in any way to any political parties or to any candidates in a foreign country. So far as I knew, that position had been adhered to scrupulously. I said that if he knew of any cases where this did not happen, I thought in fairness he should so advise me. Swaran Singh again resorted to evasion and said there was really no point in bringing up specific cases because he wanted to create a better climate for our relations, and there nothing to be gained by going into specific details. (I am convinced, however, that he has nothing in recent years which would stand up either in court or before any unbiased tribunal. But these rumors continue, no doubt inspired in part by communists.)
I told Swaran Singh that when we refused to contribute, the response we got was that the USSR was pouring in money. As he probably knew, the Russian method was to sell goods through middle-men at inflated prices with a certain part of the money to be turned over by the middle-man for political purposes in India. Swaran Singh said he could assure me that the ruling Congress Party of Mrs. Gandhi had not received one raise in that way. The ruling congress raised all funds directly but, of course, he could not say what some other parties (meaning CPI) might do in this regard. I thanked him for his assurances and said that probably many unfounded rumors were brought to both of us.
I explained on the social level, from my experience in Congress, how nearly all Embassies in Washington had one or two members of either the Senate or the House from each party at formal dinners, and that I had endeavored to do much the same in entertaining at my residence, but with singular lack of success in getting opposition members of Parliament to accept my invitations. I cited for example that I had invited Mr. M.R. Masani, head of the Swatantra Party, five or six times and he had never crossed my threshold; and that I had invited Dr. Ram Surhag Singh, leader of the opposition, but he had never accepted. I had had many more members of the ruling Congress Party as guests than all the opposition parties [Page 3] put together. Swaran Singh then launched again into a long dissertation on how he knew I had tried to be very friendly with the members of the ruling congress and that his complaint was more about members of my staff. I told him that when a member of Parliament sought to make an office call one me, I almost invariably acquiesced, whatever his party affiliation, but again there were more such callers from the ruling congress than any other group.
I told him I had given instructions to my political staff to have contacts with MP’s of all parties, which I felt desirable and necessary to strike a proper balance. Swaran Singh agreed that was exactly the way to handle such matters, but said members of my staff had been visiting often at houses of opposition members of Parliament, much more than at houses of ruling congress members, and also much more than they should, in his opinion. I told him I would look into this and certainly try to correct any imbalance which existed in social contacts on the part of my political staff. I asked him what the “one party” was with which he thought the Embassy had excessive contacts. It developed he meant the opposition congress, Swatantra and Jana Sangh. (In other words, the rough coalition which the opposition is trying to establish at the center without much success to date.) I am asking my political officers to give me a list of social contacts at the homes of Congress or Parliament members or at their own homes, and, depending upon the result, may take the subject up again with the Foreign Minister.)
Swaran Singh volunteered that the GOI has a fine intelligence service which keeps close tabs on what the communists are doing in India, since the latter’s purposes are suspect. On the other hand, he said, the GOI has never and doesn’t now feel it necessary to have such observation of Americans, since we share the same basic aspirations, forms of government, and political processes. In other words, he said, the GOI does not anticipate the Americans are doing anything which is necessary for the intelligence service to observe.
Swaran Singh then brought up the subject he had dealt with in his talk with the Secretary to effect that “all U.S. invitations to Indian state officials and political leaders should be checked out with the Foreign Minister, or at least the ministry should be kept informed.” (State 176436) I told him I thought we were now informing the Ministry and my understanding was that no travel grant could be made [Page 5] without prior permission of the GOI. The Foreign Secretary broke in to say that we were advising MEA now of any invitations extended to Indians to visit the U.S. under governmental programs and that when I signed a letter of invitation, a copy of it was sent to MEA. The Foreign Minister said he had in mind something much more than that. He did not think we should be extending invitations to various state officials and other political figures, and it should be handled by advising MEA of type and number of visitors we would like to have and then letting the GOI make selections. For example, we should say during next year we would like to have three chief Ministers from the states, one Minister of Irrigation, two Ministers of Education, two Ministers of Housing, three Ministers from the central government, five Vice Chancellors of universities, etc. I told him I would, of course, pass along this suggestion to my government, but I doubted very much it would go along with that type of program. (Obviously, GOI wants to claim credit with invitees for procuring invitations and does not want us to enter in. This is a procedure I would not recommend.)
Swaran Singh said that as I knew, GOI covers international travel expense in such cases, although invitees are still permitted to accept per diem for travel in foreign countries. He said there was strong feeling in GOI that foreign per diem also should de stopped and that it was undesirable to have invitees in any way financially beholden to country inviting them. He said many felt (and I gathered this was his own opinion) that entire expense of any such visitor should be borne by the Government of India. (That would, of course, cut down or eliminate whole program, and I gathered we may shortly expect such a regulation to be promulgated.) I asked Swaran Singh if this would apply to all countries and he assured me it would.
We then got into Swaran Singh’s allegation “that we have too many AID personnel in India.” (State 176436) his complaint seemed to be mostly that AID personnel were interfering at the state level and trying to have voice in policy matters. (It was very hard to pin him down on just what he was getting at.) I said I assumed AID officials, for instance, interested in family planning or in irrigation projects or any AID program were trying to be helpful in working out myriad details. (What I think he is getting at is that GOI does not want anything except developmental loans where they can have complete say as to how money is spent. GOI evidently fears that in the states the U.S. may get credit for its aid if our personnel circulate around and meet with government officials at working level.) Swaran Singh said there was altogether too much moving around in India by AID personnel. I told him I was sympathetic to idea of reducing number of AID personnel, and he said Secretary Rogers had told him that. I called to his attention that there were 297 AID personnel in India when I arrived and 256 today, for a net reduction of 41. I asked if he [Page 6] had the same feeling and reservations about the more than 2400 Soviet military and AID personnel in India. He said he did not know there was anything like that number and would look into it. He just could not believe there were that many, and if there were, they were there temporarily and devoted to some specific project. I said I recognized a large number of them were there with specific projects, but he might be surprised to find the number. He said he would look into it, that the GOI felt the same way about having government personnel of any country moving around in India.
By then, one and one-half hours had elapsed, of which Swaran Singh had consumed about an hour and 20 minutes and I about ten minutes. He said he had to appear on the floor of Parliament, but realized that we were not finished. I agreed and said I still had some inquiries which I had been asked to make. He said he would call me next week concerning another appointment. He added it was very helpful to have constant contacts, and we should talk once fortnightly about matters of mutual interest.
We ended on a very friendly note, but I felt, as I so often do in talking with Swaran Singh, that he had substituted surplus verbiage as a device to avoid coming to grips with specifics. He is a master in that field, if no other.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Ambassador Keating questioned Indian Foreign Minister Singh about Indian allegations of U.S. interference in Indian politics.