194. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1

17354. Subject: New Indian Ambassador to U.S. K.R. Narayanan. Ref: State 220818.2

1. Public reputation

Narayanan is hard working, intelligent and competent. His present position as Vice Chancellor of Nehru University is highly public, requiring him to preside at functions, and address large groups; he is often in the news and presented sympathetically.

2. Close to but not influencing Mrs. Gandhi

His relations with Mrs. Gandhi and the Nehru family date to the late 1940’s when Nehru brought him into the Foreign Service. This undoubtedly entered into Mrs. Gandhi’s selection of Narayanan to go to Washington. His relations with her appear social and familial, rather than policy- or decision-oriented. Narayanan is not identified as an advisor to Mrs. Gandhi, or as a member of her “inner circle.”

3. An executor, not an innovator for Mrs. Gandhi

To the best of our knowledge, Narayanan has never conceptualized any GOI programs nor initiated policies. He is careful, meticulous exponent of existing policies and can be expected to reliably reflect them while in Washington. Narayanan believes in the worldview espoused by Mrs. Gandhi. The pattern of his career and his personality suggest that he is unlikely to expand, or advocate refashioning existing GOI foreign policies. Within these limitations, Narayanan will be an effective and gracious Ambassador, and an asset in the conduct of Indo-U.S. relations.

4. Narayanan’s current attitudes

Until recently Narayanan revealed little of his own views on issues and preferred historical and scholarly analysis of non-alignment and other broad foreign policy concepts. However, a recent address (February 15, 1980) at JNU departed from this practice to delineate a global analysis which adheres to Mrs. Gandhi’s foreign policy in its intellectual [Page 499] assumption. In it, Narayanan discusses: Sino-U.S. cooperation and its implications, relations between ASEAN and Vietnam, Soviet presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s relations with the Islamic states, etc. Though India’s own position on these questions is not treated, Narayanan offers a rationale for Mrs. Gandhi’s approach to such issues. The full text of this address was published in the February 23, 1980 issue of “Mainstream” magazine (New Delhi), which we assume is available to the Department.

5. Conclusion

In the past, we have had much more problematical Indian representatives in Washington than Narayanan. Indeed, he is the best of the many individuals rumored to have been asked by Mrs. Gandhi to take the job, all of whom refused. We believe his instincts will be to communicate faithfully whatever he is asked to carry out. However, we would be surprised if he sought to alter Mrs. Gandhi’s rather jaundiced basic view of the U.S., which he may well share.

6. This supplements unclassified biographic information contained in New Delhi 17353.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800397–0238. Confidential; Immediate; Stadis.
  2. Telegram 220818 to New Delhi, August 19, requested information on Narayanan’s background, “his attitude toward the US and views on US policies,” as well as “his views on Sino-Indian relations and Indo-Soviet ties. In addition, it would be helpful to learn how close he is to Prime Minister Gandhi and whether he may have any special entree into the PM’s inner circle.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800396–0585)
  3. Telegram 17353 from New Delhi, August 20, relayed biographical information on Narayanan. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800397–0306)