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Excerpt : The love-hate relationship

Excerpt : The love-hate relationship
Highlights

The India�Pakistan�America relationship has never been a settled one. In 'Avoiding Armageddon', Bruce Riedel explains the challenge and the...

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The India�Pakistan�America relationship has never been a settled one. In 'Avoiding Armageddon', Bruce Riedel explains the challenge and the importance of successfully managing America's affairs with these two emerging powers and their toxic relationship

Nixon lost the 1960 election to John F Kennedy, who promised a more vigorous, anti-colonial, and enlightened foreign policy than his Republican predecessor had adopted. Kennedy was a cold warrior, but he also recognized the winds of change in the world. He believed that the era of colonial empires was over�he had been an early critic of the French colonial war in Algeria�and he felt that America needed to understand that the new postcolonial countries did not always want to join one cold war bloc or another.

So Kennedy, who as a senator had sponsored legislation to increase food aid to India, embarked on trying to woo India and Nehru into a closer relationship with Washington, without any formal anticommunist alliance. He sent a trusted close adviser, john Kenneth Galbraith, to be his ambassador in New Delhi. Galbraith frequently wrote JFK long letters from India in which he commented not only on India and South Asia but on global developments, domestic issues, economics, and especially the growing conflict in South Vietnam, where he was an early and prescient critic of the war. His letters and diary have been published, providing unique insight into this period.

Yet Kennedy was also eager to maintain a tight alliance with Pakistan. He invited Ayub Khan to visit the United States twice during his 1,000 days in office. In July 1961, Khan was feted in New York with a ticker�tape parade on Fifth Avenue, and in Washington he embarked on a full state visit, including a state dinner at Mount Vernon, the only time in the history of the first president's mansion that it had hosted a state dinner. His photo, taken with President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy, still hangs in the visitor center there. When Khan visited again a year later, in September 1962, JFK hosted him at the family home in Newport, Rhode Island, and at Kennedy's farm in Middleburg, Virginia. The Kennedy team hailed Pakistan as a reliable ally against communism and a model for development in the third world. But it was India that most preoccupied JFK in his relations with South Asia. His appointment of Galbraith put a Kennedy man, an advocate of the New Frontier, at the center stage of U.S.-Indian relations.

No president since has sent such a close friend and high-powered representative to New Delhi. President Kennedy never made a trip to India in his all-too-short presidency, but his wife, jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, did travel to India and Pakistan in March 1962. ... The United States and India drew closer with the sending of Peace Corps volunteers to India, an increase in American economic assistance, and genuine dialogue between the top leaders. Nehru visited the White House in November 1961, accompanied by his daughter Indira. However, the visit, conceived as an opportunity for the leaders to get acquainted, did not go well; Nehru, at the age of seventy-one, was old and tired and seemed disengaged. No personal bond developed between JFK and Nehru.

By far the most important development in the U.S.-India relationship was a result of the Chinese Communist invasion of India in October 1962. Like much of India's border, the boundary between China and India had been drawn by the British to their advantage, and it was revised various times from the late 1800s into the 1920s. In the west, the boundary, initially known as the Johnson line, divided Kashmir from China; in the east, the McMahon line�agreed on by British India and Tibet but not by China in the Simla Accord in 1914�divided eastern India, including Assam, from China. When China invaded Tibet in October 1950, it therefore inherited a border that it did not regard as legitimate or fair.

Negotiations between Beijing and New Delhi in the 1950s did not reconcile the two claims. China did open negotiations with Pakistan on their new common border in Kashmir, which ended with Pakistan ceding a large part of northern Kashmir to China and Islamabad and Beijing drawing an agreed border between the two countries. The Chinese encountered significant resistance from the Tibetan people to China's occupation of their country, resistance that they blamed on India and the CIA. Both were in fact independently assisting the Tibetans.

Nehru had been sharply critical of the American policy of not recognizing the Chinese Communist government, and he championed its right to take China's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which was still held by the Nationalist Chinese government, based in Taiwan. He argued that China and India were very much kindred spirits-two great Asian countries that were finally free of the Western imperialist powers that had long exploited them. So it was a crushing blow to Nehru and India when China launched a surprise invasion on October 20, 1962, to seize control of the territories that it claimed along its 3,225-kilometer border with India. The Indians were caught unprepared; their intelligence had grossly underestimated the strength of the Chinese, who had 125,000 well-trained mountain troops poised on the border.

The Indian forces had no mountain training and were armed with World War I�vintage rifles. The much better led and equipped Chinese forces routed the Indian army, which retreated in some confusion from the Himalayas. The Chinese threat was most significant in the far eastern section of India, which is linked to the main land mass by only a narrow band of land north of what was then East Pakistan. After refusing to align itself for fifteen years with either the West or the communists in the cold war, India found itself the victim of a Chinese invasion that it could not halt with its own forces. Nehru was devastated by China's betrayal. He reluctantly turned to the United States and United Kingdom, asking for immediate shipment of supplies for the Indian army and, in panic, for the deployment of American bombers to stop the Chinese advance.

America quickly found itself arming both Pakistan and India, with no assurance that they would not use the arms against each other. It is clear from Galbraith's diary that the Americans also were surprised by the Chinese invasion. With no embassy in China, the United States was blind. This crisis coincided with the most dangerous crisis in the entire cold war, the Cuban missile crisis, which occurred when the Soviets built bases in Cuba where nuclear ballistic missiles capable of reaching most of the United States were housed.

At the time, the two superpowers were on the brink of nuclear war. Since the entire bureaucracy in Washington was consumed by the life-or-death duel over Cuba, Galbraith was given almost no instructions from the White House or the State Department during the key period in the Indo�Chinese crisis. As a result, he was very much the main decisionmaker on the American side, a role that he relished. He wrote: "Washington continues to be totally occupied with Cuba. For a week, I have had a considerable war on my hands without a single telegram, letter, telephone call, or other communications or guidance."

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