The Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, got better than routine diplomatic honours on his first visit to the United States last week.
America made an extra effort to woo him.
But Nehru’s refusal to deal squarely with the cold war soon led to a vague feeling of discomfort, gradually intensifying into disappointment.
Within the British Common-wealth, India seems determined to pursue a course of her own, which does not fit into the American picture of a world divided into two irreconcilable camps.
American diplomats recognised the difficulties in the path of complete understanding between India and America.
They realised that India was almost encircled by a “wall of fire” of Russian . and Chinese Communism. They knew India’s army was insignificant.
They understood, too, that Nehru himself, with his heterogeneous upbringing as a Cambridge scholar, disciple of Gandhi, and student of Karl Marx, would regard the mighty capitalistic United States with pronounced scepticism.
But, aside from Japan, India seemed to offer the only possible anti-Communist stronghold in Asia, and the United States was determined to do its best to impress Nehru.
So the United States arranged to put its best foot forward.
Nehru flew from London in President Traman’s own plane, and at Washington military airport. Truman himself was there to meet the plane with a delegation from Cabinet and Congress.
Nehru was feted at a State dinner and lodged at Blair House, Truman’s temporary residence.
He addressed both Houses of Congress and paraded up New York’s Broadway under a shower of confetti and tickertape.
In one respect the visit was a success. Nehru declared he was impressed more profoundly by American freedom than by American power a highly prized admission from a leading Marxist.
He said, too, that in the event of aggression, India “cannot and shall not be neutral.”
But he would not, even by remote suggestion, align himself clearly with the West in the cold
He said: “I haven’t committed myself to any other nation. I came here to develop friendship and cordiality with America. As for ties, I think I do not want any ties. I think the best ties are no ties.”
Nehru then proceeded to discuss world problems from his own viewpoint, which was certainly not too congenial to the Americans.
He demanded full freedom and self-government for Indonesia and French Indo-China; spoke of Africa as similarly “shaking off its torpor”; recalled Gandhi’s “moral values,” and defended what he called India’s “calm objectivity” against accusations that it was “irrational, shortsighted, negative, unreal, or even unmanly.”
Washington has not concealed its disappointment, but it insists it fully appreciates Nehru’s position. Nehru’s conversations with Truman and the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, are described as “purely exploratory.”
The President and the Secretary of State evidently assured Nehru that the United States had abandoned any support for colonialism in the Far East, and had specifically warned the Dutch that the United States would not help them in any action against the Indonesians.
Nehru is known to favour recognition of the Communist regime in China; the Americans informed him they were in no hurry to extend such recognition.
It is also assumed that Nehru obtained a satisfactory answer to his request for American aid in building projected vast hydroelectric and rail improvements in India.
But the United States has not acquired the 300 million anti-Communist allies it had hoped to gain.
(This is the news item published Sunday Herald (Sydney), 23 October 1949)