It is an oft repeated complaint of the USA that we were from the Russian block, which is the reason for the distance in our relationship. I had not thought that this issue will still hold relevance in the modern day; but an interaction on my previous post http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/03/the-eternal-love-triangle-india.html has caused me to pause for a moment, and think… if the common man on the ground in the USA still blames India for the block in Indo-US relations, then it is a sad comment on us – and our ability to put forth our point of view. It is not the fault of this person, or indeed the US citizens – this is what they have been taught: it is in part our fault for not putting forth our point of view. Hence, I am attempting to analyse why we went to the Russians in the first place…
“I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people and cows round streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges… but I did not think anybody thought it was important” – Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the USA, around 1951.
The above was stated when Chester Bowles requested a posting to India as Ambassador. The comment itself speaks volumes for the US attitudes towards India in those days – please remembiner that in 1951, we were not in the Russian cirde of influence. That started after 1960, and gained momentum only from 1971. The question is why did this come about? Why did the 2 democracies – India and the USA – not get together earlier? For this, we have to go back to where it all started: before independence.
It is true that Nehru was attracted by Russian ideals. But can we blame Nehru, who was a slave to a brutal exploitative regime? Would it not be only natural for a slave to be attracted towards a regime which promised equality for all – especially when that slave was reading signs like Indians and Dogs not allowed practically everyday? Nehru;s affliction was only natural. It needs to be noted that despite this natural proclivity towards and attraction for socialism, Nehru et al chose a mixed economy, with emphasis on private enterprise, with the core sectors needed for development being led by Public Enterprises. This is a sign that no one notes – that shows that our leaders were thinking men who were moulding known systems, and trying to arrive at a best fit.
Then the Atlantic Charter – when Indian rights to freedom – were denied also played an important in the overall scheme of things. The backtracking by the USA stunned the Indian leaders, and drove a negative image of the USA into their minds. This was a brutal and massive setback of Indian aspirations, and one that cannot be understated.
The end of the Second World War brought world to a point where forces were aligned in 2 – USA and Russia. And that is where the the real story starts to unfold. According to US archives, the first message Nehru sent as Acting Prime Minister was on 20 September 1946: “In view of the very serious food situation in India which is being aggravated by shipping strikes in America, would earnestly request you and throiugh you the labour leaders to permit and arrange for earlier dispatch of food ships to India”. . At this juncture, (or few years afterwards), there was no approach to Russia. Indeed, the first Indian Ambassador to Russia was not even granted a meeting with Stalin, whereas there were diplomatic ties with US right from 1946. The first approach was made by India to the USA.
“The concern the British Military felt about future Soviet intentions emerges clearly from a top-secret report on The Security of India and the Indian Ocean, prepared by Post-Hostilities Planning Staff of the War Cabinet on Churchill’s orders. This report states ‘The USSR is the only major power that would be capable of seriously threatening our interests in India and the Indian Ocean by 1955-1960’. The report also points out ‘It is of paramount importance that India should not secede from the Empire or remain neutral in War’. ‘We must ensure that whatever constitutional changes occur, we retain the right to station Military Reserves in India… There might be political objections to stationing the strategic reserve in India proper after she has been granted Dominion Status… Central Headquarters India have suggested Baluchistan as an alternative to India proper, on the grounds that it may be relatively easy to exclude this territory from the Dominion of India”. “In the event of Soviet Aggression, early support from the US is essential to the security of our interests”
The above paragraph proves quite conclusively that the western affliction with Russia far predates our alliance with Russia. It stands to reason that the British, having alluded to US support against Russia, would have discussed this with them. The western preoccupation with Russia is what started pushing India towards the Russians, slowly but surely. As proof, Pakistan joined the alliance in 1955. The Russians, initially cool towards India, also naturally followed the developments, and took advantage. Then came the chance to provide technology to India: in the form of steel plants. This technology was refused – but was given by the Russians, who were quick to spot an opportunity. Further, knowing the pride aspect of Indians, they offered technology transfer as well. The first Military deal was signed in 1962 – with full technology transfer – something the USA is yet to do as of 2013. It also needs to be noted that Indian and Russian interests did not clash in any segment – a fact which holds true to this day.
As regards the Russian angle, we were never part of the Russian block. We were just allies. Further, please note that Russia offered technology transfer right from the start; and actually helped us whenever we were in dire need – whereas the USA always denied help – right from the 1930s and 1940s. Documented fact. US denial of help to India right from the Atlantic Charter predated the Indo – Russian alliance. Atlantic Charter, Refusal to give steel technology for steel plants, Military help to Pakistan from 1955 etc etc all predate India’s alliance with the Russians. I dont think the West has any right to object, given that they had refused us help consistently, right from 1947. An American president is even on record stating “I didnt think it (India) was important (as shown above)”. This statement also predates India’s so-called alliance with the Russians. If we went to Russia, it is the west which is responsible for it, with their refusal of help on innumerable occasions as well as building up Pakistan militarily. We had no option; we had to ally with Russia for self-defence. The West had better examine its own actions before preaching to India.
The record shows we approached USA first – and were spurned on each and every occasion. The reason is that USA was not interested in altruism or friendship; they needed a means to control the middle east and Russia – and Pakistan met the requirement.
1) The Shadow Of The Great Game – The Untold Story Of India’s Partition by Narendra Singh Sarila
2) Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor