Bhaskar Parichha

The history of Indo-US relationship is replete with numerous ups and downs in the post second world war period. The graph of bilateral relationship of these two democratic giants was bumpy. While there had been a constant yearning for friendship and cooperation, there was also a tinge of bitterness and mistrust. Indo-American relationship was appositely called a ‘love-hate relationship.’ America’s India policy was, at that point of time, governed by the geopolitical realities of South Asia and   contours of global politics as well.

This new book ‘India – America Relations (1942-62): Rooted in The Liberal International Order’ by Dr Atul Bhardwaj is undeniably an important contribution to existing literature. The period of study (1942-1962) is not only fascinating, but is also central to the understanding of a relationship that has evolved over the years and which is full-grown at the moment. The author has dexterously tried to analyze the issues involved in those twenty watershed years. Examining India-America relations before independence and well up to the Chinese incursion, this hardback reassesses the role of America in shaping the imagination of post-colonial India.

The Second World War marks the beginning of Indo-U.S. ‘official’ relations. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Americans realized the need for India’s co-operation in the war effort. The strategic importance of India as a base of operations against Japan was one of the key factors which forced the Roosevelt Administration to take interest in India’s affairs.

The appointment of Thomas H. Wilson as the first U.S. Commissioner in New Delhi, Sir Girija Shanker Bajpai being appointed India’s Agent General in Washington and  President Roosevelt sending Colonel Louis Johnson to India as his personal representative – all these point to a growing participation of America in India’s affairs in the mid-forties.

Even though the failure of the Cripps Mission disappointed President Roosevelt; yet it heralded the beginning of a new era in Indo-American political relations. President Truman’s letter to Lord Mountbatten extending his good wishes on India’s independence bears testimony to the rapport that was building up between the two countries.

Bhardwaj’s book straightaway discards the ‘conventional orthodoxy’ that assigns a limited role to America and, in fact, it challenges the narrative that focuses more on the friction rather than the equilibrium between the two countries.

After the Second World War, the U.S. policy to control Communism on one hand and India’s policy of non-alignment on the other put both the democracies at loggerheads which became a major source of difference. The refusal of India to join the military alliances sponsored by the United States, India’s stand on various international issues like recognition of the Communist regime of China, the Korean Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Afghan Crisis, were quite exasperating to the American leaders. Conversely, America’s support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue in Security Council and grant of military aid to Pakistan, support to Portugal on the Goa Crisis were quite frustrating for the Indian leaders.

Putting together the security, political and economic elements of the Indo-American relationship, the book presents a synthesis of India’s encounter with the post-war supremacy of the United States. With the help of extensive data, it looks at   the military, economic and political involvement of America during the ‘transfer of power’.

Bhardwaj, a former officer in Indian Navy and Fellow at Delhi’s Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, delves into the role of American non-government agencies and examines the anti-communist ideological linkages that the Indian political class developed with America.

America under the Truman administration was perceived to be leaning towards India in the late 1940s. Consequently; most U.S. planners were considering India diplomatically more important and expedient than its neighbor Pakistan. The book further explores the influence of this bonding and the role of American ideas, expertise, funds, global relations and the strategy in shaping India’s social, economic and educational institutions.

Analyzing India’s non-alignment policy and its linkages to American policy, the book argues that India’s foyer towards the Soviet Union and getting away from China in the mid 1950s was quite in tune with the American strategy to unleash a Sino-Soviet split. This explains why the Kennedy administration openly supported India during the 1962 Sino-Indian war and considered the confrontation as “blatant Chinese Communist aggression against India”.

According to the author, the quest for this book began with the undying question:  why Krishna Menon (often called a ‘crypto communist’) was the fall guy of the 1962 war? Bhardwaj, with the help of massive archival material, leads us to believe that the 1962 China war was ‘more than a bilateral boundary dispute and was rooted as much in India’s domestic politics as it was in the American Cold War Strategy.’

This book is a part of the new Routledge studies that aims to publish high-quality works by emerging scholars in US Foreign Policy. Edited by Inderjeet  Parmar(City University) and John Dumbrell ( University of Durham),the book has  seven chapters in all : (Introduction, Direct American involvement in India, The New Deal – Indian planning and politics, American philanthropy in India, Diplomatic encounters: asymmetric proximity, From Tibet towards war, 1962 war and the Sino-Soviet split).Each chapter  has a ‘conclusion’  to buttress the  argument.

While presenting a spanking new perspective based on legitimate official records, the book adds a new dimension to the understanding of Indo-American relations. Written in an impeccable and persuasive style, it will be of more than average interest to scholars and students of international relations   and strategic affairs. For the general reader too, this book offers a brilliant reading experience coming as it from a political analyst and a global affairs expert.

India –America Relations (1942-62)

Rooted in The Liberal International Order

ISBN 978-0-8153-9404-4

By Atul Bhardwaj

Publisher: Routledge (Taylor & Francis)

52, Vanderbilt Avenue

New York

NY 10017

Rs 10,854

(The writer is a senior journalist and Consulting Editor, OdishaLIVE).