visit to the USA at long last brings the relationship between the two great democracies on a sure path after nearly 70 years of false starts, bad odour and needless controversy. Jawaharlal Nehru could never quite overcome his British upper-class prejudice against the brash American upstarts. When he was a student in the years before the First World War, Britain was the greatest power and America was a brash upstart.
When he became prime minister, the Cold War had already started and the Americans presumed that as a democracy India would be in their camp. They had not realised Nehru’s youthful fascination with the Comintern’s anti-Imperialism, which he picked up in the Brussels conference in late 1920s. So Indian policy was non-aligned with a warm bias towards the USSR and a sneering contempt for the USA. Sadly the economic policy of the Nehru-Mahalanobis days neglected agriculture. India needed US foreign aid and even more the PL 480 shipments of wheat. Even so, pride meant no thanks for the imperialist Americans and support for Soviet crushing of the Hungarian uprising and later the Prague Spring.
Things got desperate when the border war with China humiliated India. Nehru and others rushed to the US Embassy asking for aircraft and any other aid urgently. In a realistic sense, non-alignment died then as none of India’s NAM friends came to our side. But memories are short so Indira Gandhi continued to be anti-American while receiving PL 480 aid. With the Left on her side, the anti-Imperialism critique continued and NAM became an anti-US front. With America blundering murderously in Vietnam, things did not improve though the foreign aid continued. The Nehru-Gandhi family nursed its Anglophilia and contempt for America. When the Green Revolution came, the contribution of the Rockefeller Foundation was barely acknowledged.
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America continued to be prickly and blundering in its behaviour. But then the Soviet Union collapsed. The Cold War was over and the USA had won. Even so, NAM continued, no doubt, for some deeply philosophical reasons. It took the first non-Congress government of the BJP/NDA before a semblance of normality was attempted. Even so, India’s nuclear test alienated the Americans as did the refusal to sign NPT.
Manmohan Singh was the first Indian Prime Minister to develop a personal rapport with an American President. Bush was impressed by Manmohan Singh’s deep knowledge of the New Testament (among many other things) and helped India overcome the sanctions of the NSG.
For this, he was challenged by the Left. He stood firm. As a result, the Left self-destructed. It has not recovered even now despite help from Rahul Gandhi.
Modi is now cementing that relationship. He has no Oxbridge prejudices to hinder him. He is genuinely fond of America. America liberalised its immigration rules in the mid-Sixties and many Indian families have benefited from that. Indians have prospered there and many of them supported Modi when he was a pariah to the Congress. The relationship between the two countries is now on much more solid foundation.
The USA was the country where two of India’s most radical leaders studied – B R Ambedkar and Jayaprakash Narayan. There is and should be much synergy culturally and politically between the two.
Source: Indian Express