Plain Tales From The Embassy

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India is a peasant and bourgeois, property-owning, and, in the aggregate, conservative community. It is held to the West by ties of language and tradition of considerable strength. Most of the effective political leaders are on our side—a distinct oddity as the world goes. Their position depends on their history in the independence movement, the inherent conservatism of the country, the fact that our food eliminates the desperation that would result from hunger, and because planning plus our aid gives a semblance of progress.

Working against these conservative influences is a combination of the Communist, the angry, the frustrated, the xenophobic, and the anti-Moslem. Increasingly in recent years, and rapidly in recent months, they have been coalescing around Menon. And Menon with great brilliance has made himself the custodian of the particular inflammatory issues—Goa, arms aid to Pakistan, Kashmir—which put us automatically on the other side.

A disaster in this part of the world, as I see it, would be considerably worse not only for the United States but for the political reputation of the New Frontier than a disaster in indo-China. Accordingly, as your man hereabouts, I assume I should seek to prevent it. Aid is a substantial part of my armory and that is my interest. I don’t exclude a certain compassion for poor people. If one lacked compassion, he would not see the full importance of our assistance.…

Yours faithfully, JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH