US officials know Indians love atmospherics, but not substantive issues that concern the US.


The United States under the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt during the early 1940s had pressed Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill to free India and co-opt India as a formal ally in World War II. But Churchill firmly and obstinately refused to agree, despite the writing on the wall being clear that Indians had stood up and would achieve freedom sooner than later, Churchill or no Churchill.

In 1944, the now de-classified intelligence reports of the British Colonial Government of India states clearly that the Indian struggle for Independence was no more being inspired by Congress leaders but by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who had on Indian territory in the Northeast unfurled the Tricolour on 21 October 1944. Thus the return of Bose to India after the end of the War would be catastrophic for the British in India.

Thus, the British did a U-turn after World War II ended in May 1945, and with a change of government in Britain to the Labour party led by Clement Attlee, the British put “Plan B” into action. That is, hand over power to the Congress. The plan was implemented of 15 August 1947. The British colonialists wanted Jawarharlal Nehru to head the government knowing his socialist inclination that suited the ruling Labour Party in Britain.

This background is essential to know because British intelligence knew that Subhas Bose had faked his Formosa [now known as Taiwan] plane crash and had escaped to Manchuria, which was under Soviet Union’s occupation. Bose then went to Russia on or around 26 December 1945 and was probably killed on the orders of Stalin, after he had consultations with Nehru and Attlee to deal with him as a “war criminal”, which the Allies had announced during the War.

Thus there was a transfer of power as per plan, and with Gandhi’s assassination and Vallabhvai Patel’s demise due to illness, Nehru became India’s supremo.

India, stabilized after a bloody Partition in 1947 thanks to the three architects of the Constitution, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. They declared constitutional commitment to democracy, fundamental rights, free press and non-violence in the written Constitution, which came into force on 26 January 1950.

India thus appeared to the United States as a worthy replacement of China in the most important United Nations body, namely the Security Council, as a Permanent Member with a veto in view of the Communist overthrow of the Chiang Kaishek-led government.

In late August 1950, Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit wrote to her brother from Washington, DC that: “One matter…in the State Department should be known to you. This is the unseating of China as a Permanent Member in the Security Council and of India being put in her place” [Vijayalakshmi Pandit Letters, Nehru Museum, New Delhi].

According to a recent study by Dr Anton Harder [“Not at the Cost of China: New Evidence Regarding US Proposals to Nehru for Joining the United Nations Security Council” Working Paper #76, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Washington D.C. USA, March 2015], the author states, based on de-classified documents, that the US offer for India to join the UN Security Council was conveyed by India’s Ambassador to the US then, viz., Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit [also Nehru’s sister].

Nehru’s response to his sister’s letter was sent within the week and was unequivocal: “In your letter you mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a Permanent Member of the Security Council and to put India in her place.

“So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China.

“We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council. India because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the security council. But we are not going to at the cost of China.”

Nehru not only declined the US offer to India to become UNSC Permanent Member with veto but instead campaigned for China take up that seat. Such “large heartedness” at India’s cost!

The US, however, resisted that pro China campaign till 1972, when in a turnaround the US supported the Communist People’s Republic of China to take the seat, and entered into a “strategic partnership” in the 1970s onwards with the reform minded new leadership of Deng Xiaoping.

Subsequently, what China did to Nehru in 1962 for his generosity at India’s expense is history, from which we must learn. No use is served by crying about China’s betrayal or perfidy. Like Nehru we should be large hearted.

In 1953, after India’s tilt towards the Soviet Union and China in the Korean War discussions in the UN, the US turned to Pakistan as a possible counterweight in South Asia against the Soviet Union and China. The US made Pakistan a member of SEATO and CENTO, and liberally gave aid and armaments.

Pakistan, which was no match to India in military, economic development, and ancient and continuous culture such as that ensured democracy, began to dream of equality with India in the international domain. As a consequence, India had to go to war with Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999, losing precious lives defending its own territory. The US even sent a Seventh Fleet Task Force with nuclear weapons on board to threaten us on the dismemberment of Pakistan.


We have to learn from our past mistakes. Today there is a new opportunity with the US but it is not on a clean slate.

The success of our new bonding with US will first depend on the outcome of the Presidential elections this November. The Democratic rival and Presidential candidate, Joe Biden has already taken a hostile stand against the Indian government, with the left-wing and liberals in the US highly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, such as in rubbishing the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by India’s Parliament with two thirds majority.

In the inner US circles, our purchase from Russia of S-400 weapon for aircrafts and our refusal to agree to US request to send Indian troops to Afghanistan, have mostly browned off US policymakers. US officials know Indians love atmospherics, but not substantive issues which concern the US. India has demands on the US, but cannot bargain on what to give in return that US wants.

We need, therefore, to build trust with the US that we will give to US as good as US gives us, and not instead give sermons on non alignment. If India bargains with the US on give and take, then US will then respond more than what we give.

In 1991, the then Prime Minister, Chandrashekhar asked me to find out if we could get a conditions-free loan at a concessional interest rate from the IMF. I told him that IMF will never agree, but since a large size of the voting power in IMF was directly or indirectly controlled by US, we should approach the US. I cautioned him that he must offer something which US would want.

Thereafter, Chandrashekhar told the US that India would agree to a pending US request with the PMO for refuelling their Air Force planes flying from Philippines to Saudi Arabia for the first Gulf War which began when Iraq had occupied Kuwait. I thereafter told the US Ambassador in New Delhi, who dropped in to see me as Commerce Minister about this, that this would be conditional to getting $2 billion [1991 prices]. Over the ensuing weekend, the US ensured that loan arrived and India was saved from a default.

Today India should strive for a new or fresh paradigm on how to structure Indo-US understanding on what to give and what to ask, and which is in sync with the Indo-US common perspectives. For this re-structuring we must:

  1. First realise that India-US relations cannot be based on what we want only, it requires to give and take on both sides.
  2. What India needs to take today is essentially for dealing with the Ladakh confrontation on our side of the LAC with China. Obviously India needs US hardware military equipment. India does not need US troops to fight our battles against China on our border.
  3. US needs India to fight her enemies in our neighbourhood such as in Afghanistan. It is my view that India should send two divisions gradually to Afghanistan and relieve the US troops to let them go home.
  4. India needs the US’ and its close ally Israel’s full support in cyber warfare, satellite mappings of China and Pakistan, intercepts of electronic communication, hard intelligence on terrorists, and know the infirmities of the military machinery of China and in Pakistan.
  5. India must ask the US to develop Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep islands as Naval and Air Force bases, where the US can refuel its naval ships and submarines along with its allies such as Indonesia and Japan.
  6. But India must be firm on two areas that are not amenable to give and take. One is that economic relations with the US must be based on macroeconomic and commercial principles. Free, undiscriminating flow of US FDI, for example, is not in India’s national interest.
  7. India needs thus technologies such thorium utilization, desalination of sea water, hydrogen fuel cells, but not Walmart and US universities to start campuses in India as proposed in the New Education Policy draft.
  8. US must allow India’s export of agricultural products including Bos Indicus milk into its markets, to be sold at a highly competitive price.
  9. US FDI should be allowed into India selectively from abroad, based on the macro economic theory of comparative advantage and not on subsidies and grants.
  10. Tariffs of both India and US should be lowered, and India’s rupee should be gradually revalued to Rs 35 to a dollar. Later with economy picking up, the rupee rate should go below 10/$.
  11. The other constraint is that India should not provide US with our troops to enter Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, because there is always a possibility of a leadership change in China, and thus policy change as what happened when Deng Xiaoping replaced Mao Zedong’s nominees in 1980, and thus China’s policy changed very favourably towards India.
  12. In the long run, India, US and China should form a trilateral commitment for world peace, provided China’s current international policies undergo a healthy change for mutual accommodation.

Dr Subramanian Swamy is an MP nominated by the President for his eminence as an economist. He is a former Union Cabinet Minister for Commerce and Law & Justice.