Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

Epilogue
The Persistence of Culture: Indo-U.S. Relations
after Nehru

I have an idea that many of our present problems—interna-
tional troubles—are due to the fact that the emotional and cul-
tural backgrounds of people differ so much. It is not easy for a
person from one country to enter into the background of an-
other country.

—Jawaharlal Nehru, 1949

Early in the morning of May 27, 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru, having just put in a full day of work, suffered a ruptured aorta and died. The people of India grieved deeply for the man who had helped lead

them through the independence struggle, endured with them the shocks of partition, comforted them after Gandhi’s murder, and guided them during their first years as citizens of a new India. He was the only prime minister they knew. And the vast majority also loved him, as a man who spoke from the heart of their fondest dreams for the country. Hundreds of thousands thronged the capital in the hope of seeing their big brother one last time, taking darshan, participating by their presence in the Hindu rituals of death. “Panditji amar rahe!” they cried mournfully. “Panditji has become immortal!” Around the world people mourned too. The American president, Lyndon Johnson, said solemnly: “There could be no more fitting memorial to him than a world without war.” U.S. military intervention in Vietnam was then less than ten months away.1

In the years following Nehru’s death, the United States and India continued not to be preoccupied with each other. The Americans remained

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