As the author states' at the outset of this volume, it is not easy for Westerners to understand India. This is perhaps especially true of Americans, for during the days when the British ruled India the United States had little contact with the subcontinent. And it was only natural that when India faced west it should look to Britain, with whom it had such close political, commercial and social ties.
But with independence the new India opened its windows to the world. Freedom was only the beginning. In his moving speech on the eve of independence, Mr. Nehru warned that the future "is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving. . . ."
How the Indian government and people have embarked on this great adventure--something of their problems, the immense difficulties encountered, their frustrations and failures, but also their achievements and victories--will be found here in the text by Joe David Brown and in the fascinating picture essays.
As India bent to these formidable tasks, it found a sympathetic reaction in the United States. The American people had always supported India's aspirations for independence and they now set out to discover this land which for so long had been a mystery.
But more than curiosity was involved. There was a growing awareness that this vast land of India, with more than 400 million people, was a great testing ground which might determine whether people's wants and expectations could be met by democratic processes. The direction it took could well determine the direction in which other newly independent countries of Asia and Africa would go.
That India is developing an economic and social system adapted to its own needs and genius is, I think, apparent. The process is one involving trial and error, and flexibility. The system is fundamentally democratic and so seeks not only social justice but the improvement of the quality of its citizens, for on this all progress ultimately depends.
That there were and still are many obstacles to overcome is undeniable. Yet these problems were faced with courage and vision, and if one reviews the achievements of the intervening years one must count them impressive. Improvement in living standards has kept ahead of population growth, and progress has been made in education, health and the social services. In 1960 India's rate of industrial growth was among the world's highest. The country has adopted a fiscal austerity which might well serve as a model for many countries with far longer experience in self-government. The roots of democracy are striking deeper.
These achievements compel our admiration. But if we are to understand India's purposes and ideals we shall need to know more than facts. We shall need to learn as well something about the country's religion, its philosophy, and the customs, traditions and habits of thought of its people. Yet the effort cannot help but be enormously worthwhile. We shall be rewarded by experiencing the friendship of the Indian people. We shall be stimulated by their intelligence, captivated by their charm and dignity, and touched by their kindliness and tolerance. And we shall learn that Indians profoundly believe that freedom and dignity need not be sacrificed to progress.
former U.S. Ambassador to India . . .