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

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

Preface

There is no such thing as human nature independent of
culture.

—Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures

This is a book about relations between the United States and India from 1947 to 1964.I confess to feeling a slight urge to disavow that statement. A university press editor (not mine) once told me that the words “India” or “Spain” in a book tide are death on sales, which tempted me briefly to remove “India” and substitute for it an ugly but provocative metonym, perhaps “snakes” or “burning bodies.” I resisted, because in the end I insist on the intrinsic importance of relations between the world’s two largest democracies, between people of such interest and diversity as Indians and Americans. Relations between the two nations had profound implications for hundreds of millions in the United States and India, and an impact as well on millions of others in countries affected by American and Indian behavior. During the period of the study, the United States was committed to fighting the Cold War, while Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister and foreign minister, promoted “nonalignment,” a path between the competing ideologies of the two Cold War camps. Partly because of this, the two nations were often at odds in their interpretations of world events: wars in Korea and Vietnam, the deployment of atomic weapons by the great powers, the legacies of colonialism and the meanings of nationalism in Asia and Africa, the danger of expansion by communist states, and so on. And Indo-American relations were marked by controversy—over the disposition of Kashmir state, the question of food aid for India, the American decision to supply India’s rival Pakistan with

-xiv-

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