John F. Kennedy: The Promise Revisited

By Paul Harper; Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

7
Kennedy and Nonalignment: An
Analysis of Indo-American Relations

Srinivas M. Chary

Although President Kennedy was deeply concerned with the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, he did not consider the conflict to be the source of all humankind's problems. In 1961 this was still a rather novel viewpoint for an American president. The tendency in the years after World War II had been to see the planet as tidily polarized between America and Russia. In the 1950s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had transformed this assumption into a dogma. The Dulles world rested on unitary conceptions of the opposing blocs: the Free World and the Communist bloc. Countries that did not fall into one category or the other were regarded as "anomalies." Summing up his philosophy in 1956, Dulles described neutralism as "the principle which pretends that a nation can best gain safety for itself from being indifferent to the fate of others" and excommunicated its devotees as being immoral. 1 In the 1950s he succeeded in implanting in both American policy and opinion the idea that those who were not with the United States around the earth were against it. Of the various transformations wrought in the Kennedy years, none was more remarkable than the revolution in the American attitudes toward the uncommitted world, especially the nonaligned India of Nehru. 2

As senator, Kennedy had come to object to the Dulles doctrine as both morally self-righteous and politically self-defeating. 3 Thus, whereas Dulles saw Indian nonalignment as immoral, Kennedy felt that the new states, such as India, absorbed in the travail of nationhood were as naturally indifferent to the moral issues in the Cold War as Americans in a comparative stage of development had been to the moral crises in the Napoleonic Wars. The spread of neutralism neither surprised nor appalled him, for Kennedy felt that the desire on the part of Third World countries, such as India, to be independent and free carried with it the desire not to become engaged as a satellite of the Soviet Union or too closely

-119-

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