Volume #27 - 412.|
RELATIONS WITH INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES
High Commissioner in India|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
DESPATCH NO. 461|
May 19, 1960|
With the best will in the world useful analyses of relations between one country and another cannot regularly be filed, like an income tax return, to cover a fixed period; hence our decision not to submit an "Annual Review of events in India in 1959." However during the past year or so three events have occurred which, in my view present grounds for a basic reassessment of the nature of Canadian-Indian relations.
2. I would stress at the outset that generally speaking Canadian-Indian relations are cordial. The picture of Canada in the minds of the Indian public is, for the most part, however, rather hazy. Canada is about as far away from India as it is possible to be on this earth and, since Canada does not have the international stature or resources of the U.S.A. or the U.S.S.R., the Indian public is not moved to consider either the similarities or the differences which exist between the two countries. On this plane, therefore, while relations are friendly it is a friendship based on ignorance rather than knowledge.
3. Relations at the official or governmental level are also cordial. However such relations are apt to seem to fluctuate as governments find themselves in agreement or disagreement in their assessments of a particular event or as to the proper course of action to be pursued. It is therefore this plane of relations between Canada and India which requires a reappraisal in the light of these recent events.
4. The events I have in mind are:
(a) The refusal of the Canadian Government to acquiesce in the reconvening of the Laos Commission despite two appeals by Mr. Nehru on the Prime Minister-to-Prime Minister level61
(b) The refusal of the Canadian Government to modify its views on the 400,000 ton commercial wheat quota as an essential precondition to the receipt by India of American PL-480 wheat.
(c) The refusal of the Indian Government to support the Canadian-United States compromise proposal regarding the Law of the Sea.62India's failure to support this proposal ultimately resulted in wrecking the Geneva Conference, when an affirmative vote (or even an abstention) by India would have resulted in the proposal receiving a two-thirds majority.
5. I have no intention of discussing here the pros and cons of these three important policy questions. Nevertheless it is quite true that, in regard to the first two of them, Canada appeared intransigent to the Indians and in the third of them India probably appeared equally stubborn and pigheaded to Canadians. However, the moral, it seems to me, is that these three events demonstrate that neither Government will yield to the persuasion of the other in a matter in which that Government considers that its more vital interests advocate a different course. In the Laos question, for example, there was no doubt that reconvening was opposed in Washington. Despite every effort to explain the justice of the Canadian position it was clear to us here that the Indians considered that, as between placating New Delhi or reassuring Washington, we chose Washington well knowing that New Delhi would not like it. On the wheat question the Indians have always seen the issue as being between refusing to help India in its foreign exchange difficulties or taking some action which might possibly adversely affect Canada's commercial wheat sales in other parts of the world. On the third point, the Indians' motives for rejecting the compromise on the Law of the Sea were not quite so apparent; but it seems evident that in this matter Krishna Menon was able to play on Prime Minister Nehru's emotional distrust of the great maritime powers and particularly on his (Nehru's) antagonism towards Pakistan. In this matter Indian "policy" was further bedevilled by Menon's determination to do everything possible to discredit Law Minister Ashoka Sen (who led the Indian delegation), and, more important, to avoid offending the U.S.S.R.
6. It might seem that these three events, placed together, represented a set-back in Canada's relations with India. However, in my view, it is more accurate to regard them not so much as a set-back as an indication that neither country has really very much influence over the other. During the better part of the last decade, for a variety of reasons, our relations with India have superficially appeared closer and deeper than has actually been the case. In the early part of this period Canada and India were collaborating on efforts to obtain a Korean Armistice and Canada frequently acted as an "honest broker" in attempting to interpret United States policy to the Indians and vice versa. The Indians knew that we were largely responsible for the eventual acceptance by the U.S.A. of the so-called "Indian Resolution" adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1952 which paved the way for the Korean Armistice. This was very much appreciated by the Indians. However I suspect that their appreciation for the efforts made by Canada may have been less than their self-satisfaction based on the mistaken impression that Canada was moving towards their own position of "non-alignment" between the two great power blocs. Later on, in the Autumn of 1956, the Suez Crisis developed and Canada sharply dissociated itself from United Kingdom policy which, in the eyes of the Indians, was absolutely disastrous and unprincipled. The result of this was, of course, to raise in this country Canada's stock as an "independent" at a time when, among those Indians who concern themselves with international relations, a substantial section was questioning whether India should continue to remain in the Commonwealth.
7. Korea and Suez were merely the most dramatic of a series of events, mainly focussed on the United Nations, which, to the Indians, cast Canada's international spokesmen in a favourable light. Again, Canadian economic expansion was dramatic and the Colombo Plan was still in the early crusading phase which followed its establishment. These factors, of course, tended to inject warmth into our relations with India.
8. It seems to me that the cumulative effect of these various factors was to create the impression that relations between the two countries were much closer than they actually were. This misconception has been aggravated by the fact that, among most thinking Canadians, it is a fairly basic article of faith that Canada and India should have close relations. From the best of motives many influential people in Canada wished to see relations between the two countries as close as possible and there was enough material in the daily headlines to give the superficial impression that these relations were indeed very close.
9. However, it now seems to me that relations between the two countries have always been basically thin and superficial. Few Canadians, except missionaries, have had much first-hand experience of India, our trade with India has been very slight, and very few Indians have ever thought about Canada except in terms of the few leading Canadian personalities whom they had read about. While we generally agreed with the Indians on such matters as Korea and Suez we were not able to influence them on matters which directly affected their own security. For example, Canadian representatives have had no more success than anyone else in trying to influence Indian policy on Kashmir. Again, in working with the Indians in the International Supervisory Commissions in Indo-China, Canada has frequently been unsuccessful in modifying Indian policy decisions — and vice-versa.
10. The three recent events which I mentioned as a starting point for this assessment should, in my view, serve to dispel any remaining clouds of wishful thinking that may obscure the true picture of Canadian-Indian relations. It seems to me that, for the discernible future, India's relations with Canada will be dominated by India's security preoccupations and by its desperate need for economic development. For our part, relations with India are bound to be overlaid by our NATO commitments, by our close association with the United States and the United Kingdom, and by the domestic economic situation prevailing in Canada. Within these two frameworks it should be possible to retain old and find new areas for cooperation between the two nations. But I believe that our approach to the development of contacts with India must be based on a clear recognition of the limited extent to which each party can influence the other, not on wishful thinking as to what would be ideal.
11. In the context of Canadian-Indian relations, references to our joint Commonwealth membership, while obviously necessary and desirable in public statements by official spokesmen, do not have much force in this country. The sort of thing that does strike a responsive chord in this country is the reference, attributed to Mr. Diefenbaker at London airport on May 14, to "the necessity of upholding a fundamental principle of the Commonwealth — that of equality of all races and colours."63 This statement undoubtedly enhanced Canada in Indian eyes. The Commonwealth will rise in their estimation only if, as a clear consequence of the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference, this principle is accepted and acted upon by all Commonwealth members. However my experience is that at present only a very small minority of Indians give much thought to India's membership in the Commonwealth. Among these the majority opinion seems to be one of general acquiescence in belonging to the Commonwealth, but I have not been able to detect any widespread enthusiasm for this membership. While we must do what is possible to encourage in India a better understanding of the Commonwealth concept we should not delude ourselves as to how much we are likely to achieve. We should also not close our eyes to the fact that, in any test between leaving the Commonwealth or surrendering something which Indians regard as vital from either the strategic, economic or emotional standpoint, the great majority of Indians would choose to leave the Commonwealth.
12. In conclusion, I would like to make quite clear my motive for writing this despatch on Canadian-Indian relations. I believe that the three unrelated events referred to at the outset of the despatch illustrate clearly enough the essentially secondary role which relations with India play in Canadian policy, and which relations with Canada play in Indian policy. Wishful thinking is never a sound basis for policy and I wonder if relations between Canada and India have not to some degree been permeated by this attitude. I believe the present friendly relations can be maintained or improved only if we face the fact that they are in both cases overshadowed by more vital relations with other countries or groups of countries.
13. I have no panacea to offer. My argument is simply in favour of a greater realism in assessing our relations with India, not for any dramatic change in policy. In any case how could such a change be affected without altering the balance of our external policy in a manner which would prejudice our more vital interests? Canada is not prepared to adopt an attitude of non-alignment, to leave NATO or to add further friction to our relations with the United States. We are not prepared to accept any large number of Indian immigrants. We cannot realistically expect much increase in trade between the two countries. Our economic situation appears at present to rule out the possibility of an increase in aid. For its part India is not prepared to give up its policy of non-alignment or its much-publicized opposition to military alliances. India regards Canada in a generally friendly manner but the main interest most Indians have in our country is as a possible source of economic aid. Overwhelmed by their own tremendous problems most Indians simply have no time or inclination to give much thought to Canada. Mutual ignorance between the two countries is still almost as monumental as it was ten years ago.
14. I see no prospect of any sudden strengthening of our relations with India. These relations are, in both cases, overlaid by what are considered to be much more important preoccupations, — and these preoccupations are not likely to change in the near future. Yet India remains the most important uncommitted nation in the world and by far the most important democracy in Asia. All thoughtful people recognize what an enormous amount depends on the future of this country. This has certainly been clearly recognized in Ottawa for a long time. It follows that even if our other commitments preclude us from making any basic change in policy towards India we must, within the framework of our policy, constantly endeavour to seize any opportunity of showing to the Indians that we are interested in their problems and are well-disposed towards them. Opportunities for useful contact of this type frequently occur at the United Nations or in the specialized agencies; and, of course, a direct responsibility rests on those of us who represent Canada in India. All of us should continue to look out for these opportunities and to exploit them whenever we can. Moreover we should continue to examine, as we are now constantly doing, our economic aid programme to see whether the programme can be increased, or whether it can be better balanced, or whether the administrative machinery can be improved and decisions made more rapidly. In all these ways we can assist in preserving useful contact between Canada and India, even if neither country is prepared to alter its basic policies. But, as I have attempted to point out, such diplomatic efforts on our part will be more useful if they proceed from a basis of realism rather than from wishful thinking. There are no grounds whatever for complacency in the field of Canadian-Indian relations.
61Voir volume 26, chapitre VIII, 3e partie./See Volume 26, Chapter VIII, Part 3.
62Voir les documents 48 à 51./See documents 48-51.
63Voir/See "Commonwealth Communiqué a Neat Compromise: South Africa on Probation," Globe and Mail, May 14, 1960, pp. 1-2.