The decisive struggle in the Cold War': JFK, India and the containment of Communist China

Fifty Years Without JFK: Rethinking Global Diplomacy
Asia: Panel 3

The decisive struggle in the Cold War': JFK, India and the containment of Communist China
Paul McGarr (University of Nottingham)
Read By Matthew Hill

In November 1959, whilst campaigning in California for the Democratic Party's 1960 presidential nomination, the then United States Senator for Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, declared that: '...no struggle in the world deserves more time and attention from this [Eisenhower's] Administration -- and the next -- than that which now grips the attention of all of Asia...and that is the struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East.' Barely a year later, on entering the White House, in January 1961, President Kennedy moved quickly to inject substance into lofty rhetoric espousing 'democratic' India's value as a bulwark against the extension of Communist, and, more specifically, Chinese Communist influence in Asia. Supported by such New Frontier luminaries as the economists, John Kenneth Galbraith and Walt Rostow, and fellow political Indophiles, Robert Komer and Chester Bowles, Kennedy presided over a period of unparalleled American political, economic, cultural and military engagement with South Asia. Drawing upon recently declassified official records and private papers from archives in the United States, the
United Kingdom, India, the former Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China, a fresh perspective is offered up on the intellectual origins, political calculations, and strategic consequences of the Kennedy administration's bid to guarantee India's primacy in a largely illusory 'competition' with China for Asian hegemony.

Kennedy's attempts to influence the course of Sino-Indian relations in the early 1960s have hitherto been represented by historians and political commentators as a series of rash, misguided and ill-conceived adventures that unwittingly contributed to the advance of communist influence in Asia.3 Challenging received historical wisdom, a new interpretation is placed on Kennedy's response to the Sino-Indian question. Most significantly, it is contended that the President's attitudes and actions in this sphere were invariably more pragmatic, measured and nuanced than has been acknowledged to date. Moreover, in important and previously overlooked areas, notably Indo-American intelligence and security collaboration, new evidence is presented which underscores the more positive and enduring aspects of Presidents Kennedy's intrusion into Sino-Indian affairs.

Asia: Panel 3 (Senate Room)
Chair: Professor Rana Mitter (Oxford)

JFK, China, and Nuclear Arms in Asia
Matthew Jones (University of Nottingham)

A Showcase of Modernity in the Third World: JFK and the Path of Reforms in Iran
Claudia Castiglioni (University of Milan)

'The decisive struggle in the Cold War': JFK, India and the containment of Communist China
Paul McGarr (University of Nottingham) Read by Matthew Hill

Q&A Session
Chair: Professor Rana Mitter (Oxford)

Author: 
Institute for the Study of the Americas
Speaker(s): 
Paul McGarr (University of Nottingham), Read By Matthew Hill
Event date: 
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 - 12:00am
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