Sunday, October 16, 2011

A 1959 view of the race between India and China

Re-organizing some drawers this morning I was intrigued, and very distracted from my cleaning, to find a newspaper page under the drawer lining from the (London) Times on May 5, 1959.

Page 10 (the page I have) is full of the new rift between India and China. The crushing of the Tibetan uprising had just happened, the Dalai Lama had just fled to India and Mr Nehru was deploring the first time peace had been broken on the India - China border in 2000 years.

But the piece I found most fascinating looking back with today's eyes, is the piece on the need to ensure India succeeds in forming a democracy because it is the "bulwark" of freedom in Asia. It's chilling to read across the whole page stories so heavily influenced by the fear of communism. The reports range from French atomic testing in the Sahara (at which the French Prime Minister says that the health of the "local people and livestock will be guaranteed 100%"!) to Sir Winston Churchill flying in a jet for the first time to visit President Eisenhower in "a new time of crisis" - all written through the lens of English reporters.

Given how deep the fear was in 1959 it is truly marvelous to see the vibrant, powerful democracy India has become. It is still a young country, challenged by social unrest, corruption and dangerous neighbors, but for a country that was forged in fire only 64 years ago, it gives me hope for us all to see how democracy is thriving and rapidly improving the quality of life of the Indian people.

Here is the report:

INDIA AS BULWARK OF FREEDOM

Need for U.S. Aid

Vice-President Nixon and some leading Democrats joined to-day in urging economic assistance for India, lest failure in that country should lead to the downfall of democracy in Asia. The need to bolster India against the pressures of Communism, and particularly against China, was expressed or implicit in most of the statements; but Mr Nixon put this in clearer perspective in saying: "If there were no Communism and no Communist threat there would still be poverty, disease and need. Our primary interest must be the victory of plenty over want, of freedom over tyranny".

This was the first session of a two-day meeting sponsored by the Committee for International Economic Growth and it was address by the Indian Ambassador, Mr Chagla, and Senator Kennedy, as well as the Vice President.

Mr Chagla described India as the battleground for a great a decisive battle between dictatorial and democratic methods of solving the world's problem of poverty; if democracy failed in India, freedom would be the casualty over the whole of Asia and Africa. Senator Kennedy took up the same theme, giving a warning that India must at least equal the pace of China in moving from economic stagnation to growth. The United States must be willing to join with the other western nations in a long-range programme of loans and technical assistance designed to enable India to overtake China.

And the race is still on....

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