Mrs. Indira Gandhi's visit to the United States ended last evening with the completion of her engagements in this industrial and financial centre of America. She leaves the shores of the U.S. to-day after spending almost the whole day at the United Nations.
The reception she has received at the hands of the President, the people and the Press in the U.S. has gone beyond earlier expectations. The President has been both chivalrous and understanding. The Press has been unusually sympathetic and has gone out of its way to give her a big hand.
Though in material terms, Mrs Gandhi's visit has yielded significant result- a $300 million Indo-American Foundation a billion dollar food programme and an unblocking of the channels through which economic aid may flow—no one here has been ungallant enough to say that Mrs. Gandhi came here just to get food and money.
Her visit, instead seems to have aroused the basic humanitarian instincts of the American people and a recognition particularly by Mr. Johnson that the Indian people value pride and self-respect and that the way to establish sound relations with a sister democracy is to recognise that fact.
This becomes clear when the visit and what was achieved by it is viewed against the background of the "criteria" Mr. Johnson had set for regularising relations with India in the course of his now fa mous Texas Ranch briefing of las' December. He had then stressed three things: performance, and political affinity.
By performance, he had meant, India's efforts to help itself before the U.S. would supplement that effort. By peace, he had meant Indian willingness to reduce tension with Pakistan. By political affinity he probably had in mind active Indian support for the U.S in Vietnam. At that time all these three harsh.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi's visit was productive because emphasis on the first, though still exists, is now far less exacting and because India itself has done a great deal recently to prove that it is just as in'erested in performance. Any stress on Pakistan was absent OP- cause Tashkent and India's adhe- rence to its spirit is now generally accepted here.
In the last few days, the President has also explained that he did not ever propose to ask India to do anything on Vietnam which went against its non-alignment. Mr. Johnson made this point absolutely clear when, during a private dinner conversation two days ago. he leaned over the table and said to some one within earshot of Mrs. Gandhi: "I know what kind of political problems she has at home. So when she goes back I want her to be able to stand up in Parliament and say. 'No. Johnson did not ask me for anything' if anyone asked her. 'Did Johnson ask you to send troops or even a medical unit to Vietnam?' or 'Did Johnson ask you to settle with Pakistan on Kashmir?'. I want her to be able to say that there was absolutely no quid pro quo."
When Mr. Johnson met Senate leaders to talk to them about his special food message on India, two of them asked him if in return for aid he had got a promise of support on Vietnam his blunt reply was, "No. and I don't propose to."
Mr. Johnson is confident of getting food and future economic assistance for India approved by Congress without difficulty. Refering to the attitude of some of the liberals in the Senate, who because they believe in the "Fortress America" concept, might oppose Mr. Johnson's pragmatic approach to foreign aid. The President is said to have declared 'I am no goddam Oxford graduate but I believe that when the American Constitution says all men are equal, it does not mean only white men or only Americans." His point was that the Great Society does not stop at the water's edge of either America or Europe.
Mr. Johnson is also said to be aware that there must be something wrong with the U.S. approach if, despite all the aid it gives to 80 odd countries, it still has an unfavourable image in many of those countries. He is said to be anxious to correct this. He believes he can do so if he follows a radically different approach ti the giving of aid.
For instance. Mr. Johnson said to have recently asked the Indian Ambassador. "Look. I want to do the right thing the right way. I am not very experienced in this sort of thing. So if I go wrong anywhere, come and tell me. In fact, why don't you come and see me every week?"
One result of this Johnson approach, which is to a large degree also a recognition of the fact that the U.S. needs India as much as India needs the U.S., may be a significant turning point in Indo-U.S.relations. And Mrs. Gandhi's visit may have set the mood for it. Mr. Johnson's promise to help India even if other countries do not heed his appeal, bears tho stamp of his new approach to Asia in general, and India in particular.
During the initial phase of the Prime Minis'er's visit there was a slight sense of uncertainty. This was perhaps because both sides were a little wary and a little un- certain about the other's approach But he informality adopted by Mr. Johnson and the frankness and candour shown by Mrs. Gandhi is said to have set the right mood.