South Asia

It is in the world interest to avoid drifting into a widening division between the have and have-not nations

Address to the United Nations
General Assembly,
October 23, 1970

American policy toward the great subcontinent of South Asia parallels that toward the East Asia and Pacific region. Our aim is a structure of peace and stability within which the people of this region can develop its great potential and their independent vision of the future. Our policy is to help these nations deal with their own problems, and to bring our activity into a stable balance with that of the other major powers with interests in the area.

In the pursuit of that goal in South Asia, however, both the nature of our interests and the condition of the region permit a sharper focus of our efforts. South Asia's fundamental problems are two: to meet the challenges of economic and political development and to turn the relationship between India and Pakistan from hostility to cooperation.

More than elsewhere in Asia, the subcontinent entered the postwar period with an established institutional structure, with a considerable reservoir of trained personnel, and with a commitment to democratic self-government and independent policies which strengthened the world's sympathy and interest in its success. Against these assets, however, were substantial liabilities. Our effort to assist the countries of the area in overcoming these liabilities has determined and still determines the structure of our policy toward South Asia.

The 700 million people of the subcontinent face perhaps the world's most cruel imbalance between human needs and available resources. Even with the full application of modern science and technology, with all its potential for righting such an imbalance, the problem remains severe. For India, the mere size of its population and the need for large infusions of external resources, make extremely difficult the task of organizing the society to meet its problems. For Pakistan, the difficulties are compounded by the need to harmonize the interests of two regions widely diverse in social patterns and traditions and physically separated. The smaller countries of South Asia face similar or greater barriers to progress given their limited trained manpower and natural resources.

South Asia's progress is important to us. We cannot deny our humanitarian interest in the well-being of so many people with such exigent needs. Nor can we be indifferent to the fact that a lack of progress in South Asia could encourage the polarization of the world between the developing and the industrial countries. Finally, we recognize that the unmet needs of South Asia, and its unresolved enmities, could make the area vulnerable to an undesirable level of foreign influence.

We have a deep interest in ensuring that the subcontinent does not become a focus of great power conflict. Over the past decade the major, countries of South Asia have profoundly changed their relationships with the rest of the world. Pakistan has gradually moved from its position of close association with us to a complex triangular relationship, balancing her contacts with the three great powers with interests in South Asia-China, the U.S.S.R. and ourselves. India continues to follow a policy of nonalignment but of a cast significantly changed- since the Chinese attack of 1962. These policy changes, by definitions affect the intimacy of our relationship with the countries of South Asia. We have no desire to try to press upon them a closer relationship than their own interests lead them to desire. Our current posture in South Asia, therefore, accords with the restraint implied in the Nixon Doctrine.

During the past year we have continued our bilateral programs financial, technical and food assistance. South Asia is, in fact, the largest recipient of our economic aid. We are also providing large- scale assistance to India's crucial family planning efforts. We will continue to help through those programs, and through the activities of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Our effort to reinvigorate our whole system of economic aid is directly related to our desire to do this more effectively.

We have also helped deal with the consequences of one of this century's worst natural disasters. In response to the November tragedy in East Pakistan, the United States provided both immediate emergency relief and longer term aid to assist in the task of reconstruction. We are also working with the government of Pakistan to provide greater safety for the people there in the future.

We were faced during the past year with a particularly difficult decision in regard to Pakistan's request for an exception to our general embargo on the sale of lethal weapons to the subcontinent. We decided on a one-time sale of a limited amount of military equipment. We believe that this modest exception should not upset the military balance in the area or accelerate an arms race.

In the 1970s it is important that South Asia be able to rely on the steadiness of our policy. We will do what we can to help the countries of the area to meet their economic and social needs. Recognizing that the success of that effort will be diminished by a continued failure of India and Pakistan to establish normal relations, we will, without trying to dictate to those directly concerned, encourage more normal relations between them.

We will try to keep our activities in the area in balance with those of the other major powers concerned. The policy of the Soviet Union appears to be aimed at creating a compatible area of stability on its southern borders, and at countering Chinese Communist influence. The People's Republic of China, for its part, has made a major effort to build a strong relationship with Pakistan. We will do nothing to harm legitimate Soviet and Chinese interests in the area. We are equally clear, however, that no outside power has a claim to a predominant influence, and that each can serve its own interests and the interests of South Asia best by conducting its activities in the region accordingly.