“I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people and cows wandering around the streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges, but I did not realize that anybody thought it was important,” President Harry Truman had remarked to Ambassador Chester Bowles in 1951.
It’s been a long journey from Truman’s remark to the present. India and the US, which share common values and should have been friends, found themselves trapped in a dysfunctional cycle of resentment and mistrust for the first few decades following India’s Independence.
In “A Matter of Trust”, (HarperCollins) author Meenakshi Ahamed reveals the personal prejudices and insecurities of the leaders, and the political imperatives, that so often cast a shadow over their relationship.
The cycle began with India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who viewed Americans as naive and insular, and President Truman, who dismissed Nehru as a communist.
However, it was under Indira Gandhi that India would enter the darkest phase of its relations with the US. In recently declassified White House tapes, Nixon is heard expressing his hatred not just towards ‘Mrs Gandhi’ but all Indians.
It was only after India undertook major reforms in the 1990s and became an economic powerhouse that the relationship improved. A partnership was cemented when President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the historic nuclear deal in 2008.
Ahamed draws on a unique trove of presidential papers, newly declassified documents, memoirs and interviews with officials directly involved in events on both sides to put together this illuminating account of India-US relationship, which has far-reaching implications for the changing global political landscape.
Ahamed was born in 1954 in Calcutta, India. After finishing school in India, she obtained an MA from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in 1978. She has had a varied career as a journalist, and prior to that, as a development consultant.
She has worked at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as for the Ashoka Society. In 1989, she moved to London and became the foreign correspondent for New Delhi Television (NDTV). After returning to the US in 1996, she worked as a freelance journalist. Her op-eds and articles have been published in The Asian Age, Seminar, Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Ahamed has served on the board of Doctors Without Borders, The Turquoise Mountain Foundation and Drugs for Neglected Diseases. She divides her time between the US and India.