Rajiv Gandhi's call (Times, Feb. 21) for closer relations with the United States reminded me of a conversation I had as I departed from India after a research trip several years ago. Rajiv's mother, Indira Gandhi, had been back in power for several years, and had just concluded a series of meetings with Soviet officials. These meetings had brought the customary harsh reaction from the U.S. government, which in turn produced perplexity among the many Indians who sincerely wish for closer friendship and cooperation between the world's two largest democracies.
The conversation to which I refer occurred on the airplane as I left New Delhi. I chanced to sit next to an Indian television news reporter, who articulated well India's dismay over the United States' lack of interest in and understanding of his country. Why, he wondered, must the United States insist that every other country is either "with us or agin' us," that there is no such thing as a truly nonaligned nation? India sees itself as a leader of such nations, but is routinely treated by the United States as a Soviet satellite.
Why, the reporter wondered, cannot U.S. presidents understand that arming Pakistan to the teeth presents a clear danger to India, and that India would strongly prefer its sister democracy, America, to the U.S.S.R. as its supplier of arms and materials necessary for its defense? Why cannot the United States see that a closer relationship with India would greatly aid its image among nonaligned and Third World nations?
Why indeed? The time is ripe for this government to follow through on its much-publicized "firm support" for the world's democracies by finally turning its eyes to the largest of those, India. Like that reporter, I believe that if the United States would seriously recognize India as a leader among the many nations that have grown weary of the tugging of the superpowers, we would develop a deep and lasting friendship with a nation that is destined to play an increasingly more important role in our world. There exists a golden opportunity to advance America's diplomatic interests, one that would help to maintain the fragile peace in South Asia.
JAMES D. McNAMARA