Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Veliotes
VELIOTES: It was rather interesting. I was a Class-Three officer at that time, which is today equivalent to a One, which made me rather over-ranked for the job that I got. I became the deputy, in the internal political section, to Howard Schaffer, who was ranked below me. But I'd just been promoted to Class Three, and I thought the best way to learn India was through Howard Schaffer, whom I'd known before and who even then was a great expert. So I spent a year doing domestic political reporting in India. My responsibilities were North India. I spoke a modicum of Hindi, just enough to get in and out of taxis, but fortunately, the English level in India is quite high.
Q: What was the situation in North India at the time?
VELIOTES: Well, at the time, you had to look at the Indian context. It's hard to believe today, but '62, '64, those times, no one was paying much attention to the Middle East. Vietnam had not yet grown to the point where it was to be a few years later. The last major flashpoint that could have threatened a Soviet-American confrontation had occurred in 1962 when the Indians and the Chinese went to war, and the Indians were soundly defeated. That led to a secret American-Indian agreement that if the Chinese were to attack India, we would go to India's defense with our Air Force. So, insofar as we had a major interest involving Soviet-American relations outside of Europe, it was the subcontinent. India, Pakistan, this was really big politics back home.
Q: And at that time, Pakistan had not been seen as the dominant key to the situation and where we were as concentrated on Pakistan...
VELIOTES: No, we had been, through the Dulles years, but with the Kennedy administration, particularly with Chester Bowles going there, remember John Kenneth Galbraith had gone earlier, the chips were on India, more or less, and the Indian democratic experiment, which is and was real, India's prominence in the world; nonalignment was very important. It's hard today, if you hadn't lived through that period, to think of India as one of the central pillars of American policy, but it was.
Q: Well, this is what we're trying to recreate now, to have scholars understand how we looked at the situation.
VELIOTES: Well, as I say, we had a secret agreement to go to India's aid should the Chinese attack. Those were the days when you could have secret agreements, by the way. The Indians wanted it because it reassured them, but if we had had to go up to the Congress with it, we never would have had one. I'm not sure that's bad, I'm just making a comment.