Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, March 7, 1960


Whatever battles may be in the headlines, no struggle in the world deserves more time and attention from this Administration - and the next - than that which now grips the attention of all Asia - the battle between India and China. The real battle is not the flare-up over Chinese troop movements around disputed boundaries - or the projected conferences between Chou-en Lai and Premier Nehru. Nor is it the war of words over China's annihilation of Tibet. The real India-China struggle is equally fierce but less obvious - less in the headlines but far more significant in the long run.

And that is the struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East, for the respect of all Asia, for the opportunity to demonstrate whose way of life is the better.

For it is these two countries that have the greatest magnetic attraction to the uncommitted and underdeveloped world. It is these two countries which offer a potential route of transition from economic stagnation to economic growth. India follows a route in keeping with human dignity and individual freedom. Red China represents the route of regimented controls and ruthless denial of human rights.

It should be obvious that the outcome of this competition will vitally affect the future of all Asia - the comparative strength of Red and Free nations - and inevitably the security and standing of our own country. India's population represents 40 per cent of the uncommitted world. It is larger than the total populations of the continents of Africa and South America combined. Unless India can compete equally with China, unless she can show that her way works as well or better than dictatorship, unless she can make the transition from economic stagnation to economic growth, so that it can get ahead of its exploding population, the entire Free World will suffer a serious reverse. India herself will be gripped by frustration and political instability - its role as a counter to the Red Chinese in Asia would be lost - India herself and then most of Asia would later - and Communism would have won its greatest bloodless victory.

But do we fully realize how this contest is coming out? The harsh facts of the matter are that in the last decade China has surged ahead of India economically. Its gross national output has expanded about three times as fast. Its food production has nearly doubled, while India's has increased by less than 50 per cent. In steel production, China has moved from a position of inferiority to marked superiority. In terms of industrial capacity, education and even household consumption, China has slowly pulled up and now moved ahead.

Within the last two years, the Chinese have produced their first automobile. Within the next year they may have launched their first earth satellite. Within a few years they may have exploded their first nuclear weapon. And perhaps equally significant for the future is the fact that China has become a major trading nation - not only in Southeast Asia, where she is gradually supplanting Japan, but also in the growing trade movements to Europe and Africa. And Indian products are suffering accordingly.

But the struggle is not over - and the potentialities for gain in India are still great. In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters - one representing danger, and one representing opportunity. The danger now is clear. But this crisis also presents an opportunity - not only for India but for all the West. But if these opportunities are lost now, they may never come again.

It is not enough that we participate on a crash basis, for temporary relief. We must be willing to join with other Western nations in a serious long-range program of long-term loans, backed up by technical and agricultural assistance - designed to enable India to overtake the challenge of Communist China. The tool for this program can well be the Development Loan Fund and such a joint effort by several Western nations, may be spearheaded by the Franks International Economic Mission - which was set up in a Congressional Resolution sponsored by Senator Cooper of Kentucky and myself, and by Representative Chester Bowles in the House.

This kind of careful, coordinated, long-range aid could make the difference. Our assistance thus far has been limited to emergency aid - to meet immediate crises and existing shortages. We have not met the requirements essential for economic growth - nor have we alleviated the harsh realities which India faced a year ago. Her population continues nearly to out-pace her economic development - her shortage of foreign exchange continues to increase - and a general loss of hope and morale continues to spread.

This is the critical year for India. This is the year when India's third Five-Year Plan beginning in 1961 will be designed. This is the year, in short, when India must appraise her future and her relations with the rest of the world.

I do not say that India could not tread water for a few more years before going under. But this is the year the Indians need confidence that they can plan major efforts for long-range progress with some assurance of substantial, long-term assistance from the Western world.

Our aid should, of course, be based upon sound criteria and productive investment. But let us remember economies need time to mature. Our own nation, in the days of its youth, sold railroad bonds to the British and other Europeans - and these were long 40 or 50 year debentures. With the growth of our productive capacity, we gradually became a creditor nation with the ability to repay these foreign investments. There is no question that the Indians, given proper assurance and assistance, could do the same.

Many of the other governments in Asia and the Middle East are now balanced precariously on the wall of indecision between the East and the West. Of course an adequate program of aid to India is no magic persuader - nor is it a panacea for all of India's difficulties. There is no such solution for these tough problems. The barriers are great. The political and ideological dilemmas are many.

But I am confident that we can recover the initiative, that we can give a doubting world the realization that we - and not Russia and China - can help them achieve stability and growth.

But it is not enough merely to provide sufficient money. Equally important is our attitude and our understanding. For if we undertake this effort in the wrong spirit, or for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong way, then any and all financial measures will be in vain.

We want India to win that race with Red China. We want India to be a free and thriving leader of a free and thriving Asia. But if our interest appears to be purely selfish, anti-Communist and part of the Cold War - if it appears to the Indian people that our motives are purely political - then we shall play into the hands of Communists and neutralist propagandists, cruelly distort America's image abroad, and undo much of the psychological effect that we expect from our generosity.

Let us instead return to the generous spirit in which the original Point Four Program was conceived; stress our positive interest in, and moral responsibility for, relieving misery and poverty, and acknowledge to ourselves and the world that, communism or no communism, we cannot be an island unto ourselves.

In short, it is our job to prove that we can devote as much energy, intelligence, idealism and sacrifice to the survival and triumph of the open society as the Russian despots can extort by compulsion in defense of their closed system of tyranny.

Source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files, Box 907, "University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, 7 March 1960." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.