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A King of Hearts

Although Jawaharlal Nehru’s first state visit to the US was a diplomatic failure, it revealed that, like John F Kennedy, he was a rare leader who represented not just a nation’s policies but also its sentiments.

In a desolate corner of my university’s library, I stumbled upon the memoirs of Dean Acheson, the secretary of state under Harry S Truman, who was the United States (US)President from 1945 to 1953. The book, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1970. As I flipped through its pages, I came across a chapter that chronicled Jawaharlal Nehru’s first state visit to the US, in 1949. Acheson’s views are quite interesting, reflecting what Washington thought of India’s first Prime Minister.

Acheson writes that after the official talks, he took Nehru to his home for a private conversation, with the intention of establishing a personal rapport with him. The conversation started at 10:30 pm and went on till after 1 am. At the end, Acheson said that he found Nehru to be “one of the most difficult men to deal with.” “I had hoped that, uninhibited by a cloud of witnesses, we might be able to establish a personal relationship,” he writes. “But he would not relax. He talked to me, as Queen Victoria said of Mr Gladstone, as though I were a public meeting.”

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Updated On : 5th May, 2017

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