The U.N. and the Thaw

United Nations, New York

Senseless and dangerous as it was, the undeclared war between India and Pakistan has nevertheless brought about a development that could prove to be hopeful both in its immediate and its future effects: a degree of diplomatic cooperation between Russia and the United States that would have seemed unthinkable a few months ago. A cautious man, Secretary of State Rusk has not hesitated to define the Russian attitude in the present crisis as “helpful.” The Soviet spokesmen, whose public relations problems within the Communist bloc are a little more complex, have not made similar statements. Their “helpful” utterances are coupled with attacks on the American policy in Vietnam. But these are just for the record, and they do not weaken the meaning of the Russian position—one of outright collaboration with the U.S. in the effort to end the conflict and prevent its eruption into an Asian Serajevo.

With the acceptance on September 22 of a ceasefire by both sides, it now seems that this joint endeavor has been successful. It was an effort that took many forms, some tacit and some open. The United States and Russia both exerted direct pressure on the belligerents to obtain an end to the hostilities. They both warned Peking to stay out of the conflict. And both countries have given full support to the United Nations in the various steps it has taken to handle the crisis: the first Security Council resolution of September 4; the peace mission of Secretary General U Thant to Rawalpindi and New Delhi; the second Security Council resolution of September 20.

How can we evaluate this sudden experiment in what can be called “parallel diplomacy”? Is it only a temporary expedient, dictated by a chaotic emergency that has broken the rules of the traditional alignments? Or is it a new stage in relations between the two superpowers? The answer generally given, that the Russian-American cooperation in the India-Pakistani crisis merely reflects a specific “coincidence of interests,” has the truth of the obvious but does not really explain what has happened. Until now the United States and the Soviet Union have competed, as they still compete, for influence in the Indian subcontinent. Until now and even now, their policies on a settlement of the Kashmir problem have differed. In other circumstances the Russians might well have exploited the chaos of this crisis. As the last few weeks have shown clearly, what has shifted the focus of Soviet policy has been an overriding concern for the Asian balance of power. And here lies the area of common interest with Washington. Growing conflict among the unstable nations on the Indian subcontinent could create a “power vacuum” that China would inevitably fill. It is the kind of situation that has always been a nightmare for the State Department. American foreign policy since the end of the war has been dictated by the desire to prevent similar disasters from occuring. The novelty is that the Russians now share …

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