"Re-engineering the Market: Chester Bowles and Indian-American Relations During the Cold War" by Andrew Cordova
Chester Bowles, twice U.S. ambassador to India (1951-1953, 1963-1969), criticized the military as an instrument to inﬂuence foreign policy during the Cold War. He often remarked that it damaged America’s reputation as the protector of freedom. Instead, he hoped to build partnerships that satisﬁed the needs of foreign governments while ensuring U.S. national security issues.
Speciﬁcally with India, Bowles centered his policies on the maximization of agricultural production. Understanding that India’s lack of food resources could cause political instability that threatened the young democracy, the ambassador persuaded the State Department to export grain to India, ﬁnance the construction of irrigation projects, and provide new agricultural technologies to Indian cultivators. In doing so, Bowles contended that India’s young democracy would be strengthened and stabilized, which translated to the decreased likelihood that it would adopt communist ideologies.
India is often disregarded as a commanding actor in cold War international politics. As a key endorser of the non-alignment movement, India is seen as particularly removed from the United States’ mission to limit the spread of communism in Asia. Moreover, U.S. food exports to India has rarely been seen as a diplomatic tool used to gain inﬂuence in a region that largely objected to U.S. initiatives. Chester Bowles, however, harnessed the power of agriculture to inﬂuence India, which he saw as the linchpin to U.S. strategic interest in Asia. Bowles’ divergence from military engagement allowed the United States to achieve its interests in a region marked largely by American failures.