Washington: Dwight D Eisenhower, the first US president to visit India, wanted to support New Delhi in its own right as a democracy, America's former ambassador to India Richard Verma has said.
"President Eisenhower loved India and had a special place in his heart for the country, Verma said at an event here on Wednesday held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower's visit to India.
Eisenhower, a five-star General served as the 34th president of the US from 1953 to 1961. His visit to India in 1959 was the first by any American President.
Verma said Eisenhower wanted to recognise and support India for its own right as a democracy.
"He was not happy with what the national security council staff had put together with regard to India. He didn't want India to be balancing Pakistan," Verma said.
"In fact, he was the first one to come up with an actual national security council directive, which wanted to recognise and support India for its own right as a democracy and as a people that we should support not only for our interest, but for the good of the world, Verma added.
Verma said that India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the only head of state in to visit Eisenhower at his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1956.
The record suggests that they met for 14 hours and the president came away with 14 pages of notes. I learned that prime minister Nehru invited president Eisenhower to come to India and be the first US president ever to set foot there. Upon the president's departure, Prime Minister Nehru, the president leaves India with a piece of our heart, Verma said.
Over a million people came out to greet president Eisenhower.
Nehru called it the greatest civic reception he had ever seen, and it was by far the president's largest crowd ever, he said.
Stating that the issues discussed between the two leaders during the meeting included rise of China, security issues with Pakistan and the defense relationship with Moscow,Verma said the subjects are very much alive and relevant now.
"All of those issues that were discussed in 1959 are still very much alive and being discussed today. According to Bruce Reidel, Eisenhower later wrote that the whole trip across three continents was planned so he could fulfill his desire to visit India. A desire that had been sparked by his conversation with Nehru and Gettysburg three years before. He ended up spending five days in the country, he said.
Speaking on the occasion, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice G Wells, said Eisenhower in his address to the India's Parliament stated that the welfare of America is bound up with the welfare of India.
"And that is certainly so true today, and it captures, I think, our common heritage as democracies and how we need to work together and move past what were the Cold War non-aligned movement complexities, she said