U.S. Public Diplomacy and Indo-American Relations

Principal Investigator:
Sarah Graham, CPD Research Fellow, 2011-2013

Related CPD Publications:
Engaging India: Public Diplomacy and Indo-American Relations to 1957, CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, November 2012

This 2011-13 CPD Research Fellowship project centered on the Indo-U.S. diplomatic relationship throughout the post-war period, and investigates the role (and probable failure) of U.S. public diplomacy in India. The key premise in this work is that the course of U.S. public diplomacy in India may offer a starting point to explaining precisely why Indo-American relations have historically been fraught with difficulty and remain tentative to this day.

Previous attempts to explain these difficulties have not provided a good fit with established theoretical perspectives in international relations that center on hard power disparities. Throughout the post-war period, Indian leaders articulated a set of finely grained disagreements over the concepts of democracy, Third World empowerment, race, and cultural norms in response to the norms of American hegemony. The fact that Indian leaders, notably Jawaharlal Nehru, distrusted the intentions and integrity of U.S. public diplomacy has been documented in several historical accounts. In this context, original research examining the role of public diplomacy with a specific focus on how American officials assessed the nature of Indian responses to U.S. public diplomacy efforts will shed light on the role of perceptions in the Indo-American diplomatic relationship.

The two core outputs of this research included a detailed historical survey of U.S. public diplomacy in India and an overview of perceptions and misperceptions of the United States in contemporary India.