Non-alignment policy initiated, advocated and implemented by India in the Nehru era did not inhibit India from developing friendly relations with USA, a leading capitalist country in post-war world.
India followed such a policy because it needed the support of America in critical areas of development.
But there were irritants like the perception of cold war, recognition of communist China by India, deep-rooted suspicion about India’s reliability and stability that stood in the way of friendly relations between India and America, though there was no unremitting hostility between these two governments.
However, people to people relations remained friendly.
There were pro-Indian groups in America and there were pro-American groups in India too. Towards the end of fifties there was a considerable improvement in relations because of growth of economic ties and exchange of technology and machinery between India and America.
The Kennedy administration through its ambassador John K. Galbraith made sincere effort to improve ties. In this situation only, the Chinese attack of India shocked Nehru to the core and made him turn towards the Kennedy administration. Thanks to the mediation of john K. Galbraith, the awkward situation was partially eased for Nehru.
Relations between India and USSR also started on a cool note and acquired great warmth in due course. USSR too suspected India as it wanted to be a member of Commonwealth and Stalin never gave audience to the Indian Ambassador Vijayalakshmi Pandit. But since 1951-52, the nature of relations began to change. Stalin met our Ambassador S. Radhakrishnan and even offered a treaty of friendship. USSR began to support India on the Kashmir issue in the UN and in 1954 USSR offered to give military equipment but India refused.
Nehru visited USSR in 1955 and Kruschev and Bulganin visited India in 1956. The path of economic development through planning based on public sector brought the two countries still closer. While US hesitated to help, USSR expressed readiness to help us technologically and economically.
By 1973-74, it was said that 50 per cent of India’s steel, 35 per cent of oil, 20 per cent of the electrical power, 65 per cent of heavy electrical equipment and 85 per cent of our heavy machine-making machines are produced in projects set up with Soviet aid.
When China invaded India in 1962, USSR maintained neutrality and in December 1962, Suslov, the important Soviet leader declared China as responsible for war in the meeting of the Supreme Soviet. USSR started military supplies since 1963 on a large scale and it is no exaggeration to suggest that the victory in 1971 war was due to the important independent manufacturing base created in India with the assistance of USSR.
Bipan Chandra writes, “the Soviet Union too gained from this link. India was an important entry point to the Afro-Asian world of newly independent countries that did not want to become US satellites and were open to Soviet friendship. This helped the USSR in the cold war as well. The Indo-Soviet friendship thus emerged as one of the most critical elements of Indian foreign policy”.