U.S. and India: World’s Oldest and Largest Democracies Share Historical Ties

Posted by Stephen Wood
June 22, 2013
Flags of the United States and India Near the Presidential Palace in New Delhi

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to India June 23-25, continuing a long tradition of diplomatic engagement between the United States and India.

Diplomatic relations between the world’s oldest and largest democracies were established on November 1, 1946, when the U.S. Department of State elevated the American Mission at New Delhi to an Embassy.  In an unconventional sequence of events, the United States and India established diplomatic relations prior to India’s formal independence from the British Empire.

Since then, cooperation between our two governments has steadily grown, all the while buttressed by strong people-to-people linkages between the United States and India.  These connections have been largely driven by the vibrant Indian-American community, one of the most energetic and successful diaspora populations in the world.  Here’s a look at some of the moments over the last several decades that have helped build and sustain one of today’s most indispensable bilateral relationships.


President Harry S Truman signs legislation to erect a memorial to Mohandas K. Gandhi during a ceremony at the White House on September 28, 1949 in Washington. Seated are Truman and Mme Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian Ambassador to the United States. Standing, from left to right, are Rep. Emanuel Celler (D-NY); Loy Henderson, U.S. Ambassador to India; Sirdar J.J. Singh, president of India League of America; A. Bhadkamkar, secretary to Mme Pandit; George McGee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs.


India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, left, and U.S. President Harry S Truman, right, wave from an automobile as they leave National Airport in Washington, D.C., on October 11, 1949. Madam Vijaya Pandit, Indian Ambassador to the United States, sits between them. 


India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru accompanies President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the famed Taj Mahal at Agra, India on December 13, 1959.


President John F. Kennedy walks with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru around the White House grounds on November 8, 1961.


U.S. Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, is shown covered with colored powders as a result of "Holi Day," the Indian celebration of Spring, from the front lawn of his residence in New Delhi, India, March 1962. 


Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai offers a traditional “namaste” greeting to President Jimmy Carter, who holds his just-signed copy of the Delhi Declaration in New Delhi, India on January 3, 1978. 


President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, and First Lady Nancy Reagan stand on the North Portico of the White House before a State Dinner on July 29, 1982.


Mother Teresa, surrounded by missionaries, receives the resolutions of honorary American citizenship from U.S. Ambassador to India Frank G. Wisner, left, at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta on November 16, 1996.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, shakes hands with Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh during their joint press conference in New Delhi, India, March 16, 2005.


President George W. Bush works the soil as Andhra Pradesh's Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy looks on during a visit to Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University in Hyderabad, India, on March 3, 2006.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, smiles as she interacts with members of Self Employed Women's Association, a non-governmental organization, in Mumbai, India, July 18, 2009.


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi, India, November 7, 2010.

President Obama has called India one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, one which will be vital to U.S. strategic interests in Asia-Pacific and across the globe.  Next week’s U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi represents an opportunity to strengthen collaboration in areas including energy, climate change, trade, education, and counterterrorism.  Watch Secretary Kerry’s video message on the upcoming dialogue here, and follow his travel to India on state.gov.

About the Author: Stephen Wood serves as an editorial assistant for DipNote.



Ashim C.
June 23, 2013
Nice article. The photographs have been selected well. One remembers how as a child one had gone Connaught Place where Delhiites had converged in huge numbers to greet Late President Eisenhover. One hopes Secretary of State visit will infuse much needed substance to Indo-US relationship given the great context Asia Pacific geopolitics. Both countries have to take a few extra steps to rach out to each other. Benign effects of those steps should visible for that visibility is important to get over some negetaive perceptions in both sides, which preventing natural fruition of this relationship.
Ashim C.
June 25, 2013
Seems the visit has gone well. Shall watch with interest how US India relationship change post withdrawal from Afghanistan. Heard nothing about SAARC - ASEAN integration to strengthen look east policy nor about state/city to India's eastern ( Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal Assam, Sikkim etc) state/city linkages. US small tourism, small food processing firms can hit big by entering business in these states. With plenty of water, agro and horticultue produce, long pristine beaches, hills and valleys and under untilised mineral resources, possibilities of big business is huge for both land and skilled labour is cheap in these states. US department of commerce and industry should explore these states. Only major bottle neck is power.
Peter S.
Virginia, USA
July 2, 2013
I'm a recently retired FSO and am now writing a biography of former Congressman Emanuel Celler, whose name appears in the caption to the second photograph of your post. You may be interested to know that the bill Truman signed (and that Celler had introduced) only authorized the building of a Gandhi memorial. The actual construction of the memorial depended on raising private funds. Unfortunately, the fundraising effort was not successful and there is no Gandhi memorial in Washington. Something to keep in mind for the future.


Latest Stories