The U.S. Misunderstanding of India During the 1971 South Asia Crisis
Keywords:South Asia Crisis of 1971, Pygmalion Effect, intelligence, nadir
AbstractThis paper is interdisciplinary in nature, dealing with the issues of history, international relations, and cognitive psychology. Its purpose is to use these intersections to highlight the flaws in the Nixon administration’s approach to the South Asian region during the Crisis of 1971. The South Asia Crisis of 1971 created a humanitarian crisis which required India’s intervention in the Pakistani Civil War for regional stability. Due to Pakistan’s role in aiding the Nixon administration’s opening of relations with China, there was a United States (U.S.) tilt towards Pakistan that was based not only off self-interest, but also an incorrect assessment of India’s intentions which ultimately created a discrepancy between desired policy outcome and result. Two key cognitive psychological paradigms will be used in this paper. Theory of Fundamental Attribution Error underscores the Nixon administration’s framework for selecting facts and processing information to feed their preconceived notions of the countries in South Asia. Similarly, Theory of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy explains how the foreign policy actors enforced a Pygmalion Effect where the beliefs of the U.S. and India influenced their actions towards each other, reinforcing an endless cycle of preconceived ideas and contributing to an escalation of tensions during the crisis. The U.S. misunderstood India’s intentions in the South Asia Crisis and incorrectly aligned with Pakistan based on flawed intelligence, despite human rights’ violations and outcry from dissenters of the State Department who held regional expertise. This brought their relationship to its nadir.
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