Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jacqueline Kennedy Visits South Asia

The White House announced yesterday that the current first lady would embark on a trip to Africa in October, her first independent foreign trip while in office.  

There have been a number of memorable overseas tours by first ladies, but certainly one of the most notable was that of Jacqueline Kennedy’s official visit to India and Pakistan in March 1962.

The trip started with a motorcade amid a huge, tumultuous crowd in New Delhi.  She visited historic sites, hospitals, sailed on the Ganges River, rode an elephant, and mingled with Peace Corps volunteers.  In Pakistan, she visited the Northwest Frontier, including Peshawar and the Khyber Pass (I was there in the 1970s and it was rugged even then).  She also rode a camel, which—like the elephant ride in India—received extensive media coverage.

She made a huge impression on Indian Prime Minister Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan.  President Khan, who was feted by the Kennedys at an unprecedented dinner at Mount Vernon in July 1961, presented her with a horse, Sardar, which was later transported to the United States.

It was a smashing goodwill trip for Mrs. Kennedy, the administration and for U.S.-South Asia relations.

Photo of Mrs. Kennedy in front of the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra, India; credit:  Cecil  Stoughton.  White House Photographs.  John F. Kennedy Public Library and Museum, Boston.  It is in the public domain.

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