It’s March 12th, 1962, at the Palam Airport in New Delhi, India. Hundreds of onlookers are perched under pop-up tents and canopies, taking as much shelter as they can from the sweltering sun absorbed by the sea of asphalt on the airport runway. A plane descends from the cloudless sky. In bright red letters, the side of the plane reads “AIR-INDIA.” As the plane makes contact with the runway and slows to a stop, thunderous applause erupts from the crowd. The doors to the plane open, extending a staircase down onto the ground. A red carpet is rolled out, and approaching the aircraft from the crowd is a large group of significant individuals, including the Indian ambassador to the U.S., the Prime Minister, and many others. As this crowd of individuals approaches, a figure emerges at the mouth of the plane. With a great deal of elegance and grace, this person steps off the plane to booming cheers. She’s dressed in a bright pink wool coat with a matching hat to boot. The lady in pink is followed by her own entourage of representatives and ambassadors, including her very own sister. The two groups meet on the red carpet, exchange pleasantries, and pose for some pictures taken by the dozens of reporters that have swarmed the runway. The lady in pink stands right in the center of the group, now holding a large bouquet of flowers. The woman in question is Jackie Kennedy, and this was the beginning of one of the most impactful and well-documented international trips the First Lady ever embarked on. We recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of Jackie’s visit to India and Pakistan. To commemorate the occasion, we here at Kennedy Dynasty thought it would be appropriate to discuss the impact of the trip through our podcast and blog.
To get a clearer picture of the purpose of the trip, we’ll have to look back before Jackie landed at Palam airport. The trip was an idea that started in the head of former U.S. ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith. After seeing the immense success of the Kennedys’ trips to France and Vienna, Galbraith concluded that a visit from the First Lady to India could be beneficial. Jacqueline wasn’t initially keen on the idea. She decided to embark only after Galbraith agreed to have Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill, tag along for the trip. The details were ironed out, and the two set off on a strange limbo between official and recreational visit.
Once Jackie landed in New Delhi and set off on her semi-official visit, things became harder to follow. There isn’t any concrete timeline of her trip to India available. Still, we know of many sites she visited, along with a vast collection of pictures to boot! Sites Jackie visited include the Taj Mahal, the U.S. Embassy in India, the Gandhi memorial, along with many other places. Perhaps most notably, Jackie and Lee rode an elephant outside of the Amber Palace. Upon Jackie’s departure from India to Pakistan, she was gifted two tiger cubs, which she later donated to the National Zoo.
Upon arriving in Pakistan, Jackie was showered with gifts and ceremony. In pictures of her drive through Khyber Pass, you can see the streets lined with Pakistani citizens welcoming her into the country. Jackie attended the National horse and cattle show, where she was gifted her beloved horse Sardar (Later known as BlackJack). There’s a relatively comical letter (shown below) that Jacqueline wrote to JFK begging him not to quarantine Blackjack upon their return to the States.
Overall, this trip was immensely impactful for Jacqueline Kennedy’s legacy and the entire Kennedy family. For one, Jackie’s visit to Pakistan marks the first and only visit from a First Lady to an Islamic country. Another reason this trip was so impactful was the amount of press that covered the journey from start to finish. There are hundreds of photos from the trip, some from LIFE Magazine that hadn’t been released until a few years ago. There are dozens of audio snippets from Jackie herself (many of which can be heard in our podcast episode on the subject). There is even a fascinating documentary that records the trip.
While this piece covered the basics of Jackie Kennedy’s trip to India and Pakistan, it doesn’t go into nearly the amount of detail that our podcast on this topic did! If you’d like to learn more about this trip, complete with audio snippets from Jackie herself, you can check out the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube. Thanks for reading!