»Her [Jackie Kennedy’s] every seam has been the subject of hypnotized attention from the streets of Delhi to Khyber Pass.«
»Jackie was the rarest of political creatures: ordinary enough to be non-threatening but elevated enough to inspire admiration«, as many critics stated. She perfectly knew how to conceal her actual disregard of politics and tried not to play an active role in any policy decisions (as opposed to Eleanor Roosevelt).
The White House years of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy were largely marked by political crises abroad and turmoil at home. Over the course of time, Jackie developed adept skills in campaigning and supporting her husband during his entire political career, although her main interests lay in raising and protecting her children as well as providing diversions for her husband. This credo stands in stark contrast to her initial assertion as a child »not to be a housewife«.
Nevertheless, Jack’s advisers soon acknowledged the high political potential of this nonpolitical woman after Jack and Jackie’s generally successful travels throughout Europe. Not only did she charm French president Charles de Gaulle with her refined knowledge of the French language and culture, she even left a deep impression on Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union. It is reported that while JFK felt dissatisfied with the encounter of Khrushchev, Jackie inquired about the dogs that had been sent into space earlier and asked if she could have one. Indeed, Khrushchev sent her one of the puppies and de Gaulle agreed to her proposal of exhibiting Leonardo da Vinci’s »Mona Lisa« in the USA. Thus, Jackie proved to be of vital importance for the public as well as political status of the president. Her real power lay in mitigating explosive state visits while at the same time providing journalists with a beautiful picture.
Therefore, JFK encouraged Jackie to take trips by herself to represent the USA and the President abroad. In 1962, she went to India and Pakistan, accompanied by her younger sister Lee and John Kenneth Galbraith, who served as United States ambassador to India at that time. The journey was partly official, partly private and yet, state banquets were held in her honor. Her so-called »goodwill tour« started on March 12 and ended on March 26. During this time she followed a tightly knit schedule as if on an official state visit: she was received at Delhi airport by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, visited the Taj Mahal, and met Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, who would become prime minister herself in 1966. In addition, she also met Ayub Khan, president of Pakistan, visited the spot where Gandhi was cremated, rode an elephant, watched a polo game and visited children in a hospital. Khan even gave her a horse called “Sardar” as a gesture of goodwill, which was well received since Jackie was a fervent lover of horses. Throughout her trip, people on the streets shouted »Mrs. Kennedy, Zindabad«, which translates as »long live Mrs. Kennedy« and hailed her as the Amriki Rani – Queen of America.
Interestingly though, media coverage about her trip to India and Pakistan was mainly about her clothes, which apparently were the main focus of public attention since she had created the famous »Jackie Look«. It was stated that on this journey, she and her sister were accompanied by 23 security agents and took 62 pieces of luggage with them. Jackie wore Indian-inspired clothes that were exclusively designed for this trip by American designer Oleg Cassini. She changed her clothes several times a day, yet, her spokesman stressed the fact that »Mrs. Kennedy does not regard this trip as a fashion show.«
The trip was highly appreciated among JFK’s advisers who perceived the goodwill tour as an invaluable sign towards strengthening the diplomatic ties between the East and the West. It was stressed that Jackie had managed to improve communication decisively – an outcome which pleased the president very much. If he had traveled there alone, he would have probably touched on more delicate and precarious topics which would have made a confrontation inevitable and would have put a strain on the communication between the two countries.