249. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1

2170. Deptel 1829.2 For following reasons US atomic power reactors would have significant political value to US in India.

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Lack of power is a bottleneck in Indian economy; expansion of power facilities, conventional or atomic, is of fundamental importance to Indian economic development; power has high priority in five-year plans. Our helping to meet an economic need is politically important. A special political merit in the proposed atomic power plants, however, is fact that they would be located in Southern India where power shortage is notably acute and where feeling is widespread that disproportionate share of US assistance has thus far gone to Northern India.
Atomic development has much appeal in India as an advanced scientific accomplishment. US-Indian cooperation in atomic power would probably have exceptional political benefit to US, pleasing to Indian pride and also demonstrating the application of US science.
If US or other free world countries do not assist India we may expect GOI seek Soviet cooperation, for GOI seems firmly determined have atomic power plants. Soviet atomic expert Emilyanov, for example, scheduled visit India next month for conversations with Bhabha. Soviets would probably welcome opportunity play major role in atomic power in India just as they are doing in such key public sector undertakings as petroleum, steel, heavy machine tools. US assistance in power plants would have the political value of providing something important the Indians want from US and also the advantage of helping deny access to Soviets.
Political effectiveness of US-Indian atomic power collaboration would, of course, be maximized if US were sole source of such aid. If this not possible for us the objective should be assistance from both US and other free world countries to assure India’s Western orientation in this important field. We should not be deterred by possible British atomic power project.


On political grounds we recommend that every possible effort be made to assist India in atomic power plants and also seek steadily to expand close US-Indian cooperation in all atomic matters. We hope group of technical representatives from US Atomic Energy Commission will visit India early next year as recently discussed between AEC and Bhabha.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 891.1901/12–1459. Official Use Only.
  2. In telegram 1829, November 18, the Department of State summarized a series of recent conversations between Bhabha and officials of the Department and the AEC. “Department told AEC after Bhabha meeting,” the telegram reads in part, “that if AEC could state there would be some concrete benefit to AEC in developing reactor project in India, Department would be prepared support Indian application for financing. However project not of such political significance that Department would be prepared lead way in securing financing.” The Department also requested the “Embassy’s opinion as to political impact to be gained from smaller US project if UK has larger power reactor in operation before US project.” (Ibid., 891.1901/11-1859)