121. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State0

3598. Yesterday in course of another conversation FonSec Desai told me that following my reps PriMin had told Krishna Menon that MIG deal must come before the cabinet and case would be reviewed with full consideration our points.

I have been worried in this matter lest Menon think I have been fighting him indirectly and by proxy so today I made appointment and had long talk. M.J. Desai was present At times discussion was rough. He once accused me of addressing him as subordinate official of his Min; I said I was refraining from apology only because I had not done so. In the end we parted fairly amicably and I had feeling that I made all the necessary points and, as usual very little impression. Following were the principal interchanges:

As earlier to Desai I said we could no explain provision of $850 million in civilian aid while leaving to the Russians the task of giving mil assistance. He bristled and said not one stick of equipment was supplied under mil aid programs. All was paid for. I had hoped for this and pointed out that according to newspaper accounts the Sov equipment was being supplied for rupees. Food Min S.K. Patil could as well argue that PL 480 food was purchased commercially. However we and he considered it aid. Menon then said rupees went into convertible accounts and could be spent by Sovs. I pointed out this only proved that the Sovs were less generous than we. We put our rupees into inconvertible accounts and returned them to the Indians. I then added that if the Sovs gave as much econ aid as we did the Indians would be quite well supplied with dollars from trade and could go in for mil procurement in the US. Thus, even if the transactions with the Sovs were commercial which they are not, they are made possible by American aid. At this juncture Menon said these were considerations for the FinMin, not for him. His concern was only with getting the best possible equipment. One happy dividend of this interchange on the MIGs is that I have at last managed to get Sov sales for rupees on all fours with any other kind of mil aid.
Menon then said that as DefMin his task was to be sure Indian pilots flew planes equal those of Chinese. He also made refs but very passing ones to the Pak F104’s. The morale effects of inferior equipment was damaging. India he said was not looking for war or conflict but her borders were everywhere subject to almost daily violation or air penetration. [Page 247] She had to show that this could not occur. In a passage strongly reminiscent of some unidentified warmonger he said only strength would ensure peace. He was putting all the data on available arms on the table and they would then reach a decision. I said that we had sympathy for many of India’s problems but could not understand how all the data could be on the table since they had not asked about American terms or looked very seriously at American equipment. He said they had gone into detail with Lockheed. I pointed out that they had refused a demonstration of the C-130 for which he had once asked and noted that Lockheed as a private firm could not talk about any terms or arrangements. These were matters for the USG on which we had never been approached. He said C-130 not available; Lockheed had had to borrow a test model from the US Army. I pointed out that Lockheed did not keep a private inventory in Europe and pressed him on when he had last asked about delivery dates. He said, a bit reluctantly, that it was three years ago.
He then said our security arrangements were too difficult and sent out for and read me the note about the security team when we offered the Mark 44 torpedo. I asked if the Sovs were giving them secret equipment without any security precaution. He said this was an improper question. I then ventured that he was comparing a country that asked for assurances on its classified equipment and a country which did not give out any secret stuff at all. He disagreed.

I then made my principal pitch. As a senior member of the cabinet with a special knowledge of the US he was surely aware of the effect of this purchase on American public opinion and on pending legislation. This was a serious problem for US in which the Indian govt had the greatest possible collateral interest. The prime question was not the by-passing of American for Sov equipment. I was not merchandising American equipment. It was the effect of any action at this juncture on the US public and pol opinion. He said he was conscious of this. I thought it well not to express obvious doubts.

The debate (or bickering) covered Adlai Stevenson, the American press treatment of Nehru and Menon, our alleged refusal of Sidewinders and the improbable contention, which I also did not challenge, that the IAF had the ground radar for aerial control of F104s and MIGs. So passed the Indian sabbath.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 791.5622/5-1362. Secret; Niact.