509. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson1


  • Indo-US Talks, July 26–28, 19682

As you know, I have just finished a week in India launching the first in a series of annual planning talks with the Indians. During the week—in addition to three days of talks—I visited the huge Bakhra-Nangal Dam, [Page 1009] a family planning center and an agricultural research station. In addition, I had private talks with Mrs. Gandhi, President Husain and Deputy Prime Minister Desai.

I came away with the following impressions and conclusions:

  • —India is managing its affairs far better than I had suspected. Vast problems remain, but I was continually struck by the spirit of determination and self-confidence of all.
  • —There has been a very real and exciting break-through in agriculture. The Indians now are giving agricultural production the priority it deserves. Sustained progress will, of course, require sustained Indian effort and both support and policy monitoring by the aid consortium. You can be proud of your personal role in reducing the threat of a massive Indian famine and malnutrition.

The talks themselves went well. The atmosphere was good; the discussion informal and relaxed. By agreement, we both stuck to the larger issues and did not push too hard on touchy subjects.

South East Asia

The most significant outcome of the talks was an Indian indication that they have decided to take on a more active role in Southeast Asia. In the short run this means improving their relations with the countries of the region. For the post-Viet-Nam period they suggested that they—with other SEA countries—promote a regional group which would assume greater responsibility for the problems of the area. The Indians hope the neutrality and security of this grouping would be recognized and supported by the US and others.

The idea certainly has not been thought out in detail, but the significant point is India’s initiative to involve itself in an area it has long overlooked. We told the Indians to try the idea out on others, including the Russians, with whom they plan similar talks next month.

Surprisingly, the Indians did not exclude Pakistan from this regional grouping. I also was interested to hear that the Indians are now surplus in small arms production. One of the roles they might play in promoting their scheme would be to supply modest military assistance (both equipment and training).


I returned with a far better understanding of India’s problems with China. The Indians are extremely troubled by Chinese pressures, and have built up a substantial force to cope with any conventional military threat (including Chinese support for insurgents along the northeastern borders). Morale among the Indian armed forces is high and—unlike 1962—they should be able to give a good account of themselves. As we total up our security assets in Asia, I think we can look upon this force as a net plus against China

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Tanks for Pakistan came up at various times, but the Indians did not belabor the subject as they had earlier threatened to do. This is, as you know, an extremely complicated problem, so I will send you a separate memo on it.


Not surprisingly, the Indians are troubled about aid cutbacks, but are adjusting to the blow. They were particularly worried about prospects for IDA, since continuation of their import liberalization program is dependent upon IDA funds.

Gandhi Trip

I learned that Mrs. Gandhi will visit South America in September and October. She expects to stop overnight in New York on October 14 on her way back, and would, I suspect, like to see you informally while she is in the US. You may want to invite her to a private lunch at the White House on October 15. I personally believe it would be a useful move.3

Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, County File, India, Vol. XI, Memos and Miscellaneous, 2/68–10/68. Secret.
  2. Katzenbach headed a team that visited New Delhi for the first in a projected series of annual bilateral consultations between the United States and India. Included in Katzenbach’s party were Battle, Heck, Assistant AID Administrator Maurice Williams, and Hamilton of the NSC Staff. The Indian delegation at the talks was headed by Minister of State for External Affairs B.R. Bhagat. While in India, Katzenbach, accompanied by Battle, Heck, and Bowles, met with President Zakir Husain, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gandhi, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Desai. Katzenbach reported on his meeting with Gandhi in telegram 17455 from New Delhi, July 25. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 69 D 182, CF 313) A memorandum of his conversation with Husain on July 27 is in Department of State, NEA/INC Files: Lot 73 D 24, India 1968, India/US—Informal Talks. A brief report on the talks was transmitted to Washington on July 29 in telegram 18664 from Paris. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL INDIA–US) A more complete summary report on the talks was transmitted to Washington in airgram A–1390 from New Delhi, August 13; ibid., POL 1 INDIA–US.
  3. Another copy of this memorandum included a typed marginal notation indicating that the President’s response to this suggestion was “Hold off for now.” (Ibid., POL INDIA–US)