161. Telegram 6591 From the Embassy in India to the Department of State and the Embassy in the United Kingdom1 2


  • Indian Nuclear Test

1. Foreign Secretary Kewal Singh called in the Charge at 10 am May 18 to inform him that India has at 8 am on May 18 carried out a peaceful nuclear explosion. Saying that he was informing the US Charge before other diplomatic representatives and that he was carrying out the instructions of the Foreign Minister, Singh said that the explosion had been of an implosion device at a depth of over one hundred meters below ground. He explained that the experiment had been carried out by the Indian Atomic Energy Commission in order to keep India abrest of the technnology concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy for such purposes as mining and earth moving. Singh asked that there be no misunderstanding that India remains absolutely committed against the use of nuclear energy for military purposes.

2. The Charge replied that he believed that this news would be received with considerable shock in Washington. Explained that as Kewal Singh knew, the US did not believe it possible to distinguish between explosions for peaceful and military purposes. Singh repeated that India was absolutely opposed to military uses. There were large scale possibilities for use in mineral exploitation. India did not sign NPT because it was opposed to discrimination against non-nuclear powers. It was nevertheless firmly commited not to use nuclear energy for other than peaceful purposes. India did not have the economic capability to devote to military use. Singh concluded by stating his devout hope that this event will not interfere with improving US-India relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Exdis. A copy was sent niact immediate to Damascus. On May 23, the President instructed the NSC to study non-proliferation and the NPT in light of the India test; this document will be printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976.
  2. Chargé d’Affaires Schneider reported on his telephone conversation with Indian Foreign Secretary Kewal Singh that morning. Singh had telephoned Schneider to inform him that, at 8 a.m., India had conducted a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”