11. Minutes of a Policy Review Committee Meeting1


  • PRC Meeting on Regional Implications of Iran—Minutes


  • State

    • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary
    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Bill Crawford, Deputy Ass’t. Secr. for Developing Nations
    • Matthew Nimetz, Counselor
  • Treasury

    • Arnold Nachmanoff, Deputy Ass’t. Secretary for Developing Nations
  • Defense

    • David McGiffert, Ass’t. Secretary for Near Eastern, African and South Asian Affairs
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff

    • General David Jones, Chairman
    • Lt. General William Smith
  • Central Intelligence Agency

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director
    • Dr. Robert Bowie, Deputy Director for Nat’l. Foreign Assessment
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Henry Owen
  • National Security Council

    • Gary Sick
    • Thomas Thornton

Christopher: The main purpose of my visit is bilateral discussions with India.2 We want a genuine discussion to see if our improved relations with India are perhaps in some jeopardy, especially because of disputes in the nuclear area, such as the slowness of the NRC,3 the collapse of the proposed safeguard committee,4 and Indian dissatisfaction with progress on CTB and SALT.5 I want to begin to persuade the Indians that they should not be so obsessed with Pakistan and to promote the idea of common interests between the two countries. It is in India’s interest for us to strengthen the Pakistanis. We need to give them as much reassurance as possible on the nuclear side by showing that we are reliable suppliers.

[Page 30]

Bowie: Did you understand that the Saudis have counseled the Pakistanis to forego their nuclear option, and that the Pakistanis said they would do so if they had an adequate arms supply from the United States?

McGiffert: I told them about the Pakistani program and the effect that it would have on American assistance.6

Brzezinski: We see this trip as extremely important. India is important to us in itself and also because our improvement in relations with it is one of the notable gains of the Carter Administration. I think that you should pursue two goals. The first is to help resolve a range of bilateral issues. The nuclear issue is the most important of these. But our bilateral relationship should not be the central concern of the talks. More important are larger international issues. You should try to see if India cannot work with us in containing the Vietnam-China conflict. It would be good if you could get India to understand what we are doing, and get a general endorsement of our position. We would like to see the Indians urge the Soviets to exercise restraint. You should ask Desai or the Foreign Minister if they have urged the Soviets in this direction, and if not, why not? If they did do so, what did the Soviets say? Our maximum goal should be to get India to support the U.S. idea that this issue is an Indo-Chinese problem.

The second set of issues revolves around Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. We need to develop a systematic dialogue with the Indians. You should tell them that we would welcome their analysis and advice. For the first time in 200 years, Afghanistan has become an extension of Russian power. What conclusions do they draw from this? You should also ask them about their attitude toward Pakistan. How can we be helpful in altering the Pakistani viewpoint? We are willing to work closely with them on this. In the same way with Iran, we would hope that we could work together. You should tell them of our hopes for the Bazargan regime and seek their advice. Also, you should register with them our concern about the Soviet role. You should lay these things out clearly.

The third area relates to Middle Eastern stability and oil. We and India have a common interest here. Instability in the Middle East influences the price and availability of oil, both of which are critical to Indian development. We play a benign role in the Middle East as regards peace and oil and we would like to see if they could help us. You should treat India as a big country and as a partner. We have a [Page 31] basic complement parity of interest and you should press them to take action which is in our mutual interest.

Christopher: What you have said is very helpful. In the agenda that we sent out to New Delhi we sought to emphasize the global issues. The Vietnam-China issue is, of course, now an additional issue. As you know, they have asked us to help them in the matter of oil deliveries.

Brzezinski: When you go to Pakistan, you should tell the Pakistanis exactly what we told the Indians about our attitude.7 They should know what our relationship is to India and how we value it, and they should know what we are attempting to do. With regard to President Zia, I wonder how long we can go on waiting to invite him. We have been putting off a number of issues until the Bhutto case is over, but that has dragged on and on.

Newsom: The most important issue we have to be concerned with with the Pakistanis is the nuclear issue.

Brzezinski: Should we not invite Zia in order to shore up his position?

Christopher: No, not until the Bhutto issue is settled.

Brzezinski: Well then, you should lay the problem out to him and explain that we would like to have him come, but can’t until these matters are straightened out.

Christopher: The nuclear inspection team will be going to Pakistan one week after I am there. The results that they come back with will be an important bench mark. We cannot do anything in the aid area before that.

Brzezinski: We should also get from the Pakistanis a comprehensive assessment of the internal Afghan scene.

Owen: We need to emphasize to them the impact of our nuclear legislation and its automatic nature8 with regard to their economic requirements.

Newsom: At a recent meeting we discussed a possible change in legislation that would bring the terms of the Symington amendment in line with the terms of the Glenn amendment and thus give the President more discretion in dealing with the Pakistani case.9 As long as India is a potential nuclear threat, the Pakistanis will continue to pursue their nuclear option. Our non-proliferation and security policies are going to come into conflict.

[Page 32]

Christopher: I will let them know what the legal situation is. I think the President is unlikely to ask for any change in legislation.

Brzezinski: I agree.

Aaron: We may be coming to the point again where we have to look at the whole question of restrictions on Presidential authority in general. If we were to send up a list of unwarranted restrictions, perhaps we could include the Symington amendment in them.

McGiffert: There is also a question to be raised about the enhancement of U.S. military presence off-shore, as I discussed in the Persian Gulf. The Indians have always opposed American military presence; how should we raise this issue with them?

Brzezinski: What kind of military presence do you mean? Strengthening Diego-Garcia?

McGiffert: It could be that or also more ship days in the area.

Jones: We are also thinking of putting an LPH with 200 Marines stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Christopher: At some point this group will have to consider the entire Indian Ocean arms control issue and how we wish to approach it. We are not really ready yet to say anything about this to the Indians.

McGiffert: The question could be raised in principle though. What do they think about it in general?

Smith: Over the last several weeks we have had a substantially increased naval presence? What has been their reaction to that?

Aaron: Their view is that it is their lake, after all it is named the Indian Ocean. They will simply say no.

Christopher: With regard to other issues, we need to get a read-out of the Vajpayee trip to China and to reassure them that our China policy will not be at their expense.

Brzezinski: And we also want to seek information on their efforts in dealing with the Soviets.

Turner: There is another issue. The non-aligned movement is growing in importance and vulnerability. The next conference will be held in Havana and we should do all we can to sabotage that. We should point out the problems that are developing in the non-aligned movement and urge the Indians to keep it non-aligned.

Brzezinski: That is an excellent point and there has been some exchange on this in the correspondence between Desai and President Carter.

Christopher: I think the Indians feel embarrassed about the way the movement is going and the little they have been able to do about it.

Brzezinski: The Yugoslavs have been better in this regard than have the Indians.

[Page 33]

Christopher: We have persuaded the Pakistanis to postpone their withdrawal from CENTO. Disintegration of CENTO, however, is merely a matter of time.10 I will urge them not to be precipitate but at the same time reassure them that we have concern for their security and reaffirm the 1959 bilateral.11

McGiffert: DOD supports that position.

Turner: They probably don’t have very much faith in these reassurances since they didn’t help them in 1971 when half their country was broken off.

Christopher: We certainly will need to give them more support once the nuclear question is settled. Development aid does not seem to be a very promising channel; AID is reluctant to add anything to what they are doing already. What are the other options? FMS? SSA? PL–480? We should think of this in terms of the President’s speech at Georgia Tech.12

Aaron: State should consult with DOD and explore what it is possible to do in terms of security assistance.

McGiffert: Pakistan could be included in a supplemental request, but only if the nuclear issue is settled.

Christopher: India would react very negatively to FMS for Pakistan.

Aaron: SSA, however, is very hard to get.

Thornton: India’s concern is not with the amount of weaponry that Pakistan gets, but the factor of U.S. involvement. India has been paranoid about this ever since we became deeply involved in South Asian politics through our arms supply policy to Pakistan in the 1950’s. FMS would be a very bad signal to the Indians

Newsom: We seem to be ignoring some of the realities that we face in Pakistan. The military supply issue is very important from the President’s view, and we have to face up to their military concerns. Clearly, SSA would be preferable.

Aaron: If FMS is easier, shouldn’t we go for that?

Thornton: FMS means acquisition of weapons, and that is not their problem. The problem with Pakistan is domestic and rests heavily upon economic matters where SSA or other kinds of economic assistance could be helpful.

[Page 34]

Turner: I agree with Thornton that the problem is a domestic one. Our analysis shows that Zia is on very weak grounds, especially because of his economy.

Nimitz: He is also in great political difficulty. The Baluch tribesmen are a particular threat.

Owen: General Zia is just now in a position to make the kind of economic reforms that are necessary. Shouldn’t we supply military equipment? This is a country run by the military, and they usually want weapons.

Thornton: No, keeping the military in line is not the problem that Zia has; to the extent that it is the problem, it is not because of lack of weapons.

Christopher: SSA would certainly be the most useful. It would strengthen the economy, it doesn’t offend India, it is free of restraints that we find in the AID mandate. Also, we should address the problem of debt rescheduling.

Nachmanoff: The balance of payments problem is not central to Pakistan’s difficulties. What they lack is the domestic will and ability to take tough decisions. Debt relief at this point would be a serious mistake. Congress would see it as a back-door means of granting aid and would resent it.

Owen: When will the balance of payments situation become critical?

Nachmanoff: In about 9–12 months. When that happens we would steer them to the IMF. There could be some rescheduling then, but we are not able to do it in advance.

Newsom: But we seem to be precluding the possibility of discussing debt relief with other creditors.

Nachmanoff: We are not the only political hold-out on this. The Paris Club would be the forum, but it meets only in cases of imminent default.13

Owen: What if other nations ask us to talk about Pakistani debt relief?

Nachmanoff: We don’t do that until there is the threat of imminent default and the prospect of a stabilization program. Of course we discuss these things informally all the time with other creditors.

Christopher: It seems that everything we propose to do faces serious problems.

[Page 35]

Owen: FMS and SSA seem to be the choices. There is nothing wrong with the latter, except for a lack of money.

Christopher: My order of preference is SSA, talk about debt relief, and FMS in third place. When I was in Germany recently the Germans pressed me very hard on the debt relief question for Pakistan. They want us to begin talks so the Pakistanis will know what to expect when trouble comes.

Nachmanoff: We shouldn’t mislead the Pakistanis into thinking that we will go to debt relief short of a crisis.

Owen: But there is certainly going to be a crisis. Shouldn’t we begin to talk about what we can do?

Nachmanoff: Debt relief should not be undertaken without a stabilization.

Christopher: The Germans wanted to hold anticipatory talks to head off the crisis.

Nimitz: We should talk to the Pakistanis about their debt situation.

Nachmanoff: Sure, we should tell them to go talk to the IMF.

Owen: I think Christopher should tell them that we hope they will talk to the IMF and we will be prepared to talk to the other creditors.

Nachmanoff: Treasury is flatly opposed to debt relief and we should not mislead the Pakistanis. Talking to them will not help their problems. We should say to them, first, there is no current debt crisis. Second, they should go to the IMF about their deteriorating situation, and third, we should look at the issue if the criteria are met.

Christopher: I propose to say that if there is a crisis, we are prepared to work with other creditors.

Newsom: All we have been doing up until now with the Pakistanis is citing our theology on this point.

Christopher: Let me summarize. We should talk to the Pakistanis about the possibility of SSA.

Newsom: This will be in the paper that we are preparing on a possible supplemental.

Owen: I will approach OMB to see if they agree. It is unfortunate that they are not here. (Note: Owen later talked with OMB, who said that it would not be advisable to mention SSA to the Pakistanis at this time.)

Newsom: We are all expressing concern about instability and about the role of the Soviets in this area. We have to face up to the fact that dealing with this is going to cost money, and we have to ask for more resources.

Owen: I agree that SSA is the most appropriate type of assistance and we’ll get back to you very shortly on the subject of it after I have talked to OMB.

[Page 36]

Christopher: The minutes should also show that we find FMS to be a less desirable, but nonetheless important possibility.

Jones: I support that strongly. We will enhance our credibility by providing military equipment.

Newsom: In financial terms, FMS just doesn’t make sense for a country that is already overburdened with debt.

Christopher: Turning briefly to Afghanistan, I have asked our Charge in Kabul to come to meet with me in Delhi. I want to take this opportunity to assess him and see what our actions should be in terms of replacing Ambassador Dubs.14 We could either leave our present Charge there, or send in somebody if we think we need a stronger person. It certainly, as I read the reports of the circumstances around the shooting of Ambassador Dubs, becomes increasingly complex.

Newsom: It is important that you outline to the Indians our rationale for our actions in Afghanistan.

Turner: There are several other matters which you should keep in mind on this trip. There is going to be a meeting here next week on how we might, [less than 1 line not declassified], stimulate covert action against the government in Afghanistan,15 [4 lines not declassified].

Thornton: Getting back into that relationship with the Pakistanis, or even suggesting it, would be a very strong signal to them about our willingness to get reinvolved the way we were before.

Nimetz: If anything, the Pakistanis are moving in the other direction, more towards the Soviets. [1 line not declassified]

[1 paragraph (2 lines) not declassified]

Owen: One more thing, when you are in India it would be very helpful to emphasize the importance that we attach to the MTN in meeting LDC concerns, and in getting the MTN signed by April. Indian action in this would be an extremely important precedent.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Meetings File, Box 96, 2/22/79: PRC re Iran, 2/79. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are incorrectly titled “Presidential Review Committee Meeting” and misdated “February 23, 1979.” The Summary of Conclusions of the meeting is ibid.
  2. For Christopher’s discussions in India, see Documents 129131.
  3. See Document 120.
  4. See Document 127.
  5. See Document 118.
  6. McGiffert accompanied Secretary Brown on his visit to Saudi Arabia February 10–11. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Documents 185 and 186.
  7. For Christopher’s discussions in Pakistan, see Documents 325 and 326.
  8. See Document 6.
  9. See Document 321.
  10. See Documents 326, 329, and 330.
  11. See footnote 6, Document 281.
  12. For the text of Carter’s remarks on foreign affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, February 22, see Public Papers: Carter 1979, Book I, pp. 300–306, or Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 111.
  13. The Paris Club, first convened in 1956, is an informal and voluntary group of officials of the major creditor countries that develops coordinated policies to help countries having trouble repaying their debts.
  14. Dubs was kidnapped and killed on February 14 in Kabul. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XII, Afghanistan, Document 36.
  15. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XII, Afghanistan, Documents 38 and 45.