16. Editorial Note

On January 23, 1980, nearly a month after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and declared what became known as the “Carter Doctrine:” “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” Carter explained that, as a component of the U.S. commitment to safeguard the Persian Gulf, “We’ve increased and strengthened our naval presence in the Indian Ocean, and we are now making arrangements for key naval and air facilities to be used by our forces in the region of northeast Africa and the Persian Gulf.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 197–198) The [Page 53] full text of Carter’s address is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 138. Part of this plan was to build up the U.S. naval support facility at Diego Garcia. On April 6, the New York Times reported: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff are studying a plan to spend $1 billion over several years to enlarge the United States naval and air bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, including widening the runway to accept B–52 bombers.” (Richard Halloran, “U.S. Base in Indian Ocean May Be Enlarged,” New York Times, April 6, 1980, p. 16)

The increase and strengthening of U.S. naval presence in the Indian Ocean was a reversal of the Carter administration’s earlier policy of demilitarization of the Indian Ocean. In a March 9, 1977, news conference, Carter had explained that, in an effort to secure a second Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the United States had “proposed that the Indian Ocean be completely demilitarized, that a comprehensive test ban be put into effect, that prior notification of test missile launchings be exchanged.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, p. 348)

Telegram 15433 from New Delhi, July 23, relayed Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s opposition to the U.S. plan to expand the military facilities on Diego Garcia as expressed to the Indian Parliament: “Mrs. Gandhi attributed the instability in Southwest Asia both to the encouragement given by foreign powers to the insurgents in Afghanistan and to the introduction of Soviet forces in that country. However serious the recent developments might be, she did not believe that they justified the jettisoning of detente. She also criticized the increase of superpower naval activity in the Indian Ocean and maintained that the expansion of the Diego Garcia facility would result in an increase of military activities by other countries.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800354–0911)

For documentation on the development of U.S. policy toward the Indian Ocean region during the Carter administration, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula.