4. Memorandum From Thomas Thornton and Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • South Asian Nuclear Free Zone Vote in the UNGA

We would like your guidance on the stand that we should take with State on our UN vote on a South Asian Nuclear Free Zone.2 Such an NFZ would make sense and would be in line with the endorsement that the President gave to the NFZ concept in connection with the Tlatelolco signing (Tab A).3 Voting for the resolution would also be a much-needed shot in the arm for US-Pakistani relations which are nearing an all-time low.

On the other side, the Indians have made it very clear that (a) they see this resolution as a Pakistani political ploy (which it is), and (b) their nuclear concern is with China and unless China is brought into the system India will have nothing to do with it. Thus, the UN resolution will not further the cause of a South Asian NFZ. India will be unhappy—perhaps strongly so—with a positive US vote (we have abstained in previous years) and this could have a negative impact on the Carter-Desai meeting.4 Less likely (but possibly) a positive vote could (a) cause India to be less forthcoming on controls, or (b) provoke them to introduce an Indian Ocean NFZ resolution which would include Diego Garcia.

Our previous abstentions were on the grounds that we support NFZs only when the regional states are in agreement. In this case they obviously are not, and a change to a positive vote could mark a revision of this traditional position—at least to the extent of urging regional states to work out NFZ arrangements. We could temper our vote somewhat by (a) abstaining but speaking fulsomely in support of the idea of an NFZ that was acceptable to all regional states or5 (b) voting in [Page 9] favor with a disclaimer that we were only expressing a preference in principle and did not imply any political pressure on India.6

The vote may come early next week.7 State needs an input by Friday8 so that it can alert the Indians in advance if we intend to cast a favorable vote.

The choice is a close one. Thornton marginally prefers an abstention (coupled with a strong statement of support in principle) so as not to complicate the President’s Delhi visit.9 Tuchman believes that we should vote in favor in order to preserve the credibility of our generally positive position on NFZs.

What is your preference? Abstain10 Vote for

Should we push this point strongly with State? Yes No

If “yes”, on what grounds?

Do you think State needs raise the issue with the President? Yes No

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 22, United Nations: 8–12/77. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 82.
  3. Not found attached. For Carter’s May 26 remarks on the signing of Protocol I of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (known as the Tlatelolco Treaty), see Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 1027–1028. See also footnote 5, Document 87.
  4. See Documents 9092.
  5. Aaron underlined the word “abstaining,” and in the right-hand margin next to it drew a vertical line and wrote: “DA, my preference.”
  6. Below this paragraph, Aaron wrote: “ZB—I believe we should do (a). Indian Ocean disarmament has gone far enough at this point. DA.”
  7. An unknown hand underlined the words “vote may come early next week.”
  8. An unknown hand underlined the words “by Friday.” Reference is to Friday, November 11.
  9. In the left-hand margin next to the preceding two sentences, Inderfurth drew a vertical line from which he drew another line to the bottom of the page where he wrote: “I agree with Tom—abstain but couple this with a strong statement in support of the principle. I do not believe our credibility is really on the line here. What is more at stake is US-Indian relations. Rick.”
  10. Brzezinski checked and initialed this option.