5. Telegram From the Embassy in Nepal to the Department of State1

5528. Subject: Observations of Kathmandu Chiefs of Mission Meeting.

1. There follow the principal observations of the December 15–18 Kathmandu Chiefs of Mission conference.

2. U.S. interests. We identified the following, not necessarily all-inclusive list of U.S. interests in the South Asian region:

A. We should develop close working relations with India. This is important not only because India is the predominant power of the region and hence plays a key role in preserving regional stability, but also because India is a major participant in the North/South dialogue.

B. We have a strong interest in the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This concern derives in part from our vital interest in the security of Iran.

C. We have an interest in the economic and social development of the countries of the region.

D. We have an interest in nuclear non-proliferation, in human rights, in eliminating narcotics production and trafficking, in preventing an arms race (India/Pakistan, US/USSR) and in trade and investment.

3. Achieving our objectives. The following are our observations on the means to be used in attempting to achieve some of these objectives:

A. India. Our relations with India should substantiate our expression of goodwill. However, while working toward a closer relationship with India, we believe it important that we not bestow a special mantle on India or hold up India as an example of the kind of political-economic development we specially admire. This conclusion is based on our beliefs that:

(1) India does not want to be so regarded.

(2) Such an embrace of India would be regarded by many in the area as a return to the Cold-War psychology.

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(3) The other countries of the region would find such an embrace alarming as encouraging Indian hegemony in the area.

(4) Our pursuing such a course would likely stimulate the Soviets to do more to woo India.

(5) It is not yet at all clear that the Desai government will succeed in spurring India’s development within the framework of democratic institutions.

B. Iran. The Shah has a vision of a cooperative network of Indian Ocean littoral countries akin to ASEAN. He does not himself want to take the lead in any such grouping, but appears to be willing to accord India a leading role provided Pakistan becomes reconciled to that situation. We should stay in the background as, if and when this possibility develops so as to make certain it will represent genuine regional forces.

C. Pakistan and Afghanistan. We should continue to work to resolve the reprocessing issue so that we can resume our formerly close relationship with Pakistan. In the interim, we should do what we can to maintain our ties through economic assistance, including PL–480, and cash sales of military equipment in accordance with our global and regional arms sales policies. With respect to Afghanistan, the visit of President Daoud should be used to provide public and private expressions of U.S. support for Afghan independence and sovereignty.

D. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We believe it useful to assist the Jayewardene government and to encourage the Zia government goals of economic growth and development within a democratic framework.

E. Nepal. We welcomed good state of our relations and Nepal’s moderate role in multilateral organizations. We agreed Nepal was a logical candidate for increased developmental assistance as one of the poorest which fortunately had the same developmental priorities as the USG and because growing ecological degradation was a threat to its own development. Moreover, Nepal will perforce play a key role in any plans to develop the water resources of the Gangetic River basin.

F. Development. We believe our AID and Peace Corps programs in the region should continue to stress the alleviation of poverty. We attach particular importance to programs which will increase agricultural productivity, and to health programs which include the promotion of family planning.

G. Arms transfers. We concur in the general principles of our arms transfer policy announced last spring, including our not becoming a major arms supplier to South Asia or introducing sophisticated weap [Page 12] ons in that area.2 But we believe that we need some flexibility, for example:

(1) If the Indians obtain major new arms systems, we should permit the Pakistanis to obtain appropriate defensive weapons.

(2) We should be prepared to permit India to diversify its arms procurement away from the USSR to Western European suppliers.

H. Human rights. We had a useful discussion of ways in which our human rights policy could be more effectively implemented. In this connection, we would welcome visits from Assistant Secretary Derian and her principal associates to the area.

I. High-level visits. We welcome the establishment of a pattern wherein top U.S. officials visit one country (e.g. India) without necessarily visiting another (e.g. Pakistan) on the same trip. But we note a dearth of high-level visits to any area country other than India and Iran and hope that can be rectified.

J. Consultations. To encourage their constructive participation in the North/South dialogue, we should consult with/keep the South Asian governments informed on developing U.S. policy on North/South issues, on US-Soviet negotiations on the Indian Ocean, on U.S. policy toward other countries in the region, and on other international issues of mutual interest.

K. The President’s visit. We recommend that at the conclusion of his visits to Tehran and New Delhi the President send personal messages to the Chiefs of State of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These messages should convey his pleasure at having been in the area and his regret that he was unable to visit the addressee’s country and should also contain some comments about the purposes and results of his visit to the area.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770471–1077. Secret. Sent for information to Colombo, Dacca, Islamabad, Kabul, New Delhi, and Tehran.
  2. On May 17, the Carter administration issued PD/NSC–13, “Conventional Arms Transfer Policy,” which aimed to restrain the sale and transfer of conventional weapons. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVI, Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Document 271. Telegram Tosec 40355/115278 to New Delhi and Geneva, May 19, transmitted talking points for presentation to host governments, including: “We have pursued an arms transfer policy in the subcontinent that would not upset the military equation nor make us a major supplier to the region. This continues to be our policy.” and “Our South Asia approach under the new global arms policy continues to be one of not disturbing the process of regional normalization.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770179–0431)