72. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter1

[Omitted here is material unrelated to India.]

Nuclear Supply to India. My note to you Thursday night on this subject2 was unclear in that it did not point out that, under the terms of its Agreement for Cooperation with us, India is already committed to [Page 183]accept strict safeguards for the proposed interim supply of fuel for Tarapur that we recommended. (These IAEA-administered safeguards are identical to those which will apply to the exports of highly-enriched uranium that you approved prior to your departure for London.) In addition, following the 1974 Indian nuclear explosion, an exchange of letters with the Indians was negotiated which effectively rules out the use of the plutonium in our spent fuel in a nuclear device.

Consistent with the policies you have announced, we want considerably more from the Indians if we can get it. Ideally, we would like to induce India to forego exploding a second nuclear device, to conform their own future nuclear exports to those of the other suppliers, and eventually to place under safeguards the unsafeguarded nuclear facilities they have developed without direct outside help. We have only modest leverage. While the new Indian Government desires better relations with us, they can turn to the Soviets to fuel Tarapur if we refuse to honor our agreement to do so.

This brings me to your conversation with Bob Goheen yesterday.3 In light of the controls we already have over our nuclear fuel supply to India and your instruction to Goheen to speak directly to Desai on this matter, my inclination is to ask him to make a broad approach. He should begin with the two points you stressed, i.e., the importance we attach to the safeguards over our supply to Tarapur and your desire that Desai personally assure us that he understands that India is obligated not to use U.S. material in a nuclear explosive device. But, I think Goheen should also brief Desai in some detail on the direction of the Administration’s non-proliferation policy, seek his commitment to enter into good faith discussions with us regarding the further restrictions described above, and tell him that our ability to continue to provide low-enriched fuel will depend on the success of those talks.4 If you agree with this general approach, we will prepare, and staff through the NSC, a message from you to Goheen giving him instructions for his meeting with Desai.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to India.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 18, Evening Reports (State): 5/77. Secret.
  2. See Document 71.
  3. Goheen met with Carter on May 13 before he left for New Delhi. During their meeting, Carter asked him “to take up the Tarapur question personally with the Prime Minister after he arrives in India this weekend.” (Telegram 114162 to New Delhi, May 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0819, P800020–1924, N770003–0406) No memorandum of conversation of the meeting was found.
  4. In the right-hand margin next to this sentence, Carter wrote: “ok.”