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


  • Iran and India

Attached is our previous correspondence on this subject.2 Most recently you asked for specific ideas on how we could further Iranian and Indian political/security cooperation. I took the question on vacation with me and also posed it informally to the State Planning Staff member who knows the area well.

Both of us came out at about the same place—that there is not much that we can or should do to stimulate cooperation. Both Iran and India are at least well aware as we are of the security problem in their region and of their own limitations and capabilities in dealing with it. In fact, they are doing fairly well in moving towards cautious cooperation on the economic and political levels—and this must precede anything very substantial in the security area.

We, frankly, have little to contribute. The days are past when countries looked to us for guidance on this kind of matter—especially countries as independent-minded as these two. Also, given our limited relevance to South Asia, there is not all that much that we can offer.

Most important is that we do nothing to impede cooperation.3 This goes back to my familiar litany on not getting more deeply involved with CENTO which poses a barrier to Indian cooperation.4 It also means doing nothing that will cause Pakistan to look to us for the kind of active involvement that would allow it, once again, to disregard the imperatives of its geopolitical position.

Since the State Department (i.e. Vance) is not of this opinion, I don’t think there are any sweeping policy decisions that we can take; we can (and shall), however, watch closely all individual actions and statements to see that they do not get too far out of line.

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We have one important thing going for us: The Indians are beginning to share our (and Iran’s) concern about the situation in Afghanistan. History has been the best teacher, but some of the concerns that I shared with Mehta when he was here are beginning to appear in the Indian analyses of the situation.5 We are keeping in touch with the Indians on the Afghan situation and that is probably about all that is needed on that side. I have also asked State to make sure that the Iranians are aware that the Indians are beginning to shift their position on Afghanistan and the Soviet role there. I suggested that they tell the Iranians that we are keeping in touch with Delhi on the subject and believe that it would be useful for Iran to do the same.

Pakistan is, in fact, the greatest obstacle to Indo-Iranian cooperation in securing West Asia. Unfortunately for them there is only one country that can provide reasonable guarantees for their security—and that is India. Further down the line, once the Pakistanis have gotten over the traumata of the reprocessing cancellation and the Bhutto affair, somebody should sit down with them and tell them the facts of life as we see them. When the time is ripe, you might consider doing this in a dinner conversation with Ambassador Yaqub Khan.6

Gary Sick concurs.7

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 51, Chron: 10/8–21/78. Secret. Outside the System. Sent for information.
  2. See Document 7.
  3. Brzezinski drew a line in the left-hand margin next to this sentence and wrote: “OK.”
  4. Brzezinski drew a line in the left-hand margin next to this sentence and wrote: “OK.”
  5. Mehta accompanied Desai to Washington in June. See Documents 103 and 104. On April 28, Communist forces in Afghanistan led by Nur Muhammad Taraki overthrew the Daoud Khan government.
  6. Brzezinski drew a line in the left-hand margin next to this and the preceding sentence and wrote: “OK.”
  7. Brzezinski underlined this sentence. At the bottom of the page, he wrote: “See #4 of your earlier memo. It implied us doing something. The question is still what? ZB.”