83. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

The following are our comments on the points raised by the Indian Ambassador in his July 22 conversation.2

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1. Arms Sales

The Ambassador asked about the U.S. reaction to low-key, non-controversial Indian arms procurement to lessen dependence on the Soviets and promote more genuine non-alignment. The Department believes that a positive U.S. reaction would be in our interest and also consistent with the President’s overall policy of restraint on arms transfers. Sales to India now run only $4 million annually of total Indian external arms procurement of about $200 million. These could be increased along the lines suggested by the Ambassador, consistent with the policy stated in your July 1 memorandum on U.S. military supply policy to Pakistan and India,3 without creating Congressional problems or further straining relations with Pakistan. We would want to look carefully at Indian requests in terms of the technology involved and would prefer that our sales be strictly in the defensive category.

One reason for the Ambassador’s approach has been past difficulties the Indians have encountered in USG processing of even modest requests. State is in touch with Defense to assure that DOD understands that our South Asia arms policy is to be applied evenhandedly with India and Pakistan, that relations with India are substantially improving, and that the President desires an expansion of contacts. On the latter point, the Indian Army Commander General Raina is coming here in September and Admiral Holloway is visiting India. These will be the first high-level military visits since the 1971 Indo-Pak crisis.

2. High Level Statement on India

Secretary Vance’s recent Asia speech upset the Indians because of its omission of India.4 As you noted, it was intended as a Far East speech, but unfortunately the Asia Society did not point this out. Still, Kewal Singh has a point. In recent years senior officials have been spare in their public comments on India and we are looking for ways to say more publicly about India.

Singh’s reference to the House Appropriations Committee relates to language inserted in the Committee report on the FY 78 AID bill calling for special hearings on India should we resume aid. We are not certain that the Committee will pursue this idea, and in any case we may be able to avoid separate hearings by including the FY 78 program with the regular FY 79 hearings early next year. Singh’s nervousness about the House report, which he mentioned to me and also the Vice [Page 211] President,5 underscores how touchy the Indians are to any implication they are being singled out for special treatment.

3. Meeting with the President

The Department believes that a call by the Ambassador on the President would be a useful indication of the improvement of relations with India. During my July 23 stopover in Delhi, I was personally struck by the friendly, positive and pragmatic attitude of the new government.6 I believe the President’s willingness to see Singh, even briefly, would be justified. Desai has gone out of his way to be available to Bob Goheen.

4. Invitation to Desai

As you recall, the President has invited Desai here next year in his July 15 letter.7 Desai has now proposed coming this fall, before he visits Moscow.8 If the President’s schedule permits, we think this would be highly desirable. An early Desai visit could be essential in buttoning down a nuclear agreement with the Indians. This subject is covered in more detail in a separate memo.9

5. Desai’s Nuclear Statement

On the nuclear question, the Ambassador expressed the hope that we comment positively on Desai’s strong stance against nuclear weapons.10 We have already done so privately in the President’s July 15 letter and during Joe Nye’s August 1–3 trip to India,11 and publicly in conversations with Indian journalists stationed in Washington. I am not sure that further public comment would be helpful. Since our nuclear negotiations are in mid-stream, too much public comment on Desai’s remarks may create internal problems for him in India.

Relations with India

More generally, I believe the improvement in relations is proceeding extremely well. It is now clear that Delhi reciprocates our interest [Page 212] in a substantially more cooperative relationship and I think we can usefully expand and broaden our contacts.

—Talks on bilateral aid began last week on a possible $60 million program in FY 78.12 We have as a tentative planning figure a $136 million program for FY 79. We will want to assess carefully the course of our initial programs before committing ourselves to larger and longer programs in India.

—In addition to the military exchanges mentioned above, a possible Desai visit and perhaps a trip to South Asia by the Vice President, a number of other trips are also either scheduled or under active consideration over the next six months. The sum total of these should demonstrate publicly the substantial improvement in relations.

—Commerce Minister Mohan Daria will visit Washington August 29–30. He will see Commerce Secretary Kreps and Special Trade Negotiator Strauss.

—Foreign Minister Vajpayee is tentatively planning to visit Washington in late September. We have told the Indians that the President will probably not be able to see him although this could be merged with Desai’s meeting with the President, if this works out.

—U.S. Congressional delegations are scheduled tentatively to visit India in October or November.

—Secretary Vance is planning to visit India in early December for bilateral consultations and for a Joint Commission meeting. The visit will take place either just before or after the annual NATO Ministerial talks December 8–9.

—The Indian Health Minister is being invited and will probably be here in the fall.

Warren Christopher13
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Warren Christopher, Entry P–14, Lot 81D113, Box 9, Memos to WC from the White House. Confidential.
  2. In a July 25 memorandum to Vance, Brzezinski reported on his July 22 meeting with Singh, who said that India was interested in arms procurement from the United States as it did “not wish to be so fully dependent on the Soviet Union.” Brzezinski was in favor of exploring this point. Singh also regretted the absence of any mention of India in Vance’s June 29 speech about Asia at the Asia Society and was concerned that the House Appropriations Committee planned to hold hearings on how India used economic assistance. Singh said that he hoped soon to meet Carter and noted that Desai would like to visit the United States. Finally, Singh expressed the hope that Vance might make “a positive comment” regarding Desai’s statement on no further PNEs. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 27, India: 1–8–77)
  3. Not found.
  4. Vance’s June 29 speech focused on East Asian and Pacific nations. For the text, see the Department of State Bulletin, August 1, 1977, pp. 141–145. An extract is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 48.
  5. Telegram 166511 to New Delhi, July 16, reported on Christopher’s meeting with Singh, during which they discussed general bilateral issues. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770254–0479) Clift’s July 14 memorandum to Dodson summarized Mondale’s July 13 meeting with Singh, during which Singh expressed his government’s desire for deeper Indo-U.S. relations. (Carter Library, Donated Material, Papers of Walter F. Mondale, Vice Presidential Chronological Files, Box 108, Vice Presidential Chron Files, [7/1–15/1977])
  6. See footnote 2, Document 79.
  7. See Document 80.
  8. In an August 3 memorandum to Brzezinski, Tarnoff discussed Desai’s proposal to visit the United States at the end of October. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770136–1820)
  9. Not found.
  10. See Document 78.
  11. See Document 82.
  12. Telegram 10754 from New Delhi, August 1, reported that discussions between the Embassy and the Indian Ministry of Finance began on July 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770274–0605)
  13. Christopher signed “Warren” above this typed signature. In an August 17 memorandum to Christopher, Brzezinski agreed with the equal treatment of India and Pakistan in terms of arms sales. Brzezinski added, “I think we should move on this in a very low-key way, however. This is hardly going to be a major element of our relationship, and I would not want to push sales to the point that they became an issue with Congress and end up doing more harm than good.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Warren Christopher, Entry P–14, Lot 81D113, Box 9, Memos to WC from the White House)