84. Letter From Indian Prime Minister Desai to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your letter of July 20.2 I am sorry that I have been rather late in replying but our Parliamentary Session is just over.

Some issues have arisen in global and bilateral relationships which may climax during the U.N. Assembly Session and I feel that our meeting at an early date might help us to view them in a spirit of mutual understanding. I am glad that there is now an early prospect of our meeting and am looking forward to a frank exchange of ideas on those and some other issues which you have raised in your letter.3

I appreciate very much the spirit and manner in which you have expressed your thoughts about the nuclear policy particularly its sincerity and candour. We recently had discussions with Mr. Joseph Nye, whom your Administration had sent out to explain some of the technical aspects to us.4 I was pleased to hear him confirm that my own statements on nuclear policy had helped to remove certain misconceptions in American minds about our plans. All that I would say in this connection is that in mutual relationship trust and confidence in each other are rewarding and productive of results while suspicions and misgivings only make matters worse.

We recognise the rationale behind the proposed U.S. law on nuclear non-proliferation. I am sure that you will agree that States which have been manufacturing and developing atomic weapons are at a disadvantage in persuading those who have not only professed but also practised their conviction in its peaceful uses. Such adherence to peaceful uses of atomic energy has established a greater credibility in the genuineness of their determination to pursue the course they have set for themselves. In the circumstances we have the right to be trusted to ensure that our own research and scientific development of atomic energy does not transgress the peaceful limits. We on our part have accepted safeguards on a bilateral basis to satisfy, to the fullest extent necessary, those from where we have secured raw material or technology. To expect us to accept a system of safeguards which may or may not be applicable to [Page 214] a given utilisation of atomic energy or which may adversely affect our own development merely to allay the suspicion or feelings of others would not, in my view, be fair.

You have been frank in conceding that there is an element of discrimination as between the nuclear-weapon countries and the rest. American willingness to accept that safeguards on civilian installations would be seen as a well-meant gesture is appreciated and I have no hesitation in accepting its sincerity and genuineness, but it is difficult to accept it as applying to all those who are engaged in the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. We do not wish or intend to emulate the latter, but we do want to be autonomous in the pursuit of our peaceful development according to our own resources.

On the fuel Cycle Evaluation Programme, we would explore all reasonable avenues of cooperation. Your explanation on the subject is very reassuring and my mind is quite receptive to any scheme you might suggest in respect of this programme. I acknowledge that our association with this programme might turn out to be of mutual benefit.

The prospects of a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which you have held out is both important and encouraging as it would remove a sensitive element of discrimination and may bring the chances of acceptance of non-proliferation, both internationally and nationally, much nearer. It may even lead to self-imposed restraints by countries themselves. You can also rest assured that we shall support all non-discriminatory measures towards nuclear disarmament. All these aspects can be reviewed by us in further detail when we meet.

I must also thank you for keeping us informed about the Indian Ocean talks between USA and the Soviet Union. The area is naturally of deep interest to us. I also support very warmly your joint decision to keep the U.N. Ad-hoc Committee in the picture.5 By such small gestures great confidence can be established.

Our Governments are in touch with each other about U.S. assistance to India. It is heartening to know of your interest and support for the priority we want to give to rural development. India can become a land of plenty if every field is watered and every acre is fertilised. If others help us to help ourselves, this vision can be realised in no distant future.

Altogether, I think our relations are moving towards greater sense of realism, mutual respect and beneficial cooperation. I can assure you that we will grasp the hand of friendship which is offered to us to cement relations of dignity and common advantage. But a condition [Page 215] precedent is, as you will readily concede, that we eschew mutual suspicion and build our relationship on complete trust in, and frankness with, each other. Indeed stronger relations can make a contribution to resolving broad international problems and bring about more just, more moral and more equitable world order. And let me say without reserve that your own attitude of mutual confidence and willingness to share each other’s thoughts are going to promote it much more than the conventional methods of diplomacy which have ruled international relationships hitherto. I shall therefore close with my warmest regards and good wishes to you and with the hope that our meeting shortly will forge a link of mutual understanding and cooperation.

Yours sincerely,

Morarji Desai
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850036–0696. Secret; Nodis. Tarnoff forwarded this letter to Brzezinski under an August 25 covering memorandum, noting that the letter was delivered to the Department of State on August 23. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850036–0695)
  2. Carter’s letter to Desai was dated July 15. See Document 80.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 83.
  4. See Document 82.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 79. Desai was referring to the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean.