[Page 240]

92. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1

222. Subject: President Carter’s Visit to India: January 1–3, 1978.

Summary: This message sets forth a brief record of President Carter’s visit to India, January 1–3, 1978. The highlights of his busy schedule are outlined, and the content of the bilateral discussions is summarized. These talks included disarmament and nuclear proliferation, the Indian Ocean negotiations, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, South Africa, relations with China, North-South issues, Indo-American nuclear cooperation, cooperation in agricultural and energy research, the development of the Ganges and Brahmaputra River systems, cooperation between US and Indian industry, and foreign investment. The atmosphere throughout the visit was friendly, and the President’s reception by the Indian public was enthusiastic. The determination of Prime Minister Desai and his colleagues not to allow the disclosure of the President’s conversation with the Secretary on the nuclear question2 to sour the atmosphere is a testimonial to the good will that prevailed. It is clear that the President established an excellent personal rapport with the Prime Minister. The editorial comment, in the wake of the visit, while generally reflecting the atmosphere described above, also expressed some reservations. For the most part, these focused on the differences in the nuclear field. End summary

Highlights of the President’s program

1. January 1:

(A) At his arrival at Palam Airport, New Delhi, the President and Mrs. Carter were greeted by President and Mrs. Sanjiva Reddy, Prime Minister Moraji Desai, Foreign Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, other members of the Cabinet, members of Parliament, Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions, and officers of the Embassy. The ceremonial portion of the arrival included a 21-gun salute, the playing of the national anthems of both countries, and a review of the troops. This was followed by welcoming remarks by President Reddy and President Carter.3

[Page 241](B) Shortly after their arrival at their suite in the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the residence of the President of India), President and Mrs. Carter paid a formal call on President Reddy and his family.

(C) Arriving at the Ramlila grounds (used for large public events) in the late afternoon, the President was accorded a civic reception by over 300,000 people. He was welcomed by the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Delhi, and the Deputy Mayor each of whom addressed the assemblage in Hindi. The President’s speech was translated into Hindi.4

(D) On his return from the civic reception to Rashtrapati Bhavan the President met with the Prime Minister for a forty-five minute private discussion.5

2. January 2:

(A) The second day of the visit began at 9:00 a.m. with a private meeting between the President and the Prime Minister at Rashtrapati Bhavan. After about thirty-five minutes, the two principals were joined by the senior members of their staffs for the “expanded bilateral talks”.6

(B) Shortly before noon, the President and Mrs. Carter laid a wreath at Rajghat, the memorial to Gandhi. This was followed by a meeting with the American official and private community (including Embassy Indian employees and American Embassy school children) in front of the Chancery. The President spoke7 and a choral group from Dubuque, Iowa, the Clark-Loras Singers, entertained.

(C) A working lunch was held at the Ambassador’s residence with Prime Minister as the principal guest.8

(D) President Carter then delivered his major address to a capacity audience at the central Hall of Parliament.9 In attendance were current and past MP’s, senior officials of the GOI, and other dignitaries. The Prime Minister introduced the President, and following President Car[Page 242]ter’s speech, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, K.S. Hegde, delivered a short speech of thanks.

(E) The next event was a State banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan hosted in honor of President and Mrs. Carter by the President of India. At the conclusion of the dinner President Reddy and President Carter exchanged toasts.10 The evening concluded with a cultural presentation.

3. January 3:

(A) President Carter’s program for the final day of his visit began in the early morning with a visit to Daulatpur-Nasirabad, a typical village in near-by Haryana State. The Prime Minister accompanied the President in the ride to and from the village, and this afforded them an additional opportunity to converse. In addition to the two principals, a few senior members of the President’s staff and several Indian Ministers also participated in the visit.

(B) While the visit to the village was taking place, Secretary Vance and Foreign Minister Vajpayee participated in a meeting of the Indo-American Joint Commission.11 A memorandum was signed providing for a LANDSAT station in India.12

(C) On their return to Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Carter and Prime Minister Desai signed the Delhi Declaration, a document setting forth the commitment of both nations to work for world peace, disarmament and the furtherance of human rights.13 The ceremony included brief remarks by the President.14

(D) The finale of the visit was a formal departure ceremony at Palam Airport. The national anthems were played, the President inspected the honor guard, there was a 21-gun salute, and Air Force One took off for Riyadh at 2:00 p.m. (local time).

Bilateral discussions:

4. In the expanded bilateral meetings, the President and Prime Minister Desai engaged in broad discussions of global issues.

[Page 243](A) The President informed Desai of the present state of SALT negotiations and asked for the Indian assessment of the Special Session on Disarmament. The Indians were skeptical that much progress could be made in the SSOD before SALT and CTB arrangements had been made. Non-proliferation was also discussed and the Indians emphasized their concern that China be involved.

(B) The Indians did not respond to the President’s brief discussion [of] the Indian Ocean negotiations and did not mention Diego Garcia. There was coverage of the Middle East, the Horn of Africa (both sides emphasized they were not supplying weapons) and South Africa where the Indians stressed the importance of bringing pressure on Ian Smith. In his discussion of Sino-Indo matters, Desai noted little sign of movement and welcomed US ties with China. Desai voiced support of the Panama Canal Treaties. In a number of instances Desai emphasized the need for US-Soviet cooperation in bringing about peace in the Middle East, arms control and other goals.

(C) In the discussion of North-South matters, President Carter explained our current policy and our concern that excessive rhetoric by the LDCs would make it hard for us to carry through on our hopes in this area. Desai responded by stressing self-reliance and the need for international cooperation. He, too, saw rhetoric as counterproductive and was skeptical of a large UN role.

(D) Discussions on nuclear matters were held mainly in private. They were frank and each side set forth its position. The door was kept open, however, for further discussions. The President announced his intention to recommend an additional shipment of enriched uranium for the Tarapur reactor and offered to provide India with heavy water.

(E) The President presented the Prime Minister with a model of the space shuttle, on which India has reserved space for one of its satellites. The President and the Prime Minister laid emphasis on agricultural research and development, and this topic, along with energy research, was highlighted in the President’s speech to the Indian Parliament. The President also expressed interest in the development of the Ganges and Brahmaputra River systems to increase agricultural production and the generation of hydroelectrical power production there. The Indians expressed considerable concern over developing protectionist sentiment in the West. They also expressed interest in developing mechanisms that would permit some integration of small-scale Indian industry with large American industries. The President noted that many businessmen felt India did not want foreign investment. After some discussion of this, it was agreed that Commerce Secretary Kreps should visit India to discuss the problem.

(F) Finally, it was agreed that the bilateral Indo-U.S. talks which had been held annually at the Deputy Secretary level would be [Page 244]resumed. The President invited Prime Minister Desai to visit the U.S. and the invitation was warmly accepted.

The atmosphere during the visit

5. The President’s visit was marked by a display of goodwill and friendship from all sections of the Indian people. The reception accorded the President by the Indians who lined the streets as he drove between the airport and Rashtrapati Bhavan was enthusiastic. The welcome he received at the Ramlila grounds was impressive by any standard. Despite the barrier of language, his reiteration of the American commitment to human rights was well understood and appreciated. For its part the Indian Government went to great lengths to make the visit a success. Even the single incident that threatened to mar the visit, the recording of the President’s private conversation with the Secretary on the Indian position on full scope safeguards, was handled deftly by the Indian side. The Indian Foreign Secretary joined Presidential Spokesman Jody Powell in defusing the problem, and the Prime Minister made a public point of declaring that he was not upset. The response of the Indians to this incident, that it did not sour the atmosphere testifies to the goodwill and friendship created by the visit. Indians with whom we have spoken, were uniformly impressed by the President’s sincerity, and it is clear that he established an excellent personal rapport with Prime Minister Desai and the other senior officers of the GOI with whom he came in contact.

Editorial reaction

6. The general warmth of the public and official reaction to the visit was reflected in most national newspapers, but editorialists also expressed in varying degree some reservations. A number of editorials stressed the warmth of the personal relationship between the President and the Prime Minister and viewed the visit as symbolizing the end to the “tilt”, the US recognition of the “pre-eminence” of India in the subcontinent, and the shared ideals between the two countries. The “Statesman”, for instance, called the visit an “historic” one, important for the sincerity of the expressions of good will. The nuclear issue received the most specific attention, with all editorials endorsing the GOI position. As to be expected, the pro-Moscow “Patriot” condemned the U.S. nuclear position and termed the visit in consequence a “flop”. Almost as hardline, however, was the “Times of India” which in two editorials characterized the nuclear dispute as going to the “very core” of the relationship and thus chose to call the visit “not much of a success.” Other editorials had a broader perspective of the visit and its accomplishments and thought that the offer of another Taraput fuel shipment and of heavy water had been “enough for the moment.” The President’s speech to the Parliamentary group was called by the “Hindustan Times” a major foreign policy address which was applica[Page 245]ble not only to India but also to all Third World countries. The “Economic Times”, the “Hindu”, and the “Indian Express” were impressed by the areas of cooperation enumerated by the President in his speech but were also mildly critical of the lack of progress in the North-South dialogue. The Delhi Declaration was described by one paper as “an impassioned plea for unity in the cause of humanity,” and several noted in this context the strong foundation of shared moral values between the two countries. Criticism of the Declaration as generalized rhetoric came from a few who misinterpreted the purpose of the Declaration by looking upon it, not as a statement of principles, but as a record of the talks themselves. In sum, the satisfaction on the part of the press with the general tenor of the visit was tempered by an awareness of the implications of specific disputes such as the nuclear one. This was best summed up by a “Hindustan Times” comment: “Mr. Carter’s Delhi visit has been an occasion for both countries to rededicate themselves to common ideals which, when ties weaken, are however, the first to be forgotten.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780009–0220. Confidential. Sent for information to Brussels, Colombo, Dacca, Islamabad, Kabul, Kathmandu, London, Moscow, Paris, Tehran, Warsaw, Beijing, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and CINCPAC.
  2. See Document 91.
  3. In his remarks at the welcoming ceremony, Carter emphasized India and the United States’ shared democratic values and mutual commitment to world peace. The text of the remarks is in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 1–2.
  4. In his speech, Carter reiterated the moral values shared by India and the United States. Text of the remarks is in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 2–3.
  5. No memorandum of conversation was found of Carter and Desai’s January 1 private meeting.
  6. See Document 90 and footnote 2 thereto.
  7. Carter expressed his appreciation for the work done by the Embassy and its staff. He also noted that “India is a special place because of Gandhi, because of Nehru, because of Desai and others. There is a sense in the world that moral leadership derives from the Indian people in a direct and continuing fashion.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 3–5)
  8. No memorandum of conversation was found of the working luncheon.
  9. In the Lok Sabha, Carter praised Indian democracy, outlined bilateral policy initiatives, and drew comparisons between Indian and U.S. moral values. Carter also offered to supply India with heavy water—or very high-grade nuclear fuel—without preconditions: “Because of an accident that did occur in your heavy water production plant, we will make available to India, also, supplies from our reserves of heavy water.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 5–11)
  10. In his toast, Carter shared his impressions of India. (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 11–16)
  11. Telegram 343 from New Delhi, January 6, reported that at the meeting when the Subcommission reports were read, Vance and Vajpayee discussed Indian attitudes on foreign investment and called for more work to be done on North/South issues. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780011–0678)
  12. See footnote 3, Document 90.
  13. The text of the Delhi Declaration is in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 17–18.
  14. In his remarks, Carter explained that the Declaration “proclaims our belief that each individual has inalienable rights, our commitment to justice among nations and within societies, and our determination that disputes must be resolved without violence, especially in this age when nuclear weapons threaten the total destruction of humankind. Above all else, we affirm that states, like individuals, bear moral responsibilities for their acts.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 16–17)