91 Minute from Booker to Plimsoll

Canberra, [18 May 1967]1


Indian Attitude to a Non-Proliferation Treaty

You asked me for a note on the Indian attitude toward adherence to a treaty aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  1. Recent Indian statements on various articles of a draft non-proliferation treaty cast considerable doubt on whether India will ultimately agree to sign a treaty. Earlier Indian reservations on the treaty appear to have stiffened, although different shades of opinion are being expressed on some issues by various Indian Ministers and officials.
  2. The United States approach to the recent negotiations has been basically to attempt, as a first step, to reach agreement on the major issues involved with its NATO partners and with the Soviet Union. In addition, it has taken into account a number of suggestions that have been made by members of the E.N.D.C. and some other countries (e.g. Japan). The general United States view has apparently been that if agreement could be worked out over a limited but significant area, there would be substantial pressures on other countries to accept a treaty along those lines. The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has tended to think, therefore, that countries such as India would eventually modify their opposition to a treaty that had wide support.
  3. Our High Commissioner in New Delhi2 has on several occasions drawn attention to Indian reservations on the treaty. In our submission to you of 11th April3 concerning the calling of inter-Departmental discussions4 on the treaty, we suggested that India perhaps represented the largest question mark among Asian countries. Sir Arthur Tange reported on 5th May, after several discussions with leading Indian officials, that while it has been difficult to judge which Indian arguments have been genuine and which a smokescreen, a speech by the Foreign Minister Chagla5 to a meeting of Congress members of Parliament on 4th May had led him to conclude that 'the Indian Government would have great difficulty in signing any treaty in prospect which restricted its freedom to develop its nuclear capacity to the point of making a bomb'.6

[matter omitted]

Indian Nuclear Weapons Capability

[matter omitted]

  1. Late in 1966, Indian officials informed our High Commission in New Delhi that a review of Indian nuclear policy by Ministers had confirmed that India was opposed to producing nuclear weapons 'at present'. It seems clear, however, from its attitude towards the nonproliferation treaty over the last few months, that India will seek to preserve its options as best it can.

Possible Indian Tactics

  1. If India has in fact judged that the kind of treaty which is likely to emerge will not meet Indian interests in a number of respects, we might expect that it will exert some effort, possibly by way of introducing amendments in the E.N.D.C., to improve the treaty. Even if there should now be an agreement between the United States, NATO and the U.S.S.R. on the outstanding issues between them, it seems unlikely that this would remove all India's objections. So long as there is less than full agreement between the major negotiators, the focus of attention is not on the Indians, who may judge it to be in their interests if final agreement between the U.S./NATO and the U.S.S.R. is further prolonged. The United States still hopes no doubt that India can ultimately be persuaded to accept a treaty, although it may do so only with reservations. India has also been consulting both Germany and Japan on the treaty, and it may be that a decision to sign a treaty by these two countries could have some influence on India's final position.
  1. [sic] We have suggested in inter-Departmental consultations that there would be security advantages to Australia if barriers were put in the way of say India and Japan developing nuclear weapons. The Departments of Defence and National Development have indicated that their attitude towards the treaty will be much affected by the extent to which it would be likely to limit our own options, especially as a result of the safeguards provisions. These and other matters related to the draft Treaty have been given preliminary consideration by Departments, and will be considered in detail when more is known as to the kind of treaty which will emerge from current U.S.-U.S.S.R. discussions. While it seemed about a month ago that such a text might be available early in May, there is still no solution to the controversial Article III (Safeguards) or the Article IV(2) (amendment).
  2. Submitted for information.

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 1]