195 Note from Butler1 to Curtis2

Canberra, 20 May 1974


Nuclear India

This paper discusses some implications of India's announcement yesterday, 19 May 1974, that it had detonated a nuclear device.3

[matter omitted]


23. Our relationship with India and our understanding of its foreign policies must now be given real substance. Our effort must begin to match the effort we make, for example, with Indonesia and Japan. The cliches about India-'Asia's sprawling democracy'-on the romantic side of things; or 'India is a bottomless pit for aid funds' on the pessimistic side-will prove inadequate even though such views contain elements of truth.

24. As a polity India is deeply troubled. As an economy it is deeply threatened. As a collective and historic experience India is capable of evoking deep and possibly expansionist chauvinism in its people. Its step into the club of nuclear weapons states possibly reflects all of these characteristics, but that step will place it squarely within the arena of contention between the super-powers and will bring the struggle between them closer to Australia.

25. The implications of this move for our region and for us will have to worked out in the future. We should start now, however, in the Department and in New Delhi to increase our ability; to understand India, to pursue a relationship which might help to maintain its independence, stability and non-alignment, and to give us a clear indication of its likely future strategic and foreign relations development.

[NAA: A1838, 720/5/7 part 3]