96 Memorandum from McKeown1 to Plimsoll

New York, 2 October 1967

1188. Confidential

Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: An Indian View

The following exchange of views with Mr K.P. Jain, First Secretary in the Indian Disarmament delegation, gives some insights into current Indian thinking on the proposed agreement on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  1. Mr Jain developed the theme that India and Australia, together with Japan, shared common interests concerning security in South and South-East Asia and that a non-proliferation treaty posed common problems to us all. While there had been considerable activity by India and Japan, including bilateral exchanges between them, his personal impression was that Australia's position was less well known. I said that Australia had been keeping itself informed of developments but that, as we were not a member of the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee, we were possibly less actively involved in discussions at this stage. I drew his attention to the Australian interventions in the First Committee at the last two sessions of the General Assembly which reflected a lively awareness of the common security problems which confronted countries such as India and Australia.
  2. Mr Jain said that India's policy in this field was based on two main strands. One was its policy of non-alignment, which the Indian Government could not be expected to abandon. The other was the long history of Indian development of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, a policy to which every Indian Prime Minister had subscribed. By implication Mr Jain played down any suggestion that India's nuclear programme would be devoted for other than peaceful purposes. However, he added that India could not ignore the fact that a powerful neighbour was actively pursuing a programme of nuclear arms development which would not in any way be inhibited by a non-proliferation agreement.
  3. I said that Australia shared India's concern about China's nuclear development and that we recognized that a non-proliferation treaty would do nothing to assist with this problem. For this reason we believed that the durability and stability of a non-proliferation regime would depend to a large extent on what further measures were taken over the next few years, and on developing a détente between the two nuclear super-powers, who would have to shoulder a large part of the burden for preserving peace in a world in which China had become a fullyfledged nuclear power. However, we believed that, while it would not solve our major problems, a non-proliferation treaty could contribute to preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other powers who might otherwise seek or find themselves in the position of having to acquire these weapons. I referred to the obvious example of what might have occurred in the Middle East had the countries concerned there been in the possession of nuclear weapons. Mr Jain accepted this argument which he said was one of the widely proclaimed advantages of a treaty.
  4. Mr Jain developed at some length the thesis that a non-proliferation treaty was by its nature discriminatory between nuclear and non-nuclear powers. India was concerned that the treaty would formalise the state of affairs under which nuclear powers were relegated to a secondary role. It was clear that the nuclear powers were themselves unwilling to assume binding obligations to make sacrifices in respect of their own excessive nuclear capabilities. Even admitting that a non proliferation agreement was necessarily discriminatory in its operation there was, as the Canadians2 had said, no reason why it should be more discriminatory than it had to be. Why, for example, when the nuclear powers insisted on other signatories accepting safeguards on all their nuclear facilities, were the nuclear powers unwilling to include a provision for safeguards limited to their own peaceful nuclear facilities. I said that while this was indeed an unnecessary discrimination, we were both aware which of the nuclear powers was opposed to inspection.
  5. In response to Mr Jain's general thesis that the non-proliferation drafts were discriminatory, I said that we took the hard-headed view that it was inevitable that, in a world of nuclear superpowers, there would be, by the nature of things, discrimination against the middle and smaller powers. No other country was in a position to match the nuclear powers. Indeed we could expect that this dis-equilibrium would increase and that in the years to come it might be even more difficult for middle nuclear powers such as Britain and France to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent. The problem of China apart, the possibilities of complete outsiders entering the field and acquiring a credible weapons system which could pose a real threat to the nuclear super-powers were remote.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 1]