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Out: Indira’s US dilemma

Washington, Dec. 22 (PTI): Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had felt an “almost pathological need” to criticise the US but at the same time desired an improvement in Indo-US relations on a “more equal” basis after Washington recognised India as an “important country in the world”.

This assessment was given by the then powerful secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, to President Gerald Ford after his meeting with Indira Gandhi in October 1974, a few months after India’s first nuclear test.

Kissinger’s views were part of a memorandum put up for Ford by his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, recently released state department documents show.

After India went nuclear, Kissinger told Indira Gandhi that the US was not interested in “recriminations” but in how to prevent further proliferation.

Kissinger said he had raised concerns over New Delhi’s nuclear policy, telling Indira Gandhi “very frankly” that “their nuclear explosion was a bomb no matter how India described it”. He also told her that her undertaking not to produce nuclear weapons did not mean the next government would not do so.

“By our second meeting, she seemed to have reflected on this and asked if we had any specific proposals. I have asked (then ambassador to India Daniel P.) Moynihan to follow up this possible opening with her,” he said.

The talks with Indira Gandhi were “frank but very warm” and it was evident that “they are very pleased by the visit and our recognition of India as an important country in the world and the predominant power in the subcontinent”, said the top official of the Richard Nixon and Ford administrations.

“Despite Mrs Gandhi’s almost pathological need to criticise the US, she, too, desires to see relations between us improve on this new and more equal basis,” he said.

Other documents on the US foreign policy in South Asia between 1969 and 1976, released simultaneously, also show that at the time of the first nuclear test, India had expressed readiness to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty if it was “non-discriminatory” and brought in all countries.

The documents reveal that Indira Gandhi was keen to pursue a nuclear energy programme for peaceful purposes and had made this clear to the US, which had preferred to give a “low-key” response to the Indian tests.

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