"With China on India’s back, and Pakistan lurking on the sidelines, I foresaw no alternative but to keep open our option on the production of nuclear weapons.”
This is what Indira Gandhi told Canada’s High Commissioner James George about her reasons for not acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which opened for signature 40 years ago on July 1, 1968.
This was stated in a cable sent by the then US Ambassador Chester Bowles to the US State Department on December 12, 1967, about the Indira Gandhi-James George meeting. It reveals that the then PM was aware that India might have to reverse its decision to use nuclear resources for peaceful purposes only. “But who could foresee when it might become necessary to change this policy?” the cable, recently declassified, and posted on the website of the National Security Archive, quotes Indira as saying.
“If the Americans want to come to our aid against an attack by the Chinese, they will, even if we don’t sign the NPT. And if they don’t want to come to our aid, they won’t even if we sign the treaty.”
At the outset, George told the PM that the Canadian Parliament would demand a review of the country’s economic aid and nuclear assistance programmes to India. The cable said George followed up his presentation to Indira by meeting Foreign Secretary Rajeshwar Dayal, whose reaction to the envoy’s approach was later described as “shocking”.