2 Reagan Aides Arriving in India to See Gandhi
In what is described as a “strong follow-up” to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to the United States in June, two senior Reagan Administration officials will arrive here today to meet with Gandhi and discuss issues that diplomatic sources said include concern over an escalating nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.
Michael H. Armacost, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Donald R. Fortier, a ranking White House aide on national security affairs, will also discuss implementation of a technology transfer agreement between India and the United States, U.S. interests in selling weapons systems to India and political developments in the Afghanistan conflict, according to the sources.
“Certainly the nuclear problem will be discussed, but it is not the only issue,” one official said. “This is mainly just a strong follow-up on the Rajiv visit.”
After two days here, Armacost and Fortier will travel to Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials.
The Administration is known to be concerned about escalating tensions between India and Pakistan in the face of reports that Pakistan has tested a nuclear triggering device at Kahuta, its secret nuclear research center near Islamabad.
India exploded a nuclear device in 1974 but has not developed a nuclear weapons program, although it has the proven technical ability and necessary plutonium and enriched uranium supplies. Recently, the Gandhi government has been under growing pressure from defense lobbies and military officers to develop a nuclear weapons system.
Diplomatic sources here said that, more than anything else, the visit of Armacost and Fortier reflects changing U.S. attitudes toward India and its role in world politics. In the past, the United States has sided with Pakistan in South Asian conflicts. Under the Reagan Administration, however, a view is emerging that long-range global interests lie with India, the largest and most developed country on the subcontinent, the sources said.
The new U.S. ambassador to India, veteran diplomat John Gunther Dean, is known to believe that India is on the verge of becoming a major world power and should be the center of increased U.S. interest.