January 21, 1972
US Embassy Airgram A-20 to State Department, 'India’s Nuclear Intentions'
In response to the State Department's request, the U.S. Embassy in India identified a number of reasons that made it unlikely that India would a test a nuclear device in the coming weeks, but saw “straws” suggesting an underground test “sometime in future.” For example, the Government of India had publicly acknowledged ongoing work on the problem of safe underground testing. Moreover, India might have an interest in making its nuclear capabilities known to “enemies.” Whatever the Indians decided, external pressure would have no impact on a highly nationalist state and society: “we see nothing US or international community can presently do to influence GOI policy directions in atomic field.”
June 23, 1972
State Department Cable 113523 to US Embassy India, 'Japanese Views Regarding Indian Nuclear Plans'
In response to a request from the State Department, Ryohei Murata, an official at the Japanese embassy, reported that the Japanese government believed that for prestige reasons and as a “warning” to others, the “Indians have decided to go ahead with a nuclear test” which could occur at “any time.” The Thar Desert in Rajasthan would be the test site.
July 26, 1972
US Embassy India Cable 9293 to State Department, 'Indian Nuclear Intentions'
The Embassy acknowledged that India had the “technical know-how and possibly materials to develop [a] simple nuclear device within period of months after GOI decision to do so.” Nevertheless, it saw no evidence that a decision had been made to test a device. Moreover, capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons were limited, with no plans in sight to “develop [a] missile launch system.”
April 04, 1973
Bombay consulate cable 705 to Department of State, 'India’s Nuclear Position'
The possibility that India had made a decision to test surfaced in a message from the U.S. consulate in Bombay (Mumbai) signed off by Consul David M. Bane. The latter reported that Oak Ridge Laboratory scientist John J. Pinajian, then serving as the Atomic Energy Commission’s scientific representative in India, had pointed out several “indications”—-notably his lack of access to key individuals and facilities in India’s atomic establishment--suggesting that India “may well have decided” to test a nuclear device. While stating that Pinajian’s evaluation was “subjective and impressionistic,” Consul Bane agreed that the atomic energy establishment did not want this American poking around because he might find out too much. Bane further observed that a nuclear test “in the not too distant future” could meet India’s political goals and help attain “greater recognition major power status.”
May 17, 1973
US Embassy India Cable 5797 to State Department forwarding Bombay consulate cable 983, 'India’s Nuclear Position'
A follow up to John J. Pinajian's 4 April 1973 report on "India's Nuclear Position." Pinajian got some access to the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, but noticed the absence of personnel responsible for experimental work. Moreover, he was getting cooperation from the Institute for Fundamental Research to conduct an experiment.
January 19, 1974
US Embassy India cable 0743 to State Department, 'India’s Nuclear Intentions'
The Embassy assessed India's potential for the development of nuclear weapons amd concluded that “deeper economic problems,” among other considerations militated against a nuclear test in the near future, even though the Indian government had the capabilities to produce and test a device. While there were no rumors about a test as there had been in 1972, “we know little about relevant internal government debate.” All in all, the embassy believed that economic conditions “tip the likelihood of an early test to a lower level than previous years.” Russell Jack Smith, previously the deputy director for intelligence at the CIA, and then serving as special assistant to the ambassador (station chief), was one of the officials who signed off on this cable.
May 18, 1974
US Embassy India Cable 6598 to State Department, 'India’s Nuclear Explosion: Why Now?'
Having written off an early test, the day that it took place the Embassy scrambled to come up with an explanation. Deputy Chief of Mission David Schneider signed off on the telegram because Moynihan was in London. While the Embassy had no insight on the decision-making, it saw domestic politics and “psychological” explanations for the test: the need to offset domestic “gloom” and the need for India to “be taken seriously.” According to the telegram, “the decision will appeal to nationalist feeling and will be widely welcomed by the Indian populace.”
November 17, 1978
'Achieving USG Nonproliferation Objectives in Pakistan,' US Embassy India Cable 17682
U.S. Ambassador to India reports that the Indian government is aware that the U.S. believes Pakistan seeks nuclear weapons capability. An Indian diplomat informed him that Pakistan was two to three years away from nuclear capability.