October 21, 1985
Mr. Parimoo. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
The President. Well, hello there. Pleased to see you.
South Asia and Nuclear Weapons
Mr. Parimoo. I thank you, sir. I believe you are making some certification to Congress on Pakistan. Is it your judgment that Pakistan doesn't have the bomb?
The President. Well, we have no evidence that they do -- and this is required. We're very hopeful that south Asian countries will forgo nuclear weapons -- all of the countries there. And yet at the same time, we want to be of assistance with regard to legitimate energy needs, and that is a source of energy, but should not be a coverup for bombs and the making of nuclear weapons. As a matter of fact, we're going to try our best to see if we, at the level of the Soviet Union and ourselves, cannot do something about curbing those, and I would like to think that they might one day eliminate them all.
Mr. Parimoo. Mr. Gandhi, the Prime Minister, has suggested in Newsweek in an interview that this Symington amendment waiver need not be extended. Why should it be extended any further? You know, it's the waiver of the Symington amendment -- --
The President. I don't -- --
Mr. Parimoo. -- -- which allows sale of arms to Pakistan. See, because otherwise -- that's a law, Symington law, which will not allow sale of arms to Pakistan because of this ex-nuclear weapons waiver. But you have granted the waiver that -- and that waiver will expire in September in '87. He says it need not be extended. Why should it be extended?
The President. We hope by that time that we definitely know that there are no nuclear weapons -- not going to be any, because that's what we've tried to, as I say, to impress on both the major countries there -- and on all of south Asia or, for that matter, the rest of the world.
Mr. Parimoo. Are you coming to India, sir?
The President. What?
Mr. Parimoo. You accepted an invitation to India, to come visit India? Will you and Mrs. Reagan be visiting?
The President. If we can work out a schedule to do that, we would like it very much.
Mr. Parimoo. India is the largest democracy of -- --
The President. My only experience in your country was one in which I wasn't even aware of it. I was on a flight from Taiwan to London, England, on my way home from some tours that I'd had over there in the Far East, and it seems like long before dawn, early in the morning, the plane dropped down in New Delhi for refueling -- --
Mr. Parimoo. Oh, is that right?
The President. -- -- and I was sound asleep -- [laughter] -- so at least I slept a few moments in India. But no, we'd like that very much.
Mr. Parimoo. We'll be very happy to see you there. You already visited China once -- --
The President. Yes.
Mr. Parimoo. -- -- but you did not visit India, so it's time that you also visited India. India is the largest democracy of the world.
The President. I know. We'd like that very much.
Mr. Parimoo. And you are the leader of that democratic world.
The President. Thank you. Good to see you.
Mr. Parimoo. Thank you, sir.
The President. Looking forward to seeing your Prime Minister in the next couple of days.
Mr. Parimoo. Yes. He's really concerned about Pakistan's program. He has been -- --
The President. Well, we'll have a good talk about it.
Mr. Parimoo. Thank you, sir.
The President. You bet.
The President's Responses to Questions Submitted by the Times of India
Q. Mr. President, in the postwar era, no two leaders came to the summit with so much political support at home and with such charisma. We in India look upon the next month's meeting between you and Mr. Gorbachev as a unique opportunity for disarmament and durable peace. Do you share that view?
The President. I believe that our meeting offers a unique opportunity to set U.S.-Soviet relations on a more constructive course for years to come. I have no illusions. I understand well the difficulties involved, but I feel an obligation to make a sincere effort at least to narrow some of the profound differences between us. If we can make any progress toward that goal, I believe that all peoples throughout the world will benefit. General Secretary Gorbachev and I will surely discuss our respective ideas of how best to bring about deep reductions in arms levels. If the Soviets are ready for the give and take that an arms agreement will require, they'll find us ready as well.
I think it is also important to remember that arms, whether nuclear or conventional, do not come to exist for no reason. They exist because nations have very real differences among themselves and suspicions about each other's intentions. Thus, a frank discussion of our concerns about Soviet behavior, particularly its attempts to expand its influence by force and subversion, is an important part of our effort to focus on the sources of world tension, not just the symptoms. To establish the foundation for a truly more constructive relationship, I want to talk with General Secretary Gorbachev not only about arms control but also about regional tensions, about our bilateral relationship, and about the obligation of both our nations to respect human rights -- all of these issues are as important to us as the question of nuclear arms. I will go to Geneva ready to make whatever progress the Soviets will allow toward resolving them.
May I add that I am aware the people of India and of many other nations sometimes feel that they have no control over what the big powers do in matters that affect all mankind. I want to do my part to dispel this impression. I am very aware of the way people around the globe will be watching our decisions in Geneva, and I can assure them that I will have their concerns in mind when I sit down at the table with General Secretary Gorbachev. I only hope that the General Secretary will come to our talks with a similar attitude. And in my speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week, I will be spelling out in more detail just how I believe we can make real progress toward easing the world tensions that are of concern to us all.
Q. Important as it is, arms control by itself cannot resolve the geopolitical rivalries of the two superpowers. Would the summit agenda next month include a discussion on some more abiding ways of resolving these differences?
The President. I think you are right in viewing arms control in this broader context. As anyone who has studied the differences between the Western democracies and the Communist system realizes, we have fundamentally different views of the world and fundamentally different ways of behaving in it. My hope would be to find ways with Mr. Gorbachev to ensure that our differences continue to be peaceful. In some other areas, serious discussions may permit the bridging of differences. In those areas, if the Soviets are willing, we can make immediate progress. This progress may lead, in turn, to agreements in other, more contentious areas.
I hope that Mr. Gorbachev and I can reinforce the intensive regional dialog that we and the Soviets have had since the beginning of this year. As you know, our regional experts have already met to discuss Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, and east Asia. Later this month in Washington, we'll have talks on Central America and the Caribbean. Although these talks haven't resulted in any solutions to problems in those parts of the world, they have been useful for two reasons. First, by clarifying our respective positions on regional issues, we lessen the chance of miscalculations or misunderstandings between us. Second, these talks give us an opportunity to make clear what we, our allies, and our friends consider important.
Q. Regional conflicts in south Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia could escalate into a world war. Even if an arms control agreement were to be reached at Geneva, these regional conflicts would continue to threaten world peace. Would you not like to propose next month some restraint on the political conduct of superpowers to defuse these regional conflicts?
The President. Our regional exchanges with the Soviets have covered and will continue to cover these points. Let me suggest briefly how the Soviets can advance the cause of peace in one of these regions, your very own. In Afghanistan, we are witnessing a brutal war simply because the Afghan people are determined to resist an attempt by outsiders to impose a government on them. It's clear that the Afghan spirit of independence cannot be crushed; that continued war will only mean more bloodshed; and that only a political solution is possible. The Soviets claim that they, too, believe in a negotiated settlement. I will be asking General Secretary Gorbachev in Geneva whether, if that is so, he is willing to address the crucial issue: withdrawal of the more than 100,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan and the restoration of that country's independence and nonalignment.
I know the Soviet Union has concerns about the countries on its border, but Afghanistan poses no threat to Soviet security. We Americans also have neighbors, and neighbors that do not always agree with us; however, look at our borders with Canada and Mexico. They stretch for thousands of miles, and not an inch of them is defended. Bear in mind, too, that both of these countries have very independent political systems and foreign policies, and, in fact, Mexico is one of the leaders of the nonaligned movement. The way to solve regional problems is through dialog and negotiations, not invasion and occupation.
Arms Sales and Nuclear Weapons
Q. Former President Nixon has suggested that one of the ways to reduce world tensions is for the two superpowers to stop supplying sophisticated arms to poor developing countries. Do you agree with this view, and would you like to propose a moratorium on such arms supplies at the next summit?
The President. To my mind, poor nations are entitled to security just as rich nations are. That ought to be obvious. The hard question is, what really promotes their security? To answer that, we need a more sophisticated approach than simply trying to cut off military sales and assistance; that has its place in an overall strategy, but it doesn't seem like quite the right place to start. Instead, I think we have to look at the underlying conflicts and ask how to ease them and to build confidence among neighboring states that have known only hostility and mistrust. If such a process takes root, outside states may well be able to help it along in various ways, perhaps by limiting arms supplies; perhaps by providing assurances of some sort or by helping the parties to integrate themselves more successfully into the world economy; perhaps simply by offering what the diplomats call ``good offices.''
Start with the real sources of conflict and see how they can most realistically be overcome -- that's our approach. I might add that it hasn't been everyone's approach. Over the past 10 years, a growing source of instability and war in the developing world has been the imposition of new regimes -- Marxist-Leninist ones -- that are, almost from the day they take over, at war with their own people, and then before very long, at war with their neighbors. This is a problem that simply has to be addressed, a pattern that has to be broken if we are to avoid the further spread of conflict. The Soviet Union, as we see it, is too often supporting, and sometimes directing, these wars. In such cases, the flow of arms from outside is a major concern, and we want to do something about it. I'll speak on this subject this week at the United Nations and, of course, with General Secretary Gorbachev when I meet him in Geneva.
Q. In view of the danger of proliferation and the graver risk of miniaturization of nuclear weapons, which could bring such weapons within the reach of terrorists, would you not like to put some more determined restraint on countries that have an advanced nuclear weapons-making program?
The President. Our concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a matter of public record. We have been working with a number of countries, including the Soviet Union, to control access to both weapons and technology, in good part because of the kind of concerns you mention. It really is a grave threat, both proliferation and miniaturization, and restraining proliferation is a big part of our effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war or nuclear accident or incident. We recognize that a country's sense of insecurity may lead it to look for a nuclear option, yet if one pauses to think, one has to agree that possession of nuclear weapons actually adds to the insecurity. We hope that the countries of south Asia will set an example by forgoing nuclear weapons.
At the same time, we have always supported the legitimate energy needs of developing countries. The United States has shared its know-how with many nations around the world, starting with the Atoms for Peace program in the 1950's. However, we strongly believe that energy programs must not provide a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.
Q. Recently, the Soviet Union also came in for attack from the terrorists -- one of its diplomats was killed in the Middle East. Countries like the United States and India have been facing the problem of international terrorism. Would you not like to bring this up and make a joint declaration from the summit pronouncing terrorism and abetment of terrorism an international crime?
The President. We have condemned the kidnaping of Soviet diplomats in Beirut. The murder of one of the Soviets was an abhorrent act, and we have expressed our regret to the Soviet Union. In turn, we note with satisfaction their condemnation of the Achille Lauro terrorists. We hope that this is a sign that their own recent experiences may have made them aware that terrorism knows no international boundaries and lead them to reassess their policy of support for terrorist organizations and states. India for its part has suffered the terrible loss of a great national leader, Madame Gandhi. The U.S. also has suffered terribly from terrorism and is determined to combat it vigorously. We would be pleased if the Soviets would join us in a common effort to stamp out terrorism. Unfortunately, we believe some of their policies actually encourage terrorism.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Q. Mr. President, it is believed that your stand on the Strategic Defense Initiative, which has come to be known as the Star Wars system of defense, is crucial to the success of the summit next month. What is SDI, and why does the United States have to change from deterrence to defense?
The President. For at least the past 30 years, deterrence has rested on the threat of offensive nuclear retaliation; the United States and the Soviet Union have been hostage to each other's nuclear forces. Our retaliatory deterrent has enabled us to live in peace with freedom; however, the ability to deter rests on an equitable and stable strategic balance. That balance is now being increasingly threatened by the continuing Soviet buildup in offensive nuclear forces, a buildup which began in the early seventies, as well as deep Soviet involvement in strategic defense. Our Strategic Defense Initiative is a prudent response to these Soviet programs. It is a research program, being conducted in conformity with our treaty obligations, which seeks to establish whether in the future deterrence could be based increasingly on defensive systems which threaten no one, rather than on the threat of offensive retaliation.
I began this intensified research effort on March 23, 1983, when I proposed that we explore the possibility of countering the awesome Soviet missile threat with defensive systems that could intercept and destroy missiles before they strike their targets. Such a defense-oriented world would not be to any single nation's advantage, but would benefit all. And the research and testing of SDI would move us toward our ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether from the face of the Earth. By necessity, this is a very long-term goal. For years to come, we will have to continue to base deterrence on the threat of nuclear retaliation, but there is no reason why we should not begin now to seek a safer, more stable world.
Q. Does SDI violate any U.S. treaty obligations? Specifically, does it violate article 5 of the ABM treaty of 1972, which prohibits not only deployment but also development of space-based antiballistic missiles?
The President. I have directed that the SDI research program be conducted in a manner fully consistent with all U.S. treaty obligations, including the ABM treaty. We are and intend to remain in full compliance with the ABM treaty and to seek Soviet compliance as well.
Q. Sir, you have said that new technologies are now at hand which make possible a truly effective nonnuclear defense, and for that reason you have launched the SDI. Do you believe that the U.S.A. will continue to have a lasting lead in these technologies? Don't you think that the Soviet Union will catch up as it did in the case of the MIRV technology, which was a U.S. monopoly in the sixties?
The President. It is not a question of the Soviet Union catching up with U.S. technologies. For over two decades, the Soviet Union has pursued an intensive research program in many of the same basic technological areas that our research program will address. For example, more than 10,000 Soviet scientists and engineers are engaged in their advanced laser research program. A comprehensive report on Soviet strategic defense programs has just been released by our State and Defense Departments. If we do not respond to Soviet strategic defense efforts, Soviet programs in both offense and defense could seriously threaten our ability to deter attack.
Q. The first nation to achieve both defensive and offensive capabilities might well be tempted to launch a devastating nuclear first strike. Since decisionmaking in the Soviet political system is secret and highly centralized, as distinct from the open system of governance in the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. could well be that nation. By advocating SDI, therefore, sir, are you not promoting the first-strike capabilities of the Soviet Union?
The President. If the Soviet Union were to achieve overwhelming superiority in both offensive and defensive systems, it could come to believe that it could launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. or its allies without fear of effective retaliation. That is why the U.S. is concerned over the massive Soviet investment in both offensive and defensive systems. SDI is, in part, a response to the danger from these Soviet military programs. It is aimed precisely at strengthening deterrence and stability by reducing the danger that the Soviets might be tempted to think in terms of a nuclear first strike.
Q. Mr. President, do you share the apprehension that SDI would give a new dimension to the arms race by taking nuclear weapons into outer space and that this could heighten tensions at the decisionmaking levels of both the superpowers, making the world more unstable and insecure?
The President. No, I'm certain the impact of SDI will be quite the opposite. Given the hope it offers the world, it will ease tensions, not increase them.
Q. Some strategists have suggested that while the U.S.A. moves close to actual deployment of a defensive space weapons system, the Soviet Union would be under an increasingly desperate temptation to strike while it still has a chance. For that reason, would you not like to launch a joint superpower initiative for research in defensive space weapons so that the fears and suspicions raised by SDI are obviated?
The President. As I said earlier, we are seeking agreement in Geneva on ways to strengthen deterrence through the introduction of defensive systems into the force structures of both sides, if the technologies which we are both investigating prove feasible and cost-effective. Our negotiators at Geneva are prepared to discuss how such a transition could be carried out in a stable manner. And I want very much to explain personally to General Secretary Gorbachev how important it is for him not to let this chance to set arms control on a more hopeful course pass by.
Q. What is the Soviet Union doing in the field of strategic defense? Do you think that the Soviet opposition to SDI is merely pre-summit posturing similar to their opposition to cruise missile deployment in Western Europe?
The President. Posturing is a good word. Although they have been treating strategic defenses as if they were solely an American invention, the Soviets, over the past 20 years, have spent roughly as much for strategic defense as they have for their massive offensive buildup. During this time, it has been the Soviets who have built the world's most extensive network of civil defenses and the most widespread air defense system; who have deployed the world's only operational ABM and antisatellite systems; and who have devoted extensive resources to investigating many of the very same technologies we are now examining in our SDI research. Some of these Soviet efforts, such as their construction of a large phased-array radar in central Siberia, are in clear violation of the 1972 ABM treaty; others are questionable under the treaty.
In light of all this, Soviet criticism of SDI is more than a little hypocritical. It is quite clear that the Soviets are intent on undermining the U.S. SDI program, while minimizing any constraints on their own ongoing strategic defense activities. For our part, we believe that it is important that our two countries get down to a serious, no-nonsense dialog about the questions of how we might together enable our mutual interest in strategic defenses to lead to a more stable balance.
Q. All the ills of the world are not due to Russia. If there were no Russia, the problems of poverty and underdevelopment of most of the world would still be there. Next month, the two strongest leaders of the world are meeting in Geneva. Is this not an opportunity to cry halt to the deployment and development of all new nuclear weapons and to divert the resources thus saved to improve the lot of the poorest countries of the world?
The President. I certainly would like to see a world in which there are no nuclear weapons and plentiful resources devoted to the eradication of world poverty. I suspect that I won't see such an ideal world during my lifetime, but I will do all I can to help this dream come true. If General Secretary Gorbachev and I can address some of our differences frankly, we will perhaps have taken one small step towards this goal, and no one should underestimate the importance of that.
Although the Soviet Union is not the source of all the troubles of the developing world, we do think that the Soviet Government has too often supported forces intent on imposing their rule by violence. This not only creates untold suffering and halts economic and social development but often introduces an East-West element in the disputes when there should be none. These practices must stop if we are to create a safer and better world. All nations are entitled to work out their destinies free from force and violence, particularly that coming from other countries.
Let me suggest, then, one immediate way that the peoples of the West and the Soviet Union can help the poorer nations: by keeping the competition of ideas peaceful. Let there be competition by example -- no subversion of free governments, no invasion, no occupation, no injection of foreign troops to support factions in internal disputes. Developing habits of solving problems peacefully would benefit all. We already are observing those principles, because they are the only ones consistent with our vision of the future.
Perhaps I can close by saying a word about that vision as it applies to the developing nations. As you know, the United States has contributed billions of dollars to economic and social development in all regions of the globe; most of this aid has gone to nations that won their independence during the past few decades. Hundreds of thousands of Third World students, many of them from India, have received American university educations. Both the U.S. Government and private American donors are contributing great sums today to famine relief in especially needy countries.
But, to be frank, aid levels aren't the heart of the matter. The future of the developing nations, both economic and political, really depends on the resolution of a broader issue; that is, whether those institutions of freedom are created that are the best, and in the long term the only source of economic growth and guarantee of individual dignity. India's great victory in the past 40 years has been to protect those institutions through good times and bad. The benefits you win from them are probably only just beginning. They are the basis of so much of the cultural vigor and economic dynamism that we see in your country now. Free institutions, however, aren't just a freak of history, something that only a few peoples can ever hope to enjoy. There's no reason they can't take deeper root throughout the Third World. If they do -- well, almost anything will be possible.
Note: A tape was not available for verification of the content of the oral portion of this interview, which was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on October 22.