The Carter administration is seeking ways to reverse what one official terms its "dismal prospects" for preventing a nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent.
Administration officials, speaking yesterday on the condition that they not be identified, said little or no progress has been made in efforts to persuade Pakistan to forgo its apparent program to achieve the capability of manufacturing a nuclear bomb.
The administration cut off $85 million of military and economic aid to Pakistan this month because it believed Pakistan was secretly building a facility to manufacture enriched uraniam of the type used in bombs.
The officials said that in the talks with Pakistani leaders the administration has reaffirmed its willingness to sell that country F5E fighter jets. The F5E was first offered to Pakistan in 1977.
The administration also has told Pakistan it would be willing to cooperate in development of Pakistani nuclear power generating capabilities under suitable safeguards and that it would support "in principle" a Pakistani proposal for a South Asian zone free of nuclear weapons.
The major problem in the talks is Pakistani insistence that India be subject to the same safeguards, officials said.
India, long at odds with Pakistan, exploded an atomic bomb in 1974. Prime Minister Morarji Desai has pledged that India will not develop a nuclear weapons stockpile. But Desai is 82, and neither Pakistan nor the Carter administration is confident that his successors will be similarly inclined. Desai has refused to accept international inspection and safeguards for all of India's nuclear facilities.
The administration threatened last year to break a contract to supply nuclear fuel to India's Tarapur reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided to let the sales continue temporarily while the two governments negotiated on the safeguards issue.
Those negotiations "have gotten nowhere," one official said yesterday. Under U.S. law, the NRC would have to cut off shipments in 1980 unless India accepts the safeguards.
U.S. officials said they feel the problem with Pakistan is too urgent to let it wait that long, and that various inducements-including an additional security guarantee, more arms sales and expanded economic aid-are under consideration.