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Mr. Kissinger: Do you seriously believe India wants a reconciliation? Don't they control the situation?
Mr. Sisco: In answer to your first question, no, I don't. I was merely stating one option—the transfer of the problem by Yahya to Bhutto. Another option is for Yahya to deal with Mujib directly.
Mr. Kissinger: Why can't Bhutto deal with Mujib?
Mr. Sisco: He might, but there is considerably less prospect of success. Not only are the Bengalis very reluctant to deal with Bhutto, but Bhutto and Mujib are potential rivals. The likelihood of a Mujib/Bhutto reconciliation is considerably less than the Bengalis agreeing to talk to Yahya.
Mr. Kissinger: But that assumes that the difficulty is between East and West Pakistan. Nothing India has done indicates that they want to see a reconciliation between East and West Pakistan.
Mr. Sisco: I don't think Mujib's objective in March was complete separatism or independence. Even now I don't think some form of loose confederation between Yahya and Mujib is impossible.
Mr. Kissinger: So, India having attacked Pakistan, the logical conclusion is that we should squeeze Yahya to talk to Mujib. What Indian troops can't achieve, we should achieve for them. That's the implication of what you're saying.
Mr. Sisco: I have asked myself why the Pakistanis haven't already moved into the UN. It would seem to be very attractive to them, particularly since they are the weaker power and there is a possibility that the UN could dampen the immediate military situation. But, to be a reality, the Security Council would have to defuse the situation and would immediately get into the question of political accommodation. If Yahya is not able to move toward Mujib directly, why should he not use the UN as a facade?
Mr. Kissinger: Unless he doesn't want to do it at all.
I do it through the UN; don't do it at all. If East and West Pakistan can't get together, the U.S. can live with an independent East Pakistan.
Mr. Kissinger: We don't give a damn.
Mr. Sisco: However, Yahya, by going to the UN will have internationalized a situation which he has maintained is an internal matter. In these circumstances he would be forced to deal with Mujib.
Mr. Kissinger: Does anyone seriously believe India wants a reconciliation between East and West Pakistan?
Mr. Sisco: I believe India would be willing to go along if Mujib were restored to power by peaceful means. India doesn't want war. If Mujib were back in power, he would organize an East Pakistan Government and it wouldn't be long before it was a separate entity or in
dependent. However, Mujib, in a confederal tie with West Pakistan, would have as much fly-paper attraction for the West Bengalis as would an independent East Pakistan.
Mr. Kissinger: You say that a chance of reconciliation exists more under Yahya than under Bhutto. Therefore, the four weeks before Yahya turns over to Bhutto must be used.
Mr. Sisco: I say they could be used. If power is turned over to Bhutto we will have more war in the subcontinent. The Indians have the upper hand-they will get East Pakistan one way or another. What are our interests? Maybe we can live with a war for three or four weeks. We won't become involved, and I don't think the Russians or Chinese will either. But we don't want one power to dominate in the area, and the defeat of Pakistan would certainly strengthen the Soviet position.
Mr. Kissinger: You say an opportunity exists to use Yahya to get a reconciliation. But we know that any reconciliation won't last since Mujib will go separatist in any event. We tell the Pakistanis "let's have a reconciliation." Then we tell the Indians "why fight, since you are going to get it anyway." Yahya may say “if we're going to lose anyway, why me? Why not Bhutto?"
Mr. Sisco: Maybe it doesn't make any difference. If we stay out of it, the situation will evolve by military means rather than peaceful means.
Mr. Kissinger: That's a phony. Everyone is for peaceful means, but do you honestly believe there is any chance of getting India to desist militarily? If the situation were reversed and Pakistani troops were moving into India, the New York Times, Washington Post and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would be committing mass hara-kari, and there would be marches on Washington. When you say we should work for a peaceful settlement, are we going to help India grab what they want? Maybe we should, but don't say we have the choice of peace or
Mr. Sisco: But India has the upper hand—they are stronger than Pakistan. I have not put this in terms of choosing.
Mr. Kissinger: What do you recommend we do?
Mr. Kissinger: The President, the Secretary of State and I have told the Indians there will be consequences if they start a war.
Mr. Packard: But what can we do? I don't see that we have any effective leverage on India.
Mr. Kissinger: We can cut off aid. We can move diplomatically.
Mr. Packard: Fine—we should, but with what the likelihood of success? We don't know. One alternative would be to back up the Pakistanis, but we have to evaluate the chance of success and the price of failure.
Mr. Kissinger: We don't have to back up the Paks. It's not outrageous to ask that Yahya be given four weeks to try to adjust the political situation in East Pakistan. What is India doing other than pressing an attack on East Pakistan with a view to settling the hash of West Pakistan?
Mr. Sisco: I agree.
Mr. Kissinger: And we haven't mentioned China. What will be the effect if, the first time something like this happens where China is involved, the U.S. doesn't make some move. You (to Sisco) say we have two choices—do nothing or press Yahya to release Mujib.
Mr. Sisco: No. We still have a heavy cannon to use with India. We have shot one cannon in the approach to the Foreign Minister. But we are limited in what we can do.
Mr. Irwin: We could raise the level of the approach to the Prime Minister, or we could cut off aid. State doesn't think we should cut off aid right now.
Mr. Kissinger: When should we do it? If the Indians go deeper, you will say it's too late.
Mr. Packard: We can watch the situation carefully and should have a better fix in a day or two.
Mr. Kissinger: Did we get the State paper on military aid?
Mr. Saunders: We got a paper from the Pentagon but not from State.
Mr. Kissinger: Why not?
Mr. Irwin: We did a paper and had a two-hour meeting with the Secretary on it yesterday. He asked that it be expanded, which is being done, and it will come over to you.“
Mr. Kissinger: You can't accuse the White House of acting unilaterally, if you don't get your papers here. We will meet tomorrow.
5 Reference is to a November 24 memorandum from Laird to Kissinger that summarized the status of U.S. military sales and grants to India. Laird noted that, except for training, direct grant aid for India had been suspended since 1965 and $2.8 million of an $8.8 million grant to support a highway project remained to be delivered. There was also over $24 million in approved military sales in the pipeline to India. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 597, Country Files, Middle East, India, Vol. IV, 1 Jul–30 Nov 71)
Sent on November 24 as a memorandum to Kissinger, the Department of State assessed military sales and economic assistance programs for India, noting that military sales to India were limited to non-lethal items, which included ammunition, and put the total of approved military sales in the pipeline to India at over $20 million. The memorandum noted that approximately $38 million in approved PL-480 economic assistance remained to be delivered to India, and added that a new PL-480 agreement in the amount of $72 million had been tentatively approved within the executive branch. (Ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-082, Senior WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 11/24/71)
199. Editorial Note
President Nixon, Secretary of State Rogers, and National Security Assistant Kissinger met in the Oval Office of the White House at 12:30 p.m. on November 24, 1971, to discuss developments in South Asia in light of the expanding conflict in East Pakistan. Rogers began the conversation by denying that there was any difference in perspective on South Asia between the White House and the Department of State and offering his assessment of how the United States should respond to the crisis. “First, it seems to me we should engage in the maximum diplomatic efforts to do everything we can to caution restraint on both sides at the highest level always so that everyone can look at the record and see that we have done everything that we can diplomatically. Secondly, I think that our relations with Yahya are good and should continue to be good and we should continue to keep very close to him. Three, I don't think we should try to mastermind a political solution. I never thought so. I don't think it is possible and I think he [Yahya) is coming to the conclusion that something has to be done politically.” Rogers went on: “He is going to have to do it on his own." He added: “I think he is going to be forced to do something, either that or he is going to get out. There is the possibility that he will turn over to Bhutto, which would not be a good development. . . . I think the thing we have to face up to, and not make any decisions so this is not to ask you to decide anything, but I think, I want to express my view that I think it is probably going to get worse. I don't see any solution for—so I think our principal objective should be to do what we can to prevent fighting from breaking out."
Nixon referred to news reports on the fighting in East Pakistan and asked if the Indians were still denying that they had divisions fighting there. Rogers responded that they were denying it and that while they did not have divisions involved, India was in East Pakistan in brigade strength. Kissinger noted that the Indian brigades were supported by artillery, air, and armor. Rogers concluded that India would "get more involved" in the fighting in East Pakistan and that Pakistan's position would progressively deteriorate. "I think we have to face the fact that Yahya's position militarily is extremely weak. He's got 60–80 thousand men in East Pakistan.” Nixon interjected: “He'll be demolished there." Rogers pointed to the logistical problems confronted by Pakistan. “It is a 2500 mile flight" to resupply the troops in East Pakistan. “The logistics, you know, are impossible .... My own judgment is that probably it will get worse, and probably we will have to face up to the fact that it will get worse." He added: "Our ability to affect the course of events is quite limited." Rogers noted that he had instructed Department of State officials to delay processing export licenses to
India and not to make any commitments on economic assistance to India. But he felt that these were effectively symbolic gestures that would not serve to deter India: “The leverage we have on India is very minimal. If we take some action against them, which you might decide to do, it would be symbolic rather than substantive."
There was inconclusive discussion about whether anything would be gained by submitting the crisis to the United Nations Security Council. Nixon then reverted to Rogers' observation that the United States appeared to be limited to symbolic gestures in attempting to restrain India. “I know it can be said that it won't do any good, and we don't have any leverage, and it's only symbolic and the rest. But on the other hand, I want you to look into what we could do that is symbolic because “I think we need some symbolism." He recognized the realities of the situation: “Looking at the balance there, the Indians are going to win. ... Pakistan will disintegrate." It was therefore “very much in our interest to get the damned thing cooled if we can. . . . Under those circumstances, it seems to me that, clearly apart from the fact that Yahya has been more decent to us than she has, clearly apart from that, I think that our policy wherever we can should definitely be tilted toward Pakistan, and not toward India. I think India is more at fault. . . . Having said that, it seems to me that our whole game has got to be played if
you could find something symbolic to do I think it really has to be ... (He did not complete this thought.] She knows that we did not shoot blanks when she was here. Maybe it doesn't mean anything .... In terms of the merits of the situation, to the extent that we can tilt it toward Pakistan, I would prefer to play that. That's where the UN game comes in." Rogers felt that if the issue was taken up by the United Nations “Pakistan will come off better than India."
Rogers “agreed fully” that the United States should tilt toward Pakistan. The question was how to do it. He felt there were several possibilities. “One would be right now we'd just announce that we're not going to grant any more export licenses. ... We actually could embargo everything in the pipeline. ... We may have $10 or $15 million worth in the pipeline, ... military equipment. ... We could say that we're not going to permit economic assistance [to be] committed, it's about $11 million worth. It's insignificant. I think that would be probably not a wise thing to do because we're going to have to provide help for them for the refugees anyway." Rogers added that “300 and some odd million is done in irrevocable letters of credit, so we can't get out of that." Nixon said “I just may want to take a hard line on that.” Kissinger agreed with Rogers that it would be hard to finesse the letters of credit that had been issued.
Whatever the constraints, Nixon was determined to do something that might serve to restrain India: “I feel that we ought to do some