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Mr. Noyes: Once the monsoon season starts it will be very difficult for West Pakistan to get food to the countryside.
Mr. Sisco: This is another reason why an international mechanism would be better.
Mr. Kissinger: Has this been raised with them?
Mr. Sisco: Yes. We have suggested to the Pakistanis that they give it some thought. We have pointed out that it would be in their interest, and that the US would help in any international effort.
Mr. Kissinger: Are they asking us to help now?
Mr. Sisco: The problem won't arise for some time but we need to be ready when it does arise.
Mr. Irwin: The timing is uncertain.
Mr. Van Hollen: We are laying out these various dilemmas in the paper.
Mr. Kissinger: Who is we? Is the IG doing the paper? (to Saunders) Are you participating?
Mr. Sisco: It will be an IG paper and we have been in touch with Hal (Saunders] all the way. I see the paper coming to the SRG and, if necessary, to the NSC.
Mr. Kissinger: This issue will have to go to the NSC. We will schedule another SRG meeting next week on the basis of the IG paper. We should also get a draft reply to the letter from Yahya even though we may not send it.
Mr. Van Hollen: We have done a draft.
Mr. Sisco: We have done a hand-holding draft, but we want to give it a little more thought. I think we need to sort ourselves out on some fundamental questions first. It is difficult to have the President write a letter to Yahya in which he does not opt one way or the other in the present situation.
Mr. Kissinger: Let's get ourselves in a position so that, if the President gets restless about the Yahya letter, because he does have a special feeling about Yahya, we can get the text of the reply to him quickly.
Mr. Van Hollen: The Yahya letter to the President was substantially similar to that he sent to other heads of state. There was nothing special about his letter to the President.
Mr. Kissinger: We will have another SRG on this next Wednesday? or Thursday.
Brackets in the source text.
Memorandum for the Record
Washington, April 9, 1971.
40 Committee Meeting-April 9
Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
Following a Senior Review Group meeting on Ceylon and Pakistan, the meeting moved into executive session at the request of the CIA member in order to consider an item appropriate to the 40 Committee.
General Cushman began by summarizing a request that had been received (less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which had been circulated in a short memo before the meeting (attached). This was a request for CIA provision of unmarked small arms (less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to provide to the "freedom fighters" in East Pakistan. General Cushman remarked that the Agency had a secure channel through which it could deliver such weapons but that his personal opinion was that this operation would not remain secret much beyond that. He noted that Director Helms did not favor the project.
In response to Dr. Kissinger's query, the following views were expressed:
-Mr. Irwin was “reluctant."
-Admiral Moorer felt that it would be "very wrong" to be working on both sides of the East Pakistani issue at once.
-General Cushman felt that an affirmative response would prejudge the larger policy issue which the Senior Review Group had been discussing.
-Dr. Kissinger summarized by saying that he felt the President would never approve this project.
Source: National Security Council Files, 40 Committee, Minutes—1971. Secret; Sensitive.
2 See Document 23.
Mr. Sisco said that he felt the Indians were “testing us." It is one thing, he noted, for the U.S. to close its eyes to reports of clandestine Indian support for the East Pakistani resistance movement but quite another thing for the U.S. to collude with the Indians in this supply.
Dr. Kissinger stated his assumption that the U.S. could not, in any case, deliver enough equipment to make a difference in the outcome in East Pakistan. He assumed, in any case, that the Indians would have sufficient stocks to supply any small arms that might be needed.
Mr. Blee said that the Indians do not have a large enough quantity of unmarked, unattributable weapons to supply what the East Pakistanis need in the quantities they need, so there would be a need if someone wanted this done. On the other hand, he did not see how Indian supply could make a difference in the outcome of the contest between the leftists and the moderates to gain control over the East Pakistani nationalist movement. He felt that it was a foregone conclusion that the leftists would win out.
Dr. Kissinger said that that is a very serious judgment which should be taken into account in our policy considerations. If we feel that, under present circumstances, the radicals are likely to take over, that could affect our judgment about the necessity of bringing the civil war to an end. He continued that, if the U.S. had been presented with a choice on March 25, it would certainly have urged President Yahya not to take a military course of action. But he recalled that everyone had been taken by surprise when the negotiations broke down and Yahya turned to military action.
Mr. Sisco noted that the U.S. and President Yahya both have a large stake in the preservation of moderate leadership in East Pakistan. He noted that he had said privately to Ambassador Hilaly that Pakistan has some interest in allowing those whom it had jailed to play a role in establishing a moderate leadership in East Pakistan. He noted that he had said privately to Ambassador Hilaly that Pakistan has some interest in allowing those whom it had jailed to play a role in establishing a moderate leadership in East Pakistan. In response to a question from Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Sisco felt that CIA much earlier than State had indicated the likelihood of President Yahya's taking recourse to military action. State had been much more inclined to see a negotiated settlement and therefore had worried less about this issue before March 25.
Mr. Blee noted that the main opposition to Mujibur Rahman was leftist. The moderate leadership was now mostly in jail or dead. He concluded by noting that President Yahya is trying to crank up a “quizzling leadership," and Mr. Sisco described Ambassador Hilaly's present line about how Yahya is planning to concede the "six points” to East Pakistani leadership. Dr. Kissinger wondered why Yahya would have tried a military solution if he had expected to end up conceding
anyway. Mr. Blee surmised that the army had misjudged its ability to subdue East Pakistan quickly.
The discussion then turned to what the Indians want. Dr. Kissinger noted that in earlier sessions of the SRG it had been assumed that the Indians wanted a unified Pakistan. Mr. Blee replied that he felt what the Indians had really wanted was a very loose confederal relationship between East and West Pakistan.
Mr. Irwin noted that the Indians had proposed rescheduling the US-Indian bilateral talks—postponed from January because of the election-for May 24–25. He noted the problem of going to New Delhi without stopping in Islamabad. Mr. Saunders noted the difficulty of going to New Delhi if the East Pakistani insurgency were continuing and the West Pakistanis were holding India responsible for fueling it.
Dr. Kissinger showed great reservation, noted that the President had a special feeling about Pakistan and said he felt this problem would have to be checked with the President.
Comment: The assumption underlying the discussion after Dr. Kissinger asked individuals' views on the Indian request was that there was no question of approving it.
President Nixon met in the Oval Office of the White House with Henry Kissinger and H. R. Haldeman on the morning of April 12, 1971, to discuss developments in Pakistan. Kissinger began by observing that “the Dacca consulate is in open rebellion." Nixon and Kissinger expressed concern about the possibility of the United States becoming involved in the emerging civil war in Pakistan. Kissinger's assessment was that if the United States were to support the insurgents in East Pakistan "we get West Pakistan turned against us, and ... the Bengalis are going to go left anyway." Nixon agreed: “If we get in the middle of that thing it would be a hell of a mistake." He observed that: "The people who bitch about Vietnam bitch about it because we intervened in what they say is a civil war.” “Now some of those same bastards ... want us to intervene here—both civil wars."
Kissinger said that the same people wanted the United States to cut off economic assistance to Pakistan. He judged that their argument was made for "pure doctrinaire reasons," and in response to the loud complaints coming from India about the situation in East Pakistan. “But India is screaming," Kissinger added, “because they are scared to death of their own Bengalis. Deep down the Indians don't really want an independent East Pakistan because within ten years of that the West Bengalis are going to start bringing pressure on them for autonomy." He concluded: “It's a classic situation for us to stay out of.” He added: "For us to cut off aid would infuriate the West Pakistanis." (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Haldeman, April 12, 1971, 10:24– 10:33 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 477–1)
Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National
Washington, April 13, 1971.
Policy Review on Pakistan
Secretary Rogers has sent you the attached memo? saying that the time has come to "re-examine our basic stance toward Pakistan." He cites the need to keep our options open in case East Pakistan becomes independent and to examine our relative priorities between India and Pakistan and the interplay of U.S. interests with those of Communist China and the Soviets in South Asia. To this end, the Secretary has ordered the Interdepartmental Group for the Near East and South Asia to conduct an "urgent review” of U.S. policy toward Pakistan and to make recommendations for consideration by the Senior Review Group and possibly by the NSC.
The situation in Pakistan is changing, and the Senior Review Group met Friday morning to discuss our posture in light of these new developments. You will soon be called upon to make some decisions on our economic aid and military supply programs for Pakistan
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-053, SRG Meeting, Pakistan 4/9/71. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
Dated April 7; attached but not printed.