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313. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Pakistan

(Farland) to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)"

Islamabad, December 15, 1971, 1436Z.

1096. Foreign Secretary called me to Foreign Office 1800 local 15 December. Said reports received from Bhutto indicate he highly pessimistic that any affirmative action will be forthcoming from Security Council. In addition, GOP intelligence indicates GOI upping offensive activity against West Pakistan and instigating subversive activity (presumably in Pushtun border areas) out of Afghanistan. He said that for West Pakistan to survive as nation it is necessary it be provided additional fighter aircraft. Present trickle MIG-19s and F-104s (he did not indicate origin) cannot stem the tide if India attacks—an attack which Pakistan now expects.

1 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 426, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages 1971, Amb. Farland, Pakistan. Top Secret; Exclusive; Eyes Only. A handwritten note on the message, in an unknown hand, reads: "briefed Haig.” Copies were sent to Haig and Saunders.

314. Letter From the Indian Ambassador (Jha) to President Nixon

Washington, December 15, 1971.


I have the honour to convey to Your Excellency the following message from Her Excellency the Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi:

"Dear Mr. President,

I am writing at a moment of deep anguish at the unhappy turn which the relations between our two countries have taken.

I am setting aside all pride, prejudice and passion and trying, as calmly as I can, to analyse once again the origins of the tragedy which is being enacted.


Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence File, India (1971). No classification marking.

There are moments in history when brooding tragedy and its dark shadows can be lightened by recalling great moments of the past. One such great moment which has inspired millions of people to die for liberty was the Declaration of Independence by the United States of America. That Declaration stated that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of man's inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, it was the right of the people to alter or abolish it.

All unprejudiced persons objectively surveying the grim events in Bangla Desh since March 25 have recognised the revolt of 75 million people, a people who were forced to the conclusion that neither their life, nor their liberty, to say nothing of the possibility of the pursuit of happiness, was available to them. The world press, radio and television have faithfully recorded the story. The most perceptive of American scholars who are knowledgeable about the affairs of this subContinent revealed the anatomy of East Bengal's frustrations.

The tragic war, which is continuing, could have been averted if during the nine months prior to Pakistan's attack on us on December 3, the great leaders of the world had paid some attention to the fact of revolt, tried to see the reality of the situation and searched for a genuine basis for reconciliation. I wrote letters along these lines. I undertook a tour in quest of peace at a time when it was extremely difficult to leave, in the hope of presenting to some of the leaders of the world the situation as I saw it. It was heartbreaking to find that while there was sympathy for the poor refugees, the disease itself was ignored.

War could also have been avoided if the power, influence and authority of all the States and above all the United States, had got Sheikh Mujibur Rahman released. Instead, we were told that a civilian administration was being installed. Everyone knows that this civilian administration was a farce; today the farce has turned into a tragedy.

Lip service was paid to the need for a political solution, but not a single worthwhile step was taken to bring this about. Instead, the rulers of West Pakistan went ahead holding farcical elections to seats which had been arbitrarily declared vacant.

There was not even a whisper that anyone from the outside world, had tried to have contact with Mujibur Rahman. Our earnest plea that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman should be released, or that, even if he were to be kept under detention, contact with him might be established, was not considered practical on the ground that the US could not urge policies which might lead to the overthrow of President Yahya Khan. While the United States recognised that Mujib was a core factor in the situation and that unquestionably in the long run Pakistan must acquiesce in the direction of greater autonomy for East Pakistan, arguments were advanced to demonstrate the fragility of the situation and of Yahya Khan's difficulty.

Mr. President, may I ask you in all sincerity: Was the release or even secret negotiations with a single human being, namely, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, more disastrous than the waging of a war?

The fact of the matter is that the rulers of West Pakistan got away with the impression that they could do what they liked because no one, not even the United States, would choose to take a public position that while Pakistan's integrity was certainly sacrosanct, human rights, liberty were no less so and that there was a necessary inter-connection between the inviolability of States and the contentment of their people.

Mr. President, despite the continued defiance by the rulers of Pakistan of the most elementary facts of life, we would still have tried our hardest to restrain the mounting pressure as we had for nine long months, and war could have been prevented had the rulers of Pakistan not launched a massive attack on us by bombing our airfields in Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipur, Utterlai, Jodhpur, Ambala and Agra in the broad day light on December 3, 1971 at a time when I was away in Calcutta my colleague, the Defence Minister, was in Patna and was due to leave further for Bangalore in the South and another senior colleague of mine, the Foreign Minister, was in Bombay. The fact that this initiative was taken at this particular time of our absence from the Capital showed perfidious intentions. In the face of this, could we simply sit back trusting that the rulers of Pakistan or those who were advising them, had peaceful, constructive and reasonable intent?

We are asked what we want. We seek nothing for ourselves. We do not want any territory of what was East Pakistan and now constitutes Bangla Desh. We do not want any territory of West Pakistan. We do want lasting peace with Pakistan. But will Pakistan give up its ceaseless and yet pointless agitation of the past 24 years over Kashmir? Are they willing to give up their hate campaign posture of perpetual hostility towards India? How many times in the last 24 years have my father and I offered a pact of non-aggression to Pakistan? It is a matter of recorded history that each time such offer was made, Pakistan rejected it out of hand.

We are deeply hurt by the innuendos and insinuations that it was we who have precipitated the crisis and have in any way thwarted the emergence of solutions. I do not really know who is responsible for this calumny. During my visit to the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria and Belgium the point I emphasized, publicly as well as privately, was the immediate need for a political settlement. We waited nine months for it. When Dr. Kissinger came in August 1971,2 I had emphasized to him the importance of seeking an early


Kissinger visited India in July rather than August; see Documents 90-94.


political settlement. But we have not received, even to this day, the barest framework of a settlement which would take into account the facts as they are and not as we imagine them to be.

Be that as it may, it is my earnest and sincere hope that with all the knowledge and deep understanding of human affairs you, as President of the United States and reflecting the will, the aspirations and idealism of the great American people, will at least let me know where precisely we have gone wrong before your representatives or spokesmen deal with us with such harshness of language.

With regards and best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Indira Gandhi."
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.

L.K. Jha

315. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President

Nixon and the President's Assistant for National Security
Affairs (Kissinger)

December 15, 1971, 5:55 p.m.

K: Mr. President.
P: Henry, I was in the state of play. I just got out of the water.

K: Isn't that great. You certainly need it. I never had a chance to give you a report from Vorontsov. I gave him a draft letter to Kosygin asking for joint action to stop the fighting. I told him we put it forward to not get any additional confrontations. I also said they could [should?) support the British Resolution which is really at the very edge, well beyond the edge of what is tolerable.

P: Oh, I see.

K: Now the Indians are unbelievable. The Indians are demanding the UN agree for the turnover of authority to the Bangla Desh. Now


Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking. The President traveled to Key Biscayne, Florida, on the afternoon of December 15 and remained there through December 16; Kissinger was in Washington.

See the attachment to Document 312.


that would make the UN an active participant in aggression. I don't think we can agree to this.

P: No.

K: Now the Soviets have just told the British they would veto the British Resolution. If this plays out that way we may really have to ask ourselves what the Soviets are up to.

P: That could be. Although they just may have a very, very hot potato on their hands with the Indians.

K: That could be but the political outcome would be the same either way. They have already humiliated the Chinese beyond expression and they will humiliate us but we don't have to face that yet.

P: Yes.

K: We did get a message from the Germans urgently asking to examine the West situation and that fighting must be brought to a stop.

P: And now we have a veto of the British Resolution.
K: It hasn't been done yet.
P: Well, that lines up the British on our side.

K: Cromer showed me a message he sent to Mrs. Gandhi and it was really tough.

P: Good. We shouldn't be too discouraged in some sense.

K: John Chancellor told me that he would feature the Pakistani side tonight. I think Bhutto made a very moving speech in the Security Council.

P: Yes, I heard about that.

K: Cromer is delighted by what we did in the Azores. He said it is one of the greatest steps forward we did. A great act of statesmanship.

P: He did. Good. Incidentally the meeting with the leaders went very well and they are all happy. They were totally acquiescent so Connally has a complete running room to negotiate over the weekend.

K: Well, you did a great job, Mr. President.

P: So the letter to the Soviets really didn't settle the thing then as far as you are concerned?

K: No and that is what is so revolting; that is what we have to ask ourselves. Now I agree they may have a bear by the tail and that is what we have to be concerned about. All they promised is no attack on West Pakistan, but that does not include Kashmir. I talked to Maury

3 Chancellor was a correspondent for the National Broadcasting Company.
Reference is to the draft letter cited in footnote 2 above.


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