214. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State0

2178. Harriman talks with Nehru.

Harriman met Prime Minister Nehru four times; courtesy call shortly after arrival November 22; November 23 with Ambassador, [Page 415] Nitze, Kaysen and M.J. Desai present; November 25 alone and November 28 with Ambassador. At November 23 meeting in response Harriman question Nehru said ChiCom primary purpose to humiliate India. Nehru then reviewed history of border dispute, recalling Chou En-lai December 1956 statement to Nehru he would accept McMahon line de facto and Chou’s later denial of statement; Chou’s 1956 offer trade NEFA status quo for ChiCom Ladakh claims which Nehru rejected; unproductive talks by officials following Nehru’s rejection Chou’s offer. Nehru observed that Aksai Chin and road valuable to ChiComs but rest Ladakh had no value. Harriman asked whether India had ever made offer to ChiComs on that corner Ladakh. Nehru said no, explained his offer of mutual withdrawal to line claimed by other side after which India prepared let ChiComs use road for civil purposes; said this offer repeated May 1962. Nehru emphasized India in undisputed possession NEFA for 50 years whatever ChiComs said about legal basis McMahon line. ChiCom attack in NEFA obviously required long preparation. Nehru several times said ChiCom intention was to deliver hard blow and make it [an?] agreement, then use time prepare for next blow and repeat pattern. Thus October 20 attack followed by October 24 offer, November 15 attack followed by November 21 cease fire. Nehru said India sure ChiComs would look forward to prolongation of truce for while.

Harriman asked whether ChiComs would carry discussions through if initiated now or break off. Nehru replied ChiComs would carry through if they could get agreement favorable them. Harriman asked what Nehru intended do in immediate future. Nehru replied cease-fire now in effect and he assumed ChiComs will withdraw December 1. It Nehru’s understanding India could not go into territory vacated by ChiComs. M.J. Desai intervened say India could keep troops up to 20 kilometers south McMahon line and send administrative and police personnel up to line. Ambassador asked whether there had been any actual withdrawals yet. Nehru said there had; Desai said only in Ladakh but in NEFAChiComs only had said they prepared withdraw. Harriman asked what would happen December 1. Nehru said ChiComs would withdraw and wait for India act. Harriman asked what would happen if India did nothing to which Nehru replied ChiComs would still withdraw. Nehru added it would be foolish for India march forward. Harriman asked whether Nehru inclined change his position on ChiCom offer expressed in his letter of November 14. Nehru said he would not accept ChiCom offer; he must say something but offer had previously been rejected. Ambassador asked about other possibilities, noting that ChiComs had best of propaganda in Afro-Asian countries and suggesting India might call for neutral observers with or without involving UN. Further discussion ChiCom proposal followed and Harriman asked whether cease-fire would last indefinitely if India made no response ChiCom offer. Nehru[Page 416]replied that ChiComs would probably advance further after some interval. Nehru mentioned difficult situation created by Brahmaputra river strike in East Pakistan and its effects on tea exports.

Harriman asked whether Nehru had decided give answer to ChiComs and if so what would he say. Nehru said he obviously had to answer. In three or four days he would say something and raise various objections. Harriman and Ambassador referred to public presentation Indian case and importance of making reasonable counter offer to put onus on ChiComs. At moment ChiComs look reasonable and this advantage had to be taken away from them. Desai reviewed ChiCom offer in Ladakh and indicated why he thought it unacceptable. Nitze gave his preliminary view that it would take at least until end of next year for Indians to get into good military position.

Second Harriman meeting with Nehru alone November 25 was for primary purpose discussing India-Pak relations and possibility of Kashmir settlement. Harriman explained there two aspects: 1) immediate problem of calming Ayub and Paks from their emotional binge against India and US and pro-China; 2) long-run problem of defense of subcontinent; said unless tensions relieved US position untenable if it was asked give aid both Pakistan and India with part of aid being used for defense against the other. In response first point Nehru said he could not make further gesture towards Ayub. He had written letter he considered cordial and had had no reply. In addition, India had been humiliated by ChiCom attack and public opinion would not stand for further humiliation in making concessions to Pakistan. When pressed on this point Nehru went into considerable detail on history negotiations with Pakistan over Kashmir and constant failure reach agreement on any basis acceptable to India. If GOI were now to make concessions public would not stand for it. In fact it might touch off violent communal rioting endangering lives of 40 million Indian Muslims. Harriman said number of Nehru’s colleagues indicated they thought time right for settlement. Discussion at some length followed on possible basis for settlement. Nehru rejected giving half to Pakistan or independent status for Kashmir but agreed some arrangements such as those proposed by M.J. Desai and Ambassador Galbraith might be acceptable. Harriman pressed Nehru on immediate importance relieving tensions and suggested discussions might begin between two governments. At first Nehru rejected this on grounds that if discussions failed it would make situation even worse. He finally agreed that if Ayub were willing he would join in starting negotiations preferably on Ministerial level.

Nehru indicated that present not best time for settlement from standpoint Indian opinion but agreed that more favorable climate might develop. This climate might be encouraged if Ayub and his colleagues would make some friendly gesture towards India to offset torrent of [Page 417] abuse which had poured forth since ChiCom aggression. Harriman asked Nehru think over situation and expressed hope Nehru could arm him with some proposal before his departure for Pakistan on November 28.

Harriman raised subject Nehru’s request to President for air assistance. Nehru said he not pressing matter now as he did not believe ChiComs would attack at least for some months. He thought ChiComs wanted make deal and cited in support this view that ChiComs pressing Afro-Asian bloc to bring pressure on India. Harriman said our military were discussing air assistance request with British and Indian Air Force. If anything to be provided Commonwealth countries should come in first. Harriman explained subject being discussed without commitment.

Harriman told Nehru that Duncan Sandys had been informed by Morarji Desai that Soviets had definitely declined supply MIGs. Nehru replied that Desai could not have had latest information and what he had told Sandys must have been based on earlier talk by Indian Ambassador Moscow with a Soviet Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Recently Khrushchev assured Indian Ambassador that MIG factory would be delivered in couple of years and in meantime the few MIGs under discussion would be delivered in ample time for training purposes. Nehru gave impression he trying minimize importance of matter. Meeting lasted little less than hour. At parting Nehru thanked Harriman again for US aid and promptness of US response to India’s request.

At final meeting with Nehru November 28 Harriman and Ambassador stressed to Nehru Ayub’s domestic difficulties and urged it in India’s interest work out settlement with Paks. Also pointed out to Nehru necessity of devising formula that would help Ayub domestically and strengthen him against his critics there. Nehru said he amenable talks but indicated he had very limited concept in mind such as adjustment cease fire line. Ambassador said this not enough. By end of talks Nehru agreed he willing enter talks with open mind and without pre-conditions. Harriman impression of last meeting was that Nehru had become clearer minded and more down to earth than he had been at earlier meetings.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 120.1591/11-3062. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Karachi, Hong Kong, London, and Moscow.