230. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Sino-Indian Dispute


  • U.S.
  • The President
  • Mr. Harriman, Assistant Secretary FE
  • Mr. Talbot, Assistant Secretary NEA
  • Mr. Nitze, Assistant Secretary Defense ISA
  • Ambassador Galbraith
  • Mr. William Bundy, Deputy Assistant Secretary Defense ISA
  • British
  • Prime Minister Macmillan
  • Lord Home
  • Mr. Duncan Sandys, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Colonies
  • Mr. Pickard, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Relations Office

The President opened the discussion of the Agenda Item on the Sino-Indian dispute with mention of the Indian High Commissioner’s approach to the Prime Minister and Ambassador B.K. Nehru’s approach to him1 just before the Nassau talks. Ambassador Nehru had complained that the Pakistanis were behaving badly and had urged the United States not to expect much progress on the Kashmir issue. He himself feared that in two or three months India would blame the UK and the US for making a Kashmir settlement their price for providing military aid.

Ambassador Galbraith saw the immediate danger as an impasse between India and Pakistan, since both cannot possess the Valley of Kashmir. In considering the next steps he felt it should be kept clearly in mind that the principal gain of the new situation is in getting India out of its somewhat feckless mood and turned against the Chinese danger to the world. He felt some concern that in Washington, at least, the great problem seems to be Kashmir rather than China. Mr. Duncan Sandys had achieved a great gain in getting the talks started. Now the problem was to keep the talks going and to keep them from heading into a direct confrontation over the issue of who owns or should own the Valley. One way might be to feed a variety of ideas into the two governments. In the short run India must learn that it must make its case to the American public and Congress, who are concerned about progress on Kashmir. The Congress [Page 449] would not support two sides of the dispute. We must not however tell the Indians that further help is conditioned on a Kashmir settlement. This approach would get their back up and would enable them to assert that the US and the UK are forcing them to compromise Kashmir.

Mr. William Bundy reported that in London the US and UK teams had agreed to recommend that the US and the UK/Commonwealth provide equipment necessary to convert six Indian Army divisions to mountain units, to help India’s airlift capacity, and to improve India’s air combat ability within the scope of India’s present type of aircraft. These judgments had been reached on the basis that the contributions of the US and of the UK/Commonwealth would be roughly equivalent within a ceiling of $60,000,000 for each side and that both the US and UK would encourage other nations to assist India as well. In London the parties had agreed to give the financial figures to the Indians. Subsequently, in Washington, it was decided we had better not tell the Indians at this time just how much money we plan to commit to the emergency phase. On the question of giving this information to Pakistan, it was left open to our representative there. The group had not thought these amounts would prove unpalatable to Pakistan.

The President asked whether this would add any divisions to the Indian Army. Mr. Bundy replied that it would not explicitly do so, though the Indians might well add some divisions outside the US-UK assistance plan.

On air defense, Mr. Bundy said that it was envisaged that a team would go out promptly to look at radar and communications matters and at the possibility of rotating squadrons, perhaps four in number, into India. The President asked questions to confirm that the idea was that the team should go out and that consideration was being given to four squadrons, evenly divided between the US and the Commonwealth, which perhaps would move in and out of India rather than staying there all the time. He observed that their role would be limited to air defense.

Ambassador Galbraith suggested that we should have some understanding with the GOI that it would consult with the UK and US on any decision to commit air squadrons to action. He had pointed out this fact to Foreign Minister Desai who had commented that it sounded reasonable.

Mr. Duncan Sandys called the question of air squadrons a very big issue. The UK-US talks seem to have gone quite a long way toward agreement on helping during an emergency phase. We want always to emphasize that we expect the Indians to do what they can do themselves, with production, etc., and that this will involve sacrifice on their part as well as on ours. It would undoubtedly also involve some slowing down of activities on the civil side. He regarded the agreement that the U.S. and U.K./Commonwealth keep to $60,000,000 for each as a reasonable [Page 450] development. On describing these terms to the Indians, he felt we must play the matter by ear. At the beginning, it would be best not to tell them the exact amounts but we must give them some idea of the dimensions of assistance as they are getting quite big ideas about what is possible. On air defense, he believed it was right to send a mission but wished to make it clear that this did not represent any commitment. Assistance in air defense could easily become a very large commitment. Although we are going on to help the Indian Army through the emergency phase without an Indian commitment on Kashmir, we must make it clear that assistance on the air defense would be impossible without some settlement with Pakistan. Big issues are raised by the question of air squadrons. It is one thing to give rifles, mortars, etc., but another to allow them to base their military plans on the expectation of the UK and the US providing planes to shoot Chinese. That would mean we would be faced with either letting them down or getting involved in war at their choosing. This could be difficult.

Continuing, Mr. Duncan Sandys said that in getting into defense planning the Indians will find that no plan makes sense unless it embraces the defense of the entire subcontinent. He felt they would take this fact better from the military than from political representatives. Therefore, our military people should keep pressing this issue. Also, the defense build up, as the Indians see it, may prove to be much greater than India’s capacity to accomplish, even with Western help. This leads to the conclusion that the only economically possible way of defending India is to bring India within the general umbrella of the Western defense community as we have done with the members of SEATO and CENTO. This does not necessarily mean that India should become a member of one of the Pacts; possibly that would be politically bad. However, it must be made clear to the Chinese Communists that India has become part of our defense area.

Mr. Sandys added that the immediate need on Kashmir is to avoid having the parties come quickly to the crunch. Rather, they should go slowly. We should try to avoid their breaking down in the early meetings because of a precise confrontation at the outset. If the talks go on, we can probably exercise a certain amount of influence, partly through official channels and partly through carefully selected visitors—a steady drip of opinion expressed by different people in different places emphasizing the importance we attach to a settlement and the very serious difficulties that would confront us in the absence of a settlement. The first move would obviously need to be made by the Indians, and that is what we must concentrate on. The Indians believe now that something could be done; this is not merely Nehru’s idea but that of such people as the Defense Minister, military officers, etc. It is quite fertile ground in which to sow this seed. At some stage, if the talks bog down, without linking the [Page 451] points we could perhaps let deliveries of emergency phase military equipment slow down. The handling of the air mission can be an important influence too.

Ambassador Galbraith observed that it was important to realize that we must do more than talk of the desirability of a settlement. This is already agreed to in India and in Pakistan. The question is, what settlement; India and Pakistan both want the Valley. We won’t advance chances of a settlement by making threats. We must remember that the specific settlement is not in the minds of either side now and will come about only through extensive talks if at all. We must also remember that the Kashmir effort is at best a long shot, comparable to the Israel-Arab dispute.

On air defense, Ambassador Galbraith noted that it is expensive. The Indian demand is related to the awful nakedness of the cities, and as non-military people the Indians are acutely conscious of this. Air defense thus is a protection to the country. US-UK involvement would be a deterrent force, more than a protective force. The proposals that have been made in this field will work out more cheaply than would an independent Indian air force. It would be also easier with the Pakistanis for us to take this road. We should know that the introduction into India of C-130s with American crews was no problem to the Pakistanis, but if we had given the C-130s to the Indians the Pakistanis would have been furious. The idea of having US and UK squadrons in India would have the same advantage. It would also effectively bring India under the US-UK umbrella.

Mr. Duncan Sandys agreed with the last point but commented that the impression would be left that a non-allied country gets better defense protection from the West than does an ally. Also, he felt that this course of action could get us into a war with China in circumstances which we would not control. Mr. Bundy acknowledged that this could happen but observed that the proposed plan would also be a commitment to keep Indian air action within tactical limitations. Mr. Sandys responded that we also need to be careful not to create a situation in which the Pakistanis would feel that other countries would get all the benefits and more of Western help without ceasing to be non-aligned. That is what the Pakistanis are saying. Mr. Sandys had pointed out in reply that the difference is that if a country like Pakistan is in a Pact with the West, there is less chance that it will be attacked by a Communist country, as India had been attacked.

Governor Harriman said he felt we had not been thinking enough about how to deal with the Pakistanis. There will be a strong reaction in Pakistan. Unless the US and the UK representatives can tell the Pakistanis that we are pressing India hard, there will be trouble. The Pakistanis on their side ought to come away from their extreme position and [Page 452] begin to work seriously at the problem of a practical solution to the Kashmir issue. They perhaps should come quietly to a moderate position, e.g., that they will not insist on a plebiscite. He felt that unless the two countries come together, we will not have a situation in South Asia worth supporting. He agreed that we do not tell the Indians how far we will commit ourselves to their aid, but rather watch the situation carefully, because unless there is progress we cannot go forward.

The President asked what the chance would be that India would make a deal with the Chinese if we press India on Kashmir. Governor Harriman replied that when he and his Mission were in Delhi the Indians were showing themselves to be strongly anti-Chinese. He felt that our target should be joint defense of the subcontinent. When Indians began to realize the enormous costs involved in the defense against the Chinese, he was confident they would see the advantage of making a settlement with Pakistan.

Lord Home observed that we must be extraordinarily careful in dealing with this problem. He thought that the Pakistanis could be close to a decision to leave CENTO.

Governor Harriman felt there would be trouble if we tell the Pakistanis cold what our plans are for military assistance to India. He believed that General Adams, who had gained the high respect of Ayub and other Pakistanis, might have to go out again.

Prime Minister Macmillan said that what worries him is that, as so often before, we support the people who are troublesome, such as Nehru and Krishna Menon, and abandon the people who support us. He was sure it would be dangerous if we let Ayub feel we are abandoning him. The equal danger is that India may be overrun. Nehru, he feared, might be a bit more uppish now that the Chinese have gone away. He liked the idea that we should start slowly and not go ahead building up armies of the people who for 12 years or more have attacked us, have trumpeted the benefits of being non-aligned, have helped build up the neutralist Afro-Asian Bloc, and who have been, how should he say it, contemptuous—like a camel looking down his nose at you.

Governor Harriman reiterated that we must be careful how we tell Ayub of our plans. They must be discussed with him as a soldier in a professional way so that he does not explode. Mr. Harriman believed that we should send Generals Hull and Adams back to discuss, soldier to soldier, what we are doing. It is of the utmost importance, he emphasized, that we deal skillfully with the Pakistanis as well as with the Indians. Mr. Sandys concurred that it is right that the situation in Pakistan is potentially very explosive. He said he would not like the job of telling Ayub of our plans.

Prime Minister Macmillan asked whether it would not be helpful to cut our programs into installments, informing the Indians and Pakistanis [Page 453] of one at a time. Mr. Nitze observed that it would be easier for Ayub if we could identify the divisions we are converting to show that they are old divisions rather than new ones. Mr. Sandys said that the real danger is that the Pakistanis will ask us why we aid India ahead of the aligned countries when we take so much grief from Russia, against whom the aligned countries help us.

Prime Minister Macmillan asked whether the Indians will get MIG fighters. Ambassador Galbraith replied that this was not yet clear. In any case the delivery of a few MIGs would be only a symbolic gesture.

Prime Minister Macmillan said he was not happy about the proposed plan. Money is not the problem, he said, so much as how to explain our actions to the Pakistanis. We should first tell them what we are thinking of and see how they react.

Turning to the unanswered question of Chinese intentions, Prime Minister Macmillan said he does not think that they plan to take over India. What they have done so far seemed to him to be just a punitive expedition. Mr. Sandys said that it had struck home in India, and there is a fear that the Chinese could do it again. Prime Minister Macmillan observed that unless we are careful the Indians will slide back into their same old arrogance and beautifully detached view toward him and the President. He repeated his belief that we have to get them to face up to the fact of Kashmir. In the long run they depend on the West. In the short run they can be helped by the West—on the condition that they settle Kashmir.

Lord Home said he does not believe that the Chinese want to attack India. In his opinion Nehru knows that. At the same time he believes that nothing short of further Chinese attack will get Nehru to move on Kashmir. Mr. Sandys suggested that to get Nehru to move it is not necessary to threaten him. He is a sensitive man.

The President said that it is obvious that Nehru’s reason for sending the messages to the Prime Minister and to him was to persuade them not to tie Western aid to the Kashmir question. He asked whether we could start with an understanding among ourselves on the limitations of emergency assistance. Then possibly send out Generals Hull and Adams to talk with Ayub. Mr. Sandys observed that telling the Pakistanis about our assistance plans is a political matter. In saying this he did not mean to decry the ability of General Adams, who had done a good job in the subcontinent. As to how far to tell the Indians what is being planned, he felt that in practice the US and UK will be talking in dimensions that will be clearer to the Indians.

Addressing the Prime Minister, the President asked whether the two of them should get in touch with Nehru, saying how important it is to keep negotiations going. Then they might send out Generals Hull and Adams to talk about the 1963 plan. In the course of that round could not [Page 454] Generals Hull and Adams go up to Pakistan and tell Ayub the sort of things we had been thinking of, adding that it is very important the talks do not break down during the winter. We need to persuade both parties to stay in the talks, even if there is little progress. Otherwise, we would have to threaten to cut off aid to them, and that would not make sense. Let us get a scenario showing what we do, what kind of messages we send to Ayub and Nehru, who goes where, etc. In short, let’s get clear where we go in 1963.

Ambassador Galbraith asked rather skeptically whether we should send more high-ranking generals out to the subcontinent. Already there are military teams in Delhi, and perhaps we should send diplomatic representatives to Ayub rather than military men. Nehru, he had reason to know, is a difficult man to deal with on this issue. But in India as a whole there is a large movement in the direction of progress on Kashmir, the movement that forced Krishna Menon out. Beyond Nehru, he felt there is not a man in the government who would not ally India with the West tomorrow. The Indian fright of China will continue.

The President, recessing the session, asked members of the working party to draft proposals for consideration by the Prime Minister and him later in the afternoon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 691.93/12-2062. Secret. Drafted by Talbot and approved by the White House on January 28, 1963. The meeting was held at Taylor House in Nassau where Kennedy and Macmillan met from December 18-21. Their talks covered a range of issues, but focused upon nuclear defense systems. Additional documentation on the Nassau talks is printed in vol. XIII, pp. 1091–1128.
  2. See Document 227.