231. 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
  • Ambassador McConaughy
  • 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

At the opening of the second session devoted to the Sino-Indian dispute, the working party presented draft proposals for lines of action to be pursued in the immediate phase by the UK and the US. These proposals were discussed and agreed to by the Prime Minister and the President. (See separate paper)1

The President asked whether we could get the Indians to begin to request more assistance from the Europeans and the Australians and Canadians. Mr. Bundy responded that we had tried this. The French are tepid, the Germans have given winter clothing and have arranged to airlift them to India but there has not been much other assistance. He believed that we will have to keep the pressure on to get more help.

Ambassador McConaughy expressed the view that the Pakistanis would be less sensitive to information about equipment that we choose to provide India than to extremely large dollar figures. He would hope that assistance from countries other than the US and the UK would also be well publicized, thereby taking some of the heat off us.

Mr. Duncan Sandys observed that if India should receive MIG fighters there is a great danger that Pakistanis would react by pulling out of [Page 456] CENTO and SEATO. Ambassador McConaughy added that the influence of three developments, should they occur, would particularly hurt our position in Pakistan. These would be (1) massive assistance to India, (2) no Kashmir settlement, and (3) a pullback by the Chinese. Mr. Sandys observed that if on top of these events the Indians should get MIGs and we should offer US and UK aircraft for use in India, the effect on Pakistan would be disastrous.

The President asked what would be so disastrous if the Pakistanis should leave CENTO. Mr. Sandys responded that it would be a slap in the face to the West and that Iran would doubtless follow.

The President asked what we get from Pakistan. In return for the protection of our alliance and our assistance what do they do for us? Ambassador McConaughy responded that Pakistan had offered help in the Laos crisis and in the 1950s had offered to send two divisions to Korea if we would guarantee the defense of Pakistan in the meantime.

Governor Harriman said that there was some thought that it was better to leave the MIG question on. There would not be many MIGs, at least not soon. In any case the MIG deal would be a black eye to the Russians. Mr. Sandys interjected that there might, however, be a lot of Russian technicians in India. We would have to make clear to the Indians that we cannot help them with a lot of Russians running around.

Ambassador Galbraith observed that he doubts the MIG question is important. Probably he could say to the Indians that a condition of our assistance in air defense would be that India should accept no MIGs. The Indians might welcome this demarche, which would get them off an uncomfortable hook. He was sure the Russians would greatly welcome it. Beyond getting them too off the hook with India and with Communist China, it would be a great propaganda ploy. To his mind, for us to make such an approach to India would consequently be a most unwise thing to do. On the question of Soviet technicians he did not think they would be likely to come to India in important numbers.

Lord Home said that the air defense question alarms him. If we gave air defense to India, he felt certain that the Pakistanis would get out of the Pact at once. Prime Minister Macmillan noted that the proposal to send a team to India does not commit us to any specific further action. Mr. Sandys expressed the view that we ought to go at this air defense question very slowly. It is the only carrot we have left to give India to move on Kashmir. We will have played away our best card; this is the only trump we have left and we should play it slowly. Ambassador Galbraith stated that his view is quite different. The proposal for air defense assistance is the safest way of handling the problem. We are not proposing to put squadrons into India, but only promising that they would come when India was under air attack.

[Page 457]

Prime Minister Macmillan observed that like everything else this is a question of balance. He said he has been impressed that there has been a great turning to us in India, and we must not repel it. On the other hand, he judged that it is quite clear that Chinese won’t attack India seriously. If we do all that is proposed for the Indians and they do not settle Kashmir then we will have lost the last opportunity and the Pakistanis will turn against us. He said that he would be inclined to play this matter of air defense a little slowly; it is the one thing we have with which to exert influence. And, if we should extend the air defense concept to the subcontinent, this would help our situation in Pakistan. In his view, unless something like Chinese pressure causes it, we will not see a settlement of Kashmir. Ayub is not as strong as he was a year ago, possibly due to his having given expression to some naive ideas about democracies, a parliament, etc. We have to bear in mind all the time the problem of the balance between the prospect of losing the sympathy of India and losing Pakistan. If we lost Pakistan, Lord Home added, Iran would follow.

Governor Harriman said that on the other side, it would seem to him that it would be well for the air defense team to go out to the subcontinent rapidly to show the Indians that we are interested in this very emotional question. Then the governments could take their time in making a decision. He felt that we would lose an opportunity in not giving a quick response to the Indian plea for assistance in air defense. Ambassador Galbraith asked what we would get from delaying the air defense exercise. Governor Harriman added that it is conceivable that the Chinese will attack again and it is therefore important that we know our minds on air defense in good time.

The President summarized the arguments for delays as (1) that air defense assistance is our most important card and (2) it would help persuade the Indians to reach a Kashmir settlement. Ambassador Galbraith noted, however, that the proposed plan is the one solution of India’s air defense problem to which the Pakistanis should have the least complaint.

Lord Home raised the question whether in the event a Chinese attack were in our view only a border squabble, the UK and US would under this plan be committed to air defense?

The President suggested that agreement be reached that the mission should go out. The UK High Commissioner and US Ambassadors on the subcontinent could express their views about the timing, which could then be set by a communication between the Prime Minister and him, say about January 10.

The Prime Minister asked whether it is felt that there is any chance of Nehru’s moving on Kashmir. Ambassador Galbraith replied that there is no chance if both countries demand possession of the Valley. There may [Page 458] be some sophisticated road toward settlement, on the European model, but the two countries are not ready for this yet.

In closing the session, the President suggested that to help the Indians get a sense of the views being expressed, Ambassador Galbraith could indicate to them the flavor of these meetings on his return to Delhi.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 691.93/12-2062. Secret. Drafted by Talbot and approved by the White House on January 30, 1963. The meeting was held at Taylor House.
  2. A copy of the paper, headed “Final Agreed Text: Sequence of Actions With Respect to India and Pakistan,” is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, India, General, 12/19/62-12/29/62. The text of the paper was transmitted to New Delhi in telegram 2711, December 27. It was also sent to Karachi and London. (Department of State, Central Files, 691.93/12-2762)