293. Summary Record of the 514th Meeting of the National Security Council0


Secretary Rusk presented the recommendation contained in his memorandum to the President of May 8, 1963, regarding arrangements for the air defense of India (copy attached).1 He said our problem is that if we give too little we might lose India and that if we give too much we might lose Pakistan.

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Secretary McNamara restated the military recommendations, adding that the Joint Chiefs of Staff questioned the military utility of stationing U.S. air squadrons in India. General Taylor summarized the Chiefs’ views, emphasizing that in their opinion any commitment to defend India involves a very heavy additional commitment for which no additional forces are provided. The Chiefs are concerned that in deciding on the proposed defense arrangements consideration be given to the broad implications for U.S. strategy in the area. The Chiefs accept the political requirement for air defense arrangements for India but want this problem looked at in the light of defending all Asia against Chinese Communist aggression.2

Secretary McNamara said the recommended arrangements provided for the deployment to India of two mobile radars which would be left there. These radars, taken from our own forces, would be replaced promptly. He asked that any reference in the recommendation to the installation of permanent radar facilities be removed.

The President asked whether the Indians now want the kind of an air defense commitment we are prepared to give jointly with the British. Secretary Rusk responded by acknowledging that there is greater doubt of Indian acceptance now than there was immediately after the Chinese Communist attack. Nevertheless, he is convinced that the Indians would accept our offer. He suggested that we obtain British agreement to a joint commitment for air defense before we informed the Indians of what we are prepared to do.

The President asked whether the commitment “to consult with the Government of India in the event of a Chinese Communist attack on India regarding the possible use of U.S. military air forces to strengthen India’s air defense” means that we are really committed to defend India. Secretary Rusk responded that “consult” actually means a commitment to defend.

Secretary Dillon3 noted that the paper did not discuss how the U.S. commitment to defend India would be dealt with domestically. He predicted that Congress would view this commitment as of major importance. He urged that full consultation with Congressional leaders be undertaken in order to forestall criticism of the use of an executive agreement to commit the U.S. Government.

Secretary Rusk commented that possibly the use of “executive agreement” was not necessary and was perhaps overly formal. In his [Page 585] view the President could decide as a matter of policy to consult with the Indians in the event of a Chinese Communist attack.

The President said that it was obvious we would defend India if attacked. He thought that our offer should cover the defense of India’s large cities, not the defense of the frontiers of India on the ground. He said that we could argue out this question with the Congress and believed that we should go ahead now with the U.K. and the Indians and talk about our action to the Congress later. If the Chinese attacked India, he predicted that everyone would be in favor of defending the Indians.

Administrator Bell4 pointed out that Congressmen would not oppose our defending India if attacked by Communist China, but they would hammer hard as to whether we should offer such a commitment to India without having forced India to settle the Kashmir question.

The President responded by asking when we should start telling Congress that we doubted there would be any settlement now of the Kashmir question. Secretary Rusk responded by saying that he was making a foreign policy report to a Congressional Committee next week and during his presentation could begin the process of educating Congressmen about the declining prospects of an agreement. He pointed out, however, that even if there is no settlement of the Kashmir problem, we cannot walk away from India if the Chinese Communists attack.

The President noted that it would be unwise for us to make it appear that the failure of the Kashmir negotiations was Nehru’s fault. He said we could point to the unreasonable demands made by the Pakistanis.

Secretary Rusk said that we must not think that giving India a commitment on air defense is in lieu of further military aid. He recommended that we ask the British to move promptly to ship spare parts to the Indian air forces. He also hoped that our assistance could be made available to build roads and civil projects in the frontier area—a means of assistance which would not inflame the Pakistanis.

Secretary McNamara responded that only a small amount of money could be spent constructing roads and that such roads would add very little to India’s military capability. He believed that the Indians could use profitably no more than $50 million of additional U.S. military assistance. He said that because they had insufficient non-commissioned officers, they could expand their forces so quickly that the overall effect would be to decrease their military capability. The $50 million figure can be justified and there is no equipment in this which would inflame the Pakistanis. The minimum of $10 million should be forthcoming from the British for spare parts. India’s transport aircraft capability can be greatly [Page 586] improved by shipping spare parts and increasing the logistic support now available.

Secretary McNamara acknowledged that the essential factor is to increase realism among India’s military planners. Some progress has been made. For example, Indian ideas of a force of 1,400,000 has been reduced to 1,000,000. This planning figure should be further reduced to 800,000. The military budget figure of $1,800,000,000 is too high and would endanger India’s civilian economy unless it were reduced.

Secretary McNamara recommended favorably peacetime air defense exercises in India as something we can do which is of real help.

The President, noting the importance of discussions with Congressmen, asked that a paper be prepared containing our plans for informing Congress and the Indians. He suggested in passing that possibly we could get the Indians to persuade the British to join us in the air defense commitment. He commented that if the West loses India, no one really could care about the future of Hong Kong.

Secretary McNamara cautioned that we could not expect to get U.K. support for a joint air defense commitment at once. He predicted that the British would stall.

The President asked about the British attitude. Several members responded by indicating that the British were hesitant to antagonize the Communist Chinese because of the effect on the future status of Hong Kong, and, in addition, hesitated to jeopardize their trade with the Communist Chinese by taking a political action which the Chinese would consider hostile.

The President noted that even if the British refused to join with us in making a commitment, we should proceed with U.S./Indian air defense exercises.

Secretary Rusk suggested that we might persuade the Australians to join with us.

Mr. Bundy said he believed the British would be unable to turn down our proposal. Secretary McNamara agreed, but called attention again to the likelihood that the British would stall by saying that we should not make a joint U.S./U.K. offer to India until the Indians are prepared to settle the Kashmir dispute.

Secretary Rusk said we could talk in very tentative terms to Indian Defense Coordination Minister Krishnamachari who will be coming to Washington shortly.

The President asked why we wanted the British to join us in the air defense commitment. Secretary Rusk responded by saying that the American people will insist that others help us in a task which, world-wide, we cannot do all alone. He said we would be criticized if the British did not join us on the grounds that India was a member of the British [Page 587] Commonwealth, and, therefore, the British should participate in its defense. We need, he added, other flags in this effort.

The President asked the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense to prepare a paper for him giving plans covering consultations with the British, discussions with Congressmen, and information to the Indians. He asked that a paper be prepared as to what we would tell Krishnamachari in order that he would not return to India empty-handed.

Secretary Rusk said that we will raise with Krishnamachari the importance of an agreed estimate as to the nature of the Chinese threat and of the Indian military requirements necessary to defeat the Communists. At present the Indians overestimate what the Chinese Communists can do militarily.

The President returned to a memorandum sent to him by Mr. Bowles5 and summarized its main recommendation, i.e. we must agree to defend India in the event of a Communist Chinese attack. This commitment must be made promptly lest the Indians turn from us and make terms with the Chinese Communists.

Secretary Rusk agreed that we must assist India, but it was not necessary for us to make a flat commitment to defend India. The proposal was to agree to consult with respect to the air defense of India in the event of attack.

The President expressed his view that we should consider now a flat guarantee of the territorial integrity of India. He noted that at the time an attack took place we would obviously decide to defend India. Because this is true, he thought that we should go some of the way now toward gaining the benefits prior to an attack of a defense commitment.

General Taylor asked that we take a broader look at the problem. He felt that the basic issue was not the air defense of India but rather how we can cope with Communist China over the next decade. He doubted that it would be possible to deal with the Chinese on the ground in non-nuclear warfare.

The President responded that India would obviously take a firmer stand toward Communist China if we were committed to India’s defense. In addition, our commitment would serve as a deterrent to a Chinese Communist attack. He compared the Indian situation to the Korean situation as it existed in 1950.

Secretary McNamara expressed his view that before we gave a full commitment to India, we must take into account the fact that the defense [Page 588] of India will involve the use of nuclear weapons. He mentioned that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were prepared to reduce the size of U.S. and Korean forces in Korea as long as we were prepared to say that the defense of Korea would involve the use of nuclear weapons. He expanded on the necessity of facing the prompt use of nuclear weapons in the event of attack if we were to reduce in peacetime the level of forces in Korea. He stated his view that he preferred the use of nuclear weapons to the use of U.S. forces on the ground in Asia. Secretary Ball cautioned that if we are thinking of shifting our strategy to one calling for the use of nuclear weapons in Asia, then we should be aware of the reaction which might occur in Asia, i.e. we are prepared to use nuclear weapons against yellow people but are not prepared to use them against white people in Europe.

Secretary McNamara made clear that he was not now recommending a change in strategy, but he felt that there is a requirement that we be clear in our own minds about the use of nuclear weapons before we make additional commitments.

The President said if we were overrun in Korea, in Formosa, or in Western Europe, we would obviously use nuclear weapons. If we are prepared to defend Korea and Thailand, he asked why we should not be prepared to commit ourselves to defend India. He again asked whether our guarantees to the Indians would not be a deterrent to a Chinese Communist attack. In his view the air defense is the key to the existing situation. He said he was prepared to proceed with the shipment of the radars and with the air defense training program, even if the British would not join us. He suggested that for now we would conduct intermittent peacetime air defense exercises with earmarked squadrons of air defense aircraft. Later, we could propose a guarantee. He still wondered whether the Indians would consider our offer as it now stands.

Secretary Rusk concluded the discussion by pointing out that our objective is the defense of the Indian subcontinent. Our hope is that we can help the whole subcontinent rather than be obliged to defend countries in the subcontinent, one by one.

Bromley Smith6
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSC Meetings, 1963, Meeting No. 514. Top Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Additional records of this meeting, prepared on May 10 by CIA Director McCone, and on May 11 by Acting Assistant Secretary of State James Grant, are in Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80 B 01285A, Box 6, DCI Meetings with the President, 1 April-30 June 1963, and Department of State, Central Files, POL 32-1 INDIA-PAK, respectively.
  2. Document 292.
  3. On May 7, the Joint Chiefs forwarded to McNamara their assessment of a draft of the memorandum sent by Rusk to Kennedy on May 8. (JCSM-357-63; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, India 381 (25 Apl 63) Jan thru Sep 1963)
  4. Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon.
  5. AID Administrator David E. Bell.
  6. In this 9-page memorandum, prepared on May 4 and sent to Kennedy under a covering letter on May 6, Bowles outlined what he saw as the key issues affecting U.S.-Indian relations, and offered his recommendations concerning those issues. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, India, General, 5/6/63-5/8/63)
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.