181. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State 1

478. At 1215 hrs Saturday I called on PriMin who was accompanied by L.K. Jha. PriMin was cool, collected, articulate and very clear in his views throughout conversation which lasted about 35 minutes. British HICOMM Freeman who saw him yesterday had similar impression.

At least it is clear that we are not dealing with a mad man who is about to fly off on an emotional tangent. Although this does not mean that Shastri will necessarily come up with wise decisions, it does mean he is unlikely to act in blind anger.

Conversation developed along following lines:

I stated I was speaking not only as American Amb but as established friend of India who has watched her development over long period of years, who has been deeply encouraged recent months by positive factors which are now beginning to contribute to India’s faster growth, and who is looking forward with keen anticipation to major economic breakthrough here in India within next few years which could have tremendous implications for entire world.
I then took chance in regard to his mood based on previous conversations with him that involved historic parallels and delivered a bit of a lecture, i.e., PriMin is facing kind of fateful historic decision that had been faced by scores of other leaders in different parts of [Page 351] world in last several hundred years. Some had met challenge with courage and imagination, others under pressure had taken what turned out to be wrong path with heavy cost to everyone involved. For instance in Europe in late July and early August 1914 leaders of key countries found themselves locked in by previous speeches and pronouncements and what they assumed were demands of public opinion. In spite of fact that each one recognized in his heart that the powers were on military collision course, no man had courage and imagination to interrupt the deadly process.
In present situation one point at least was clear. Regardless of what his govt did now, it may be that Paks themselves have decided to push situation into all-out war; if so, there is nothing he could do to stop them. But what he can do is to make a war-like course on part of Pakistan much more difficult by establishing a strong case for India before world opinion by his own restraint. If under those circumstances Paks should decide in favor of war, Shastri’s own personal role and that of India would be clear beyond question and thoughtful men throughout world would support him.

I stated I realized he was under heavy political pressure not only from opposition but from people within Congress Party who would criticize any compromise on his part at this time designed to establish peace. I reminded PriMin however, of situation in 1961 when our own relations with Soviet Union were at particularly explosive stage and President of US went before UN to state that although US was prepared to defend its interests whatever the cost, it was anxious above all for peaceful solution and would meet Soviet Union more than half-way in seeking such a solution.

President’s speech was warmly received throughout world and strongly supported by overwhelming majority of American people who took pride in fact that their President and govt were doing everything in their power to ease world tensions and to create basis for new and friendlier relationships.

Shastri expressed appreciation and agreement with principles I laid down. He stated, however, that our situation in 1961 and that of India in 1965 are very different. No one questions military and economic power of USA. However, world considers India weak, wobbly and divided nation. Pakistan seemed to be basing its current aggressive policy on this false assumption. In view of developments of last three weeks this greatly complicates his own problems at home and abroad.
I made obvious reply that it took strong man to make peace, while very weakest leader could start a war, and then asked Shastri how he intended to reply to SYG’s appeal for ceasefire. He replied that three points were in his opinion of utmost importance: [Page 352]

Nimmo report2 must be made public. UN border observers had no police power, i.e. no authority to stop fighting by physical means. Therefore it has been clear from outset that their role is to inform SYG and world as whole what is actually going on in Kashmir so that there is no need to depend on conflicting propaganda claims of the two nations.

Most direct way to achieve this objective would be to have SYG himself based on observers’ report decide where blame should be placed and then publicly state his findings.

Since SYG had decided to take neutral position in order to enhance his own peace-making powers, it was essential that report at least should become public knowledge even though in some respects it was critical of India so that world opinion could be brought to bear. If UN observers could not fulfill this function, what was purpose of sending them to Kashmir?

Following publication of the report Pakistan must agree to withdraw remaining 2,000–3,000 infiltrators who had crossed border starting August 5. Until infiltrators are withdrawn by Pakistan, there can be no hope for peaceful solution. (Note: He was not clear whether this withdrawal should be part of general withdrawal of all forces or precede withdrawal of uniformed forces.)
In order to prevent repeat performance UN observer team’s staff should be greatly expanded to give them effective coverage of whole area.

Shastri then said he hoped US and other nations would not assume that this was good time to discuss long-term settlement of Kashmir problem. At present he said we are close to war brought on by Pak aggression.

He earnestly hoped atmosphere could ultimately be created that would permit thoughtful discussions about problems that have in last seventeen years blocked good relationship between the two neighbors. Some day if Ayub Khan had change of heart and got rid of Bhutto, then essential broader agreement might become possible; if not, perhaps after Ayub Khan has gone.

However it should be clear that current mood prohibited any such effort now and he hoped that US and other govts would not press India to discuss subject which, in present upheaval, was not ready for discussion.

In reply to Shastri’s questions about use of American military equipment by Paks, I stated that observers which we had sent to area at Gen Chadhury’s suggestion were unable to get close enough to fighting to see. It was my understanding that we are now making determined effort to get at facts from Pakistan side. I admitted that tanks and planes used by Pak Army may well have come from US, and that if so this would be violation of our agreements which we would view with great concern. However way to settle primary problem now is to stop all fighting. If fighting continued in face of SYG appeal with American equipment being used aggressively as distinguished from defensively by either Paks or Indians, we would have to consider measures that might be taken.

In final ten minutes of discussion we went over same points in various ways. I ended exchange by strong personal plea for moderate and affirmative response to SYG’s appeal and by expressing hope that Shastri would seize this historic opportunity to establish himself as man of peace in Nehru-Gandhi tradition and at same time to win respect of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who had learned at heavy cost what destruction modern war could bring.

Shastri followed me to door and expressed his appreciation in warm, friendly and yet confident manner for what he described as helpful exchange.

Comment: I do not dare predict how Indians in last analysis will react. In spite of Shastri’s calm appearance, mood here in Delhi is one of frustrated militance; there is strong feeling even among normally sober people that once new ceasefire is established, Paks will turn to some new form of military harassment and that process will go on indefinitely.

Faced with this situation Shastri has taken strong and not unreasonable position, i.e., that Nimmo report which makes no bones about Pakistan’s responsibility for training and sending in large guerrilla unit should be made public and that based on facts established by this report, Paks should then agree to remove infiltrators from Valley and from Jammu. Indians and Pak troops should at such stage be withdrawn to their own side of ceasefire line, and then some new policing system involving adequate personnel and perhaps establishment of mile wide neutral belt would be set up in place of present ineffective system.

However this combination is admittedly difficult one for Paks to swallow since they have officially denied there are any infiltrators from Pakistan on Indian-held territory and are still insisting that whole Valley is in wild revolt against Indians under leadership of non-existent Kashmir revolutionary govt.

I again suggest that if Indians come through with reasonable presentation at Security Council as I earnestly hope they will, Paks can [Page 354] be persuaded to agree to ceasefire only by application of some kind of sanctions by US, by US and UK, or by UN generally.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Karachi, London, CINCMEAFSA for POLAD, USUN, and the White House. Received at 9:35 a.m., and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA at 10:30 a.m.
  2. On September 3 Secretary-General U Thant submitted a report to the Security Council on the situation in Kashmir which was based upon a report prepared by General Robert H. Nimmo, Chief Military Observer of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. (UN doc. S/6651) An excerpt of the report is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 797–800.