234. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson1


  • India and Pakistan

This is one subject on which I think you may wish to have a brief meeting before you go to Bethesda. There are storm signals in both countries and we can do better in the next two weeks if all hands have up-to-date guidance from you.

[Page 445]

Moreover, your stay in Bethesda obviously puts off the time at which Shastri could come here, and, along with Ayub’s unreadiness to move in a continued state of crisis, reduces the prospect that we can move forward by pressing for early conversations with you—although the Shastri possibility remains important and hopeful, perhaps for late October.

Meanwhile, there is a real danger that both Pakistan and India will misread our policy. The Paks may wrongly believe that their alternatives are crude pressure on us or a crude bargain with the Red Chinese—this is the way they are talking and acting. The Indians may wrongly feel that we are using food as a blunt instrument and that the only safe reply in Indian political terms is to move publicly and proudly toward isolation from the West. The Indians may also feel—again quite wrongly—that we intend to try to trade our assistance for their “surrender” on Kashmir.

These problems are compounded by the fact that our channels to Ayub and Shastri are clogged, both in Asia and in Washington. Except at the moment of truth on the ceasefire, your government has not succeeded in communicating sharply just what we do and do not want. In part this is the inevitable result of our decision to hold everything until Shastri and Ayub get here. But in part it is also the result of the very rapid changes in Pakistani and Indian thinking because of the enormous national crises into which they have steered themselves. We have not yet adjusted our responses to this new situation.

All of this, I suspect, is at least as clear to you as it is to us. But what we now need to do is to sort out our own thinking, and then make some sober and straightforward noises to the Asians.

Not as final answers, but as indications of the shape of the problem, we suggest the following principles and the following tactical conclusions:

A. Principles

India is more important than Pakistan and there is enough hope in India to justify continued support by food and economic aid if the Indians in turn are reasonable with us.
Within this priority we still need not lose Pakistan if we can show the Paks the emptiness of the Chinese route and the reality of continued Western economic support.
We should not kid ourselves about any early Kashmir settlement. American fidgeting over Kashmir will only make us trouble with India and arouse false hopes in Pakistan. The most we can do is what Goldberg is doing: press for acceptance by both sides of the process of peaceful discussion as against the process of trial by arms. (We emphasize this point because it would help wonderfully in this town if you [Page 446] were to announce this conclusion as your own. Kashmir-fixers are a plentiful and dangerous commodity.)
We cannot tie our economic aid to positive progress on Kashmir. We can tie it to reasonable progress in the observance of the UN ceasefire resolution and to the acceptance of political process. We can also tie it to other basic US interests such as:
Keeping the Paks out of Chinese arms;
Keeping the Indians from unbalanced surrender to the Soviets (although Soviet help in itself is not intolerable);
Keeping the Indians away from nuclear weapons;
Pressing both countries toward better economic and agricultural policies.

B. Tactics

The thing which is giving us most trouble right now is the absence of dialogue. We are inclined to think that someone clearly speaking for you should be sent to these two countries within the next two or three weeks. This could be Arthur Dean, who begins work tomorrow, but if you want to give him more time to learn, you might want to send one of your own team. There is great advantage in sending someone who really speaks for President Johnson; whatever our other failings, we play your tune, and most people know it.
In due course, we should defuse the explosive issue of food as a political weapon. At the same time, we should not get back into long-term agreements. A shift in a couple of weeks from the current one-month basis to a quarterly basis, with appropriate agricultural assurances attached, would do us a lot of good and cost us nothing in terms of leverage.
The burden of our song to Ayub and Shastri should be a judicious mixture of firmness, concern, and continued readiness to help on reasonable terms. Specifically, to Ayub:
We should drive home to the Paks the folly of threats and the still greater folly of switching to Peking.
On Kashmir, we should maintain our commitment to a process, but make it crystal clear that the only real hope the Paks have here is in conciliation and not conflict with India. This is a fact of life, and their adventure this summer proves it.
If the Paks are responsive, we are ready to start talking renewed economic aid, but as a simple fact it will be a long time before military assistance can begin again to either party. (These are warnings and expressions of willingness to negotiate—they should not be commitments, since these ought to be reserved both for a later time and a higher level.)

To the Indians, we would make it quietly clear that we accept and indeed support their primary role in the subcontinent, and that in particular we are not agents for Pakistan or supreme judges on Kashmir.

[Page 447]

But, within this basic premise, we could and would press the Indians to recognize the necessity for political process and the advantage to them of gradual conciliation, since they too would lose if the Pakistanis made a fatal plunge toward China.


With respect to the UN Resolution, and political process, we should emphasize to both that unless there is a return to the methods of peace, it is a fact and not a theory that the whole future of US assistance will be gravely jeopardized. How can the American Congress justify long-range, large-scale efforts to people who cannot do what is needed to keep the peace? It is this test, not the test of a specific Kashmir settlement, which the American Congress will apply.

We have sketched these outlines of a policy, not because we are convinced it is the only one, but because we see a prospect of grave losses in both countries if we go forward in the coming weeks with no policy at all. It is this prospect which makes us urge a meeting even in these last hectic days before you go to Bethesda.

  • McG. B.
  • R. W. Komer

Set Up a Meeting

Speak to me2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 15, Sept. 23–Oct. 14, 1965. Secret.
  2. The memorandum contains no indication that Johnson responded to these options.