10. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Situation in Pakistan

The West Pakistani army has moved to repress the East Pakistan secession movement. Our embassy believes that the military probably has sufficient strength to assert immediate control over Dacca and other major cities, but is not capable of maintaining control over an extended period. This raises two immediate problems for us: (1) the safety of official and private Americans, and (2) the U.S. role, if any, in a peacemaking effort. I have called a WSAG meeting for 3:00 p.m. today and will provide recommendations after that.

Safety of Americans

There are at present some 850 Americans, including 250 U.S. officials and dependents, in East Pakistan. Stateʼs plan is to make no immediate move to evacuate these people since they could be in greater danger on the streets and we have no information yet as to the situation at the airports. Our consulate, however, is seeking the protection of the local authorities, and evacuation plans—worked out earlier in the present crisis—are being reviewed for both East and West Pakistan. Military aircraft from Southeast Asia could be made available on short notice for the purpose of evacuation.

No reports have been received so far of injuries to Americans or any other foreigners in East Pakistan.

U.S. Peacemaking Role

Contingency plans on East Pakistan have been drawn up and reviewed by the Senior Review Group. For this situation, these plans present a series of theoretically possible options ranging from doing nothing other than protecting resident Americans through approaching Yahya in concert with the British and other powers, with an appeal to halt the bloodshed, if necessary using the threat of sanctions including the cessation of economic aid and military supply.

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The real issue is whether we involve ourselves or not. The British may well weigh in on their own, and that has advantages for us. Beyond that, however:

  • —The advantage of not involving ourselves at this stage is that we do not prematurely harm our relationship with West Pakistan. We can for a time yet claim with the Easterners that the situation is too unclear there to provide a basis for action.
  • —The arguments for pressing Yahya to end the bloodshed would be (a) humanitarian, (b) political since this could arouse emotions like those surrounding Biafra over time and (c) diplomatic in preserving a relationship with the new East Pakistani nation of 75 million.


I shall send you recommendations after the WSAG meeting.

In addition to reviewing the evacuation plans, the group will concentrate on the two operational decisions that may present themselves:

Whether to approach Yahya, urging him to end the bloodshed. It is probably a bit early to make this decision today because we do not yet know whether calm will be restored in the East or whether the pattern of violence will continue and broaden. This, therefore, seems a decision for the next two or three days.
How to respond to a definitive announcement of East Pakistani independence. Our Consul General has standing instructions to refer any such question to Washington. The issue might remain unclear for some time if the military re-establishes control in the cities and the resistance moves to the countryside. On the other hand, our response will set the tone for our relationship with both wings.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71–15 May 71. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.