101. Analytical Summary Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1
CONTINGENCY PLANNING ON SOUTH ASIA
- —a description of present U.S. strategy and steps taken to prevent the outbreak of hostilities;
- —additional steps in pursuing this strategy that could be considered in the coming weeks;
- —a discussion of the options open to the U.S. should hostilities occur between India and Pakistan.
This is by far the best paper so far produced on the situation in South Asia. For the first time we have a vehicle for high level review of our posture and serious consideration of additional steps that might be taken.
I. Present Strategy
Our present strategy is based on the following major assumptions concerning U.S. interests and objectives in South Asia:
- —The U.S. has no vital security interest in South Asia but as a global power we are inevitably concerned about the stability of an area where such a large percentage of mankind resides and which is geopolitically significant in terms of the Soviets and Communist Chinese.
- —Both India and Pakistan are important to U.S. interests although India is of “potentially greater significance.” Therefore, in formulating U.S. policy in the region the “relative preeminence” of our interests in India should be an underlying factor in the decisions which we make.
- —Peace is essential for the maintenance of U.S. interests. Therefore, our basic objective is to prevent hostilities between India and Pakistan. If hostilities do break out, it would be our objective to ensure that neither we nor any other major external power become directly involved.
- —On an operational level, our objectives have been to maintain a “constructively close” relationship with India and “reasonable” relations with West Pakistan while avoiding steps which would do “irreparable damage” to a yet undefined future relationship with East Pakistan.
There are three major ingredients to the strategy we have followed since the outbreak of fighting in East Pakistan on March 25.
- Restraint. We have counseled restraint on both sides in hope of reducing the possibility of the situation in East Pakistan escalating into a war between India and Pakistan. On the Indian side this seems to have reinforced important elements inclined toward restraint, although contingency planning for an attack against East Pakistan continues and there is considerable public and parliamentary pressure for more forceful action. Our counsels of restraint in Pakistan have been “somewhat less successful.”
- International Assistance. Because the refugee situation is the most likely proximate cause for escalation, we have concentrated considerable effort on lessening this burden for India. To date we have offered grants of $70.5 million and a $20 million supplemental development loan to India and have actively promoted the international relief effort of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This, of course, leaves untouched the serious social and internal political problem generated by the refugees in India that we can do nothing about. On the Pakistan side, we have also actively promoted an international relief effort, both to deal with the immediate relief needs and to facilitate the return of the refugees. The West Pakistanis were initially very slow to respond but have in recent weeks been more receptive and a UN presence is in the process of being gradually established in East Pakistan. So far the U.S. has granted $2 million for the chartering of boats to distribute food and other relief supplies and $4.7 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the coastal area affected by the cyclone last winter.
- Political Accommodation. We have urged the West Pakistanis to proceed as expeditiously as possible with political accommodation in East Pakistan. Recognizing the complex and sensitive issues involved and the fact that Yahya may have only limited political flexibility, we have not attempted to spell out the details of such an accommodation beyond the need to deal with representative political leaders. These efforts have not yet led to a meaningful basis for a political settlement.
In addition to the above steps and in order to maintain a constructive relationship with the West Pakistanis, we have taken several other important policy decisions:
- Economic Assistance. We have decided not to use our economic assistance to Pakistan as a lever for political pressure and have indicated that future assistance would be conditioned only on developmental and legislative criteria.
Military Assistance. We have taken the
following restrictive actions concerning the shipment of arms to
- —A temporary “hold” has been placed on the delivery of all FMS items from Department of Defense stocks.
- —The Office of Munitions Control at State has been instructed to suspend the issuance of new licenses and renewal of expired licenses under either FMS or commercial sales.
- —The one-time exception offer of lethal end items announced last October is being held in “abeyance”.
II. Limitations on Present Strategy
The judgment of the paper is that although our present policy has had a limited effect in meeting the immediate requirements of the situation, it has not provided the basis for a viable long-term resolution of the crisis.
- —The Indians have so far exercised restraint but the problem which the refugees represent and which India considers a threat to its vital interests remains unresolved. The Pakistanis have not created yet either the political, economic or social conditions for the return of most of the refugees.
- —Some international relief assistance is reaching the refugees but it is not yet nearly enough to substantially reduce the economic burden on India. On the Pakistan side, relief and rehabilitation efforts are only starting to get underway.
- —A viable political accommodation between East and West Pakistan appears to be only a remote possibility at this time.
The paper also concludes that our economic and military supply policies toward Pakistan have done little to maintain the constructive relationships which we desire with both India and Pakistan.
- —The hold on all military shipments except those licensed before March 25 has not been received with favor in Islamabad where such shipments are of considerable psychological significance. The West Pakistanis have not, however, chosen to make political issue out of this yet.
- —On the Indian side, our failure to embargo all arms shipments (coupled with Stateʼs misleading handling of this issue) has resulted [Page 252] in bitter criticism of U.S. motives and policies and has at least temporarily made it more difficult to carry on a constructive dialogue with India.
III. Additional Steps
The conclusion of the paper is that if we are to help preserve the peace in South Asia, to avoid enhanced Chinese and Soviet influence and to support political and economic development, additional new efforts will be required in each of the three major areas of our policy—restraint, international assistance, political accommodation.
Restraint (pp. 7–13)
The paper judges that our efforts to achieve restraint will need to be continued either as long as conditions in East Pakistan do not return to normal, there is no political accommodation, and most of the refugees do not return or until the Indians recognize and accept that they have no alternative but to agree to the permanent resettlement in India of most of the refugees. It is thought the use of both diplomatic channels and public statements will be necessary. Specific action which we might take include:
Public speech or statement by either Secretary Rogers or the President outlining U.S. policy. This would include a call on India and Pakistan, and possibly other external powers, to exercise restraint while efforts were being made to cope with the refugee problem and achieve a political solution. Such a statement might also include an expression of our concern that efforts at reconstruction be accelerated in East Pakistan and a renewal of our commitment to humanitarian relief under the UN auspices on both sides of the border.
The argument for doing this is that it would put us more clearly on the record, demonstrate high-level concern, and might encourage other countries to join us in urging restraint.
The argument against is that such a statement would be resented by India, would only have a limited impact on decision-makers in both India and Pakistan, could intimidate other major powers.
Consultations with the Soviets, perhaps in a high-level approach, aimed at securing their cooperation with us in the maintenance of peace. This could include seeking Soviet support for a larger UN role and presence both in relief efforts and facilitating the return of the refugees.
The argument for doing this is that the Soviets probably have more influence with the Indians on this problem and in any event it would lay the basis for U.S.-Soviet cooperation if hostilities broke out. It would also be a positive response to a probe Dobrynin made to Secretary Rogers immediately after the fighting broke out in East Pakistan.[Page 253]
The argument against is that the Soviets might be reluctant to offend the Indians and could see our approach as an effort to weaken their position in New Delhi and obtain their de facto support for the West Pakistanis. The Chinese might be inclined to see a U.S.–USSR cooperative approach in South Asia as collusion against their interests.
Discuss the Chinese threat with the Indians. We would probably not wish to share our assessment with the Indians unless more direct evidence of Chinese intentions was available. We might, however, with the danger of escalation in mind, pass an alarmist assessment of Chinese intentions to Indians. In private discussions we could indicate that the Indians should not count on automatic implementation of our 1964 Air Defense Agreement4 if China attacked as a result of an Indian attack on Pakistan.5
The argument for doing this is that it would indicate to the Indians the perils of attacking Pakistan and the sharing of intelligence would be a positive collaborative act.
The argument against is that any reference like this to the Air Defense Agreement would be regarded as a threat and bitterly resented. An alarmist assessment would risk seriously undermining our credibility in New Delhi since the Indians have fairly good intelligence on Chinese border activities.
Seek to encourage Chinese restraint. If the Chinese appeared poised to embark on a more aggressive and adventuristic policy toward South Asia, we might seek to urge restraint through third powers with missions in Peking. India could be informed of this effort in confidence.
The argument for this move is that it could head off disruptive Chinese involvement and would be viewed favorably by India.
The argument against is that it probably would not influence the Chinese and if the Chinese were responsive, it could act as an encouragement to Indian military action. Pressure on the Chinese could also have an adverse impact on our relations with Pakistan.
UN involvement and presence in border areas. We could encourage the UNHCR to seek placement of UN personnel in refugee camps and resettlement centers on both sides of the border, as an aid in assessing needs and deterring Indian cross-border activities.
The argument for this move is that it would provide an additional means of restraint.
The argument against is that it could provoke opposition that would endanger the UNHCRʼs broader relief role.
International Assistance (pp. 14–20)
The paper notes that we have concentrated considerable effort in this area but that more is needed. Additional steps on which we should focus include (1) the creation of conditions conducive to the refugeesʼ return, (2) planning for the permanent resettlement of at least some refugees, and (3) the encouragement of a more extensive UN role on both sides of the East Pakistan–India border.
Conditions in East Pakistan Conducive to Return of Refugees. We have already impressed on Yahya the need to create conditions conducive to the refugeesʼ return and he has responded by (a) publicly indicating [encouraging] bona fide refugeesʼ return irrespective of religion, (b) establishing some refugee reception centers near the border. Specific programs to assure the refugees that they will get their homes and property back, receive relief until they can re-establish themselves and will be compensated for damages have not yet been articulated. We could now, therefore, suggest to Yahya in conjunction with the UNHCR that programs to meet their needs be established. We might also offer to grant considerable quantities of PL–480 grain to be sold for rupees that would then be used to support a UN program of resettlement allowances and home reconstruction.
The argument for is that such moves would encourage the return of those refugees who are willing to go home prior to a political settlement. It might also encourage the Indians to continue to act with restraint by holding out the hope of a substantial refugee return.
The argument against is that the West Pakistanis might regard this as undue interference in their business, the UN program would be expensive, and, if not accompanied by steps toward political accommodation, could be seen by India as a retrogressive step.
Conditions in India conducive to return of refugees. The primary problem concerning refugee repatriation is in Pakistan but there are also additional steps which need to be taken in India. The paper recommends that we urge the Indians (a) to agree to a UN presence in the refugee camps, (b) to be flexible in setting political conditions on repatriation, and (c) to limit their support for cross-border operations.
The argument for is that, if it worked, this could maximize on the Indian side the likelihood that the refugees would return home.
The argument against is that such an approach would be resented by the Indians and, even if they agreed, it might only marginally increase the chances of a substantial refugee return.
Permanent resettlement planning. Since a substantial portion of the Hindu refugees may never return, we should consider (a) a possible UN role in resettlement coordination, (b) financial resources required to relocate refugees from the border areas, (c) AID initiatives to create labor-intensive work projects, (d) an initiative on Calcutta [Page 255] redevelopment where many of the refugees will tend to eventually gravitate.
The argument for is that it is increasingly likely that most of the substantial portion of refugees who are Hindus will never return to East Pakistan, and it is only prudent to begin planning for their eventuality.
The argument against is for the time being any U.S. acknowledgment that most of the refugees might never return would be of considerable concern to India and resettlement activities might be prematurely rejected as out of hand.
Enhanced relief contributions. Contributions for relief from the international community have fallen far short of the minimum requirements. We should again encourage the UN and UNHCR to launch a more active campaign for contributions and support these efforts through our embassies. Simultaneously, we should encourage the Indians and Pakistanis to be more active in seeking international assistance.
The argument for is that this is essential if adequate resources are to be mobilized and would help meet Indian demands for a more adequate international response.
The argument against is that it could generate pressure for a very large U.S. contribution and does not deal with the political roots of the refugee problem.
Political Accommodation (pp. 20–26)
While we need to continue to generally urge Yahya to work toward a political settlement, to be effective we need to be more direct in our suggestions as to the basic conditions for an East-West Pakistan political settlement and point out that failure to achieve this end could increase the dangers of escalation. Specifically, we might suggest the following:
Shorter timetable for accommodation. Under Yahyaʼs current game plan there cannot be, under any circumstances, a transfer of power to the civilians before late October or early November which coincides with what could be the optimum time for an Indian attack on East Pakistan. It would be much preferable if Yahya by early September could at least give the appearance of having promulgated a firmly scheduled return to civilian rule having some democratic basis and involving a fair degree of regional autonomy.
The argument for is that this would support our efforts to maintain Indian restraint and could be the first step towards a longer term political settlement.
The argument against is that such a suggestion could be resented by Yahya as unnecessary interference and rejected as out of line with domestic political requirements.
Lifting ban on Awami League. We might indicate to Yahya our view that the Awami League is the only party in East Pakistan with a [Page 256] genuine popular following and that Mujib is the only man capable of selling a viable political settlement to the Bengalis.
The argument for is that this is our honest judgment and, if accepted and acted upon, could offer the basis for a lasting political accommodation.
The argument against is that Yahya might well reject this approach from us and in fact bitterly resent it.
Indian flexibility. In tandem with our dialogue with Yahya we might also emphasize to the Indians the need for them to remain flexible on the terms of a political settlement and to conduct their relations with the representatives of “Bangla Desh” with circumspection.
The argument for is that this would reinforce policies India is already pursuing.
The argument against is that the Indians might regard it as gratuitous advice at best.
UNSYG involvement. We could encourage the UN Secretary General to adopt a more open political role as one means of mobilizing other forms of international opinion on behalf of political accommodation.
The argument for is that, if successful, it could bring greater pressure on Yahya to move more rapidly on political accommodation. It would follow logically from the UN relief efforts and prolong, at a minimum, the talking stage between the parties.
The argument against is that such a move might not be welcomed by either the UNSYG or Yahya and hence might use up political capital in an unsuccessful effort.
Third party involvement. Other third parties might be willing, if encouraged, to use their good offices in helping to resolve either the East-West Pakistan problem or the Indo-Pakistan problem. Muslim states with good relations with Pakistan, like Iran, Turkey or Jordan might be useful in the former role whereas neutral states like Ceylon or Malaysia might be used in the latter case. A five-power international conference of the main externally involved powers (USSR, US, China, UK and France) is another possibility at some stage.
The argument for is that any other angle on multinational mediation effort would provide a protective facade behind which difficult compromises might be made.
The argument against smaller powers are unlikely to be very successful in efforts between these Asian giants and conflicting great power interests might hinder a five-power approach.
UNHCR facilitative role for the return of the refugees. This would require Indian acceptance of UNHCR representative in the refugee [Page 257] camps and acceptance of UNHCR representative in reception centers across the borders.
The argument for is that an effective UNHCR facilitative role could be an important measure for assuring the refugees about the safety in going home.
The argument against is that the Indians are not inclined to have UN representatives in the refugee camps and pressure on them to do so could be abrasive to our bilateral relations.
Resort to Security Council. We would seek an even-handed Security Council resolution calling on both parties to reduce tensions and urging all states to promote peace and stability in South Asia.
The argument for is that it might help deter dramatic actions on the ground, demonstrate our parallel interests with the Soviets and, with the UN in the middle, preserve U.S. credentials and leverage and provide a basis for a further UN mediation effort.
The argument against is that it would be an empty gesture with no enforcement capability and the session could easily degenerate into an Indo-Pak shouting match. It might also detract from more productive quiet diplomacy. Finally, the Pakistanis might oppose the whole affair on the grounds that it constituted interference in internal affairs.
IV. Military and Economic Programs (pp. 26–30)
Our military and economic aid programs take on considerable significance in view of our desire to develop cooperative relations with both India and Pakistan.
Military supply. Our military sales to Pakistan are of paramount psychological and practical significance to the West Pakistanis. Our current even limited supply of arms to Pakistan has been strongly criticized by India and our handling of this issue has further damaged our capacity to influence India in the direction we desire. At the same time the West Pakistanis are likely to become increasingly dissatisfied with our current policy and it is highly vulnerable with the Congress.
The paper recommends a “suspension” of all shipments of arms to Pakistan, “in order to restore a degree of credibility to our calls for restraint and to support the relative preeminence of our interests in India.” Once peaceful conditions are restored and a satisfactory political settlement achieved, we could review this suspension. The paper notes that if we wished to stop short of public announcement of such a suspension, we might simply say we had decided to review the remaining items in the pipeline, clearly implying that the more sensitive items would not be shipped.
The arguments for are that such a policy would:
- —support our primary interest in influencing India to act with restraint;
- —significantly improve relations with India;
- —remove a difficult issue with Congress and lessen public criticism;
- —have a positive impact on the Bengalis and ultimately on any future relations with East Pakistan.
The arguments against such a policy include that it would:
- —seriously irritate the West Paks and greatly reduce our influence with them;
- —increase Chinese influence as the major arms suppliers;
- —perhaps lead to more intransigent West Pakistani positions on military actions against the Bengalis and political accommodation;
- —perhaps encourage India to take military action against Pakistan.
Economic Assistance. The paper recommends that we continue to adhere to a policy of not conditioning aid politically but insisting on developmental criteria which will ensure that both East as well as West Pakistan will benefit from our resources. Economic aid, within this context, is viewed as a carrot which we are holding out before the Pakistanis and which may be important if we are to have an effect in dealing with sensitive political subjects such as political accommodation with Mujib.
The arguments for include:
- —make non-political and less controversial economic aid the major positive ingredient in our relations with Pakistan;
- —is consistent with worldwide policies we follow;
- —indicates our continuing concern for Pakistanʼs developmental prospects and protects our past inputs;
- —to a degree counters Chinese influence;
- —consistent with approach of other major aid donors.
The arguments against include:
- —developmental criteria if strictly imposed could result in very little aid and ultimately the erosion of our credibility and influence in Pakistan;
- —if we do not ease his foreign exchange problems, Yahya may be forced into intransigent political positions;
- —any aid to Pakistan will be resented by India, although if it was clearly conditioned on developmental terms would not necessarily be a major negative factor in our relations.
V. Options in the Event of Hostilities (pp. 32–35)
The policies suggested in the paper and outlined above would reinforce the intrinsic negative factors working against an Indian decision to attack Pakistan. Nonetheless there is still a significant possibility that a war could erupt between India and Pakistan during the next three to six months. [Page 259] The judgment of the paper is that if no progress is made toward political accommodation between East and West Pakistan or on the repatriation of the refugees by September or October the chances for hostilities will increase.
Our actions in the event of another Indo-Pak war would in part be determined by the circumstances in which hostilities broke out. The most likely scenarios are an Indian attack on East Pakistan to “liberate” the area or a gradual process of escalations involving border incidents on both sides. In any event it would be in the U.S. interest to see that hostilities do not expand to include third parties, particularly China. It would also, according to the paper, be in our interest:
- —to see that the hostilities were not protracted since a prolonged war could do profound damage to the political, economic and social fabric of both India and Pakistan.
- —If India attacked, our interests would be best served by a rapid Indian victory in East Pakistan followed by a swift withdrawal and installation of a Bangla Desh government and a stalemate on the Western front which left West Pakistan intact. The problem would be how to insure Indian withdrawal and limitation of the conflict in the West.
Irrespective of our political posture toward hostilities, various U.S. programs in India and Pakistan would be immediately affected. The paper recommends that contingency planning by appropriate U.S. agencies should be undertaken along the following lines:
- U.S. ships destined to India and Pakistan should be warned not to call at belligerent ports if carrying cargo for both belligerents, since it will most likely be confiscated. (Confiscated cargoes caused considerable problems in 1965 which we are still trying to straighten out.)
- MAC and commercial air carriers should have contingency arrangements for overflying the area without stopping in either India or Pakistan, since the fighting may include the bombing of air fields.
- Evacuation plans should be reviewed for all posts in India and Pakistan for implementation on short notice.
- Intelligence collection should be increased to provide the maximum advance warning of Chinese intentions. [2 lines of source text not declassified]
The U.S., according to the paper, could pursue one of the following three broad strategies in the event of hostilities between India and Pakistan:
Passive international role. The U.S. would assume an essentially passive role toward the conflict indicating our basic neutrality. This would be most appropriate in circumstances where the responsibility for the outbreak of war was unclear or where we judged the likelihood of Chinese military involvement to be small. It would not do irreparable harm to our interests in either country. This posture would also allow us to adopt a mediating position encouraging a negotiated political settlement [Page 260] when circumstances made such a role possible. Such an approach would not be appropriate if there were a prolonged conflict. In pursuing these options we could
- —adopt a public posture of neutrality;
- —support third party efforts to end hostilities;
- —suspend all economic and military aid;
- —offer good offices.
The argument for is that U.S. involvement would be at a minimum and we would at the same time maintain maximum flexibility as events unfolded. Also our relationship with both India and Pakistan would be preserved.
The argument against is that we would risk serious damage to our interests if the conflict were protracted. Indian dependence on the Soviets and Pakistani dependence on the Chinese could be increased without any significant gain for the U.S.
Military Support. At the other extreme would
be a decision to support with military assistance either India or Pakistan. We have limited commitments to
both sides (through SEATO and
CENTO to Pakistan and the 1964
Air Defense Agreement with India) although there is no provision for
automatic U.S. involvement.
To Pakistan. If the U.S. decided to assist Pakistan in the case of clear Indian aggression we could:
- —develop an emergency military supply program;
- —terminate all programs to India;
- —take lead in mobilizing international effort to pressure India to halt aggression;
- —support a Security Council resolution condemning India.
The argument for: we would be supporting our interest in Pakistanʼs national unity, diminishing Chinese influence and generally strengthening our relations with the whole Muslim world.
The argument against is that we would severely damage our relations with India who would move closer to the Soviets. There would also be no room for a U.S. conciliatory role.
To India. The judgment of the paper is that military support to India is a “less likely” strategy in the context of a limited Indo-Pak conflict, but if China were to intervene we would want to consider military assistance to India.6 It might even be possible, if China intervened, to militarily [Page 261] support India and launch peacemaking efforts that would allow us to maintain a viable future relationship with the West Pakistanis. Specific action we might take would include:
- —consultation with India under the 1964 Air Defense Agreement;
- —develop an emerging military assistance program;
- —[1 paragraph (1 line of source text) not declassified]
- —coordinate with British and Soviets on additional military assistance measures.
The argument for is that it would be consistent with our overall Asian policy and would establish a firm basis for a close relationship with India, perhaps at the expense of the Soviets.
The argument against is that severe strains would be created in our relations with Pakistan and China. There would also be the risk of creeping involvement leading to a more extensive commitment involving a direct U.S. confrontation with one or more outside powers.
Political intervention. The main purpose of political efforts would be to localize and end hostilities. We would also work vigorously for a negotiated settlement that would remove the basic causes for tension in South Asia. Such an effort would involve:
- —an immediate call for Security Council consideration of the crisis.
- —support of a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and direct negotiations on the terms of withdrawal and political settlement.
- —immediate Presidential message to Yahya and/or Mrs. Gandhi calling for end of hostilities and/or a negotiated settlement.
- —immediate consultations with British and Soviets.
If there were a clear case of Indian aggression we would also want to cut off all military shipments to India and hold economic assistance in abeyance.
If the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of war were unclear, we would want to cut off military supply and consider suspending all economic aid to both India and Pakistan. We would urge other major powers to follow suit.
The arguments for include:
- —would provide maximum U.S. flexibility;
- —would maximize use of U.S. programs and leverage to shorter hostilities and prevent third party intervention; —would make it possible to maintain relations with both India and Pakistan (and perhaps Bangla Desh as well) in the aftermath of hostilities.
The arguments against include:
- —could lead to very serious strains in our relations with India;
- —would be seen by Pakistan as a repetition of our future failure] to help them and as a failure of the U.S. to fulfill its treaty commitments.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–058, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 7/23/71. Secret; Exdis. Sent to Kissinger on July 21 under cover of a memorandum from Harold Saunders and Richard Kennedy, who apparently drafted the summary. (Ibid.)↩
- Document 88.↩
- This 40-page paper, drafted in NEA/INC by Quainton and approved on July 9 by a State/Defense/CIA Ad Hoc committee, is summarized in the analytical summary, which is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 140. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–058, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 7/23/71)↩
- An apparent reference to the agreement signed in New Delhi on July 9, 1963; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIX, Document 307.↩
- Kissinger wrote “No” in the margin next to this paragraph.↩
- In his memoirs, Kissinger points to the contingencies considered in the planning paper in the event of Chinese intervention in a conflict between India and Pakistan and concludes: “Nothing more contrary to the Presidentʼs foreign policy could have been imagined.” (White House Years, p. 865)↩