103. Memorandum for the Record1


  • NSC Meeting on the Middle East and South Asia


  • The President
  • Secretary of State William Rogers
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Packard
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman JCS
  • Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Brigadier General Alexander M. Haig Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

The President opened the meeting by pointing out that there are enormous risks in the situation in South Asia for our China policy. There are risks for the Indians and Pakistanis, too. He suggested that the discussion begin with the Middle East and then turn to a briefer discussion of South Asia. That is one problem that must be watched very closely. The Indians are stirring it up. If they mess around on this one, they will not find much sympathy here.

[Omitted here is discussion of the situation in the Middle East.]

The President then turned the discussion to South Asia. With a smile, he asked Dr. Kissinger, “Did you really have a stomach ache?”

Secretary Rogers said that the press thinks it is so smart but it was certainly gullible to assume that if Dr. Kissinger had had a stomach ache he would have driven four hours to have a special lunch with General Hamid.

The President started out by saying that the purpose of the discussion was to get the South Asian situation into perspective. For obvious considerations, he said that he would have to be personally involved. First, he said that it is imperative that the Pakistanis, if possible, not be embarrassed at this point. He said that we could ask them to do what they can on the refugees. Second, he said that he had talked [Page 265] to Ambassador Keating. He had noted that world opinion is on the side of the Indians and they may be right. However, they are “a slippery, treacherous people.” He felt that they would like nothing better than to use this tragedy to destroy Pakistan. In any case, they have built a heavy press campaign against the US. But now intelligence reports show that they are developing a capability to “ramble around” in East Pakistan. He felt that if the Indians believed that they could get away with it they would like to undercut the Pakistani government.

The President asked what restraints could be applied to the Indians. He acknowledged that he has “a bias” on this subject. But under no circumstances would they get a “dime of aid, if they mess around in East Pakistan.” He said that we could not allow—over the next three–four months until “we take this journey” to Peking—a war in South Asia if we can possibly avoid it.

The President asked whether the government of Pakistan would fight if they were attacked. Mr. Helms replied, “Yes.” Admiral Moorer said he felt that the Pakistanis would not attack India.

Mr. Helms noted that the pressures are building in India to go to war. The President said that the situation “smells bad.” The Indians are not to be trusted.

Dr. Kissinger said he agreed that the Indians seemed bent on war. Everything they have done is an excuse for war. Their claim to have been deceived by State on our arms policy looks like an alibi to go to war. Whatever their objective might ostensibly be, they appear to be thinking of using the war as a way of destroying Pakistan. Dr. Kissinger said that he believed that if East Pakistan were attacked, President Yahya would start an all-out war. He would lose it.

The President asked what the Chinese would do.

Dr. Kissinger said he thought the Chinese would come in. He said that the Indians are “insufferably arrogant.” The army chief of staff, General Mannekshaw, said that India would take on East Pakistan, West Pakistan, and China, all at once. He said that it was his impression that if we do not “over-power the question of war, India would slide into it.” The way that they are hooking a refugee solution to an overall political solution suggests that they are using the refugees for political purposes.

Dr. Kissinger continued that he does not feel that President Yahya has the imagination to solve the political situation in East Pakistan in time. Over a longer period, 70,000 West Pakistanis are not going to hold down East Pakistan. So our objective should be to start some historical evolution which will lead to the inevitable outcome in East Pakistan. But that is not going to happen tomorrow—it will not happen in time to achieve a refugee settlement and to head off an Indian attack. [Page 266] Therefore, he had urged President Yahya to come [up] with the most comprehensive possible refugee package.

The President interjected that President Yahya is not a politician.

Dr. Kissinger said that he had urged President Yahya to come up with a generous settlement on the refugee issue so that India would lose that card as an excuse for intervention. He concluded that if there is an international war and China does get involved, everything we have done [with China] will go down the drain.

Secretary Rogers said that, as far as he could tell, India is doing everything it can to prevent the refugees from returning. Dr. Kissinger replied that if we kept publicizing a reasonable program for the return of refugees, it would be more difficult for the Indians to go to war on that issue.

Mr. Sisco said it is important to get an international program on the refugees moving. He said that he had told Ambassador Jha that India is in an untenable position. He said that it is important for India to come up with a well-orchestrated program.

Mr. Helms commented that, in the meantime, the Pakistanis are going broke. Mr. Johnson interjected that the Pakistanis face a major famine in East Pakistan.

Secretary Rogers interjected that the tragedy is that Pakistan as presently constituted cannot survive.

The President, changing the subject, said that he was going to brief the legislative leaders on Monday2 on his China policy. He proposed to tell them nothing of the substance of the exchanges with Chou En-lai. And he would also have a Cabinet meeting to do the same thing.

Dr. Kissinger said that he had backgrounded the press on his visit to Peking but that he had not gone into the substance of the exchanges with Chou En-lai. He has simply provided the rationale for the trip.

The President said that the press would speculate on the impact of his announcement on China for Vietnam policy, South Asia, Japanese policy, effect on Taiwan and the USSR.

Dr. Kissinger noted that silence on our side was important because the Chinese had already suffered a great deal of anguish over maintaining the appearance that they are not colluding with us. The best line we can take is that we want friendly relations with everybody.

Admiral Moorer, on a separate issue, said that Senator Stennis had asked him to tell the President that he has gone as far as he can go on [Page 267] the draft bill.3 Senator Stennis felt that Senator Mansfield is the key and that he is on the verge of coming along if somebody could just approach him.

Harold H. Saunders 4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Minutes, Originals, 1971 thru 6/20/74. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders on August 4. The time of the meeting is from the Presidentʼs Daily Diary. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The meeting was held in the conference room at the Western White House.
  2. July 19.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.