111. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin, II
    • Christopher Van Hollen
    • Thomas Thornton
  • Defense
    • Warren G. Nutter
    • James H. Noyes
    • B/Gen. Devol Brett
  • JSC
    • Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt
    • Col. James Connell
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • John Waller
  • AID
    • Dr. John Hannah
    • Maurice Williams
    • Herbert Rees
  • Treasury
    • John McGinnis
  • NSC Staff
    • R/Adm. Robert Welander
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed to

  • —Prepare a comprehensive relief program for East Pakistan, including what has already been moved and where the bottlenecks are.
  • —Prepare a telegram, to be approved by the President, outlining an approach to Yahya telling him what needs to be done on refugees, food relief, etc.
  • —Talk with the British about a joint approach or separate but concurrent approaches to India and Pakistan.
  • —Talk with the Russians to get a mutual assessment of the situation.
  • —Develop a contingency plan for a possible Indian-Pakistani war.
  • —Schedule fifteen minutes at the beginning of the next NSC meeting for the President again to express his views on the subject.

[Page 293]

Mr. Kissinger: This is a continuation of our meeting last week on this subject.2

Mr. Irwin: Our basic feeling is that we should do something, and we recommend some movement along the lines of the scenario we have prepared.3 We think we should try further with the Pakistanis to seek some restraint on military activity and persuade them to take steps to reduce the flow of refugees and move toward some form of political accommodation in East Pakistan. We should also try to counsel restraint on India in connection with some of the things [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] they are doing.

Mr. Helms: There are indications that India is doing something in the military field to keep everyone stirred up. We donʼt think they are preparing for a physical attack, but the indicators keep flashing. This is all designed to keep the pot boiling.

Mr. Irwin: We think we might also talk to the British and the Soviets. We can talk with the British about a joint or separate but concurrent approaches to the two states, and to the Soviets about getting an assessment of the situation.

Mr. Helms: Has anyone given any thought to involving the Shah of Iran in working with Pakistan? [1 line of source text not declassified]. He might be able to help us; at least itʼs worth considering since we seem to be out of gas with Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: Weʼre not out of gas with Yahya. I think he will do a lot of things that are reasonable if we concentrate on the refugee problem. One thing he will not do is talk to the Awami League, at least not as an institution. He might talk to some League leaders as individuals.

Mr. Irwin: Ambassador Farland thinks there is a bare possibility that he might talk to the Awami League.

Mr. Van Hollen: Yahyaʼs estimate of how far he might be able to go with the Awami League depends on whether or not he thinks he might be cut down from behind by his military leaders.

Farland thinks itʼs worth trying to move him a step further. There has been no progress along the lines of the June 28 formula.4 The flow [Page 294] of refugees is continuing, the insurgency is on the increase and there has been no move toward political accommodation. As a result, the Indians are still actively supporting the insurgents and they are facing the prospect of famine in October or November. We have to think of some way of breaking out of this vicious circle.

Mr. Kissinger: What are the Indians after? Do they want a political accommodation or do they want to split off East Pakistan?

Mr. Irwin: Itʼs impossible to know. They would probably prefer to split off East Pakistan, and they are assisted in this objective so long as the refugees are still coming out, the Pakistan army is still active, there is no political accommodation and the country is moving toward famine. We should try to make it more difficult for India, by improving the situation in East Pakistan through reducing the refugee flow, putting a UN presence in East Pakistan, and making a start toward political accommodation. If Pakistan can move in this direction, it may be possible to put pressure on India.

Mr. Kissinger: Is it possible to ask the Pakistan Army to withdraw to its barracks when India is supporting guerrilla activity in the country?

Mr. Irwin: I donʼt think so, but we might work toward this. If conditions improve, this might be our goal.

Mr. Williams: I wouldnʼt want to take the Army out of its role of maintaining security. You can take them out of the civil administration, though—out of Government House—without insisting that they return to their barracks.

Mr. Kissinger: Why is it our business to tell the Pakistanis how to run their government? We can appropriately ask them for humanitarian behavior, but can we tell them how to run things?

Mr. Williams: It is not our business as such, but we can tell them what we think as a friend and counselor.

Mr. Kissinger: What would an enemy do to Pakistan? We are already cutting off military and economic aid to them. The President has said repeatedly that we should lean toward Pakistan, but every proposal that is made goes directly counter to these instructions. There are undoubtedly some things Pakistan must do, particularly to stop the refugee flow. They ought to do something to make the refugees come back or make India explain why the refugees are not coming back.

Mr. Irwin: What would they have to do to get the refugees to go back?

Mr. Kissinger: In part, India can control this. At the moment, they are expelling all foreigners from the refugee areas and we donʼt know what they are telling the refugees. Do we think India is encouraging or discouraging the refugees from going back?

[Page 295]

Mr. Van Hollen: India is probably discouraging them, or at least is linking their return with some sort of political accommodation. Even if we take India out of the picture, though, the problems in East Pakistan are indigenous. They are merely accentuated by Indian activity.

Mr. Kissinger: So we have the following problems which are, to some extent linked: 1) the refugees—how to stop and reverse the flow; 2) political accommodation; 3) the threat of famine and the necessity for humanitarian relief, which in turn would affect the flow of refugees; and 4) the nature of an East Pakistan government. On famine relief, we must get a program started under any and all circumstances. If famine develops, it will generate another major outflow of refugees. This is one thing we can do something about. I think we can get considerable Pakistani cooperation on this.

(Mr. Kissinger was called from the room at 3:35 and returned at 3:50.)

Mr. Irwin: (to Dr. Kissinger) You mentioned the question of tilting our policy. The State Department is not trying to tilt the consideration of this matter. We have problems of political stability, refugees and the prospect of famine. Fundamental to each of these is the question of some move toward political accommodation. It will be very hard to solve these problems unless there is some start in the political field.

Mr. Kissinger: The relief effort has to be undertaken anyway.

Mr. Irwin: If there is not some move toward political accommodation we may not be able to carry out relief efforts. We can get the food there but if we canʼt get it distributed to the people who need it our relief efforts wonʼt succeed. The whole distribution mechanism can be upset by the cross-border operations.

Mr. Kissinger: The cross-border operations depend on India. You could put the greatest civilian government in the world in East Pakistan and if India wants to continue the cross-border operations, they will.

Mr. Irwin: I agree, so the question is how to stop the cross-border operations. If we can do it by direct pressure on India, fine. If that is not possible, one way to help would be to start some form of political accommodation in East Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: But the famine will start in October. Under the best possible scenario, political accommodation will have barely begun in October. The relief plans have to be started fairly soon.

Mr. Williams: “Political accommodation” is a shorthand expression. What is more important is some effective administration. Traditionally, in this part of the world, that means a civilian administration. The ability to mount an effective relief effort depends on how much of the civil administration is left intact.

[Page 296]

Mr. Kissinger: Are we to tell the Pakistanis that unless they install a civilian administration we will let the famine develop?

Mr. Williams: No, but we can tell them that unless they install an effective civilian administration it will be harder to prevent famine.

Mr. Irwin: We are doing everything we can to prevent famine. We can get the food to them and try to see to it that it is properly distributed.

Mr. Hannah: There will be damned little satisfaction in getting the food to the ports if we canʼt get it where the people are. The Pakistan Army just isnʼt used to this kind of an operation, plus the fact that they are still under pressure from the guerrillas. They have invited the UN in to give overall direction to the program but that wonʼt get the food delivered. And Pakistan wonʼt let us in.

Mr. Kissinger: Have the Paks said they wonʼt let us in?

Mr. Williams: They have approved a UN presence in principle, but they still havenʼt actually admitted them.

Mr. Kissinger: They told me they hoped we would get the UN people in faster.

Mr. Williams: It has been approved in principle in Islamabad but they have not yet agreed to admit the 28 UN people who are poised and waiting to go in.

Mr. Kissinger: We have no problem with the list of things that have to be done. We have to tell Yahya that this is what needs to be done, but why do we have to tell him that it has to be done by civilians?

Mr. Zumwalt: He canʼt do it with civilians while he is fighting a war. The prevention of famine and our interest in supporting Yahya dictate more help in granting him military supplies than we are apparently prepared to give him. This relates to the spare parts he needs to keep his vehicles moving. He has to keep the roads and waterways open. If we cut off his source of spare parts he can neither fight a war or distribute supplies—both because he couldnʼt stop the cross-border operations which could interdict the relief distribution and because he wouldnʼt have the vehicles to move the relief supplies themselves.

Mr. Waller: We have a report from India that if the relief efforts were under UN administration, they would not be interdicted by cross-border operations.

Mr. Kissinger: If we are faced with a huge famine and a huge new refugee outflow in October and weʼre still debating political accommodation, weʼll have a heluva lot to answer for. We need an emergency relief plan and we need to tell Yahya that this is what has to be done to get the supplies delivered. Yahya will be reasonable.

[Page 297]

Mr. Williams: There doesnʼt have to be political accommodation to get the civilians in.

Mr. Van Hollen: But the two things are directly related. We should be and are preparing a relief program, but its implementation depends on the governmental situation in East Pakistan—not on the US or on the UN. The way to get some organizational arrangement in East Pakistan to prevent famine and restore some normality is through some political accommodation.

Mr. Helms: Our problem is to provide the food and get it in place. How can we assume the responsibility for its distribution? We should confine ourselves to doing the things we can do. Itʼs up to Yahya to decide how the food should be distributed. He has an interest in keeping East Pakistan with West Pakistan. Heʼs not interested in helping India by letting a famine develop in East Pakistan.

Mr. Williams: We can get the food there.

Mr. Kissinger: We can go further than that. (to Williams) You made a good presentation at the last meeting on the necessity to marshal water transport and things like that. The resources seem to be more under Army control than civilian control. If we told Yahya these things were required for distribution and we will help, we might make real progress. But if, on top of that, we tell him he must end the insurgency and have some sort of political accommodation, we wonʼt make it in time for October. Yahyaʼs mind just doesnʼt work that fast and the structure isnʼt there.

Mr. Irwin: I agree we should do all you say, but we would go a step further. We would point out that there should be a start in a direction that might accomplish political accommodation.

Mr. Kissinger: What do we mean by “political accommodation?” India considers political accommodation as splitting off East Pakistan from West Pakistan.

Mr. Van Hollen: We shouldnʼt have a blue print. But, in order to create a viable institution, Yahya must agree to deal with the true political representatives in East Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: The question is whether we have to have political accommodation before we can get a relief program.

Mr. Irwin: Not before the relief program starts. But if there is not some effort in this direction, the cross-border operations will intensify and there will be more disruption of the relief efforts. If we can stop the cross-border operations by India, the relief effort might have a better chance of success.

Mr. Kissinger: Will India slow down its cross-border operations if the political process could be speeded up to October? India says Yahya has to deal with the Awami League.

[Page 298]

Mr. Van Hollen: The extent to which India desists from its cross-border operations would be linked to progress on the political side.

Mr. Hannah: Why not approach it the other way around. Tell Yahya that the best way to thwart the Indians is to get better food and better conditions in East Pakistan than in the refugee camps in India. We must convince Yahya that certain things have to be done while the military is occupied in dealing with the guerrillas. If Yahya assumes responsibility for the distribution of food, he can use it as a political weapon.

Mr. Kissinger: We can tell him what is needed to distribute the food as long as our programs are moving ahead.

Mr. Irwin: Weʼre not really disagreeing with you.

Mr. Kissinger: But youʼre saying the next turn of the wheel is conditional—that nothing will move until there is a start on political accommodation.

Mr. Irwin: No weʼre not.

Mr. Williams: No.

Mr. Zumwalt: Even if all the food gets through, the famine will still probably occur. Both the Indians and the Soviets would prefer famine rather than see Yahya win. The Chinese would probably prefer famine to seeing East Pakistan split off from West Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree with John Hannah. If we can be forthcoming with Yahya on something, we have a better chance of getting some political accommodation than if we hector him and try to put the squeeze on him.

Mr. Hannah: We should continue to do everything we have been doing. We should get Yahya to accept UN direction. We should recognize, though, that even when the UN people are there, it wonʼt work unless the US gets involved in an operation to marshal all existing resources, similar to the recent flood relief operation. We can give him the backstopping of the UN, but weʼll still have to furnish the food and get it there, and provide some management once itʼs there.

Mr. Williams: The food that is moving to Pakistan now is adequate to deal with the crisis. The food is moving to the ports and we have obtained $3 million worth of charter transport to move it from the ports. We want a UN presence involved in the internal distribution. We have an agreement in principle from Pakistan, but they have still not authorized the entrance of the 28 people. Weʼre not holding anything back.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Williams) Maybe you should go there and tell Yahya what is needed to break the bureaucratic log-jam.

[Page 299]

Mr. Hannah: It would be more effective if we could get a representative Pakistani to carry the message to Yahya. We can reinforce it. How about Shoaib?5

Mr. Williams: Heʼs traveling for the World Bank.

Mr. Irwin: We would like to move ahead as you are suggesting. In addition, we think it would be better to start some move toward political accommodation.

Mr. Kissinger: My personal judgement of Yahya is that if we do something for him, then ask him to move in a direction of political accommodation, he would be more likely to do it. Weʼre really debating timing. Can we get a comprehensive program of relief and get it to Yahya together with our judgement as to where the bottlenecks are. We can then get someone to talk to him.

Mr. Williams: This is all in train—heʼs not in real trouble at the moment. When the harvest fails, then there will be trouble.

Mr. Kissinger: The situation isnʼt going to get any easier in the next two months. If there is another great outflow of refugees, the domestic problem in India may become unmanageable.

Mr. Williams: Itʼs a matter of internal transport.

Mr. Kissinger: I understand that, but letʼs keep that a technical problem.

Mr. Williams: Weʼll put together a comprehensive relief package.

Mr. Kissinger: Letʼs put it all together—what has moved and where the bottlenecks are.

(to Irwin) With regard to your scenario, I doubt that Yahya can withdraw his army to their barracks under present circumstances.

Mr. Irwin: We took that out of the paper and substituted a restoration of the civil administration, leaving the maintenance of law and order to the police and the provincial para-military forces.

Mr. Kissinger: Your idea would be to go to Yahya with the whole program. If you do, heʼll say “Iʼll do everything but the political steps.”

Mr. Van Hollen: We can tell him that to the degree he can do these things, it would help clamp down on the Indian cross-border operations and establish a UN presence on the Indian side of the border. If he makes some political moves, India may be more amenable to stopping its activities that are adding to the tension.

Mr. Kissinger: How would we get India to do that?

[Page 300]

Mr. Van Hollen: We could tell India that what is happening in East Pakistan is in the right direction.

Mr. Kissinger: The right direction to them is the Indian direction. What is the right direction?

Mr. Irwin: For Yahya to begin to deal with the elected representatives in East Pakistan—maybe not the Awami League. This neednʼt be conditioned to doing other things.

Mr. Kissinger: Weʼre holding up military shipments to Pakistan and not giving them economic assistance. What would we do if we were opposed to Yahya? How does our policy differ from a hostile policy?

Mr. Van Hollen: In many ways. In general we have been very forthcoming with Pakistan. We came forward rapidly on relief. We havenʼt cut off economic assistance—indeed we have been more flexible than the other members of the economic consortium. In Yahyaʼs eyes, our stance has been favorable.

Mr. Kissinger: We should tell him he should do these things on refugees but tie it to political accommodation?

Mr. Irwin: It wouldnʼt be tied to political accommodation.

Mr. Kissinger: Would we tell him that our efforts with India are contingent on these steps, or that our resumption of economic assistance is contingent on political steps?

Mr. Van Hollen: They are not contingent on political steps. We have been doing these things all along. We can tell him that our success with India depends on his success on the refugee flow and on political accommodation.

Mr. Nutter: We have the very practical problem that 90% of his transport is of US origin. If we cut off his spare parts he wonʼt have a transportation system.

Mr. Zumwalt: Or he wonʼt be able to maintain sufficient order to prevent the insurgents from cutting the system. If we donʼt give him some spares that are classified as lethal, the Pakistan Army will be relatively limited. They could do a better job than if we bring their military machine to a halt by withholding spare parts. We can use the military capability to keep the lines open and use the vehicles to deliver food.

Mr. Williams: I think your first point is valid but I question the second. The UNICEF vehicles have been commandeered by the Army and they arenʼt using them to move supplies.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) Your proposed scenario says (reading) “… our hold on military shipments … should not be lifted until there is an end of military activity against the civilian population and until the army is returned to its barracks and effective civilian administration [Page 301] is in operation.” In other words, until after East Pakistan is independent.

Mr. Hannah: What about the spare parts for the trucks now under order? Are they being shipped?

Mr. Zumwalt: The licenses will run out in a few weeks.

Mr. Williams: Shipments will cease on August 13.

Mr. Zumwalt: At just about the time the famine is hitting, we will likely see a breakdown of transport and of the ability to maintain sufficient order to get food supplies through.

Mr. Irwin: If by giving the military some trucks they would use them to move supplies, no one would object. By giving trucks and spare parts to the military, even though we did our best to see that they were used for food distribution, you would be certain to arouse political opposition here.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we see a cable on what you would tell Yahya. I will schedule fifteen minutes at the beginning of the next NSC meeting so that all of the principals can hear the Presidentʼs views again on this subject. Letʼs see a cable of what we want to tell Yahya. Weʼre very receptive here to anything we should say on what he should do on refugees.

Mr. Irwin: To sum up, anything in any area that we can do without getting into the question of political accommodation, we should do. Political accommodation will be treated separately.

Mr. Kissinger: In general, of course, Iʼm in favor of representative government and we should urge Yahya to restore an increasing degree of participation by the people of East Pakistan. But the clock is running in India faster than the clock on political accommodation. We are determined to avoid war. If it is necessary to squeeze India, we will. There will be no war if we have any pressure available. The inevitable eventual outcome of all this is an autonomous East Pakistan. Over any two or three year period, 75,000 Punjabi cannot govern 75 million Bengalis. West Pakistan needs more time for the sort of accommodation that will be required than they do to meet the urgent problem of the refugees.

Mr. Irwin: We donʼt disagree. In addition, we are saying it might be helpful if Yahya could make a start in the direction of political accommodation.

Mr. Kissinger: If it can be done in a non-conditional way.

Mr. Irwin: There are no conditions.

Mr. Kissinger: Letʼs draft a telegram and I will show it to the President.

Mr. Irwin: Warren (Nutter) and Admiral Zumwalt have raised a good question on military supply.

[Page 302]

Mr. Kissinger: We canʼt do anything on military supply until these other things are in train.

Mr. Nutter: There will be a de facto embargo about mid-August.

Mr. Williams: Arenʼt these truck spares available commercially?

General Brett: Theyʼre all made to military specifications.

Mr. Kissinger: Would it be possible to release some spare parts for transport alone?

Mr. Noyes: Some truck parts are interchangeable with tank parts.

Mr. Williams: The Army should have spare parts for its vehicles. Their mobility is important. But the UN people in Dacca had recommended against sending any vehicles. Increased mobility for the army wonʼt move a lot of relief supplies.

Mr. Van Hollen: What about possible discussions with the British?

Mr. Kissinger: Thatʼs a good idea.

Mr. Van Hollen: How about with the Soviets?

Mr. Kissinger: What would we tell the Soviets? Who would talk to them? Another SiscoDobrynin conversation?

Mr. Van Hollen: It should probably be the Under Secretary.

Mr. Kissinger: That would be useful.

Mr. Irwin: We could suggest a mutual discussion and assessment of the situation.

Mr. Kissinger: We also need a contingency plan in the event of an Indian-Pakistani war.

Mr. Van Hollen: We have done some work on it, but it needs more.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Another record of the meeting was prepared on August 9 in OASD/ISA by Brigadier General Brett. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 092 (Aug–Dec) 1971) A brief record of the meeting was prepared in the CIA on August 2 by John H. Waller, Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, Directorate for Plans. (Central Intelligence Agency, O/DDO Files, Job 79–01229A, Box 7, Folder 8, NSC 1971)
  2. See Document 105.
  3. An undated “Scenario For Action In Indo-Pakistan Crisis” was drafted on July 29 in NEA/INC by Quainton and circulated to the Senior Review Group. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–058, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 7/30/71) This paper is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 142.
  4. See Document 84.
  5. Mohammed Shoaib, Vice President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.