112. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Joseph S. Farland, US Ambassador to Pakistan
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff
[Page 303]

After the initial exchange of greetings, Dr. Kissinger asked the Ambassador whether he knew that Senator Kennedy had had the nerve to ask the Pakistanis to arrange a visa for a visit to China. He noted that Ambassador Hilaly had told him of this fact. There was an exchange on the fact that Senator Kennedy plans to visit the Indian refugee camps and that the Pakistanis had denied a visa to one of Senator Kennedyʼs aides who has been particularly hostile to Pakistan.

Dr. Kissinger then asked the Ambassador what the reaction of the officers in his embassy had been after the announcement that Dr. Kissinger had gone to Peking from Islamabad.

Ambassador Farland said that he had never seen so many jaws drop. He said there was no suspicion of this in the embassy. Substantively, everyone felt that it was a significant accomplishment.

Mr. Saunders noted that there had been suspicion among embassy officers during Dr. Kissingerʼs absence from Islamabad that something special was going on, but most of the officers had given up thinking much about it because they did not have any plausible idea of what might be happening. Ambassador Farland noted that he had been concerned about the AP stringer in Islamabad. Mr. Saunders noted that the few American reporters in Islamabad had pestered the embassy for a while on Saturday and then had taken off for various other places on Sunday morning, having decided that there apparently was to be no story in Islamabad.

Dr. Kissinger concluded this part of the conversation by describing the whole exercise as a “well done operation.” He said that he had fully expected something to leak after his return and he had been holding his breath until the Thursday2 announcement.

Dr. Kissinger then turned to the situation in India and Pakistan. He said, “State is driving me to tears.” He said he was certain that the State Department wanted to link any movement on the refugee and relief fronts to a full political accommodation in East Pakistan.

He asked Ambassador Farland to check his judgment that (1) it is better to talk to Yahya “with love rather than with brutality” [Ambassador Farland said, “That is the only way.”]3 and (2) that we could say anything to Yahya as long as we related it to a refugee settlement and did not describe it as related to “political accommodation.”

Dr. Kissinger said that, if one were to ask his estimate, there will some day be an independent Bangla Desh. However, the problem now is to defuse the refugee situation so that India cannot use it as a plausible [Page 304] excuse for going to war. The political outcome in East Pakistan will run far behind the increase or decrease in tensions this fall resulting from the refugee problem. He concluded with a comment on Assistant Secretary Siscoʼs characteristic of showing a lot of motion without much sense of strategy. He said he had “let Sisco get away with some things in the Middle East” but he is not going to let him do that in South Asia. “Sisco will produce two wars in his area, if we are not careful.”

Ambassador Farland agreed that the possibility of war is imminent.

Dr. Kissinger said he felt that we had to press the Indians harder. When he asked what Mr. Saunders thought, Mr. Saunders said that he felt that we had just about run out of steam with the Indians for a moment and had to press for some accomplishment on the Pakistani side before we could go back at the Indians. Dr. Kissinger shrugged.

Dr. Kissinger said that he thought the big mistake the Pakistanis were making was to dribble out all of the things they were doing on the refugee front. He felt that they should save them all up for several weeks and then announce a big program that could be pointed to as a significant effort to solve the refugee problem.

Dr. Kissinger asked whether Ambassador Farland thought he could sell this to President Yahya. Ambassador Hilaly did not understand it here. He thought that perhaps Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan had understood, but “he is such a hard-liner” that it seems unlikely that he would act on the suggestion. Dr. Kissinger does not feel that President Yahya had understood.

Ambassador Farland said that he thought that he could—or at least he would try—to sell this idea to President Yahya. Dr. Kissinger said, “Letʼs make a deal—that if you get some instructions from the State Department that you consider absolutely crazy, you will use the special communications channel with us.” Ambassador Farland agreed.

Ambassador Farland said that he had talked with Mr. McNamara at the World Bank and McNamara remained obstinately opposed to any resumption of economic assistance to Pakistan under present circumstances.

Dr. Kissinger said that it is absolutely essential that we get a comprehensive refugee program. If Yahya could propose a coherent program then we would have something to take to the Indians as a basis for squeezing them not to go to war. The Indians could then be asked to let the refugees go back or to keep quiet about them. In any case, if the Pakistanis had what looked like a plausible refugee program, then the Indians would have less of an excuse to go to war.

Dr. Kissinger said he would urge Yahya to be “sweeping on refugees.” He would urge him to allow the intrusion of UN officials into every village. Then, with international civil servants on the scene, [Page 305] we could go to the Indians and refute any of the allegations they were making to keep the refugees from returning. The onus would be on them. It would be difficult to go to war on that issue.

Dr. Kissinger said that he despaired of the State Departmentʼs effort to link political accommodation with a refugee solution. [Comment: This had been discussed in the Senior Review Group earlier that afternoon.]4 Mr. Saunders said that he felt that the terms “political accommodation” and “civil administration” had been confused during the Senior Review Group meeting. Mr. Saunders felt that Maury Williams [Deputy Administrator, AID] had not been concerned about the political complexion of government in East Pakistan but had been saying that for the refugee relief and feeding programs to succeed, there would have to be some effective local administration. Food would not move if village functionaries could not commandeer trucks to go down to the docks and bring food back to the villages. Williams, Mr. Saunders felt, was talking about the need to restore the administrative machinery, whereas Stateʼs term “political accommodation,” while encompassing that thought, went beyond and had become shorthand for the ultimate constitutional and political arrangements in East Pakistan. Dr. Kissinger indicated that “Maury Williams is all right, but that idiot Van Hollen drives me crazy.”

Ambassador Farland said that he would sell President Yahya on the idea of a refugee-relief program.

Dr. Kissinger said he thought we were heading for war in South Asia. Whatʼs more, he said he felt that the Chinese Communists would come in.

Ambassador Farland said that the Russians had backed the Indians down the line. Dr. Kissinger noted that recent intelligence reports had indicated that the Soviets had offered to hold naval maneuvers with the Indians. He did not think the Indians would go that far. He said he thought that the Indians feel they can take all of Pakistan, or at least make West Pakistan so feeble that it would no longer be a threat to India.

[At this point Mr. Saunders left and Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Farland concluded their meeting alone.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 210, Geopolitical File, South Asia, Chronological File, Nov 69–July 1971. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders on July 31. The meeting was held in Kissingerʼs office at the White House.
  2. July 15.
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. See Document 111.