125. Analytical Summary Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


At the Senior Review Group meeting on July 302 concerned with NSSM 1333 (Contingency Planning on South Asia), it was decided that those sections of the paper4 dealing with U.S. actions in case of war should be updated and expanded. The following summarizes and reviews the current state of our contingency planning for the possible outbreak of hostilities between India and Pakistan. Actually this current paper5 represents only slight progress beyond the earlier effort.

I. The Prospects (pp. 1–3)

The danger of a new war in South Asia “remains real.” If no progress is made toward (a) political accommodation between West and East Pakistan and (b) repatriation of Bengali refugees from India by September or October, the chances for hostilities “will increase.”

U.S. actions in the event of another Indo-Pak war would in part be conditioned by the circumstances in which the hostilities broke out. The most likely scenarios are:

  • —Indian military forces attack East Pakistan in an effort to, at a minimum, seize and hold part of the area and at a maximum to drive out the West Pakistani forces.
  • —India steps up more direct support for a major insurgent effort to seize and hold a portion of East Pakistan.
  • —A gradual process of escalation involving incidents along the East Pakistan-India border with confusion as to who is most at fault.
  • —West Pakistanis initiate hostilities by attacking guerrilla sanctuaries in eastern India and/or Indian military support bases.
  • —West Pakistanis, either to divert Indian attention or to demonstrate Indian vulnerability, attempt to stir up trouble in India-held Kashmir and/or along the Kashmir cease-fire line. As in 1965, the situation rapidly escalates to full scale hostilities. (The State paper does not include this possibility but it seems real enough to be considered since from a Pak point of view Kashmir is Indiaʼs most vulnerable point.)

II. U.S. Interests (p. 3)

Should war break out between India and Pakistan it would be in the U.S. interest that:

  • —the hostilities not expand to include third parties, particularly China (and the Soviets).
  • —to see that hostilities are not protracted since a prolonged war could do profound damage to the political, economic and social fabric of India and Pakistan.

Thus, the paper concludes, U.S. interests would be best served by an early end to the conflict and by negotiations among all parties leading to a withdrawal of Indian troops and an overall political settlement.

III. Options in the Event of Hostilities (pp. 3–13)

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.” (pp. 4–5) The U.S. would assume a “relatively passive” (or inactive) posture indicating our basic neutrality. Such a role might be particularly appropriate in circumstances where (a) responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities was unclear, (b) the likelihood of Chinese involvement was judged to be small and (c) the conflict appeared likely to be of short duration. Such a posture might involve:

  • —adopting a public position that we did not intend to become directly involved and would not provide assistance to either side;
  • —support of efforts in the Security Council to end hostilities and achieve a negotiated settlement;
  • —suspension of all economic and military aid;
  • —Presidential offer of good offices to both Yahya and Mrs. Gandhi;
  • —close consultation with Soviets and British;
  • —cautioning Chinese (and Soviets) against involvement (presumably only if they seemed to be heading in that direction).

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 [Page 336] be preserved. (As long as the Chinese stayed out and refrained from adopting a menacing posture toward India, there would be a hope for maintaining our own relationship with them.)

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.” (pp. 6–9) 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 with Pakistan, and through the 1964 Air Defense Agreement with India),6 although there are no provisions for automatic U.S. involvement and these are practically speaking dead letters.

To Pakistan. (pp. 6–8) In the event of a clear-cut Indian attack on Pakistan, the Paks might well turn to us as they did in 1965. Short of providing U.S. combat personnel, we could:

  • —develop an emergency military supply program;
  • —terminate all U.S. programs in India;
  • —take the lead in mobilizing international pressure on India to halt its intervention;
  • —support a Security Council resolution condemning India.

The argument for is we would be supporting Pakistanʼs national unity, diminishing Chinese influence and strengthening our position elsewhere in the Muslim world.

The argument against is that U.S. interests in and relations with India would be “seriously damaged” and the Soviets would gain ground there. Moreover, our actions would probably have little effect on the military outcome of the conflict and there would be no basis for a U.S. conciliatory role.


To India. (pp. 8–9) 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. However, if China were to intervene massively on Pakistanʼs side and seemed to threaten India in a major way “we would want to consider providing military assistance to India.” Short of providing combat personnel the U.S. might:

  • —offer to consult with India under the 1964 Air Defense Agreement;
  • —develop an emergency military assistance program focussed primarily on meeting the Chinese threat;
  • —[1 paragraph (1 line of source text) not declassified];
  • —coordinate with the British and the Soviets on additional assistance measures.

The argument for is that it would be consistent with our overall Asian policy of assisting states threatened by external aggression and would, perhaps at the expense of the Soviets, create a firm basis for a future close relationship with India.

The argument against is that very severe strains would be created in our relations with Pakistan and, more importantly, with China. There would also be the risk of creeping involvement leading to a more extensive commitment involving a direct U.S. confrontation with China.


Political Intervention. (pp. 10–13) Rather than assume a relatively passive political posture stressing our neutrality or intervening with military assistance to one side, we could intervene politically. The main purpose of an activist political role would be to first localize the hostilities and then work for a settlement which would remove the basic causes of the fighting.

Immediately upon the outbreak of war we could:

  • —call for a UN Security Council meeting and support a demand for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations between the parties;
  • —send immediate Presidential messages to Yahya and Mrs. Gandhi calling for an end to the fighting and a negotiated settlement;
  • —engage in immediate talks with the Soviets and British on ways to end the hostilities;
  • —privately and publicly urge restraint on the Chinese (and if possible engage them also in the peacemaking effort).

If hostilities have broken out because of an Indian attack or because of Indian support to the Bengali insurgents “we should” also:

  • —after carefully assessing the likelihood on a Chinese attack on India, move to terminate our residual military sales program for India;
  • —hold up on all shipments and licenses of military supplies destined for India;
  • —“prepare” to hold economic assistance to India in abeyance at least for the duration of the hostilities.

If the circumstances of the outbreak of hostilities were thoroughly ambiguous then “we should” also:

  • —publicly suspend military supply to both countries;
  • —consider suspending economic assistance to both sides;
  • —urge other major arms supplying countries (Soviets, Chinese, British and French) to suspend arms shipments to both sides.

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The arguments for include:

  • —would provide maximum U.S. flexibility in a complex situation;
  • —would maximize use of U.S. programs and influence to shorten hostilities and inhibit external military intervention;
  • —would increase chances for U.S. to maintain relations with both India and Pakistan (and perhaps even “Bangla Desh”) in the aftermath of hostilities;
  • —might create conditions in which the U.S. and USSR (and possibly China) could cooperate fully in a common political and peace making role.

The arguments against include:

  • —a heavy, perhaps unbearable, strain would be placed on our relations with India;
  • —at the same time the Paks could also feel sold out;
  • —might not succeed in shortening hostilities and encourage Chinese military intervention.

IV. Pre-Hostilities Contingency Actions

Irrespective of the posture we assumed upon the outbreak of hostilities, various U.S. programs and interests in both India and Pakistan would be immediately affected by the war. The paper, therefore, suggests the following operational contingency planning by appropriate U.S. agencies be undertaken soon:

Guidance for shipping companies, insurance agents, freight forwarders and customs agents should be prepared. Confiscated cargoes and other related complications caused endless problems after the 1965 war. (Presumably the main agencies involved would be AID, Defense and Agriculture.)
MAC should be instructed to review its contingency arrangements for overflying South Asia without any stops. Hostilities could involve extensive bombing of airfields on both sides.
Evacuation plans should be reviewed for all posts in India and Pakistan for implementation on short notice.
Intelligence coverage of Chinese intentions and capability to intervene in South Asia should be intensified to provide the maximum possible advance warning of any significant Chinese military move. [2 lines of source text not declassified]
Intelligence coverage of Indian and Pakistani military activities should be increased as much as possible.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–082, WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 8/17/71. Secret; Exdis. No drafting information appears on the summary, but an August 17 transmittal memorandum, attached but not printed, to Kissinger suggests it was drafted by Hoskinson and Kennedy.
  2. See Document 111.
  3. Document 88.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 111.
  5. On August 17 NSC staff secretary Jeanne Davis circulated to the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Chairman of the JCS an undated paper prepared in the State Department that revised sections V and VI of the contingency study referenced in footnote 4 above. The revisions, which are summarized in the analytical summary, are a refinement of the initial response to NSSM 133. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–082, WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 8/17/71)
  6. The reference is in error; the agreement was signed in New Delhi on July 9, 1963, by Prime Minister Nehru and Ambassador Galbraith. The text of the agreement was transmitted to the Department on July 10 in telegram 143 from New Delhi; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIX, Document 307.