126. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • India and Pakistan


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Anthony C.E. Quainton
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • Armistead Selden
    • Brig. Gen. Devol Brett
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Lt. Gen. John Vogt
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • John Waller
  • NSC Staff
    • Col. Richard Kennedy
    • Samuel Hoskinson
    • D. Keith Guthrie


The WSAG agreed that Option C of the contingency paper2 on a possible India–Pakistan conflict seemed likely to be the most suitable strategy for the US.
The analysis of Option C will be expanded to include a scenario for US approaches to the Soviet Union and the Peopleʼs Republic of China both before and after the outbreak of hostilities. The WSAG noted the importance of insuring that the Chinese are aware that it is our policy to seek to preserve the integrity of Pakistan. No action will be taken with either the Soviet or Chinese government, however, without prior clearance by the White House.
The State Department will prepare a study of a possible cut-off in economic assistance to India. This should set forth specific steps to be taken in implementing a cut-off and should evaluate anticipated consequences.
The emergency and evacuation plans for India and for East and West Pakistan will be reviewed and updated.

Mr. Kissinger: I just wanted to have a brief meeting on the contingency paper. It states three options, of which only one—Option 3— is likely to be operative. A passive international approach would not be tolerated by either side. The logic of events, taking into account the Soviet and Chinese involvement, would not permit such an approach. Does anyone disagree with this?

No one disagreed.

Mr. Kissinger: As for military support to India or Pakistan, that also does not seem to be a very probable course of action. So we are left with political intervention, and I would like to talk about that for a minute.

We have an overall interest in preventing hostilities. We do not want to be forced to choose between 800 million Chinese and 600 million Indians and Bengalis. We donʼt want India in the Soviet camp, even though the Indians may be driving themselves there deliberately through the creation of a phony crisis.

Letʼs discuss this issue in two categories: (1) what we can do to minimize the danger of an outbreak of war and (2) what we can do in case there is an attack.

We need to consider what we would say to the Soviets and to the Chinese and how we could cooperate with the Soviets to prevent a war. Both the President and the Secretary of State have warned the Indians that we will cut off economic aid in case of war. But do we know what that means? No one has looked at the consequences or examined the means of implementing a cutoff. This is something that it is imperative to examine. Could we have some discussion on some of these problems? What preventive actions can we take? What steps can we take to limit the damage in case hostilities occur?

(to Helms) Dick, do we have enough intelligence on what the Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis are doing?

Mr. Helms: I would like to ask John Waller to discuss that.

Mr. Waller: [8 lines of source text not declassified] The overt reporting speaks for itself. [1 line of source text not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Do you lose them to the New York Times faster than you can recruit them?

Mr. Waller: The intelligence community has been assessing the critical collection problems.

Mr. Helms: These are all being scrubbed down in our committee.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you think the Indians will attack?

Mr. Helms: My personal feeling is that they will not do so.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) What do you think?

[Page 341]

Mr. Sisco: I donʼt think they will launch an attack across the border. However, I believe they will feel free to support the liberation movement in East Pakistan now that they have the treaty with the Soviets. This will be more likely to happen if the liberation movement picks up steam, the relief problem continues, and there is no political accommodation. My reaction is that in no circumstances will the Pakistanis initiate hostilities in the West. If the Indian objective is to achieve a Bangla Desh that they can work with, they will continue to support the liberation movement.

Adm. Moorer: [6 lines of source text not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Are the Chinese reinforcing?

Mr. Helms: No.

Adm. Moorer: There are no indications yet that they are. We do know that the Indians have activated some airfields near West Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: How quickly would the Chinese be able to reinforce?

Adm. Moorer: It would be very difficult for them.

Mr. Helms: The terrain is bad, and they donʼt have the necessary equipment. We would know ahead of time.

Mr. Kissinger: Did they reinforce in 1962?

Mr. Helms: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Did we know?

Mr. Helms: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: What did the Indians think was going to happen?

Mr. Helms: As I recall, the Indians had sort of decided to take on the Chinese before the attack took place.

Mr. Kissinger: Thus, their surprise was the result of a judgmental factor.

Mr. Helms: In that part of the world one still has the problem of passions outrunning good judgment.

Mr. Kissinger: Passions donʼt have to run very far to do that in India.

Mr. Irwin: If Joeʼs [Siscoʼs]3 scenario is correct, what steps could be taken to reduce that possibility [that the Indians will stir up trouble].

Adm. Moorer: Doesnʼt it all boil down to whether the Indians take overt action? The Pakistanis are outnumbered four to one. They certainly are not going to attack.

Mr. Irwin: What would cause the Indians to take action?

[Page 342]

Adm. Moorer: The emotion you were talking about. Also the refugee problem.

Mr. Irwin: There are several possible contingencies that could cause the Indians to act. There could be a famine in East Pakistan which would stimulate a large wave of refugees. Failure to reach a political accommodation would be another factor. The execution of Mujibur Rahman might touch off something.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we know what is going on at the trial?

Adm. Moorer: It is expected to last two months.

Mr. Helms: Until October.

Mr. Irwin: All we can do with India is to urge restraint and threaten. The things that might cause the Indians to move are some military incident, a famine, or the execution of Mujibur Rahman.

Mr. Helms: I think US policy has been just right on this occasion. We are urging the Indians not to attack, we are taking action to prevent famine, and we are getting the UN engaged. It doesnʼt look like we are doing a lot, but what else is there to do? The only other thing we should do is get Ted Kennedy home.4

Mr. Kissinger: Iʼm not sure they would agree about that [Kennedyʼs return] upstairs.

Mr. Sisco: In this contingency paper there are a lot of unilateral steps indicated. I think we ought to realize that in case of war there is really very little that we can do unilaterally. We will have to rely on what parallel interests the US, the USSR, and China may have in localizing the war. What bothers me is that we have channels to the Soviets, but we have to find ways to talk to the Chinese.

Mr. Kissinger: We can figure that out.

Mr. Sisco: By ourselves we have a limited capacity to influence the situation.

Mr. Kissinger: What should we tell the Soviets and Chinese that we want them to do?

Mr. Sisco: Before or after hostilities?

Mr. Kissinger: Before and after. Has anyone talked to the Soviet Union?

Mr. Sisco: It is difficult to say exactly what we would tell them at the present juncture.

Mr. Kissinger: Couldnʼt we say: “Cool your new friends?” Am I missing something here? Why not say that to them?

[Page 343]

Mr. Helms: Sure. Why not? Conversation is cheap.

Mr. Irwin: I see no problem. At some point we might move to that. The Secretary [Rogers] was planning on seeing the Soviets, but the Soviet treaty with India intervened.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) You shake your head. Why?

Mr. Helms: This is the time [to talk to the Soviets]. If you donʼt turn that stone and a serious problem develops later, you will kick yourself.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) Is there something going on that eludes me, Joe? Why are you so mysterious?

Mr. Sisco: I have no problem with talking to the Soviets. Two weeks ago we prepared talking points for that.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, can I assume that we [the White House] will be told if you decide to approach the Soviets?

Mr. Sisco: Naturally we will have to talk to the Secretary [Rogers] about this.

Mr. Irwin: Certainly.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) What should we tell the Chinese? It is so out of character for you to be reticent.

Mr. Sisco: We have such good direct relations with the Pakistanis that we donʼt have to go to the Chinese to ask them to urge restraint on the Pakistanis. I donʼt see any immediate need to talk to the Chinese.

Mr. Kissinger: When you think the time has come, will you give us a hint? A reticent Joe Sisco is unknown. Usually when you come here you have already done whatever is to be done. Maybe you have decided to change your strategy from one of telling us afterward to not telling us at all. Anyway, we assume the State Department will let us know when a message is to be passed to the Chinese. What do we do when a war starts?

Adm. Moorer: As for evacuation, there are 7,698 US nationals to be evacuated from India, some 2,000 from West Pakistan, and 242 in East Pakistan.

Mr. Sisco: We should look at the evacuation plans.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get these plans in shape?

Mr. Sisco: Some of the things we do in connection with evacuation are standard. We need to get suggestions on what to tell the Soviets and Chinese.

Mr. Kissinger: Can someone study what we mean when we say we are going to cut out economic aid [to India]? We should look at the consequences.

Mr. Irwin: What we do is cut down on Indian possibilities for economic development. This increases the burden on the Indian [Page 344] governmental system, may stop their democratic evolution, and might lead them to make a pact with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we cut off aid through the consortium?

Mr. Sisco: We will produce a paper on this. Some of the steps might be to delay a commitment on the 1972 development loan program, to mobilize other aid donors to delay their assistance, to delay signing a PL–480 agreement, and to stop things that are in the pipeline.

Mr. Kissinger: Could you do that [prepare a paper]? We will also be getting talking points for the Soviets and Chinese both before and after an attack. You will let us know what you are doing on this, and we in turn will let you know about anything we are doing here that may affect the situation.

Mr. Sisco: We and the Chinese and the Russians have certain common interests in this.

Mr. Kissinger: We canʼt have solo efforts on this.

Mr. Irwin: Yes, we should coordinate as much as possible with the Chinese and Soviets.

Mr. Kissinger: I mean bureaucratically.

Mr. Irwin: Oh. I was looking at it from a somewhat broader perspective.

Mr. Helms: Can we assume that the Chinese know about our efforts to keep Pakistan together?

Mr. Sisco: I think they ought to know that our basic policy is to be helpful in maintaining the integrity of Pakistan.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. We should make sure that they donʼt misread us. Everyone can get together and assemble these talking points. Let us have those for the Chinese fairly soon.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret;Exdis; Code-word. Sent for information. No drafting information appears on the source text. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. The contingency paper on Indo-Pakistan hostilities is summarized in the August 17 analytical summary prepared for the WSAG meeting; See Document 125. Option C called for political intervention to localize the hostilities and to work for a settlement which would remove the basic causes of the fighting.
  3. These and following brackets are in the source text.
  4. Senator Edward Kennedy (D–Massachusetts) completed on August 17 an 8-day fact-finding trip to India undertaken in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Refugees. The results of the trip were summarized in telegram 13221 from New Delhi, August 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US)