128. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Letter From Mrs. Gandhi
Mrs. Gandhi has written in response to your two most recent letters to her concerning the situation in South Asia (Tab A). There is nothing new in this letter. Also attached (Tab B)2 is her appeal sent to you and other major heads of state to use your influence with President Yahya concerning the fate of Mujibur Rahman.
Specifically, Mrs. Gandhi makes the following major points:
- —It is not for India to object to the US maintaining a “constructive relationship” with Pakistan with a view toward retaining some influence in the present situation. She implies, however, that this has yet to produce anything tangible. Nothing, she says, would give India a greater sense of relief than saying that the US is “working toward a viable settlement which would restore peace and a semblance of civilized government in East Bengal which would enable Pakistan citizens to return to their homes.”
- —She rejects our idea of posting UN observers on both sides of the India–East Pakistan border. Essentially her argument is that anyone is free to travel and visit the refugee camps and that it is “unrealistic” to think that UN observers could help stem the flow of refugees. “Would,” she asks, “the League of Nations Observers have succeeded in persuading the refugees who fled from Hitlerʼs tyranny to return even whilst the pogroms against the Jews and political opponents of Nazism continued unabated?”
- —Her government was “greatly embarrassed” by the revelation, right after her Foreign Minister returned from Washington, that the US was still shipping arms to Pakistan. She characterizes all our arms shipments to Pakistan as a “sad chapter in the history of our subcontinent.”
- —She thanks you for informing her of the China initiative, welcomes this move and wishes you well.
Despite Mrs. Gandhiʼs obvious disagreement with our policy toward South Asia, the generally moderate and somewhat defensive tone of her letter is perhaps significant. It is also interesting that it was dispatched just prior to the signing of the new Indo-Soviet “friendship” treaty and on the same day she also accepted your invitation that she visit here in November. This coincides with other indications that despite recent events, Mrs. Gandhi is by no means prepared to write off the US.
State has been asked to draft a suggested response. They will do this after seeing what comes out of the discussions that Maury Williams and Ambassador Farland will be having in Islamabad this week. If these produce something positive we will then be in a better position to go back at the Indians.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 759, Presidential Correspondence File, India (1971). Confidential. Sent for information. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it; Nixon put a checkmark on the memorandum to show that he had read it.↩
- See Document 119.↩
- No classification marking.↩
- The letter, dated May 28, was delivered to Gandhi on May 29; See Document 62.↩
- Document 86.↩
- Document 46.↩