134. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Indian Ambassador L.K. Jha
  • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting took place at Ambassador Jhaʼs request. When Dr. Kissinger had told the Ambassador that he would be on the West Coast, the Ambassador had eagerly jumped at the opportunity of seeing him out there.

Ambassador Jha opened the meeting by asking Dr. Kissinger what he thought of the state of Indian-American relations. Dr. Kissinger replied that they were in a very curious phase right now. On the one [Page 368] hand, as he had explained to Indian officials on his trip to New Delhi, the United States considered India a potentially great power and one of the permanent crucial factors in American foreign policy. We wanted nothing so much as good relationships with India and we thought that our interests in the long term were congruent. On the other hand, Dr. Kissinger continued, it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that a deliberate campaign was being mounted to undermine our relations. Ambassador Jha knew very well that the arms program to Pakistan was totally insignificant. We had explained the circumstances; we had given the major amount of economic aid for the refugees, more than the rest of the world combined. And nevertheless the attacks continued. Even his visit to India had been used not to stress the positive aspects but to make more of a point of the Indian grievances. And this was before his side trip to China was known. Now the argument was that our policy towards China was the cause of the treaty with the Soviet Union.

Dr. Kissinger said he did not really know what India wanted. If India wanted to become an extension of Soviet foreign policy, then inevitably the American interest in India was bound to decline and India would have to look to the Soviet Union for the greater part of its economic and other assistance. He could not understand why India would want to be drawn into the Sino-Soviet rivalry, or why it would deliberately antagonize the one country that had no national interests in the Subcontinent except an independent and healthy India and an independent Subcontinent.

Ambassador Jha replied that the situation in India was very difficult. First of all, Madame Gandhi was not at all pro-Soviet. She had for a long time resisted the proposal—that had first been thought up by Djinesh Singh, the former Foreign Minister—of this treaty of friendship. (In fact, Jha said on a personal basis, he wouldnʼt be a bit surprised if Djinesh Singh actually received pay from the Communists.) At the same time he also thought that Kaul and Haksar were very much under Soviet influence. In short, for both these reasons Madame Gandhi was under great pressure. The project had been going along for about a year, and recently Madame Gandhi felt she needed some dramatic foreign policy, so she picked it up, but Dr. Kissinger could be certain that she did not have her heart in it.

That might be so, Dr. Kissinger said, but the problem is how she would carry out the policy. Dr. Kissinger could tell her that from our selfish point of view it did not hurt us to have India pursue such a pro-Soviet line in relation to our China policy, nor should the Ambassador have any illusions that it was possible to stir up any basic American public support on the Bengal issue. Still, in order to score temporary points, India was running a tremendous risk of permanently alienating the United States.

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The Ambassador repeated that Haksar and Kaul were the real obstacles in India and that in the Foreign Office there were many pro-Soviet elements. The big issue was whether we could use Madame Gandhiʼs visit in some positive sense. He asked Dr. Kissinger what he suggested. Dr. Kissinger said he thought that it was important for the Prime Minister and the President to have a very frank talk. He did not recommend that they necessarily agree now on any very specific measures, nor would we want India to sign any documents that limited its freedom of action. We did, however, believe that it was important that we understood where each side was going and that the actions that followed would be consistent with these expectations.

The Ambassador then asked a number of technical questions: Could we pick up Madame Gandhi after she arrives in New York with a military airplane? Dr. Kissinger told him we could. Could the President come to some social function at the Indian Embassy or at Blair House? Dr. Kissinger said dinner was absolutely out of the question, and whether the President might call on Madame Gandhi at Blair House would depend on the then state of relationships. It was imperative, however, that India do nothing to upset the equilibrium before Madame Gandhiʼs visit, and that the Indian press campaign be muted in anticipation of that visit. The Ambassador agreed that we would meet in Washington to work out the agenda and other details.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 210, Geopolitical File, South Asia, Chronological File, Aug–Oct 1971. Secret. Drafted by Kissinger on August 30. The meeting was held in Kissingerʼs office in the Western White House.