144. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Bruce Laingen
    • David Schneider
  • Defense
    • G. Warren Nutter
    • James H. Noyes
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Captain Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • John Waller
  • AID
    • John Hannah
    • Maurice Williams
    • Donald MacDonald
  • NSC Staff
    • Col. Kennedy
    • Mr. Saunders
    • Mr. Hoskinson
    • Adm. Welander
    • Jeanne Davis
[Page 394]


It was agreed that

We would make another approach to India to try to establish a common interest in avoiding famine and try to get an accurate count of the refugees;
State and AID will prepare a joint memorandum on an approach to the Congress for additional aid funds;
We should repeat the warning to India about military activity;
We should avoid giving any assurances to the Indians that we would support them in the event of a Chinese attack; nor should we make any threatening noises to the Indians.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we could ask Maury Williams to give us a brief rundown on relief, then discuss what I thought was to be a feeler on arms supply policy. I wonder what we would do if we were instructed to use a baseball bat—go to nuclear war?

Mr. Williams: As you know, I had discussions in Islamabad and Dacca from August 17 to 23. We nailed down a number of points. We got agreement with Yahya on the priority of the relief effort. He agreed that this was important to his objective of maintaining a Government position in East Pakistan. We also got Yahya to agree, although grudgingly, to the first UN field mission of some 40 people. Also, Yahya said that his policy was for a “civilianization of the Government in East Pakistan” which means deemphasizing the role of the military in running the place. He has now appointed Dr. A.M. Malik, a Bengali, as Governor of East Pakistan in place of the Commanding General there.

Dr. Kissinger: If I may interrupt—Senator Kennedy was in to see me today and claims there is a good possibility that Mujibur is already dead. Is that possible?

Mr. Sisco: Yahya told (Ambassador) Farland categorically that Mujib would not be hanged.

Mr. Helms: We have no information to support the rumor that he is dead.

Dr. Kissinger: I told (Senator) Kennedy that, and he asked why there has been no picture of him published to still the rumors. So we are reasonably sure he is alive?

Mr. Williams: It is inconceivable to me that they would announce a trial and arrange for a well-known defense attorney if he were dead.

Mr. Sisco: Itʼs even more inconceivable for the President of the country to tell our Ambassador to relax—that Mujib would not be killed.

Dr. Kissinger: I canʼt imagine that he is dead. Go on with your briefing Maury.

[Page 395]

Mr. Williams: With regard to political accommodation, the amnesty does not extend to most of the Awami League. Only 88 of the elected League members of the General Assembly and 94 League members of the Provincial Assembly have been cleared of criminal charges and therefore included in the amnesty. Most of these are in India—only 16 of the 88 General Assembly members are in Dacca. The remaining 79 General Assembly members and 60 Provincial Assembly members are on trial either in person or in absentia. There has been some blunting of anti-Hindu practices and some improvement in a more balanced distribution of relief supplies.

With regard to Pakistanʼs relations with the consortium, we got agreement to try to have a consortium meeting in early October, at the time of the IBRD Executive Directors meeting in Washington, and some agreement on strategy and tactics for such a meeting as well as a sense of the agenda. We proposed they consider: a) immediate relief requirements for East Pakistan and the need for more international help; b) debt relief by common donor action; and c) longer term relief and rehabilitation needs, particularly for agriculture. As of yesterday, McNamara agreed to this.

Dr. Kissinger: Were the Paks happy?

Mr. Sisco: Yes, they asked us to help them and are pleased that we are carrying the load for them.

Mr. Williams: Theyʼre delighted—the debt rescheduling is worth $75 million to them this year. They assured me Mujib would be tried. Heʼs worth more to them alive than dead. With regard to the security situation in East Pakistan, there is much guerrilla activity on the eastern border, primarily directed against transportation lines.

Dr. Kissinger: Is this parallel to the Indian border?

Mr. Williams: Yes—itʼs a battle for the life-line, with the guerrillas trying to cut the railroad and blow up the bridges. This will make the East Pakistanis dependent on water transport. In the north, the bands seem to be operating independently. To the south, there are bands of 3–600, well equipped and using sophisticated tactics. Their targets are transportation lines, bridges, police stations and the administrative structure generally. The first step in the communal violence may have been the killing by the Bangla Desh of the Urdu-speaking Bihari Minister. The counter-reaction when the Pak troops arrived led to the communal riots. The exact number of casualties is not known, but the deaths in the communal riots were probably in the thousands and in the later attacks on the Hindus, probably in the ten-thousands.

Dr. Kissinger: I didnʼt understand they had attacked the Hindus.

Mr. Williams: They were raped twice—once by the Bangla Desh, then by the troops.

[Page 396]

Dr. Kissinger: Why didnʼt this story come out?

Mr. Williams: I canʼt tell you.

Mr. Hannah: The journalists donʼt see that side of it.

Mr. Williams: I lived there for four years and have many friends there, and this is their assessment.

Dr. Kissinger: But you believe it?

Mr. Williams: Yes. The guerrilla activity has been slowly intensifying, thus forcing the Army to exercise increasing control. Army officers have been assigned down to the district level, and the Army is arming some anti-Hindu elements.

Dr. Kissinger: Are the infiltrators mostly Hindu?

Mr. Williams: Not necessarily. But the Urdu and the orthodox Moslems are more loyal to the Pakistan Government. They are being armed at the village level through what they call Peace Committees. They are the least experienced in leadership but are considered the most reliable by the central Government. These elements tend to be anti-Hindu, and this has generated fear and continued flight on the part of the Hindus.

With regard to a relief program, transport is the key. We have provided 25 coastal steamers which were much appreciated by Yahya. These will move food as it arrives. The security of the transport is of great concern, since the guerrillas are attacking the food and relief ships. The Paks want to arm the ships. We have tried to convince the UN and the military people in Dacca to use the UN emblem. They have agreed reluctantly to rely on the UN emblem and the attitude that “food is above the battle”, but if the UN doesnʼt get moving soon, the operation will fail.

Dr. Kissinger: Have we approached the Indians about assuming the security of the Hindus?

Mr. Williams: Alex Johnson spoke to (Indian Ambassador) Jha but he was brushed off.

Dr. Kissinger: When did this happen?

Mr. Irwin: About 10 days ago, but I donʼt know that Alex emphasized the point.

Mr. Schneider: He put it pretty directly.

Dr. Kissinger: Did he make the specific point, or say it would be a nice thing?

Mr. Schneider: He asked Jha to ask the Bangla Desh to assure the security of the remaining Hindus.

Mr. Williams: Jha brushed him off. He claimed these things were happening deep in East Pakistan territory and India had nothing to do with it.

[Page 397]

Mr. Sisco: It was an unsatisfactory response. We think we should go back to the Indians. Jack (Irwin) could call in the Indians this week.

Dr. Kissinger: Would you show him the map of guerrilla activity? Or we could give it to the New York Times, but they wouldnʼt print it.

Mr. Williams: The coordination of a relief program with the UN is no picnic, but it can be handled if the security situation is okay.

On the aid requirements, Yahya has asked for a massive effort of some $250–315 million, with a proposed US share of 75%, or $160–235 million. This would include $115 million in PL–480 funds, $25 million in US-owned excess rupees, and up to $95 million in appropriated dollars to come from the $100 million special contingency fund. The variable is the cost for the returnees. (to Dr. Kissinger) You asked if $100 million is enough. The answer is (yes) for East Pakistan. I have two specific recommendations: we should talk to the Indians urgently, trying to nail down the idea of a common interest in avoiding famine. We also need to settle on the number of refugees in order to calculate refugee needs. India claims 8 million, the Pakistanis say over 2 million. We need an impartial third-party verification.

Dr. Kissinger: What do you think?

Mr. Williams: Probably around 6 million. The question is how to stop the flow of refugees. Secondly, we need a decision on how to approach the Congress for the funds required for the refugees, principally in India. If there are 8 million refugees, they will need about $830 million.

Dr. Kissinger: How should we approach the Indians?

Mr. Irwin: We can make a two-fold approach—I can talk to Ambassador Jha here or (Ambassador) Keating can make the approach in New Delhi.

Dr. Kissinger: It would probably be better for you to do it here with Jha.

Mr. Irwin: I agree—maybe we can do both.

Dr. Kissinger: How can we get an impartial refugee count? Would the Indians agree?

Mr. Irwin: They havenʼt agreed to the UN presence yet. We can do it at the border and try to get a count in the camps.

Dr. Kissinger: (Ambassador) Keating said the Indians had agreed to travelling teams.

Mr. Williams: Yes, but they canʼt move very far out.

Dr. Kissinger: How can they object to counting the numbers weʼre supposed to support? Will they load up the camps? How can we establish that they are genuine?

Mr. Hannah: We would know in a range between 2 million and 8 million.

[Page 398]

Dr. Kissinger: Letʼs make the approach to India. Letʼs try to establish the principle of a common interest in relief measures in East Pakistan to prevent a further exodus into India. Then letʼs get an impartial count of what they are asking us to support in India. Why not show them the map of guerrilla activity? We can say we understand they canʼt do much about the forces deep in East Pakistan, but how about the ones at the India border. Would that be useful?

Mr. Irwin: We have already talked partially in these terms but didnʼt get far. We should try again.

Dr. Kissinger: They will diddle us to death if we donʼt talk energetically.

Mr. Sisco: Energetically and specifically. We could tell Jha that we have committed $7 million and are prepared to move. But we have to be satisfied of at least minimum cooperation from India. How can we be more responsive if we are not assured of minimum cooperation? There is no need for us to throw money away.

Mr. Hannah: Congress is at the appropriation stage. They have been told $100 million would take care of East Pakistan. Now we will need more for Pak refugees in India. Eight million refugees at 25¢ a day amounts to $2 million a day. We will be stuck with at least 50% of this.

Dr. Kissinger: If there is a continued heavy outflow of refugees, India will use it as a pretext to go to war. This will blow our China policy. They are already killing us in the press and lobbying with the Congress. We have to be firm. What else can they do to us? Iʼd do it myself, but I think itʼs a State Department responsibility.

Mr. Irwin: Sure it is.

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼre not asking them to give up anything essential.

Mr. Sisco: These little probes might offer a ray of light that we might get the Bangla Desh together with the Pak Government.

Mr. Irwin: Weʼll hit the Indians on this and push the UN to move.

Dr. Kissinger: The Indians are playing an absolutely ruthless game.

Mr. Williams: We have to indicate to the Congress what additional appropriations we want. For 8 million refugees, the non-food costs will be about $390 million. We have already provided $30 million in nonfood costs and $40 million in food leaving a requirement of $100–120 million. In the next week or so we need to ask for two things: 1) $100–150 million under the relief act2 to be used as we wish; and 2) an [Page 399] addition to the $100 million under the contingency fund of the foreign assistance act.3

Dr. Kissinger: How will we get it? (to Mr. Williams) Are you making a recommendation?

Mr. Williams: OMB is formulating one.

Mr. Sisco: There will be input from State and AID on how to proceed. It will be a joint memo from Mr. Hannah and Secretary Rogers.

Dr. Kissinger: Letʼs have it this week.

Mr. Irwin: We will get in touch with OMB.

Dr. Kissinger: Talk to Hal Saunders before it is all wrapped up. Can we talk now about the Bangla Desh feelers?

Mr. Sisco: We are trying to get the Bangla Desh to think in the direction of trying to look at political accommodation within the framework of the integrity of Pakistan. We think the six points are within the ballpark. We sent the cable4 to the Bangla Desh at Yahyaʼs request. He appreciates our position and we have assured him that we have taken no substantive position.

Dr. Kissinger: This can be very helpful.

Mr. Irwin: So much depends on the treatment of Mujib.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Williams) If we can get economic aid through the Senate wrapped in a relief program for Pakistan, would this be agreeable to the Paks?

Mr. Williams: They understand. It would be a case of broadening humanitarian assistance to include commodity assistance for agriculture.

Mr. Sisco: Isnʼt something further needed? What about the Gallagher Amendment?5

Mr. Hannah: The legislative history in the House is clear. In the Senate, we would not like to see the $18 million taken out—we would like to have it available.

Mr. Sisco: Secretary Rogers is appearing before the Proxmire Committee6 today.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sisco) I understand you suggested to the Paks that we might give economic aid in return for a complete shut-off of arms shipments.

[Page 400]

Mr. Sisco: No. I told them if they were willing to look at the possibility of drying up the military pipeline it would help us in dealing with the Gallagher Amendment. Thatʼs as far as I went.

Dr. Kissinger: We have a report from the Pak Embassy about discussions at the State Department.

Mr. Laingen: The Secretary talked to them initially, and now we have been talking to one of their Generals.7

Dr. Kissinger: May the President be informed? He has a personal relationship with Yahya. We will either get our reports from our own bureaucracy or from the Paks, but we wonʼt be uninformed. We want to know what is being said to the Paks.

Mr. Irwin: You should have been. We will send you the memcons.

Mr. Hannah: Relief for the refugees in India is another matter. We need an appropriation for that. The $100 million will take care of East Pakistan, but we need more for the refugees in India.

Mr. Laingen: Our discussions with the General are continuing. Weʼre looking now at FMS. They understand what we are up to.

Dr. Kissinger: What are we up to?

Mr. Laingen: Weʼre trying to dry up the pipeline. Thatʼs where we stand.

Dr. Kissinger: Thatʼs not where we stand. You are trying to dry up the pipeline. You are asking them to dry up the pipeline.

Mr. Sisco: Weʼll send you the memorandum of the Secretaryʼs conversation.8

Dr. Kissinger: The President has ruled on this 500 times. He thought this was to be an exploratory conversation.

Mr. Sisco: Thatʼs whatʼs going on. There has been no decision.

Dr. Kissinger: What does the General think is going on?

Mr. Sisco: Weʼre trying to determine if it is technically feasible. The Secretary checked this out with you. Iʼm not aware that there is any information that hasnʼt been provided you. Thereʼs been no recommendation from State or Defense. The Secretary merely wanted to know if it was technically feasible.

Mr. Irwin: Itʼs a question of what you mean by “drying up.” Some of the things we can deliver quickly. How long will it take to deliver whatʼs left over? The question is should we cut off the pipeline when most of the material has been delivered or drag it out. If we drag it out, we should be prepared to take the heat.

[Page 401]

Mr. Sisco: The US will be in a better position to be helpful if we are freed of the yoke of continued military shipments.

Dr. Kissinger: How?

Mr. Sisco: We havenʼt gotten into specifics. We can be helpful in the consortium with debt rescheduling, providing dollars for humanitarian relief, as well as normal programs.

Mr. Williams: Normal programs are held up by the Gallagher Amendment.

Dr. Kissinger: Iʼm trying to get the Presidentʼs orders carried out. Doesnʼt the Gallagher Amendment block economic aid? Weʼre trading what for what—arms shipments for no arms shipments?

Mr. Sisco: It depends on how you interpret the Gallagher Amendment.

Mr. Hannah: There is no intention of cutting off the $75 million loan funds for Pakistan held over from 1971. The Kennedy Amendment9 applies to the 1972 appropriation. Itʼs possible we could do some maneuvering. Even if the Gallagher Amendment is retroactive, it wonʼt be effective until the appropriation is passed. There are indications Senator Fulbright will hold the authorization in bondage until he gets a commitment from State and Defense to provide him certain information he wants. We have the $75 million which I donʼt think is affected by the Gallagher Amendment.

Dr. Kissinger: Are we saying we would make this available?

Mr. Sisco: Weʼre not saying anything. We will consider it and make a recommendation.

Dr. Kissinger: Youʼre talking about a dried-up pipeline for a dried-up economic aid policy.

Mr. Sisco: I hope not. Weʼre going ahead on humanitarian relief and we have the $75 million. The Paks understand this.

Mr. Williams: Theyʼre sympathetic to our situation. They have a $30 million loan from 1971 funds for agriculture—pesticides, fertilizer, etc. With the other money, they would be getting a fair-sized program. That is satisfactory to the Paks.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand the relationship to economic assistance. Letʼs find out whatʼs going on and I will find out from the President what he wants.

Mr. Sisco: Iʼll talk to the Secretary.

[Page 402]

Mr. Hannah: We have a little maneuvering room from the 1971 funds.

Mr. Irwin: (to Kissinger) Youʼre implying that this is an attempt to do what was previously recommended and turned down. Thatʼs not true.

Dr. Kissinger: This is a technical study of how to turn off the pipeline?

Mr. Irwin: There is a small amount left in the pipeline that will stretch over 8 to 10 months. The Gallagher Amendment stands in the way of doing anything.

Dr. Kissinger: What are we studying? How to turn off $5 million in supplies?

Mr. Irwin: Weʼre studying what the items are, when they will be delivered, how significant they are to the Paks. We may decide to do nothing to the pipeline. Or we may decide it is to our advantage, or to our mutual advantage, to modify the pipeline if it will have an effect on aid.

Dr. Kissinger: As soon as we find out what is going on we will have a basis for discussion. There are two separate problems—they are not linked.

Mr. Irwin: Could I raise the point of UN neutrality?

Mr. Williams: We canʼt mix relief and non-relief cargoes. We discussed this in Dacca. The river boats that are carrying food will either have to fight their way up or use the UN emblem. In the latter case they canʼt have armed guards. We need Indian support for an agreement with the guerrillas, and Pak agreement that the ships will not carry jute back down the river.

Dr. Kissinger: Have the Paks agreed?

Mr. Williams: In Dacca.

Dr. Kissinger: Letʼs put it to the Indians.

Mr. Irwin: We will (1) call in the Indian Ambassador; (2) proceed on the relief situation; and (3) be sure you (Mr. Kissinger) are informed; I apologize if you have not been.

Dr. Kissinger: We should also warn India against military activity.10

Mr. Helms: This would be a good time to repeat the warning.

Mr. Irwin: During the Secretaryʼs talk with Dobrynin, Dobrynin said they were restraining India but were taking no positive action. [Page 403] They were negative in the UN. They may be helpful but in a limited way.

Dr. Kissinger: It depends on the price they think they will have to pay if they are unhelpful.

On the contingency situation with regard to China, the basic points in Stateʼs paper11 are well taken. I donʼt think the Chinese rate political accommodation very high. Theyʼre not too eager to establish a principle that might create turmoil in one part of a country. Is fear of China one of the factors deterring India?

Mr. Helms: Thatʼs all that deters India.

Dr. Kissinger: Then should we ease their worries that much?

Mr. Sisco: No.

Mr. Helms: That should be part of our game plan—to make the Indians wonder what China might do.

Mr. Sisco: I donʼt see why we should reassure the Indians on this score.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) Iʼll talk to you about the basic cable later.

Mr. Sisco: We canʼt speak to what the Chinese might do.

Dr. Kissinger: India is trying to get us to say that we would support them in the event of a Chinese attack. We should avoid saying it, since it might encourage them. Does anyone disagree?

Mr. Sisco: I hope not.

Dr. Kissinger: Are we all agreed that there should be no solo efforts? No one should make any reassuring noises to the Indians without some central point knowing about it. We should make no threatening noises either.

Mr. Sisco: Weʼll leave any contacts with the Chinese with you.

Dr. Kissinger: I will follow up on that. I donʼt think theyʼre worried about us. Theyʼre worried that someone else will take advantage of the crisis.

Mr. Helms: Thereʼs no evidence that the Chinese are gearing up their military for anything.

Dr. Kissinger: How long would it take them?

Mr. Helms: A long time. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

Mr. Sisco: (to Kissinger) Youʼll keep us informed of the Chinese aspects?

Dr. Kissinger: I have made arrangements with the Secretary (Rogers). The “no solo” edict applies to everyone. I will flag any developments for the Secretary and make sure you know. If anything is [Page 404] said to the Indians here, which I donʼt foresee, you will know. We will undertake no solo efforts here.

Would it be effective to approach the Soviets through (Ambassador) Bush on relief efforts? I think itʼs a good idea, but is there anyone for him to talk to?

Mr. Irwin: Dobrynin will be back in two weeks. We should wait until he gets back.

Dr. Kissinger: No matter what the newspapers say, if India should jump on Pakistan, the President will try to cut off aid.

Mr. Sisco: That would be the least he could do.

Mr. Hannah: There would be no objection if there were a war situation.

Mr. Sisco: As we begin to look at aid, we canʼt divorce it from present Indian behavior—support of the guerrillas, lack of cooperation in contributing to stability in East Pakistan. Did we make the right decision in providing $7 million for the refugees in India? If we hadnʼt moved so fast, would Indiaʼs attitude have been different? We have to look at this in the context of the situation.

Mr. Williams: We have a chance to test our thesis in the discussion of relief requirements. If we can exercise some influence with regard to aid, we should do it—not as a threat but in a constructive way.

Mr. Sisco: We should say “Here are the needs; we must work together. Weʼre not putting conditions on this, but youʼve got to help us in creating some stability.”

Dr. Kissinger: Theyʼre not that tender-hearted.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Another record of the meeting was prepared on September 13 by James Noyes (OASD/ISA). (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 381 (Jan–Nov) 1971)
  2. Reference is to the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962. (76 Stat. 121)
  3. Reference is to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended. (75 Stat. 424)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 136.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 105.
  6. Senator William Proxmire (D–Wisconsin) chaired the Joint Economic Committee and a subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.
  7. General Inam-ul Haq.
  8. Document 139.
  9. On September 23 Senator Edward Kennedy introduced an amendment to section 302 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 authorizing $400,000 to assist the international refugee effort in India. (S. 2568. Congressional Record, September 23, 1971, pp. S14876–14877)
  10. In the minutes of the meeting taken by Noyes, this statement by Kissinger is preceded by the following comment by Helms: “As the monsoon ends in a few months, we will reach the moment of truth regarding the possibility of military operations on dry land.”
  11. See Document 142.