146. Memorandum of Conversation1


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

The meeting was arranged at the request of Ambassador Jha.

Ambassador Jha began by saying he wanted to review the arrangements for the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Gandhi (November 4–5, 1971).2 Specifically, could the Prime Minister be picked up in New York by an airplane and brought to Andrews AFB on the morning of the arrival ceremony? Dr. Kissinger said that he thought this was possible and he would let the Ambassador know if there were any difficulty. The Ambassador then wanted to review the conduct of the meeting.3 He agreed that it would be best if the Prime Minister and the President met alone with one adviser entering after the photographers had left through a side door.

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Ambassador Jha then asked what interest the United States had in keeping East Bengal a part of Pakistan. Dr. Kissinger replied that the Ambassador misunderstood our policy. We had no interest in keeping East Bengal a part of Pakistan. We did have an interest in preventing the outbreak of a war and preventing that issue from turning into an international conflict. As for the rest, we would not take any active position one way or another. Ambassador Jha pointed out that the pressures on the Indian Government were very great. Dr. Kissinger replied that some of them were self-generated.

The Ambassador noted that Haksar was on his way out; maybe Kaul was also in difficulty, but it was not easy to tell who would replace him and whether the man who would replace him would be any better.

If we played our hand intelligently, the Ambassador continued, it would even turn out that India might now look for a compensating move4 to take towards the United States. Dr. Kissinger responded that we would certainly be ready, but it was important for India not to be playing with the President. If it turned out that some of our reports were correct, that India was using the visit to the President to cover an imminent attack on Pakistan, our relations would not recover so soon.

Dr. Kissinger also said he could not understand the Indian press reports and official reports according to which he had told Jha that India would have no American support in the case of a Chinese attack. The Ambassador replied that what he had reported was the following: Dr. Kissinger had said that in the case of a Chinese attack that was unprovoked, the United Statesʼ interest in India would be very great; in the case of a Chinese attack produced by an Indian attack on Pakistan, it would be much harder for the United States to do something. Dr. Kissinger stated that this was essentially correct.

Dr. Kissinger and the Ambassador promised to stay in touch with each other in preparing the Prime Ministerʼs visit, and the meeting then ended.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box CL 150, India, 21 May 1971–21 Dec 1971. Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting was held in Kissingerʼs office at the White House. The time of the meeting is from Kissingerʼs appointment book. (Ibid., Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)
  2. A letter of invitation from Nixon to Gandhi, signed on September 11, was given by Kissinger to Jha at this meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence File, India (1971)) The text of the letter was transmitted to New Delhi on September 17 in telegram 171338. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 INDIA)
  3. On September 29 former Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith telephoned Kissinger to say that he had met with Prime Minister Gandhi and she was uncertain about the kind of reception she was going to receive in Washington. Galbraith said that one of her assistants told him that “she was afraid of some brush-off at the White House which would be very damaging.” Galbraith urged that Nixon send her a personal note “saying he is looking forward to her visit, getting better acquainted, understanding her problems on the subcontinent.” Kissinger assured Galbraith that Gandhi would be received with “special courtesy” and added that the type of note Galbraith was suggesting had been sent to the Prime Minister more than 2 weeks earlier. In the September 11 letter to which Kissinger referred, Nixon wrote of looking forward to wide-ranging discussions which had taken on “a new urgency and a new importance” in light of the events of recent months. Nixon noted his pleasure that Gandhi would be visiting Washington November 4–5, but his letter was not the informal note of reassurance Galbraith proposed. (Transcript of a telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 369, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  4. The compensating move suggested by Jha implied an initiative to offset to some extent the treaty India had signed with the Soviet Union on August 9.