157. Analytical Summary Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


The State Department paper at the following tab2 deals with these subjects: (a) Suggestions for military de-escalation by the regular forces on both sides and diminuation of guerrilla activities; (b) Promoting the beginning of a dialogue between the government of Pakistan and the Bangla Desh leadership; (c) Reducing the flow of refugees and promoting refugee return. Attached to the State Department paper are draft letters to Mrs. Gandhi and to President Yahya incorporating approaches on each of these issues.3 Each is dealt with separately below with issues identified for discussion.

A. Military De-escalation

The State paper proposes urging the Indians to lower the alert status of their forces and to pull back their troops and armor some distance from the border. This would be followed by Presidential letters to both Mrs. Gandhi and President Yahya reiterating the proposal that they pull back their units ten miles from the border. It suggests that border patrolling be carried out by border security and para-military personnel rather than by regular army units. The State proposal then goes on to suggest stressing to India the importance of ending support for guerrilla activities in East Pakistan and to President Yahya an admonition against sabatoge against the Indian rail network in Asam and West Bengal.

There are two issues here: (a) Whether we should propose a pullback of regular units from the border and (b) whether we should again repeat our admonition against a guerrilla war. It would seem to me that the case for trying to avoid accidental clashes of regular forces is better than the one for simply reiterating our argument against guerrilla war. That is an issue of much greater magnitude and might be dealt with better in [Page 432] a broader context. It would be impossible to police such a mutual pullback, but it is possible that the mere announcement of willingness to execute such a pullback and some movement on the ground might help to reduce tensions somewhat.

B. Progress on Negotiations

The State Department paper judges that the political steps taken so far by President Yahya, which exclude the Awami League, do not provide the basis of a settlement acceptable to the Bangla Desh leadership in Calcutta. To facilitate a political evolution, the paper suggests that “our next step should be designed to promote the beginning of a dialogue between the government of Pakistan and the Bangla Desh leadership.” The paper notes that we have two possible channels—the Government of India and the Bangla Desh representatives in Calcutta and elsewhere. State suggests that we say we believe President Yahya would be receptive to a dialogue. The problem with this is that as far as we know the Bangla Desh leadership only wants to negotiate on the basis of independence and the release of Mujib.

The State paper recognizes that the Indians are only likely to acquiesce in a proposal for pressing the Bangla Desh leadership toward a dialogue if they believe we are prepared to use our influence with Yahya. So the issue is really whether we want to get into the middle of a dialogue like this where, like in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we will be expected to produce a solution.

C. Refugees

The State Department paper proposes that we “bring home effectively to the government of India” the need to halt support for cross-border activities which create conditions of insecurity and inhibit the return of refugees and to the Government of Pakistan the need to stop actions against the Hindu minority. State also suggests we need to get the Paks to be more realistic about the refugee figures and encourage the UNHCR to be more active on the Indian side. Finally, it is said that we need to consider ways to promote refugee return, when and if conditions in East Pakistan return to normal.

These are highly sensitive subjects for us to discuss with both India and Pakistan, the very mention of which, if done in the wrong way, can create more problems than it resolves. The Indians, for example, flatly refuse to assume any responsibility for the Bengali insurgents and insist that the root of the problem is in East Pakistan. The Paks claim that they are not harrassing the Hindus in East Pakistan. In both cases, the gap between their words and actions is great but it is very difficult to bridge. Meanwhile, the security situation in East Pakistan is continuing to deteriorate and the refugee flow continues.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–082, WSAG Meeting, India–Pakistan, 10/7/71. Secret; Exdis. No drafting information appears on the summary. Transmitted to Kissinger on October 7 under cover of a memorandum from Samuel Hoskinson and Richard Kennedy that indicated they had prepared it. (Ibid.)
  2. Attached was a 10-page undated paper entitled “Next Steps in South Asia” which was transmitted to Kissinger on October 6 under cover of a memorandum from Eliot indicating that the paper had been prepared for the October 7 WSAG meeting.
  3. Copies of the draft letters are attached to a copy of the paper in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK.