162. Memorandum of Conversation1


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

The meeting was held at the Ambassadorʼs request to discuss arrangements for Prime Minister Gandhiʼs forthcoming visit.

[Page 453]

The Ambassador began the conversation by discussing the visit. He said he noticed that there had been some coolness on the part of the Protocol people, and he wanted to make sure the Prime Minister would receive a cordial visit. Dr. Kissinger replied that he could assure him that there would be a cordial reception. He then telephoned Ambassador Mosbacher2 in his presence to make sure that Ambassador Jha heard Dr. Kissinger give instructions about the need for Grade-A treatment.

Ambassador Jha then returned to the subject of a conversation he had had with Dr. Kissinger some weeks previously, when Dr. Kissinger had mentioned the need to have a yearʼs interval for a political settlement. Jha said that that year simply did not exist, and that India would be forced into some military action by the end of this year. The ten million refugees in Bengal would break the political cohesion of India; they were all Bengalis and did not leave Bengal, and in Bengal they would tip the balance of power totally in a Maoist direction. Finally, the financial cost would be more bankrupting than a war. Dr. Kissinger replied, “Have no misunderstanding: If you start a war we will cut off all economic aid and you must include that in your cost calculation.” Dr. Kissinger added that if the constant harrassment of the President in the Indian press and the constant playing with American political opponents did not cease, the Ambassador could not expect a very forthcoming attitude on our part.3

The Ambassador as usual ascribed this to the machinations of the pro-Soviet group. He said he could tell Dr. Kissinger, however, that the pro-Soviet group was in some difficulty now, because apparently the Soviet Union had given the strongest warnings against unilateral Indian actions and seemed to be participating in delaying maneuvers.

Ambassador Jha then asked whether Dr. Kissinger was in a position to appeal to the Pakistanis for the release of Mujib and his reintroduction into Bengali political life. That they thought was necessary to keep moderate control over the Bangla Desh movement. Their experience with the Bangla Desh movement had been that the so-called foreign minister in Calcutta was already being attacked by Maoists, and part of their reluctance to let him engage in negotiations with Yahya [Page 454] was so that he wasnʼt discredited further, and leave the field open to the extremists.

Dr. Kissinger responded that it was important for us to come to some understanding of what was possible, and warned again against unilateral action.

The Ambassador and Dr. Kissinger agreed to meet again prior to Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 643, Country Files, Middle East, India/Pakistan, July 1971. Secret;Nodis. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting was held in Kissingerʼs office in the White House.
  2. Emil Mosbacher, Jr., Chief of Protocol.
  3. In a telephone conversation with Kissinger on October 6, President Nixon said that he noticed that the Pakistanis were charging that India was starting a war. Kissinger replied: “I think the Indians are trying to sharpen the conflict.” Nixon asked: “Are we playing all our cards?” Kissinger said that he was scheduled to see Ambassador Jha on October 8, and he promised to “lay the wood to him.” (Transcript of a telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 369, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)