168. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India 1

189037. Subj: Risk of War in Indo-Pak Confrontation. Ref: (a) Karachi 2028, (b) New Delhi 15988, (c) Moscow 7529.2

In light Pakistani and Indian responses to our démarches regarding risks of war, we wish to emphasize and pursue further our proposal for mutual withdrawal of troops by both governments. For this purpose we wish to reinforce our approach for Soviet support with Indians and make further approach to GOI.
For New Delhi: Ambassador or Chargé should seek early appointment with FonMin and make following points:
We were pleased to note FonMinʼs categorical statement discrediting our report of large numbers of Mukti Bahini personnel prepared to invade East Pakistan and of concurrent Indian army diversion of defending Pak force. We also note FonMinʼs statement that India would never attack Pak positions and would never commit any incursion against Pakistan territory.
We wish to report that in response to our presentation to GOP, President Yahya assured us that Pakistan would not be first to initiate hostilities. In regard to our proposal for a pullback of military forces, President Yahya raised certain questions regarding how such pullback might apply to East Pakistan border but accepted proposal in principle subject to clarification on details such as with regard to East Pakistan. Specifically President Yahya suggested that mechanics of withdrawal might be worked out directly by India and Pakistan army chiefs of staff. USG has no particular desire to involve itself in regard such mechanics and suggests direct contact between military organizations at some level might be best way of carrying out withdrawal.
We wish to re-state and emphasize suggestion which was put forward solely on our initiative that India and Pakistan carry out a mutual withdrawal of troops from their borders. We make this proposal in all seriousness and ask that India give it the most careful consideration. We believe India would agree that neither it nor Pakistan would find escalation or present tensions in its interest. Yet proximity of forces [Page 470] along India–Pakistan borders present great danger of accidental war which each government has informed us it does not intend to initiate. We have made this proposal in hope that very substantial movement of men and matériel which has taken place on both sides of border might be reversed. We do not wish to involve ourselves in debate regarding details of which country has violated ground rules. Facts are that substantial movements have been made on both sides with resulting increase in dangers of escalation. Consequently we would appreciate Indiaʼs reaction to Yahyaʼs suggestion that the Chief of Staff on both sides might arrange the mechanics of the pullback. Alternately, we would be interested in any other Indian proposal for method by which pullback might be accomplished.3
For Moscow: Embassy Moscow authorized to brief Gromyko or other senior Soviet official on general outlines of our discussions with both Yahya and Swaran Singh. In particular Embassy should cover those portions of conversations regarding pullback proposal in detail and in such a way as to make apparent that US has obtained substantial agreement from GOP and that situation in regard to India is such that Sovietsʼ use of their influence might enhance prospects of Indian agreement to withdrawal which we are convinced is as much in Soviet interest as in ours.4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Schneider on October 13; cleared by Curtis W. Kammon (EUR/SOV), Laingen, Van Hollen, and Haig; and approved by Acting Secretary Irwin. Also sent to Moscow and repeated to Islamabad, USUN, Tehran, London, Calcutta, Dacca, and Paris.
  2. Documents 165, 167, and 163.
  3. In Ambassador Keatingʼs absence, Chargé Stone met with Foreign Secretary Kaul on October 16 and made a presentation based upon the instructions in telegram 189037. Kaul responded by reiterating Foreign Minister Singhʼs assurance that India would not initiate a military confrontation with Pakistan. He said that India viewed Pakistanʼs recent military moves as a threat to attack India, despite Yahyaʼs protestations to the contrary. Kaul added that India could not accept the U.S. proposal for a mutual withdrawal of forces until the threat from Pakistan had been removed. He maintained that a withdrawal of forces from the border between India and West Pakistan would leave India at risk in that the proposed move to the closest military bases would put Pakistani forces considerably closer to the border than Indian forces. (Telegram 16247 from New Delhi, October 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK)
  4. Ambassador Beam met with Foreign Minister Gromyko on October 18 to urge that the Soviet Union support the proposal for a mutual withdrawal of forces. Beam said that President Yahya had accepted the proposal but Foreign Minister Swaran Singh had gone no further than to state that if Pakistan withdrew, India would reconsider the situation. Beam asked Gromyko to encourage India to accept the proposal. Gromyko said that the Soviet Union had also been in touch with both sides to urge restraint. India and Pakistan had both indicated that they would not initiate hostilities, but the conclusion drawn in Moscow was that the Indian assurance could be relied upon but that offered by Yahya could not. Gromyko did not agree to support the proposal for a mutual withdrawal of forces. He said that separating the troops confronting each other along the border was a good idea but not a solution. He urged the United States to join the Soviet Union in seeking a political settlement to the crisis. (Telegram 7794 from Moscow, October 18; ibid., POL 27 INDIA–PAK) On October 19 Haig reinforced Beamʼs initiative with a telephone call to Dobrynin in which he said that the President was concerned that the situation on the subcontinent could take a dangerous turn. Nixon, Haig added, hoped the Soviet Union “could exercise maximum restraint on the Indians.” (Transcript of a telephone conversation; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Haig Chronological File, Haig Telcons, 1971)