173. Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Military Supply to Pakistan

On the eve of Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit here, a potentially explosive issue concerning US arms supply to Pakistan has arisen.

You will recall that the USG has gone on the public record with Pentagon concurrence, informed Congressional committees and told the Indians that by early April:

  • —A hold was put on the delivery of FMS items from the Department of Defense stocks and that no such items have been released to Pakistan since then.
  • —We had suspended the issuance of new export licenses and renewal of expired licenses for items on the munitions list—for either FMS or commercial sales.

It was clearly understood that items already released from Defense stocks and already under valid licenses could still be shipped out of [Page 480] the country. The Indians in Congress have been informed that about $3.8 million of such items have been shipped to Pakistan on commercial carriers paid for by the Government of Pakistan.

It now turns out that some equipment has been released from Defense stocks since March 25—perhaps as much as $2 million worth. So while our total figure of $3.8 million shipped is correct, it is untrue that nothing moved from Defense depots.

State and Defense believed until recently that the two statements represented an accurate accounting of our military supply to Pakistan. Much to their surprise, however, a GAO investigating team acting on orders from Senator Kennedy has discovered that the initial orders issued by ISA to put the “hold” into effect were not followed completely by the services and that there has been substantial leakage. According to the best accounting ISA can make at this point:

  • —The Air Force continued to release $2.4 million worth of spares (70% lethal) up to July. Some of the more urgently needed items were flown to Pakistan on the normal MAC embassy support flights on an almost weekly basis. All of these spares were under valid license so the customs people did not interfere.
  • —The Army “inadvertently” has released some $83,000 worth of lethal spares to the Paks but these were not under valid license and therefore did not leave the country.
  • —The Navy is also thought to have released some $100,000 in lethal spares but it has not yet been determined how much of this was under license and was shipped out of the country.

What this boils down to is that, allowing for shipment delays and expiration of licenses, probably at least half of the $3.8 million shipped to Pakistan should never have been released under the ground rules which we imposed on ourselves and made public.

The most immediate problem facing us now is that this information could become public knowledge on the eve of the Gandhi visit since the GAO will be submitting its report to Senator Kennedy on Monday. It is hard to believe that he will not exploit this situation and, even if we attempt to explain it, think that we have not been trying to sneak arms to Pakistan behind the back of Congress. If it doesnʼt come out before the Gandhi visit it almost certainly will leak in the aftermath and could undermine whatever positive might come out of her talks with the President. This could make the harm caused by similar disclosures in the wake of Foreign Minister Swaran Singhʼs visit here, look mild by comparison.

It seems to us that the only thing to do now is to attempt to cut our losses with the Indians by explaining in good faith what happened. Our credibility with them is already so undermined that they might not believe us anyway but at least we will be protecting the President so that they cannot come back later with a charge that he misled them.

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At the same time, the “drying up” exercise is coming to culmination.

You will recall that it began when Sisco broached to Ambassador Hilaly in August the idea of accelerating shipments of any outstanding military equipment the Pakistanis still wanted. You saw General Haq when he was here and gave him some additional time, i.e. until about October 15, to locate outstanding equipment and to collect it.

The Pakistanis have now designated the equipment which they would still like to ship and it amounts to 32 tons on a dock in New York. They are prepared to ask that licenses for the remainder be withdrawn, and they agreed when General Haq was here to a low-key public statement that the pipeline was “completed.”

The main purpose of this exercise, as you will recall, was to get the troublesome military assistance issue out of the way in order perhaps to strengthen the Administrationʼs hand in limiting the damage that would be done by excessively restrictive amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act. Since the Pakistanis have seemingly willingly cooperated in this exercise—perhaps seeing the congressional handwriting on the wall in any case—State has been working steadily toward wrapping this up as neatly as possible.

Now it comes simultaneously with (a) the increase in tension, (b) these impending new revelations of “bureaucratic bungling” on the release of military equipment and (c) the dock strike.

One physical complication in a neat wrap up is the dock strike. It had been hoped that all of the remaining equipment could have been shipped and then a statement might have been issued saying that the exercise was over. With the dock strike, it would be necessary to say that the shipment of military supply items is being completed, that there are no further outstanding licenses and that the final shipment of $160,000 worth of equipment will be shipped when the dock strike ends.

Because of the untidiness of the situation, I have argued that we not make any kind of announcement. That would look like we were claiming credit for something we had not completely done since one more shipment is still to go. However, State would like to put itself in a position to answer a question at the daily briefing in the next few days by explaining how the pipeline is drying up.

A response might go something like this: “The embassy of Pakistan has informed the Department of State that it is completing Pakistanʼs shipments of military supply items. In view of this information, at the request of the government of Pakistan the office of munitions control is withdrawing remaining outstanding valid licenses.” It would also have to be stated that we understand that the Pakistanis have a small amount of munitions list items that have [Page 482] “cleared customs” and are pending loading on ship at the conclusion of the dock strike. It might also be said that the value of those items is about $160,000 and the value of the unused licenses is about 2 million dollars. The content of the announcement would be worked out with the Pakistanis.

My question for you is: Do you see any objection to completing this exercise provided it is fully cleared with the Pakistanis and informing the Indians at the same time we tell them of the other problem?2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 626, Country File, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VII, Sep–Oct 1971. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Kissinger initialed the yes option and added the following handwritten notation: “(No objection—but let me see what we tell them).” Ambassador Farland was instructed on November 1 to inform the Pakistani Government that Congressional support for the administrationʼs policies in South Asia would benefit if key Congressional leaders were informed that the military pipeline was being closed down except for a small final shipment awaiting the end of a dock strike. (Telegram 198915 to Islamabad; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK) Farland met with President Yahya on November 2 and Yahya agreed to the necessity to close down the pipeline, subject to the understanding that title to the items on the New York dock had passed to Pakistan. (Telegram 10904 from Islamabad, November 3; ibid.) The same day Under Secretary Irwin called in Ambassador Jha and informed him of the plan to close down the pipeline to Pakistan and of the supply slippages not previously made public. (Telegram 200295 to New Delhi, November 3; ibid., DEF 12–5 PAK)