175. Letter From President Nixon to Pakistani President Yahya 1

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your letters of October 6 and October 92 concerning the dangers to peace in South Asia. I am grateful to you for conveying your concerns to me and for the confidence and friendship in which your letters were written. The Vice President has conveyed your good wishes from Persepolis.

We share most deeply many of the concerns you have expressed. I am keenly aware of the continuing difficulties you face and know how much the threat of war adds to the burdens you already bear. I [Page 484] have asked Ambassador Farland to discuss with you as a concerned friend further steps that might be taken to reduce tension.

Because of our concern for peace, we have requested both your government and the government of India to consider withdrawal of forces along your respective borders as an action that would contribute to restoring mutual confidence and reducing the risks of war. We appreciate your prompt and positive response to this proposal. We hope that both your government and that of Mrs. Gandhi will keep this possibility under serious consideration in the days ahead. Your strong desire to avoid hostilities is most encouraging.

Nonetheless, there are still serious risks in the present situation and hostilities could still erupt inadvertently. Such hostilities could easily escalate with a much wider conflict with tragic consequences for the entire South Asian subcontinent. We therefore share your view that the United Nations has a serious responsibility in this situation to act in ways that will help reduce tensions and begin the difficult task of building a lasting peace in that area.

For those reasons we have welcomed the initiatives taken by the United Nations in recent months, both those designed to reduce the risk of conflict and those in the field of humanitarian relief. I know of the Secretary Generalʼs very recent letter to you and Mrs. Gandhi,3 and I welcome the tenor of your response to that letter.4 We intend to be in close touch with the Secretary General, with your government, and with the government of India to consider ways in which these initiatives might be followed through.

Meanwhile, I have asked Ambassador Farland to talk with you about what might be a feasible next step toward beginning the withdrawal of forces from their dangerous border positions. I know the importance you attach to enlisting the maximum degree of participation by the elected representatives of the people of East Pakistan. I also believe you agree that this process is essential to restoring those conditions in the Eastern wing of your country which will end the flow of refugees into India and achieve a viable political accommodation among all the people of Pakistan.

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We have recently said farewell to Ambassador Hilaly who has completed more than five years of dedicated service to the cause of friendship between our two countries. I want you to know how much we have appreciated his wise counsel and understanding and how much I have enjoyed my relationship with him.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 759, Presidential Correspondence File, Pakistan (1971). No classification marking. The text of the letter was transmitted to Islamabad on October 31 in telegram 198807 for delivery to President Yahya. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 US/Nixon)
  2. See Documents 161 and 169.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 171.
  4. On October 26 the press in Pakistan printed the text of Yahyaʼs October 25 letter to U Thant welcoming his offer to mediate in the dispute between India and Pakistan. (Telegram 10700 from Islamabad, October 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK)