178. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • President Yahya on Military Pullback
[Page 492]

When I had my first talk Tuesday2 with the new Pakistani Ambassador I asked him to provide you with the most forthcoming Pakistani position possible for your talk with Mrs. Gandhi. His reply this evening is as follows:

“As regards withdrawal of forces from the Indo-Pakistan border, the most appropriate and fair procedure would be for the armed forces of both the countries to withdraw simultaneously to mutually agreed safe distance. However, in the interest of peace and in order to provide an exit to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, President Yahya Khan would be willing to withdraw Pakistani forces first from the border to varying distances, depending upon the terrain of different sectors, provided the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, gives an undertaking to President Nixon that the Indian forces will then also withdraw shortly afterwards.

“As regards political plans, the National Assembly of Pakistan is to meet towards the end of December and other consequential steps are to follow. This is according to political plans already announced by the President of Pakistan. There is no other development.”

This provides nothing new on the political side. The significant point is that he is willing to pull some units back from the border on the basis of Mrs. Gandhiʼs oral assurance to you that she will take a reciprocal step.

The Ambassador in delivering this message was instructed to emphasize the risk involved for President Yahya. He would be taking a concrete step on the basis of an oral statement which Mrs. Gandhi could later disavow, on a pretext such as saying that the situation had changed. If India attacked, he would be vulnerable to charges of jeopardizing Pakistanʼs security. Despite this risk, he has sent this reply because of his trust in you.

Mrs. Gandhi with Prime Minister Heath voiced reservations about the pullback idea. There would be an advantage in trying this out on her, although it may have to be followed up later at a lower level. State Department is not aware of this detailed message from Yahya.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VIII, Nov–Dec 71. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. November 2.