190. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Indo-Pakistan Situation


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Peter B. Johnson, Special Assistant to the Secretary

Ambassador Dobrynin was called in today to meet with the Secretary. Dobrynin departs on November 19 for Moscow where he will attend a Central Committee Plenum and then take a two or three-week vacation. He expects to be back in Washington toward the end of December. A summary of the discussion on November 17 follows:

The Secretary opened the discussion with the India–Pakistan issue. He pointed out that Ambassador Beam had already talked with Soviet officials reporting on talks here with Mrs. Gandhi and the Pak Foreign Secretary. The Secretary summarized those talks and emphasized that the U.S. had urged that maximum restraint should be exercised on both sides. We had told the Paks that we could not decide for them what the settlement should be but that it was important to get a dialogue started looking toward a political settlement. The Paks have indicated a willingness to talk with representatives of the Bangla Desh presently in Calcutta and President Yahya has told us that he would consider discussion with a Bangla Desh representative acceptable to Mujibur Rahman.

Dobrynin asked about the Indian reaction to our suggestions and if a Bangla Desh representative had been designated. The Secretary said Mrs. Gandhi had appeared rather negative toward the prospects of such discussions. However we had stressed the vital importance of starting discussions looking toward a political settlement. Although a representative had not been designated by the Bangla Desh, we believed that President Yahya would be interested in such a procedure and that Mrs. Gandhi should support it.

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The Secretary said we had suggested troop withdrawals from the frontier in the discussions with Prime Minister Gandhi and that President Yahya had indicated a willingness to withdraw troops unilaterally on the understanding that India would reciprocate by subsequent withdrawal. We would not evaluate the merits of any withdrawal plan but discussions could well begin on the subject between the parties. The Secretary said that the Indians did not seem to view the idea with favor but he could not see what more the Paks could offer to do. He added that the U.S. Government considers President Yahyaʼs agreement to consider talking with a Bangla Desh representative a major concession. Dobrynin said he had not known about this.

The Secretary characterized Soviet arms shipments to India as “not helpful.”2 Dobrynin said he would check out the size of the shipments but believed them to be small. He said, as often happens in these cases, there is more propaganda than reality to the reports of the size of the deliveries.

The Secretary stressed our mutuality of interests in having peace in the subcontinent. Dobrynin agreed that both countries would profit from a political settlement and neither would gain from an outbreak of war in the area. Dobrynin agreed that there were essentially no contradictions in our respective positions.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 597, Country Files, Middle East, India, Vol. IV, 1 Jul–30 Nov 71. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Johnson and approved in S on November 23. The meeting was held in the Secretaryʼs office. The memorandum is part I of III; separate memoranda were prepared for the discussion of European issues and the Arab-Israeli situation. (Ibid.)
  2. In a November 26 memorandum to the President, Kissinger reported on a conversation he had with Dobrynin on November 18. Kissinger warned Dobrynin that if Soviet “actions” led to a war on the subcontinent, it would have a bad impact upon U.S.-Soviet relations. Dobrynin rejoined that there was no danger of that, and maintained that the Soviet Union was urging restraint on India. (Ibid., Box 492, Presidentʼs Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8)