195. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Indo-Pak Fighting2

The Pakistanis today claim in radio broadcasts that India “without a formal declaration of war, has launched an all-out offensive against East Pakistan.” They claim that the attack is concentrated in [Page 537] the Jessore sector not too far from Calcutta and includes infantry, armor, and aircraft. The Paks also claim that fighting has flared up in several other locations along the East Pakistan border. The Indians claim that these reports are “absolutely false.” They do say, however, that several Pak planes have intruded into their airspace, that the Paks are trying to increase tension and create a “warlike situation” and that some Indian radio broadcasts say that a “concerted” guerrilla offensive is underway.

At this point, we have no independent evidence but it seems apparent that there has been a major incident. These are the possible explanations for todayʼs developments:

  • —The Indians may be supporting a major guerrilla offensive. If they are following the pattern of smaller past incidents, their forces would move the Pak forces back from a very narrow strip of border territory and then let the guerrillas hold it. Initial reports suggest that this is the least that has happened.
  • —The Indians may have begun a joint action that will continue with Indian regular forces seeking control of a major area rather than one of the smaller border areas that have been the object of actions over the past few weeks.
  • —The Pakistanis might have decided that war was inevitable and could have decided on the basis of this largest incident to date to charge the Indians now with having begun it in order to free them for whatever reaction they may feel necessary.

I held a special WSAG meeting this afternoon and will have another early Tuesday3 morning to consider what we might do to help contain this situation if at all possible. Much will depend, of course, on what has actually happened and whether the action spreads.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 570, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, Oct 25–Nov 22, 1971. Confidential. Sent for information. A handwritten note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Kissinger initially reported on the expanded fighting in East Pakistan in a telephone conversation with the President at 12:45 p.m. on November 22. He said: “There is no doubt there is a large encroachment taking place and it is heavily backed by the Indians.” Nixon responded: “I want you to lay it out hard that I have made a determination that all aid to both sides stops. Cut it to both India and Pakistan.” Kissinger warned: “We havenʼt completely cut it to Pakistan yet. That might put them over the brink.” (Transcript of a telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  3. November 23.