200. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1

8767. Subj: Indo-Pak Military Escalation. Ref: State 212550.2

Summary: In response my presentation, Kuznetsov said Soviet Government has approached Indian and Pak Governments in recent days with appeal that they show wisdom and patience and avoid steps that could worsen situation and lead to war. He acknowledged situation was worsening and said Soviets intended make further approaches in both New Delhi and Islamabad designed to lessen tensions and prevent military clashes. End summary.
Gromyko being unavailable until Friday because of Supreme Soviet session, I saw First Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov this afternoon to make presentation specified reftel, emphasizing that I was acting under instructions my government, which was concerned at growing danger of war. Kuznetsov interrupted me once to ask source of our information concerning military actions in East Pakistan. I said I assumed our info represented digest of our current intelligence from that area. I noted we were taking steps to bring our concern to attention of both Indian and Pakistani Governments. We intended remind Indian authorities of the concrete steps we had discussed with Mrs Gandhi in Washington, on which I had briefed Kuznetsov in our last meeting. We felt these ideas needed to be given time to work and we would emphasize this to the Indians in our approach.
Kuznetsov thanked me for info and expressed gratification that USG was keeping Soviet Government informed of steps it was taking to facilitate normalization of situation in this region. He said that in recent days Soviet Government had approached Governments in both New Delhi and Islamabad with appeals that they exhibit wisdom and patience and not take steps that could worsen situation and lead to war. Mrs Gandhi had again said that India did not intend to unleash war but she had reiterated need for urgent Pak measures aimed at political [Page 559] settlement. On military situation itself, Kuznetsov noted Soviet info was confusing and incomplete. However, they had received recent reports from New Delhi concerning apparent Pak efforts to provoke military conflict on the Indo-Pak border. While this info less than fully reliable, apparent downing of three Pak planes over Indian airspace and capture of two Pak pilots, if confirmed, suggested that Paks were guilty of violations Indian airspace.
Kuznetsov said situation in general seemed to be worsening and Soviets were preparing to make new approaches in both New Delhi and Islamabad designed to lessen tensions and prevent military clashes. Referring to our previous conversation, he said Pak authorities were still not taking necessary measures for political settlement. For example, release of Mujibur Rahman would improve atmosphere and facilitate negotiations with Awami League. Soviets intended to stress this point in their approach to Yahya Khan.
Asked how Paks had responded thus far to Soviet approaches, Kuznetsov said Yahya had announced he would not launch military actions but had tried to place blame on Indian side and had said nothing definite on key question of political settlement.
In general, Kuznetsov said situation was extremely complicated. It was difficult to find out what was going on and which side was initiating military acts. He asked if USG had any new suggestions. I said we had no formula for solution but felt Indians were providing support to insurgents in East Pakistan, which amounted to hostile act against Pakistan. Kuznetsov reiterated his earlier view that responsibility lay on Pakistan for present situation. He expressed hope that US side would use its good offices to convince Pak authorities to see that main step leading to normalization of situation in East Pakistan and would be speediest possible implementation of political arrangements taking into account will of East Pak population as expressed in Dec 1970 elections.
In closing, Kuznetsov urged that we keep in contact and emphasized that Soviets were also working with both sides to keep situation from getting out of control.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA—PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad, New Delhi, Dacca, USUN, Calcutta, London, and Tehran.
  2. In telegram 212550 to Moscow, November 23, Ambassador Beam was instructed to see Foreign Minister Gromyko to express U.S. concern about the dangers of escalation in the confrontation between India and Pakistan. The instruction reads in part: “At this critical juncture we hope USSR will make renewed efforts to restrain India and will not further encourage Indian military actions against East Pakistan by further deliveries of military equipment.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 571, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, Nov 23—Nov 30, 1971)