202. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1

214138. Subj: South Asia Situation.

Secretary called in Indian Chargé Rasgotra November 25 [24] to discuss South Asia situation. Sisco and Quainton present from NEA. Rasgotra accompanied by First Secretary Verma.
Secretary began by stating that basic US position was to urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint. Nothing can come out of hostilities except greater tragedy for people in immediate vicinity and for millions of others. Secretary noted that he had just had long conversation with President Nixon and that President had expressed appreciation for his discussion with Prime Minister Gandhi and for assurance he had received that India would not initiate hostilities. Secretary noted that we had taken various positive steps. We have dried up military pipeline. We have continued to give maximum assistance for refugee relief. We have passed on President Yahyaʼs willingness to take first step in withdrawing troops if other side reciprocated. We very much hope that proposal could be reconsidered. We have also put forward ideas in order to get political negotiations started looking towards a political settlement. We agree a political settlement is essential. Secretary said he could not emphasize too much the attitude which the US Government and people would have to take if war breaks out. He stated it is very difficult to get at facts, since both sides engaged in combat. We would like impartial observers to find out what was happening. Secretary asked whether Rasgotra had any ideas how this might be done.
Rasgotra said he had no suggestions. He admitted Pakistanis saying one thing and GOI another. It was GOI duty keep USG informed of situation as it saw it. Rasgotra denied facts of Schanberg article in November 25 New York Times reporting that Schanberg had seen Indian forces crossing borders. He acknowledged that skirmishes had taken place but insisted that India had no interest in precipitating a war.
Secretary said he wished to stress Presidentʼs deep personal concern at recent turn of events. We have friendly relations with India and Pakistan. In this situation if forces could be withdrawn and separated a distance, so that neither side could take advantage of situation, [Page 562] it would be a good thing. Sisco noted statement of Indian spokesman November 25 that troops have orders giving them right to cross borders in self defense. This was an added factor of concern and underscored need to disengage.
Rasgotra said he would pass on to New Delhi Presidentʼs concern. He thought spokesmanʼs announcement was nothing new and was consistent with earlier statement by Defense Minister that if India attacked it would reply. India had no intention of making major invasion.
Secretary said he wished to close by saying we do not see any hope of cooling situation unless both sides show willingness to disengage and get political process started. Sisco said we would particularly appreciate getting GOIʼs concrete reaction to our proposals on withdrawal, Rasgotra asked whether we had any indication of where and when Pakistan would withdraw. Sisco said no, but GOP was willing to take first step. India and Pakistan would have to work out details.
Sisco also noted that we had told Prime Minister of our ideas for political discussions between Bangla Desh representatives and GOP. Said we had looked at Prime Ministerʼs most recent letter2 but had found no answer to our proposals but only reiteration of position that Mujib should be released. Rasgotra said that in order to react on second point, GOI would have to get BD reaction. There had been no reaction to date.
Rasgotra said he did not know whether GOI could accept withdrawal proposal. Secretary noted that it not a question of accepting anything, merely of discussing with GOP of whether it possible or not. Sisco added that we would hope GOI would be willing to discuss whatever is possible by way of withdrawal. We could facilitate means of discussion but we have no blueprint or detailed solution. Secretary said that it would be difficult for American public to understand how India could say it did not want hostilities and yet would not disengage because it did not know terms of disengagement. Rasgotra noted that if India withdrew it would leave basic situation in East Pakistan unchanged. He asked whether there had been any change in Pak attitude towards use of military in East Pakistan. Sisco said there had been no change, but GOP claimed that as long as Mukti Bahini supported by Indian troops was active in East Pakistan it would not be possible to reduce military actions.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA—PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted on November 24 by Quainton, cleared in S/S by Eliot, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Islamabad, London, Moscow, Dacca, and USUN.
  2. Document 189.