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


  • Information Items

India-Pakistan: Reports in the last twenty-four hours do not reflect an escalation of the fighting. The principal activity in that period has been diplomatic.

Indian Foreign Minister Singh in a rambling two-hour conversation with Ambassador Keating made these points:

  • —Even now, it is not too late for President Yahya to make a dramatic political gesture. The situation would be immediately defused by such a gesture. This should involve negotiations with East Pakistanʼs elected representatives and not going ahead with “his farce of elections.” He thought Yahya could still free Mujib and start talks—if not overnight, perhaps in two or three weeks.
  • —If Pakistan withdrew its troops from the border then another situation would arise and India would certainly consider that situation. However, Yahya is only prepared to withdraw contingent on Indiaʼs reciprocal withdrawal.
  • —Pakistani talks of an Indian offensive was to provide an alibi for Pakistani losses. Singh said “I would like to say categorically that Indian troops are not there” (in East Pakistan). The Indian Army had gone into action when its own positions were attacked.

President Yahya saw Ambassador Farland early this morning. Reports so far—still coming in—say that Yahya made these points:

  • —In response to a tentative suggestion by Farland, Yahya said with enthusiasm that he would advise his UN Ambassador immediately to institute a request for UN observers on the Pakistani side of the border.
  • —He has decided next week to tell his UN Ambassador to take up with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Prince Sadruddin) the idea of inviting a large UN group to take complete charge of refugees returning to East Pakistan. The UN would have control from establishing corridors to the border to resettlement in the villages.
  • —He would continue to exercise the greatest possible degree of military restraint.

[Page 564]

A further report will be furnished if later telegrams reveal more.

Indian High Commissioner Atal has returned to Islamabad from high-level consultations in New Delhi “carrying an important message.” Atal is an old friend of Yahyaʼs. After a long conversation with Yahya a week ago, Atal was reportedly impressed with Yahyaʼs plan to turn his government over to civilian leaders. Atal returned to New Delhi and, according to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports from there, he planned to urge Mrs. Gandhi to give Yahyaʼs political timetable a chance. We have had no reports yet on the outcome of those talks except for the fact that he is now back in Islamabad asking to see Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan immediately.

On other diplomatic fronts, the press reports that Soviet Ambassador Rodionon has delivered a note to Yahya, but we have no firm knowledge yet of its contents. Press reports also indicate that Chou Enlai reaffirmed the Chinese support for Pakistan stated to the Pakistani delegation two weeks ago, urged discussions to avoid war and accused India of intervention in Pakistanʼs affairs.

[Omitted here are summary reports on foreign policy issues unrelated to South Asia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 37, Presidentʼs Daily Briefs, November 17–30, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.