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

214924. For Ambassador. Subject: Presidential Message to Mrs. Gandhi.

In view of further deterioration in Indo-Pak situation you should at request of President seek earliest possible appointment with Prime Minister to present following letter.

“Dear Madame Prime Minister:

I have read with care your letter of November 182 in which you shared with me your most recent thoughts on the current situation in South Asia. I very much share your hope that our discussions and the continuing dialogue between us will indeed clear away misunderstandings and lead to the strengthening of the friendship between India and the United States. Your visit to Washington helped to clarify views about many of the problems affecting South Asia and about the steps which are required to achieve a viable political solution. Hostilities between India and Pakistan would negate the efforts which we hoped to make toward such a solution. I appreciate your assurance that you will make every effort to urge patience on your people.

Unfortunately in recent days the danger of war has increased. I am distressed at the recent deterioration of the situation and at the ominous trend of events. Military engagements along Indiaʼs border with East Pakistan have increased in number and strength. Tanks, aircraft [Page 566] and regular forces have been involved on both sides. In this connection, I note your Government has confirmed that your armed forces have been engaged on Pakistani territory. The situation has reached a critical stage and there is danger of all-out hostilities. As I indicated to you during our visit, the American people would not understand if Indian actions led to broad-scale hostilities. Hostilities would inevitably affect our ability to be helpful in many other ways.

In our conversations, I mentioned to you that President Yahya would be willing to take the first step in disengaging his forces on the frontier with West Pakistan provided India were willing to take reciprocal action subsequently. I have not heard from you on the point, and I hope you would agree promptly to designate a representative who could discuss a limited disengagement with a representative named by President Yahya. On the frontier of East Pakistan he has agreed to permit the stationing of UN observers even if India does not reciprocate. Such steps would be in the interests of both India and Pakistan and of peace in the world. It is only in a defused situation that progress can be made in the direction of a political settlement for which we continue to work.

In view of the seriousness of the situation, I have also written to President Yahya and Premier Kosygin.


Richard Nixon”

In making presentation Ambassador should stress the Presidentʼs deep personal concern at the developments of recent days, reiterate the degree to which an Indian decision to have recourse to war would not be understood in the United States, and complications for US-Indian relations.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA—US. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Quainton and Sisco on November 25, cleared by Van Hollen and Kissinger, and approved by Irwin. Repeated to Islamabad, Dacca, Moscow, and USUN.
  2. Document 189.