209. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • State
    • John N. Irwin, II
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Christopher Van Hollen
    • Samuel DePalma
    • Bruce Laingen
    • David Schneider
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • Armistead Selden
    • James H. Noyes
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Capt. Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman
    • John Waller
  • AID Staff
    • Maurice Williams
    • Donald MacDonald
  • NSC Staff
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Samuel Hoskinson
    • Adm. Robert O. Welander
    • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

the question of the extent of the cutoff of military assistance to India (whether to suspend issuance of new licenses or to cut off provision of material in the pipeline for which licenses had already been granted) would be presented to the President for decision [1 line of source text not declassified];
we will not take the initiative or encourage others to take the initiative to call a Security Council meeting; however, if the issue moves into the SC, we will take a position along the lines of the draft resolution prepared by State and the draft speech prepared for Ambassador Bush, once it has been reviewed and amended, as required.

[Page 572]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Gen. Cushman) Bob, can you tell us where we stand?

(General Cushman briefed from the text attached at Tab A.)2

Mr. Kissinger: Do you think the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was acting on his own in his meeting with Yahya?3

Gen. Cushman: Thatʼs a very puzzling situation. In a later conversation at a party with Ambassador Farland, he didnʼt seem to know what messages he had sent to New Delhi or where the game stood. There were indications that he and Kaul did not see eye to eye, but he certainly wasnʼt transmitting the same message as New Delhi.

Mr. Kissinger: Did I understand that he didnʼt know the content of the messages he was sending to New Delhi or of the messages he was receiving from New Delhi?

Gen. Cushman: The messages he had sent to New Delhi.

Mr. Kissinger: Hasnʼt he just come from New Delhi?

Gen. Cushman: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Moorer) What are your views on the military side?

Adm. Moorer: Our intelligence is about the same. We did have a report of a remark by Yahya at a party to the effect that “You wonʼt see me for a day or two—I am going to the border to lead war operations.” The logistic situation is such that the Pakistan forces in East Pakistan will run out of supplies—mainly ammunition—in a short time, and Yahya may be forced to move in the West. Certainly the situation is more critical than it was last week.

[Page 573]

Mr. Irwin: What is your estimate of the time limit for the Pakistani supplies?

Adm. Moorer: Less than 30 days.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) Will you give us a rundown on the diplomatic moves.

Mr. Sisco: The principal move, of course, was the Presidentʼs messages to Mrs. Gandhi, Kosygin and Yahya.4 The focus of the message to Mrs. Gandhi was to try to get a positive response to the concrete proposals for disengagement—to try to get India and Pakistan to name representatives who could work out some form of withdrawal from the border to get them out of this eyeball-to-eyeball situation in West Pakistan. In East Pakistan, we called attention to the fact that Yahya was willing to position UN observers unilaterally. My preliminary reaction, based on Ambassador Keatingʼs reporting telegram,5 is to doubt that there will be any positive response. I believe India has every intention of continuing its present military posture to serve its political objectives.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you think this campaign was planned before the Gandhi trip?

Mr. Sisco: Militarily, yes. There had already been some deployments. But the most active military moves were made post-Washington.

Adm. Moorer: They obviously had a contingency plan.

Mr. Kissinger: Iʼm asking this for my own education. We have been debating all summer whether or not the Indians were being restrained. If they had been planning this all along, would this have been the earliest they could attack, given the time needed for deployment and the advent of the rainy season? If the decision had been made last June, what would have been the earliest time they could have attacked?

Adm. Moorer: Four or five weeks.

Mr. Williams: It was timed to the requirement for the training of the Bengalis.

Mr. Kissinger: Iʼm not trying to put words in peopleʼs mouths. But one could argue that everything the Indians have done since June has been designed to prepare for this, and that the trips by Foreign Secretary Singh and Mrs. Gandhi were smoke-screens. Or, one could say that the Indians have been making a serious effort to solve the problem and that they finally moved out of desperation.

[Page 574]

Adm. Moorer: I think the readiness of the Bengalis dictated the timing. The Indians could have moved earlier with their regular forces. What is happening is that guerrillas are backing up against the Indians, who then are giving them artillery and other support. The Indian objective is to change the relative strength of the Pakistanis and the guerrillas.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Williams) What do you think?

Mr. Williams: I think the Indians might have moved two or three weeks earlier, allowing for time to train the Bengalis and for the monsoon. They did have a margin of about three weeks before they invaded, which coincided with Mrs. Gandhiʼs trip. I think they waited for her to return.

Adm. Moorer: They have obviously been training and supplying the guerrillas.

Mr. Williams: I think they had hoped the guerrillas would be more effective in their internal operations than they were. They found, however, that the guerrillas were only effective when stiffened by the Indians, which was their second strategy. They would have preferred that it be done internally, strictly by the Mukti Bahini.

Mr. Kissinger: Does this put an end to relief operations? Will there be famine?

Mr. Williams: Relief operations are at an end. The UN personnel have been withdrawn and the situation is deteriorating. The crops are in and a good deal of the supplies are there, but the imports are not moving, the things arenʼt being distributed, and there will be pockets of famine.

Mr. Irwin: There will also be some hoarding.

Adm. Moorer: And the guerrillas are destroying the boats.

Mr. Williams: Yes. They have dismantled in a few days what it took weeks to put together. There are twenty-two people left in Chittagong, but all ships have been withdrawn and the trucks are immobilized.

Mr. Kissinger: Dave (Packard), what do you think?

Mr. Packard: I donʼt have much to add. India has done nothing that could be considered constructive. Thereʼs been no evidence that they had any intention of going anywhere except where we [they?] are.

Mr. Kissinger: In her talks with the President, Mrs. Gandhi wrote off East Pakistan altogether. Her complaints were about Baluchistan and the northwest frontier.

Mr. Packard: Yahya has indicated his flexibility. We have transmitted his willingness to withdraw to the Indians with no response. It looks as though India has been moving right ahead, taking advantage of the situation as it develops.

[Page 575]

Mr. Kissinger: India didnʼt exploit the possible opening of talks between Yahya and the Bangla Desh which Joe Sisco worked on last summer. That could have been the beginning. If the Bangla Desh had asked for the release of Mujib in those talks there might have been some movement and the situation might have been stabilized.

We have three problems we need to discuss: (1) military assistance; (2) an approach to the UN; and (3) a cutoff in economic assistance. All of you have seen the State and Defense papers6 on a military aid cutoff, havenʼt you? The President and the Secretary decided last Wednesday7 that the military aid suspension would be announced on Friday.8 State suggested we await a reply to our overtures to Yahya, Kosygin and Mrs. Gandhi before the announcement, and that was accepted. We now have the replies, and the President wants to go ahead. I have talked to the Secretary and he agrees. So, unless someone makes a strong reclama, the question of the suspension of military assistance is pretty well decided. There remains the question of what should be cut off. There are two ways to do it: (1) to suspend the issuance of new licenses, or (2) to suspend new licenses and revoke all existing licenses.

Mr. Irwin: You have the questions of the timing of going to the cutoff and the amount of the cutoff.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the difference between the two choices in terms of amounts?

Mr. Irwin: Iʼm not sure of the totals.

Mr. Schneider: Licensed items, for which there are contracts, total $5.3 million. Additional licensed terms without contracts total $8.2 million.

Adm. Moorer: Are there any contracts without licenses?

Mr. Schneider: Yes, over $16 million.

Mr. Irwin: Where are the spare parts for the C–119 aircraft?

Mr. Schneider: There are contracts for $4 million for C–119 spares, but no licenses have been granted.

Mr. Irwin: They are without licenses but are under contract. I understand they are pretty far advanced on the manufacturing—the manufacturers just havenʼt asked for the licenses.

Mr. Noyes: Thatʼs correct.

[Page 576]

Mr. Packard: This creates problems. We have firm contracts on some of these things. If they are cut off, weʼll have some liability.

Adm. Moorer: Of course other people are using C–119s. We might buy them and slip them into some other program.

Mr. Irwin: We have two categories: items licensed for export and those licensed and under contract. Those licensed and under contract total $5 million and those licensed, $8 million. We also have unlicensed contracts for C–119 spares–$4 million; radar communications equipment from the FMS $17 million line of credit—$12.8 million; and FMS cash sales—$70,000. The total of it all is about $30 million.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the definition of “unlicensed”? Do you mean a contract which requires a license but the license has not been requested, or are there contracts which donʼt require licenses?

Mr. Irwin: We mean a contract which requires a license but the license has not yet been obtained.

Dr. Kissinger: If we cut off future licenses, we will hit the full amount.

Mr. Irwin: If you cut off the $4 million for C–119 spares you will ground the C–119s. I understand India needs those spares fairly quickly and they are almost available.

Dr. Kissinger: If we grant no new licenses, with a possible exception for the C–119 spares, we will hit $16 million. If we dry up the pipeline, we will hit $30 million.

Mr. Irwin: Sometimes manufacturers get a license before a sale, and then use the license to help make the sale. Sometimes they get an order and sign a contract before they have the license. This accounts for some of the unknowns.

Dr. Kissinger: So we have contracts without licenses and licenses without contracts. The choice we have to put to the President is whether to stop only items which have not been licensed or to stop both licensed and unlicensed items. The argument for stopping only unlicensed items is to hold something in reserve for future pressure. The argument for cutting off both licensed and unlicensed items is that we would have to take the heat for a first step and would have twice as much heat if we did it in two steps. We donʼt reduce the heat by reducing the amount of the cut-off.

Mr. Sisco: Also, from a domestic point of view, the question will be why we left the pipeline untouched. On the other hand, if we act on only new licenses it could be equated with what we did with regard to Pakistan where we moved on a step by step basis.

Mr. Packard: There are some special problems here. For example, there is the $17 million line of credit to buy communications equipment to make our radar in Nepal more effective.

[Page 577]

Mr. Irwin: Is this our radar or theirs? I thought it was their radar screen, to which we tie in.

Mr. Packard: Itʼs theirs but we get a potential take from it.

Mr. Irwin: Our take is just warning, though, isnʼt it?

Mr. Waller: Iʼm not aware of any take as far as CIA is concerned.

Adm. Moorer: We get an indication of the level of activity of Chinese forces.

Mr. Noyes: The Air Force gets a take on Chinese Air Force movements.

Mr. Irwin: But itʼs primarily to warn India of attack.

Mr. Packard: I think we should get a decision either to stop everything not licensed or to stop everything in the pipeline, and then we can work out the details.

Dr. Kissinger: Thatʼs right. We canʼt ask the President to decide each little detail.

Mr. Sisco: Yes, but we need to be as clear as possible as to exactly what the action applies to and what are the implications. I learned my lesson from the Pakistan pipeline exercise, where it developed we just couldnʼt be sure where the stuff was.

Mr. Packard: If we stop everything in the pipeline, there are significant items—the C–119s spares, the radar equipment, the road work in Nepal. If we just stop all new licenses it will be less significant.

Dr. Kissinger: But all the key items are in the new category, arenʼt they?

Mr. Irwin: The more important ones.

Mr. Van Hollen: The $4 million for C–119 spares is in the new license category.

Dr. Kissinger: What is in the licensed category?

Mr. Sisco: About $5 million in aircraft spares, radar jamming equipment, cartridge cases and cartridge case manufacturing equipment.

Mr. Packard: $22 million worth of licenses were issued in the last year. Thatʼs an awful lot of stuff.

Dr. Kissinger: I donʼt think the President can get into all this. Would it be proper to use the State Department paper9 as the basis for putting the question to the President. [1 line of source text not declassified]

Gen. Cushman: [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼll put this in a memo to the President and get a decision tomorrow. My understanding from Secretary Rogers is [Page 578] that he has agreed to the cut-off but would like to wait a day or two. The present idea is that State would make the announcement on Wednesday.10

Mr. Irwin: The Secretary thinks we should cut off military assistance—he thinks we should cut off both new licenses and the pipeline. But he wants to wait until we see Kosyginʼs reply and also what, if anything, happens at the UN. Yahya has asked his UN Ambassador to ask for UN observers on his side of the border and this might lead to a Security Council meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: Does he think we should not cut off military assistance if the matter goes to the Security Council?

Mr. Irwin: Not necessarily. He thinks we should go ahead, subject to a last look.

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼll take another look at the situation tomorrow and will plan to go ahead on Wednesday. Weʼll give the President the choice between the two options for a cut-off, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Iʼm sure the President and the Secretary will be talking on the phone about it over the next day or two.

Mr. Sisco: We have given you a draft press statement11 on the limited option of new licenses. We will prepare another draft press statement on an across-the-board cut.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought the papers12 we got over the weekend were damned good.

Adm. Moorer: Timing is important. India has invaded Pakistan, which gives you a good basis for a cut-off of military assistance. If we wait until the Pakistanis retaliate, weʼll hear the same argument for a cut-off to them.

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼre planning for a release Wednesday13 noon. Letʼs defer the discussion of an economic aid cut-off for the moment. Thatʼs further down the line. Can we talk about the UN? Joe (Sisco), would you like to summarize the State paper?14

[Page 579]

Mr. Sisco: The paper is self-explanatory. We understand that the Paks by the end of the day will have told U Thant that they are willing to accept UN observers on their side of the border. They have done this on their own. I donʼt know to what degree they have thought this through. They probably think they can achieve their purpose by informal means without a Security Council meeting. I personally think the Secretary General will say he wants to refer the matter to the Security Council, but this will be clearer tomorrow. Recourse to the Security Council has one great advantage for the Paks and one great risk. The advantage is that the Security Council will focus on some provisions to deter broader military action. However, Indian strategy will be to block those elements which undermine their policy of military pressure and try to move the SC to express itself on political accommodation. Our draft resolution has four elements: 1) withdrawal of foreign forces; 2) a ceasefire; 3) a call on both sides to do everything possible to get the refugees back; and 4) a call on the parties to avail themselves of the good offices of the Secretary General. We think we can probably get the required nine votes for such a resolution. However, all the SC members, including our friends, will be under great pressure to support a concrete provision in the direction of political accommodation. That would be part of the quid pro quo. I have one modification of our paper. We say on page 3 (reading): “In our judgment, there will be strong efforts by the Soviets to delete the withdrawal paragraph, soften the ceasefire paragraph, and to call upon Pakistan to take concrete steps for a political solution. India, with as much support as she can get will go further: she will seek as a quid pro quo for withdrawal and a ceasefire as categoric a Security Council provision as possible calling for negotiations between Yahya and Mujib. Such a paragraph could get majority support in the Council since even some of our closest friends … would be very sympathetic to it. In short, the thrust of the Council will be a cool-off of the military activity in exchange for getting YahyaMujib negotiations started.”

On reflection, I think that with a maximum U.S. effort we can influence the provision on political accommodation to be less precise than an out-right call on Yahya and Mujib to negotiate. Itʼs hard to say how much less we could get, but I think we could get a provision that didnʼt go that far.

[Page 580]

Mr. Kissinger: Who will sit in for Russia? For China?

Mr. Sisco: Malik for Russia and Huang-Hua, the Chinese Permanent Representative.

Mr. Kissinger: So itʼs round two. The Chinese have a real ability to get under the Russiansʼ skin.

Mr. Sisco: Yes and in acrimonious terms. Malik has a shorter fuse than most Russians.

(Mr. Kissinger was called from the room.)

Mr. Sisco: We have a very preliminary draft of a speech that Ambassador Bush might make which we will circulate for comment. (Handed copies of the speech attached at Tab B15 around the table.)

(Mr. Kissinger returned.)

Mr. Kissinger: On the UN, we will look over the speech. We will not take the initiative for a meeting or encourage anyone else to take the initiative. If it goes into the Security Council, we will move in the direction of the draft resolution and of the draft speech, as commented on.

Mr. Sisco: If the Pakistani Ambassador raises the issue of going into the SC with me when I see him this afternoon, I will say that this is a decision for them to make. I will take no initiative, but if he asks me a question I will try to answer.

Mr. Irwin: The Paks may have already started the process by their request for observers.

Mr. Kissinger: We will meet within the next forty-eight hours to tie up the military assistance question. Then we should have a session on economic assistance.

Mr. Irwin: One argument for delaying a decision on the timing of the cutoff until we know about the UN is that a bilateral U.S. cutoff might not be necessary if an adequate solution can be worked out in the Security Council.

Mr. Kissinger: If the issue goes to the Security Council before Wednesday noon, this would certainly be considered.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Top Secret; Codeword. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer record of the meeting, prepared by James Noyes (OASD/ISA), is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 381 (Jan–Nov) 1971.
  2. According to the attached outline for his briefing, General Cushman reported that there had been no dramatic change in the military situation in East Pakistan since he had briefed the WSAG on November 24. India had seven divisions massed along the border with East Pakistan, but Cushman noted that most of the fighting within East Pakistan was being done by the Mukti Bahini supported by Indian artillery, armor, and, on occasion, troops. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971)
  3. In telegram 11740 from Islamabad, November 27, Ambassador Farland reported on a conversation with the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, J.K. Atal, in which Atal indicated that he intended to try to promote a rapprochement between India and Pakistan. His idea was to promote a meeting between proscribed members of the Awami League and representatives of Yahya Khanʼs government. He considered that Mujibur Rahman was no longer important and his release was not a necessary precondition to such a dialogue. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK) Farland passed along Atalʼs suggestion for a meeting with Awami League leaders to President Yahya later on November 27. Yahya observed that Atalʼs suggestion was so much at variance with his governmentʼs position, particularly with regard to Mujibur Rahman, that it must reflect the fact that he was inadequately briefed before taking up his new position in Pakistan. (Telegram 11759 from Islamabad, November 29, ibid.)
  4. See Documents 205, 207, and Documents 206, respectively.
  5. Ambassador Keating called on Prime Minister Gandhi on November 29 to deliver President Nixonʼs letter. Gandhiʼs response to the letter is summarized in Document 211.
  6. See footnote 5 and 6, Document 198.
  7. November 24.
  8. November 26.
  9. Summarized in footnote 6, Document 198.
  10. December 1.
  11. Sent to the White House as an attachment to the memorandum summarized in footnote 6, Document 198.
  12. Not further identified. Papers received by the White House over the weekend of November 27–28 apparently included the memorandum referenced in footnote 14 below, as well as a November 27 memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger that refined the licensed and unlicensed military supplies scheduled to go to India. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–083, Senior WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 11/29/71)
  13. December 1
  14. Reference is to a November 27 memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger that dealt with the possibility of recourse to the UN Security Council on the confrontation between India and Pakistan. Attached to the memorandum was the draft resolution summarized by Sisco. The memorandum weighed the prospects that such a resolution would be adopted, noting that the Soviet Union might veto it on Indiaʼs behalf. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK)
  15. Attached but not printed.