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


  • Your Message to Mrs. Gandhi2
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Ambassador Keating called on Mrs. Gandhi this morning to deliver your message. She read the letter rapidly and said she would reply promptly although she indicated that she had already discussed some of the points with you.3

In the ensuing discussion, Mrs. Gandhi made the following major points leaving the impression that she was weighing her remarks carefully and knew precisely what she wanted to say:

  • —India has great admiration for the US but every country must first look to its national interest. It was her duty to see what was in the interests of her country.
  • —Pakistan had been the first to move its troops to the border and no one had asked them to withdraw. It was only after India moved its troops to the border that proposals were made for withdrawals.
  • Yahyaʼs problems had been self-created and “we are not in a position to make this easier for him.” That was one of the reasons why India could not withdraw its troops. India was being asked to allow the misdeeds of Yahya to stand and “we are not going to allow that.”
  • —No one in all of India was more opposed to war than she was. “I wouldnʼt like to take this country to war”, but, added, “this war and this situation are4 not of our making.”
  • —Many countries said they were exerting pressure on Yahya but, she asked, “what has it yielded?” Nothing, she answered, “except that President Yahya has his back to the wall” and wants “to be bailed out.” Then she commented, “We have to take steps which will make us stronger to deal with this situation.”
  • —What Yahya had done to start a political process, especially the “farcical” elections, had moved the situation in the wrong direction. These so-called elections5 are “not going to make any difference whatsoever.” (She enumerated [enunciated] each syllable of “what-so-ever.”)
  • —When Keating observed that her position was very firm, Mrs. Gandhi replied that it was “a little harder” than it had been and went on to say that her patience had worn thin. She did not know how she could tell India that it must continue to wait and added, “I canʼt hold it.”
  • —When Keating started to comment about the recent Indian military incursions, she cut him off by saying, “We canʼt afford to listen to advice which weakens us.”

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Ambassador Keating comments that Mrs. Gandhi spoke with clarity and more grimness than he had ever seen her display. He concludes that, in the absence of some major development toward a meaningful political accommodation, India will assure that the efforts of the Mukti Bahini to liberate East Pakistan do not fail.

There seems to be no give in this position and probably little bluff. There is no evidence that she is wavering from pursuit of Indiaʼs interests as she sees them.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box CL 210, South Asia, Chron File, Nov–Dec 1971. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See Document 205.
  3. Kissingerʼs summary of the exchange between Prime Minister Gandhi and Ambassador Keating was derived from Keatingʼs report on the meeting in telegram 18383 from New Delhi, November 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US) The meeting took place on November 29.
  4. The verb is rendered as “is” in telegram 18383.
  5. The elections were characterized as such by Gandhi.