212. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India 1

216629. Subject: US Military Sales to India.

As Indian forces have become progressively involved in conflict with Pakistan on Pakistani territory we have for some time been concerned about US military sales policy in regard to India. When East Pakistan problem first developed we focused on issue of military sales to Pakistan and finally dried up military sales pipeline. In view of current Indian involvement we have come to conclusion that we must now take action in regard to US sales to India.
Accordingly, decision has been made within USG to suspend issuance of new Munitions List export licenses and renewal of existing Munitions List licenses for military sales to India and to cancel existing licenses for approximately $2 million worth of components and machinery for manufacture of ammunition. Remaining licenses covering items worth in neighborhood $11.5 million will remain valid. Decision will be announced December 1 and be effective as at that date.
Text of proposed announcement by Department and supplemental background press guidance being transmitted septel.2
We recognize that this decision will cause strong reaction in India. We have decided to take action both to make clear to GOI seriousness with which we view present situation in which Indian and [Page 584] Pakistani forces have met on Pakistan territory and to forestall domestic criticism of USG for continued licensing of military equipment, despite India-Pak situation.3
You should inform GOI at appropriate level of USG decision. In addition to using text of announcement, you may at your discretion make following points:
In view of strong feelings on part of USG and American people that war can provide no solution to East Pakistan problem and in view of hostilities which have already taken place between Indian and Pakistani forces, USG has decided to take action outlined in public announcement (septel).
With regard to items in pipeline already licensed GOI will note that we are canceling licenses only for those items related to manufacture of ammunition and small quantities ammunition. This is being done because of direct use to which ammunition can be put in any India-Pak conflict.
We are not now canceling other outstanding licenses. They will remain under review.4
US will continue its effort to contribute to easing of tensions and is taking this action as result of its view that military conflict can only stand in way of political solution. American people will not understand provision of new military supplies in the light of the present military situation.
USG continues to believe political settlement is necessary if there is to be solution to East Pakistan problem. We are continuing to [Page 585] pursued with GOP various avenues through which negotiations toward a political settlement might be initiated. We continue to urge India to do all possible to facilitate such negotiations.
If the issue of equating India and Pakistan is raised, the point should be made that this is not an issue. We are now dealing with a situation in India in which active warfare involves Indian forces.
In order minimize time between notification of GOI and Washington announcement, Embassy should not inform GOI of US decision prior to 9:00 p.m. Delhi time December 1. Embassy may use its discretion re how GOI informed and content of message. We plan inform Indian Chargé here at approximately 10 a.m. Washington time December 1.5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 INDIA. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Schneider on November 30. Cleared by Van Hollen, Irwin, Haig, and Pickering in PM, and in substance by Sisco and Colonel Gross in DOD/ISA. Approved by Secretary Rogers. Repeated to Islamabad.
  2. Telegram 216630 to New Delhi, December 1. (Ibid., FT 18–1 INDIA–US)
  3. On December 2 Schneider wrote to Ambassador Keating to further explain the background to the decision. He noted that the President was exercised by what he viewed as Prime Minister Gandhiʼs unresponsiveness during her recent visit to Washington and by her failure to respond to the withdrawal proposal put to her at the time. Schneider added that Kissinger was also discussing suspending economic assistance to India and that Rogers was concerned. The Secretary felt that such a move could lead to a lasting rupture in relations between the U.S. and India and he had had a long, private talk with the President on the issue. (Department of State, NEA/INC Files: Lot 77 D 51, 1971 New Delhi Eyes Only Correspondence)
  4. Ambassador Raza wrote to Sisco on December 1 to applaud what Pakistan viewed as a “friendly and timely gesture” by the United States. He noted, however, that the decision did not affect some of the existing licenses for military sales to India, and asked, in light of the closure of the military pipeline to Pakistan, that those licenses be reviewed as well. (Ibid., NEA Files: Lot 73 D 69, Pakistan) Kissinger and Nixon had discussed the decision to suspend military sales to India on November 29 at which time Kissinger said that he and Rogers recommended that the United States should “cut off everything.” Nixon agreed. (Transcript of a telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) President Nixon clarified his intention on December 2 in a handwritten note he sent to Kissinger instructing him to “Cancel all old licenses as well as new immediately for India.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, President/Kissinger Memos, 1971)
  5. Sisco informed Chargé Schneider on December 1 of the decision to suspend the licenses. Schneider regretted the decision and said that the Indian Government would note the alacrity with which the United States instituted a cut-off of military sales to India compared to the delays involved in the similar cut-off to Pakistan. (Telegram 216918 to New Delhi, December 1; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 INDIA) Keating reported that when he informed Foreign Secretary Kaul of the new U.S. military supply policy toward India, Kaul took the news well but said that pressure tactics would not succeed in dissuading India from the path on which it was embarked. (Telegram 18595 from New Delhi, December 2; ibid.; Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 571, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, 12/1/71–12/4/71)