213. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • 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
    • Admiral Thomas H. Moorer
    • Capt. Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman
    • John Waller
  • AID
    • Donald MacDonald
  • NSC Staff
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Samuel Hoskinson
    • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
    • R/Adm. Robert O. Welander
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

State would prepare a scenario for the next step in a cut-off of military assistance.
We will delay the PL–480 money and the next tranche of the development loan money by administrative means.
Ambassador Bush would explore with the Pak UN Representative the pros and cons of an approach to the UN, but will not urge them in either direction.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Cushman) Bob, where do we stand?

(General Cushman briefed from the attached text.)2

Dr. Kissinger: Will Mrs. Gandhi allow the Pakistanis to stay in West Pakistan for the time being?

(Dr. Kissinger was called from the room.)

Mr. Irwin: (to Cushman) If there is an attack on the western front, what is your judgement as to the outcome?

Gen. Cushman: The Indians have superiority in everything and will win. The Paks have the bulk of their armor and most of their divisions there, but they wonʼt prevail.

Adm. Moorer: They may have some initial success but they will poop out on logistics.

Mr. Irwin: How long?

[Page 587]

Adm. Moorer: Thirty days. The Indians have superiority by four-to-one.

Mr. Irwin: Supplies, too?

Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Mr. Packard: What kind of country is it?

Gen. Cushman: Pretty dry; some actual desert.

Mr. Packard: Are there any natural boundaries—any mountains?

Mr. Waller: Some mountains in the northeast, but the rest is desert.

Mr. Irwin: What is the initial capacity of the Paks?

Gen. Cushman: I donʼt know.

Mr. Waller: In 1965, Sialkot was a natural division.

Mr. Irwin: Isnʼt there some Indian armor near there?

Mr. Waller: No one knows. There is probably some in Ambala.

Gen. Cushman: The Paks might make some initial penetration in the north. One big worry is that, if India recognizes Bangla Desh, Yahya might react by moving where the Indian aircraft and troops are, even though he knew he couldnʼt win.

Mr. Irwin: So you think it would be over in a month?

General Cushman and Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Gen. Cushman: One question is how much the Russians could reinforce India and whether they could do it faster than the Chinese could reinforce Pakistan.

Adm. Moorer: There are some reports that China had promised armor to Pakistan.

Gen. Cushman: There are also reports that the guerrillas are mining the approaches to the ports and that Indian sailors in civilian clothes are operating gun-boats at night against East Pakistan.

Adm. Moorer: The army in East Pakistan is beginning to ration their ammunition—ten rounds per tube unless they have special permission. Theyʼre beginning to feel the squeeze.

Mr. Irwin: (to Sisco) If fighting develops in the West and the issue moves into the UN, wouldnʼt a positive reaction from the UN on either side draw a veto?

Mr. Sisco: We would probably be confronted with a veto. The people who are winning on the ground always play a delaying game in the UN. In the Middle East, the Arabs should have gone for an immediate cease-fire, but they didnʼt know they were getting licked.

(Dr. Kissinger returned.)

Dr. Kissinger: Some of the papers are saying weʼre not doing our arithmetic—that weʼre losing 500 million Indians for 150 million Pakistanis. I donʼt know what weʼre losing in India and, in any event, thatʼs [Page 588] not the purpose of our policy. If there is a chance of getting this thing stopped, we should move confidently and not be too apologetic. In matters of refugee and humanitarian relief, we have done more than all the other countries put together. We should respond to questions that way and stick to it.

Mr. Sisco: The Secretary has instructed Charley Bray (State Department spokesman) to do some backgrounding.

Dr. Kissinger: We need a specific scenario for the next step in a cut-off of military assistance. We wonʼt necessarily do it immediately. How long do you think Pakistan can hold out?

Adm. Moorer: Two or three weeks. India is putting pressure on the border and forcing the Paks to defend there. This leaves the guerrillas free in the interior of the country. The Pakistanis are getting low on artillery ammo and are attempting to replenish their forces—4,000 replacements are en route. The Paks are just running out of steam. The loss of Jessore could be seriously crippling.

Gen. Cushman: One can speculate that the Indians may be trying to take Jessore and set it up as the capital of Bangla Desh.

Dr. Kissinger: Do I understand now that we will not proceed in the UN unless the Paks take it there?

Mr. DePalma: The Pakistan Ambassador has told us that he is not approaching anyone but the US at this time. He is not asking for a Security Council meeting, but he assumes his Government will. He has been asked to draft a speech for Bhutto. He speculates that they will call for a meeting on Friday3 or Monday. Any resolution should call for a withdrawal of forces, a cease-fire, and observers, possibly on both sides. The Paks have talked with the Chinese who have indicated they will veto any resolution unacceptable to Pakistan. He thinks the Soviets will veto any resolution unacceptable to India.

Dr. Kissinger: It hardly strengthens oneʼs faith in the UN when the Security Council is afraid to meet in an obvious military situation.

Mr. DePalma: It has to be done by the big boys.

Dr. Kissinger: Letʼs turn to economic assistance. There is no present plan to cut off economic assistance. The President has instructed, however, that we not go ahead with the PL–480 money or the next tranche of the loan. We can delay it by administrative means and blame the delay on bureaucratic incompetence. In other words, it will require some affirmative action before anything more is done. What if he wanted to go further?

[Page 589]

Mr. McDonald: There are three categories: 1) fresh aid amounting to about $150–$200 million in development loans and $72 million in PL–480.

Dr. Kissinger: $100 million of which is coming due now?

Mr. McDonald: Thereʼs no set time—it is flexible in relation to other considerations.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the $100 million weʼre holding up?

Mr. McDonald: The first tranche against the $200 million. The Indians know the reasons weʼre not moving; they donʼt really expect us to move on this. The Indian Embassy has asked us if aid has been suspended since they were told by the Eximbank that they couldnʼt move yet.

Dr. Kissinger: So they have noticed?

Mr. McDonald: They are assuming that we will not provide fresh aid.

Mr. Sisco: What will we tell them? Will we hide behind the fact that Congress has not yet acted?

Mr. McDonald: If asked, we will hide behind Congress on the question of development loans, but itʼs harder to do on PL–480. We can say we have technical problems, though. The second category are prior-year funds, where we have binding agreements, with escape clauses, but are not yet tied into irrevocable commitments. As of November 29, these totaled $99 million. These can easily be covered by telephoning the banks and telling them to hold up issuance of Letters of Credit.

Dr. Kissinger: If we hold up on issuance of irrevocable letters of credit, will this prevent their turning letters of commitment into Letters of Credit?

Mr. McDonald: Yes. It is easily done by contacting the banks. The third category is where Letters of Credit have already been issued. We canʼt stop credit to the buyers but we could take legal title to the goods purchased under these letters. This would be very difficult and far-reaching, though.

Dr. Kissinger: If we instructed the banks and prevented converting letters of commitment into Letters of Credit, would it dry up the $99 million?

Mr. McDonald: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: We have $123 million in irrevocable Letters of Credit now. What about goods in transit?

Mr. McDonald: About half of these goods are moving in American ships. We could stop them.

Mr. Packard: We have enough here to get the idea across.

[Page 590]

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. I have no reason to think the President wants to do this quickly. He may want to move on the $99 million. However, if we take drastic action when the Indians are in Dacca, it will be a contest of will. If we want to give them signals, we should do it now. But weʼre under no great time pressure. How about PL–480?

Mr. McDonald: We have a binding agreement, but we can sit on it. We have one special problem. We have about $18 million worth of vegetable oil which Agriculture is anxious to move to India to help stabilize the US market. This is a domestic issue. Also, we have about $12 million in 50,000 bales of cotton for India.

Dr. Kissinger: We have no answer from Mrs. Gandhi yet?4

Mr. Sisco: No, and nothing from Kosygin. We have raised it with the head of the American Desk in the Soviet Foreign Office who said he thought we would have a reply shortly, which isnʼt much solace.

Dr. Kissinger: We will get together, at least by phone, if any of these additional steps are to be taken.

Mr. Irwin: What would be the purpose of the additional steps?

Dr. Kissinger: We would be less eager to do things after the situation had collapsed. It would be better to do them early and in the open to show that they didnʼt work. Most of these things are not irrevocable.

Mr. Sisco: We will do a scenario on the military side.

Mr. Packard: None of these things will have an impact on their military capability.

Mr. Irwin: There is a question of how many of these steps we should take if they have no effect.

Mr. Packard: But if we want to send a message, we should make it a good message.

Mr. Sisco: Do you think it would be worthwhile for (Ambassador) Bush to have another talk with (Pak UN Representative) Shahi. Itʼs a touchy situation and Iʼm of two minds about it. I do think we need to tell the Paks there are advantages and disadvantages in going to the UN.

Dr. Kissinger: I have no objection as long as we donʼt urge them to go either way.

Mr. Sisco: Fair enough. Iʼll call Bush and have him weigh the pluses and minuses with the Paks.

Dr. Kissinger: Okay.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer version 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 (Dec) 1971.
  2. Not printed. Cushmanʼs briefing notes focused on the guerrilla offensive in East Pakistan that was gaining momentum. The border between India and West Pakistan remained quiet, but Pakistani officers indicated that in the event of war Pakistanʼs posture in the west would be offensive, not defensive.
  3. December 3.
  4. See Document 211.