218. 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
    • G. Warren Nutter
    • James H. Noyes
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Capt. Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • John Waller
  • AID
    • Donald MacDonald
    • Maurice Williams
  • NSC Staff
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Samuel Hoskinson
    • B/Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
    • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
    • R/Adm. Robert O. Welander
    • Jeanne W. Davis
[Page 597]


It was agreed that:

following Secretary Rogersʼ conversation with the Pak Ambassador, State will recommend as to the timing of a call for a Security Council meeting;
State will draft a speech for Ambassador Bush, including the text of our proposed resolution;
AID would ask the banks to hold issuance of any additional Letters of Credit for India until Monday, when they will hear further from us;
meanwhile, Mr. Kissinger will check with the President about suspension of the $22 million for Pakistan which is in the same category;
State will redraft the reply to President Yahyaʼs letter2 to take account of current developments.

Dr. Kissinger: Iʼve been catching unshirted hell every half-hour from the President who says weʼre not tough enough. He believes State is pressing us to be tough and Iʼm resisting. He really doesnʼt believe weʼre carrying out his wishes. He wants to tilt toward Pakistan, and he believes that every briefing or statement is going the other way.

Mr. Irwin: (to Kissinger) In connection with your conversation with the Secretary, Charley Bray (State Department spokesman) will say at the noon briefing today that we donʼt know what is going on in West Pakistan, then he will go to the second paragraph of the draft press statement that we have prepared (attached at Tab A).3

Dr. Kissinger: (Looking at draft statement) Thatʼs good—saying the United States yesterday took the decision to cancel the remaining munitions list licenses for India. On the West Pakistan situation, the President thinks this may have been provoked—that itʼs not on the same basis as East Pakistan.

Mr. Sisco: To the degree to which we want to address ourselves to the incursions of yesterday, this statement is okay. I would expect we might have another public statement later this afternoon when we know a little more about whatʼs happening.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Helms) What is happening?

Mr. Helms: We know that the Pakistanis did attack the three airfields at Srinagar, Amritsar and Pathankot this morning. It was first reported [Page 598] on the Indian radio, and now the Pak radio has reported it. The Pak radio also says India is attacking all along the border. Indian Foreign Secretary Kaul has told Ambassador Keating that is a “bloody lie.” [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Pakistan telling their Navy that hostilities have commenced on all fronts. The Paks have also told Ambassador Farland that the Indians are attacking. In East Pakistan also the attacks are getting larger. The Indians are moving on seven fronts now, instead of three or four as formerly.

Adm. Moorer: What about the attack on the airfield at Agartala?

Mr. Helms: It appears there was a ground attack, but the air attack is questionable.

Dr. Kissinger: Are the Indians seizing territory in the East or merely attacking along the frontier?

Mr. Helms: Thereʼs no question that they are seizing and occupying territory, although only in small bits.

Mr. Waller: (using map) Around Bollonia, Jessore, Agartala and Hilli the Indians have moved in and are staying on Pakistani territory, but not too deep.

Mr. Sisco: Could you prepare a small map shaded to show occupied territory?

Mr. Helms: Weʼll have it for you next time.

Adm. Moorer: As Iʼve said before, I think in East Pakistan the Indians are trying to keep the Pak troops occupied to give the guerrillas more latitude. Itʼs just a matter of time until the Indians believe the guerrillas are strong enough, at which point they will recognize a Bangla Desh Government.

Dr. Kissinger: You think itʼs just a question of time until the Paks are exhausted?

Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: How about in the West? Whoever attacked, there will be full-scale fighting.

Adm. Moorer: Iʼm surprised that the Paks attacked at such a low level. In 1965 they moved much more strongly. One of the airfields was a little Army field and the other two had practically no aircraft on them. The major fields are further south.

Mr. Helms: I think Mrs. Gandhi in her speech at 1:30 today will recognize Bangla Desh.

Adm. Moorer: I have some questions about the Pakistani attack. Itʼs not the kind you would think they would make.

Mr. Irwin: Do you think it was symbolic? Or were they trying to provoke India?

Adm. Moorer: Iʼm not sure they attacked.

[Page 599]

Dr. Kissinger: But they have admitted it.

Adm. Moorer: Of course, there may be other attacks we donʼt know about.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you think itʼs possible the Indians attacked first?

Adm. Moorer: I think itʼs possible.

Mr. Irwin: If India attacked, would the Paks have hit only those airfields?

Adm. Moorer: It was late in the afternoon. It may have been all they could do before dark.

Dr. Kissinger: If the Paks were attacking, they wouldnʼt have chosen that time.

Mr. Packard: Do we have any reports of Indians across the border in West Pakistan?

Adm. Moorer: No, they say fighting is along the whole border.

Dr. Kissinger: So one hypothesis is that the Indians attacked and the Paks did what they could before dark. Dick (Helms), what do you think?

Mr. Helms: I have no better explanation.

Dr. Kissinger: These arenʼt significant fields. Thatʼs a helluva way to start a war.

Adm. Moorer: One field had only 12 helos and 16 Gnats.

Mr. Packard: They had no fighter aircraft.

Mr. Irwin: Would these aircraft be important if the Pakistanis were planning to attack in the morning?

Adm. Moorer: If they were going to attack in the morning, they would have hit the airfields in the morning. There was a field not too far away with 82 aircraft on it including 42 MIG–21s. They didnʼt go for them.

Dr. Kissinger: Thatʼs a good point.

Mr. Packard: They might have been heavily defended.

Adm. Moorer: I just donʼt think we have the information.

Mr. Helms: I donʼt either. I think reports will be rolling in all day.

Dr. Kissinger: On the matter of economic assistance, the President doesnʼt want any more irrevocable Letters of Credit issued for India.

Mr. Williams: That will get around fairly quickly.

Dr. Kissinger: How quickly?

Mr. Williams: A couple of days.

Adm. Moorer: The Indians will know and they will spread the word.

Mr. Williams: We can just hold up as we are on the $72 million.

Dr. Kissinger: This is the present order. Iʼll point out to the President that this will get around. If it does, so what?

[Page 600]

Mr. Williams: Iʼm not saying we shouldnʼt do it.

Dr. Kissinger: What would we say—that we were reviewing our entire economic assistance program?

Mr. Williams: Yes—in the light of existing conditions. With regard to the draft public statement, we must be very careful of any statement that implies that economic assistance has been used for war purposes.

Dr. Kissinger: Thatʼs a good point. (to Williams) Give the right phrase to Joe Sisco. Letʼs talk about the UN now.

Mr. Irwin: The Secretary is calling in the Pak Ambassador today for an exploratory talk. The Secretary is leaning in the direction of the US taking the issue into the UN.

Dr. Kissinger: The President is in favor of that as soon as we have some confirmation of substantial activity—probably in any event. He believes that if the UN canʼt operate in this case, the UN doesnʼt exist. Any other declaration, say on the Middle East, would be totally hollow if we canʼt get the SC called for this.

Mr. Sisco: Weʼll have no difficulty getting the SC called.

Dr. Kissinger: If we decide to do it, would it be tonight or tomorrow?

Mr. Sisco: Either way—weʼll get you a recommendation by mid-afternoon. I would assume we would try for tomorrow to give the Paks a chance to digest what the Secretary will say.

Dr. Kissinger: The grounds on which the President agreed not to issue the longer statement at noon were so that Ambassador Bush could make the same points in a Security Council speech. He doesnʼt want us to be even-handed in the Security Council.

Mr. Irwin: If we go to the UN, of course, it will move quickly to political accommodation.

Dr. Kissinger: You had a phrase about political accommodation in the statement you were going to issue today. It gave us no problem.

Mr. Irwin: The question will arise if India and her friends push for specific talks with Mujib.

Dr. Kissinger: The President wonʼt go along with anything that specific. He agrees with your draft resolution4 and has approved going with that.

Mr. DePalma: The question is what resolution is likely to command a majority. There may be great pressure to skew it toward a stronger political accommodation statement.

[Page 601]

Dr. Kissinger: The success of that would depend on the forcefulness of our behavior.

Mr. Sisco: Yes, and on the Chinese Communists.

Dr. Kissinger: Let the Paks talk to them.

Mr. Sisco: Iʼm sure they will put the pressure on the Chinese. The Secretary will call in the Pak Ambassador.5 After that conversation, we will ask the Secretary to report to you (Mr. Kissinger) and we will get you a recommendation on the timing of going to the SC.

Dr. Kissinger: Also could we have a draft speech for Ambassador Bush incorporating the statement we had originally planned to make today, taking account of current developments, and containing the text of our proposed resolution? The President isnʼt prepared to make that specific a recommendation on political accommodation.

Mr. Irwin: But others may, and get significant support for it.

Dr. Kissinger: We can say we favor political accommodation, but the job of the Security Council is to prevent military force from being used to bring it about.

Mr. Irwin: Iʼm not arguing with you. Iʼm just pointing out where others may take it.

Mr. Sisco: Thereʼs no argument, but we want to be sure you and the President understand the degree of our control over the outcome.

Mr. Helms: (reading from report6 handed him from SitRoom) Kosygin cancelled an extra round of talks he had scheduled with the Norwegians when he heard of the fighting.

Dr. Kissinger: That took courage. Weʼve still had no reply from Kosygin?7

Mr. Sisco: No, nor from Mrs. Gandhi.

Mr. Helms: I think her speech at 1:30 will be significant.

[Page 602]

Mr. Williams: If I may return to the economic assistance item for a moment, as soon as our action on the Letters of Credit becomes known, we will be asked if we are doing the same thing to Pakistan. Thereʼs $22 million for Pakistan. Will there be parallel action or will we tilt it?

Dr. Kissinger: Iʼll check. Just hold up for India today and I will check with the President. He hasnʼt addressed the problem of Pakistan.

Mr. Sisco: If we act on India and are asked about Pakistan, we could say that we have been saying for some time that we were keeping matters under review but are not necessarily acting on them now.

Dr. Kissinger: Itʼs hard to tilt toward Pakistan, as the President wishes, if every time we take some action in relation to India we have to do the same thing for Pakistan. Just hold this informally until I get to the President.

Mr. Saunders: (to Williams) Is it physically possible to do it informally? Donʼt you have to go to the New York banks?

Mr. McDonald: We can do it informally by getting in touch with the banks.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the $22 million for Pakistan? I thought we werenʼt doing anything for Pakistan.

Mr. Williams: Thatʼs old money which has not yet been put in irrevocable letters of commitment.

Mr. Packard: Canʼt we get the banks informally to hold everything until Monday?8

Mr. Williams: Yes, the timing is good.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Williams) Youʼre quite right to raise the point— it is crucial. The President will have to decide what to do about the $22 million for Pakistan.

Mr. Irwin: (to Williams) So you are going to call the banks and ask them to hold up any new Letters of Credit informally until they hear from you on Monday.

Mr. Williams: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Iʼll get to the President. Tell them to hold informally and we will take the next step Monday. I expect we will need to have another WSAG meeting tomorrow morning. (to Irwin) Will you be available? When is the Secretary leaving?

Mr. Irwin: He had planned to leave tomorrow morning, but he is reconsidering and may not leave.

[Page 603]

Mr. Sisco: (to Kissinger) Weʼre redrafting the reply to the letter from Yahya. The Secretary made some changes.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. Also, we need more facts about the current situation.

Mr. Sisco: (Referring to President Yahyaʼs letter) We havenʼt found any secret agreements about military assistance to Pakistan—just Article I of the Bilateral Agreement of 1959.9

Dr. Kissinger: Isnʼt there some secret protocol or something? I remember when I was there for a previous Administration I was briefed about some protocol or some special understanding.

Mr. Irwin: So far we havenʼt found anything.

Mr. Van Hollen: We had a secret air agreement with India in 1963.10

Dr. Kissinger: No, I was in Pakistan in January 1962. They claimed there was a secret protocol applying to other than Communist countries. I never saw it, though. I thought it was a part of the agreement and I referred to it in conversation with some newsmen. I was told I shouldnʼt have said anything about it and not one reference appeared in any newspaper to that portion of my remarks—in that free, uncontrolled press. There was either some exchange of letters, or some explanation of the meaning of the agreement. I think it was done in the Eisenhower Administration—some intimidation that the agreement was intended to apply more broadly than just to Communist countries.

Mr. Irwin: I would be amazed if this were done in the Eisenhower years. It would have been contrary to the whole philosophy—particularly with regard to India.

Dr. Kissinger: It might have been President Kennedy. I am sure that some secret document existed in January 1962. The Pakistanis claimed it did and our Embassy there didnʼt deny it. It applied to something other than SEATO. Ask Bill Rountree—he was Ambassador there. It could be a Presidential letter. Also, I got a letter11 from (former Ambassador) Oehlert yesterday—he mentioned something about it.

[Page 604]

Mr. Sisco: Weʼll call him, although Iʼd rather find it first ourselves.12

Dr. Kissinger: It was a letter or an exchange of letters, or a protocol, or some interpretation of the agreement.

Mr. Irwin: I have difficulty believing it. Why would the US Government have been making any declaration to Pakistan at that time that could be used against India?

Mr. Williams: It might have referred to aggression against Pakistan from any quarter.

Dr. Kissinger: It wouldnʼt have said that it was against India. We might have wanted to try to cut down on the sending of military equipment. We might have wanted to give them some assurance that we would take care of them.

Mr. Van Hollen: It might have been done in the context of our supply of military assistance to India after the Chinese Communist attack. We might have wanted to give some assurances to Pakistan about our military assistance to India.

Dr. Kissinger: I never attached any importance to it until now, but I do have a recollection of some interpretation of the bilateral agreement of March of 59. Maybe we wrote them saying the treaty means this to us. There was no denial in 1962 that it existed, but I donʼt know why we did it.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. 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. See Document 219.
  3. Not attached. A copy is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–083, WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 12/3/71.
  4. See footnote 14, Document 209.
  5. Secretary Rogers met with Ambassador Raza subsequent to the WSAG meeting on December 3. The two agreed that it was necessary to convene the Security Council promptly to deal with the deteriorating situation. Rogers showed Raza the U.S. draft resolution, and Raza agreed to recommend it to his government for approval. (Telegram 218538 to Islamabad, December 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK)
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Premier Kosyginʼs reply to President Nixonʼs letter of November 27 (Document 207) was delivered to the U.S. Embassy on December 3 and transmitted to the Department in telegram 9040 from Moscow, December 3. In his reply, Kosygin took the position that the withdrawal from the border of troops involved in the burgeoning crisis was “scarcely feasible.” He argued the importance of pursuing a political solution and put the onus for such a solution on Pakistan. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK)
  8. December 6.
  9. Article 1 of the Agreement of Cooperation signed by the United States and Pakistan on March 5, 1959, stipulated that in case of aggression against Pakistan the United States would “take such appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon” in order to assist Pakistan at its request. (10 UST 317)
  10. This agreement was signed in New Delhi on July 9, 1963 by Prime Minister Nehru and Ambassador Galbraith and transmitted to the Department on July 10 in telegram 143 from New Delhi. ( Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIX, Document 307)
  11. Not found
  12. On December 5 Executive Secretary Eliot sent a memorandum to Kissinger attaching excerpts from security assurances provided to Pakistan by the United States. One such excerpt was from a January 26, 1962, letter from President Kennedy to President Ayub, which reads as follows: “As a firm ally, Pakistan is entitled to the re-affirmation you have requested of the prior assurances given by the United States to Pakistan on the subject of aggression against Pakistan. My Government certainly stands by these assurances.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–083, WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 12/3/71) The full text of the letter is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIX, Document 100. On November 5, 1962, Ambassador McConaughy gave President Ayub an aide-mémoire which offered the more explicit assurance that the United States would “come to Pakistanʼs assistance in the event of aggression from India against Pakistan.” (The text of the aide-mémoire is quoted ibid., Document 191, footnote 6. It was transmitted to the Department as an enclosure to airgram A–883 from Karachi, February 23, 1963; Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Karachi Embassy Files, FRC 67 F 74, 320 Pak/US Assurances)