223. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: Mr. President.

P: Yes, Henry.

K: I just wanted to bring you up to date on what happened. First, we positioned Ziegler with a pretty tough statement for his press briefing to make clear where you stood and on that basis …

P: They are all aware of the fact that I am in complete touch with it all the time.

K: Well, thatʼs what I … Frankly, State had put out a story this morning that you were just being kept generally aware so we had Ziegler say that you ordered the thing.2

P: Which is true.

K: Which is exactly true. You talked to me 6 times yesterday.

P: And a half a dozen times today.

K: Thatʼs right.

P: And ordered what? You mean on the cut-off of arms?

K: Oh, no the move to the Security Council.

P: Right, yes.

K: I mean that you gave the go-ahead.

P: Right.

K: And then on the basis of that Sisco gave a backgrounder which I understand is playing very well positioning the thing. Weʼve drafted a very tough speech for Bush.

P: Good.

K: And heʼs on the floor now. He tells me that at the Preparatory Meeting the Chinese jumped all over the Russians and Indians and apparently the Indians wanted to put on the agenda only the item of problems of East Pakistan and the Chinese said “No, letʼs call it [Page 612] problems of India.” And thatʼs all right if they all brawl with each other.

P: Good. Let the liberals choose now between China and India. Thatʼll be very good.

K: Exactly.

P: Very good. Boy, this really … you know, we donʼt like this but you realize this is causing our liberal friends untold anguish, Henry.

K: And, Mr. President, actually in terms of the political situation, first of all we wonʼt take any much [more] immediate flak, but in six months the liberals are going to look like jerks because the Indian occupation of East Pakistan is going to make the Pakistani one look like childʼs play.

P: Yes. Well, the main thing weʼre not going to do is be suckered by the Indians into a huge aid program. Now that I want clearly understood. You know after they have screwed this thing up, by God, I canʼt emphasize too strongly how I feel. We told Mrs. Gandhi weʼre going to cut off that aid and weʼre going to do it. Has the word gone out?

K: The word has gone out, Mr. President, and on Monday3 morning—Weʼve already told the banks to hold it and on Monday morning itʼs going to be effective. I mean nothing can happen before Monday.

P: I see. And youʼre examining every other possibility of how we can squeeze India right now.

K: That is right, Mr. President.

P: Itʼs to be done. Everything is to be held up. Everything is to be dragged. Everything else. They cannot get away with this and … well, they will get away with it, but we canʼt allow them to without knowing our displeasure.

K: But what we have to reconsider now is whether it is in our interest to be the chief development—source of development capital—of a country that has performed such actions.

P: Thatʼs right. Oh, you mean next yearʼs aid program?

K: Thatʼs right.

P: Thatʼs what I want now, though. The way I want that handled is for people like Passman and some of our friends in the House and the Senate, even the more liberal types, to come out and say cut aid to India. Get my point.

K: Absolutely.

P: Let them take the lead rather than have us take the lead.

[Page 613]

K: Right.

P: Can we do that?

K: Certainly.

P: Well, can we put somebody to work on it so that itʼll be discreetly done. I just want …

K: Iʼve already talked to Passman in that sense.

P: Well, Passman, but there are others—thereʼs got to be a whole plan.

K: Well, Passman thought we should go easy until weʼve got the present aid program through the budget.

P: Yes.

K: Through the Congress.

P: Yes. And then what would he do? Then he would go after …

K: Next yearʼs appropriation.

P: Is that what youʼre talking about—next yearʼs?

K: Iʼm talking about what we put into the budget for ʼ73.

P: Well, itʼs going to be goddamn little thatʼs for sure.

K: Well, thatʼs what we should do, Mr. President. And this yearʼs we can also cut.

P: I want it cut what we are doing now in fact. And as far as next yearʼs is concerned we just cut that, but I donʼt want to cut Pakistanʼs. Weʼre going to play this fair now. I just hope we can get someone on the story now. Did you get Scali turned loose so that he has a …

K: We gave Scali the facts yesterday, but we couldnʼt locate him today. But weʼve been thumping out the facts all day and I think you will find that the combination of the statement we got Ziegler to make, the Sisco backgrounder and what Bush is going to say tonight is going to be quite a massive dose.

P: It will put us on the side of trying to restrain India.

K: Thatʼs right.

P: Thatʼs what I really feel weʼve got to get across. Now I havenʼt been following the editorial comments, what are the Times and Post and those jackasses saying?

K: Well, the Times hasnʼt said anything yet. The Post is bleeding about itʼs going to the Security Council which weʼve done.

P: Well, of course, but are they blaming India or Pakistan, or both, or neither?

K: Well, they are trying to be pretty even-handed. Theyʼre blaming India. They are blaming India for the military actions and then, of course, they are bleeding about the refugees. But itʼs beginning to tilt against India.

[Page 614]

P: Weʼve got to make it tilt more because we know they are totally to blame. We know that. We know the Paks donʼt want this.

K: Thatʼs right. Well, the Paks donʼt want it. The Paks accepted every proposal of ours. I told the Indian Ambassador before he left that we would work out a complete program with them for political autonomy within a year if they …

P: Youʼve gotten out the fact that, for example, it may be that you ought to have a backgrounder tomorrow. Are you in New York?

K: No, Iʼm in Washington.

P: A backgrounder tomorrow where you can point out that we told Mrs. Gandhi that the Paks were prepared to withdraw from the border. And that we [she?] said we would be willing to look at this and that, in spite of this they havenʼt done it. I think itʼs very important to put the burden on India on this, Henry. I just donʼt feel that we can … now the other side of it that you can say, well, thereʼs 400 million people who have their …

K: Well, but we havenʼt got them anyway, Mr. President.

P: Weʼve got their enmity anyway. Thatʼs what sheʼs shown in this goddamn thing, hasnʼt she?

K: I mean it isnʼt that we are losing an ally. They were the ones that made a treaty with the Russians. They are the ones that are now establishing the principle that force is the only method—the principal method for settling disputes, and it isnʼt that weʼre losing anything. In fact, if we do it the right way, we can still get them to come back to us, to get back in our good graces. The Russians arenʼt going to give them $700 million in development money.

P: The only thing, it is very important to get the P.R. thing across. I do want you to try to find Scali and get him to work on the thing.

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: But heʼs not in town, you say?

K: Well, I donʼt know. Weʼve been trying all day. And we are continuing to try.

P: All right. But what do you think about your doing a back-grounder, or is that overkill?

K: I think itʼd be overkill tomorrow, but what I might do, if you agree, Mr. President, and we think itʼs necessary. I worked out with Ziegler a procedure which weʼve always wanted to try where I step into his briefing. I mean, he calls me in when questions start falling and says,—why donʼt we get Henry on background on this—and I just step into his briefing.

P: Why donʼt you do that?

K: Monday morning. By that time …

[Page 615]

P: Iʼm having that day with NBC that day. You could pop in and I could say Ziegler could come in and approve it and so forth, I guess.

K: I thought one of the things I might do, Mr. President, Iʼve got ten minutes with you in the morning, to brief you on the India situation.

P: Sure, sure. Or anything you want, I mean …

K: I know, but …

P: Weʼre going to play that by ear. It may be 30 minutes, if I decide it. Iʼm not saying to play it by the goddamn television. But, you know what I mean. Weʼll talk about India and several other things.

K: Thatʼs right.

P: Let me ask you about a couple other things. Of course, they can only use a couple minutes in the program but we have got to give them enough, then theyʼll pick the good things. What is the situation now with Rogers? Heʼs perfectly content to stay out of it, I suppose, because he sees itʼs a loser. Is that right?

K: Well, heʼs content not to be—not to have gone on television announcing the thing.4

P: That wouldnʼt have been any good at all because weʼre not sure itʼs going to work.

K: No, but it would [not] have been good for him to set up a command post in New York conducting this operation.

P: And working with the Chinese because they wouldnʼt understand him at all.

K: Thatʼs right and thatʼs what the … oh, not at all … and the Chinese are in any case programmed. They donʼt want to be involved in our … They want to be able to say that they are not colluding with us.

P: I see.

K: So Rogers is happy with this and he did give the backgrounder under great protest. He wouldnʼt have given it if we hadnʼt got …

P: You mean Sisco did.

K: Sisco did. Rogers didnʼt want it until we put out that statement at Key Biscayne and then he figured he better get State into the act.

P: Oh, thatʼs what did it?

K: Yes.

P: Now Ziegler made a very good public statement, huh? What was Zieglerʼs statement?

[Page 616]

K: Well, Zieglerʼs statement said the President has been following this hourly. At 10:30 this morning after receiving the latest report he gave the go-ahead to the State Department to take the case to the Security Council. The President is dismayed by the use of Indian troops in Pakistan and then he was asked, “Does that mean you are giving up your neutral role in this conflict?” And he said it means that the Indians have said they are now on an all out invasion of East Pakistan and this we have always said that the American people would not understand. And that played very well, very strong and Sisco is playing off that.

P: Now how did Sisco handle it? Did he do what you told him that I told him he was to do this?

K: Exactly. Well, at first he didnʼt want to do it and Rogers didnʼt want him to do it, but then when they saw the Ziegler thing which featured your role then they decided they better get some State Department line out too.

P: Is that what did it?

K: Yes. Which is OK. We donʼt want them to …

P: Of course, you got the Ziegler played, that was very good.

K: Right.

P: And then Sisco did give a good backgrounder?

K: He did give a good backgrounder citing chapter and verse of all the things the Indians have refused to do: no UN observers, no acceptance of the …

P: Did he also cite what we have done—that we have given $250 million in aid and all that.

K: Oh yes, oh yes.

P: Weʼre getting all that across, are we?

K: Yes, and anything that needs to be done I can do Monday morning.

P: I think what probably needs to be done, that Monday you may have to give—basically, rather than having a white paper put out; that what you ought to do is look over the facts very, very carefully and then go out and give a hard hitting briefing.

K: Yes, but I ought to do that on background.

P: Oh absolutely, on background. On the thing that weʼve just talked to the President, weʼve examined the whole thing, now here are the facts. I think that could have an enormous effect.

K: Right. I think thatʼs right.

P: It would pit world opinion against these people.

K: Right.

P: Is that the way you feel about it?

[Page 617]

K: Thatʼs exactly the way I feel about it. Because that puts us—then we have to have a basis for the actions in the economic field we are taking.

P: Now insofar as those actions are concerned, we havenʼt had any squeals from the Indians, have we?

K: No, no. See thatʼs again where State was wrong. The Indians have no interest in escalating this with us. Not a squeal. They will start squealing next week when the economic aid is cut off.

P: Now understand, I donʼt want any nonsense about this. I really want it cut down to—anything that can be cut is got to be cut next week. Anything that can be cut and I want Hannah brought on the carpet. And I want Currans and everybody—so that everything is cut, Henry. Thatʼs the only way the Indians are going to understand this—if it all is cut and they know it. Donʼt announce a thing. Just do it.

K: Exactly.

P: Now is that all understood.

K: Thatʼs all understood, Mr. President.

P: And Connally understands it, of course.

K: Connally has played beautiful ball. He knows how to do these things without the knife showing.

P: Incidentally, tell him, if you will—now heʼs at the gridiron tonight—but in the morning, if he has an opportunity to stick the knife in India in any public statement that he makes, to do it.

K: OK.

P: That would be a good thing to have done.

K: Because he could do it from a development point of view.

P: Thatʼs right. Thatʼs right. That we are going to have to reexamine our aid. I mean I think we should play a very tough game. I donʼt think the American people want to aid a country that is an aggressor.

K: Well, and as consistently. It was bad enough when, with our money, they dragged us around in the UN, when have these bastards ever supported us?

P: Never.

K: What can they do to us that they arenʼt doing now? I mean if they want to be Russian stooges and have the Russians spend a billion dollars there a year, we canʼt prevent it.

P: Right. Ok. Well, this is the way to play it. Weʼll take a look Monday to see whether we want to have you go.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]

P: Well, I wish there was some more we could do here but … Theyʼll run out of gas—both sides—wonʼt they in about two weeks.

[Page 618]

K: Yes, but of course, another thing we have done is to send a backchannel to the Shah from you saying that, trying to find out whether he wanted to give some support to Pakistan and saying if he did we would look to see whether we could find a way of letting, of replacing his …

P: Are you sure that backchannel is safe?

K: Yes.

P: I wouldnʼt do it through MacArthur.5

K: No, no, thatʼs why I didnʼt do it that way and we didnʼt put it as a message. We put it as talking points so it can be disallowed.

P: Good, well weʼll have some fun with this yet. God, you know what would really be poetic justice here is if some way the Paks could really give the Indians a bloody nose for a couple of days. The fighting, any report on that?

K: Well, the fighting—we got reports in East Pakistan that the Indians are surprised at the intensity of the Pakistan resistance. But of course they outnumber them there eight to one.

P: How about West Pakistan?

K: In West Pakistan the Indians donʼt seem to have gotten very far. And there I think theyʼre not going to be able to win except by wearing them down. They outnumber them there five to one. Theyʼve been bombing Karachi and burning the oil installations.

P: Isnʼt that awful. That [is] terrible. The Indians are bombing Karachi?

K: Yes.

P: Oh, for Christʼs sake, isnʼt that … and Rawalpindi I notice is on the list, too.

K: Yes. Well, of course, theyʼve been playing a terrific game these last years. Every time one tank was shipped to Pakistan the Indians would carry on like maniacs, but theyʼve been getting big shipments from India [the Soviet Union?], theyʼve been getting big shipments from India [the Soviet Union?], rather [than] their own armaments industry.

P: Well, weʼve got to get across the point that as far as our aid to Pakistan is concerned that first it was minimal. Second, that our mistake was, and I think thatʼs the thing you want to make in your back-grounder, was that we didnʼt give more.

K: Thatʼs right. Oh, the military aid thing, Mr. President, is so absurd. We gave $3.8 million dollars worth of spare parts.

[Page 619]

P: As I look at this thing for the future, Henry, I have the feeling that theyʼre going to try to build it up—again weʼve got to think of what the media will try to do.

P: Let the Indians squeal. Let the liberals squeal. Whatʼs wrong with that?

K: Well, uh …

P: Iʼm not sure, you know, that we may not be playing it boldly enough.

K: Well, we can look at that. On Monday morning we can …

P: I want to see that kind of a suggestion because I would be prepared to go out and say in view of this action that we regretfully cut off. Until this action desists all economic aid to India stops, period. Theyʼre in the business of being the aggressors—course they are the aggressors. I really feel—oh, I know all the arguments that well then weʼre choosing up sides, weʼre not neutral. Of course, weʼre not neutral. Neither are the Indians. Theyʼre always neutral against us.

K: Thatʼs right and you said thatʼs what youʼd do.

P: I think we ought to do it.

K: Well, we can certainly, Mr. President, on Monday morning cut off this $100 million dollar slice.

P: Well, but you see all this is salami stuff. I think that what is really needed is a jolt. We have given $10 billion worth of aid to India. So you tell the American people that Iʼm cutting off all aid to India. Make a bold play. You talk to Connally about that tomorrow.

K: OK.

P: All right, weʼve got $10 billion and weʼre cutting off all aid to India until this war stops. That might have some effect.

K: Right.

P: Donʼt you agree?

K: I think that … no, Iʼm very—I find it very attractive. Our experience has been …

P: Itʼll be very attractive also to the American people.

K: Thatʼs right.

P: They would like it. You say, “Look, weʼve given $10 billion in aid. Now they are going forward with this aggression, weʼre cutting off all aid to them until they stop.”

K: And evacuate any territory they have occupied.

P: Thatʼs right. Well, get me a plan like that and Iʼll go for it, okay?

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: All right.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 397, Telephone Conversations, Home File, Dec 1971. No classification marking. The President was in Key Biscayne, Florida; Kissinger was in Washington. The conversation was tape-recorded at Kissingerʼs residence in Washington and subsequently transcribed at the White House. No time of the conversation appears on the transcript.
  2. Reference is to the decision to instruct Ambassador Bush to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council calling, inter alia, for a mutual withdrawal of ground forces on the subcontinent; See footnote 5, Document 224.
  3. December 6.
  4. Reference is to the initiative Bush was instructed to take cited in footnote 2 above.
  5. Ambassador to Iran Douglas MacArthur II.