224. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Mr. Joseph Sisco
    • Mr. Christopher Van Hollen
    • Mr. Bruce Laingen
    • Mr. David Schneider
    • Mr. Samuel DePalma
  • Defense
    • Mr. Warren Nutter
    • Mr. Armistead Selden
    • Mr. James H. Noyes
  • JCS
    • Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr.
    • Capt. Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Mr. Richard Helms
    • Mr. John Waller
  • AID
    • Dr. John Hannah
    • Mr. Maurice Williams
    • Mr. Donald MacDonald
  • NSC Staff
    • B/Gen. Alexander Haig
    • Col. Richard Kennedy
    • Mr. Harold Saunders
    • Mr. Samuel Hoskinson
    • Adm. Robert Welander
    • Mrs. Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

The official Indian statement on the “no-holds-barred” offensive2 and the comparable Pak statements, should be reflected in our statement at the UN today;
CIA will prepare by Monday morning, December 6, an hour-by-hour account of events, along with whatever conclusions they can draw;
The bland letter calling for the Security Council meeting, proposed by the Japanese and others, is satisfactory as long as the points in our original version of the letter are covered in our announcement of the meeting call.
We should seek to speak first at the SC meeting, after India and Pakistan;
We will introduce our resolution at the time we make our statement, without co-sponsors if necessary.
We will go along with general language on political accommodation but will not accept specific language concerning Mujibʼs release.
AID will prepare a paper on exactly what we have done in cutting off economic assistance to India and what we will say publicly when our action becomes known; the paper should include the reason why we have not taken the same action for Pakistan although this will not be made public now.
Agricultureʼs desire to ship 50,000 tons of vegetable oil to India will be raised with the President;

Dr. Kissinger: Dick (Helms), whatʼs going on?

(Mr. Helms briefed from the attached text.)3

Mr. Helms: We sent you a copy of a study yesterday on Moscow and the Indo-Pakistani Crisis.4 Itʼs pretty good and you should take a look at it. It discusses the switch in the Soviet attitude in some detail. With regard to the attacks, Indian aircraft have hit two oil company dumps in Karachi and they have a nasty fire going which the Paks apparently canʼt put out. It will provide a fine target for Indian planes as long as they want to use it. We also have a report from a British businessman in Lahore that Pakistan troops have crossed the border there. As you know, weʼre getting dependents out of Lahore via the road to Islamabad.

Dr. Kissinger: If the Indians have announced a full-scale invasion, this will have to be reflected in the statement weʼre making this afternoon at the UN.

Mr. Van Hollen: Iʼll check on it.

[Page 622]

Dr. Kissinger: Itʼs not in the statement5 now and it should be.

Mr. Helms: So far as who started it is concerned, weʼre no better off than we were yesterday. Nor do we have any explanation as to why Pakistan struck those insignificant airfields.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Helms) Could we have by Monday morning an hour-by-hour account of who did what when?

Mr. Helms: Sure. Have you seen our latest paper?6 That covers most of it, although it isnʼt listed by hours. Should we convert that into an hourly chronology?

Dr. Kissinger: It would help—and also what conclusions you can draw.7

Mr. DePalma: If youʼre going to include what India has been saying in our statement this afternoon, Yahya has been saying some things too—the “final war” statement,8 for example. Should we include references to one sideʼs statements and not the other.

Dr. Kissinger: Iʼm under instruction from the President to tilt our statements toward Pakistan. Now, either the bureaucracy will put out the kind of statements the President wants or they will be issued from the White House.

Mr. DePalma: Iʼm just asking how you want it handled. We can use only the Indian statement or both statements.

Dr. Kissinger: Is this an official Indian statement?

Mr. Helms: Yes.

Mr. Van Hollen: Is there an official statement on the Pak side?

Mr. Helms: By Yahya himself.

[Page 623]

Dr. Kissinger: Have the Indians said they are launching an all-out attack?

Mr. Helms: Theyʼve said they have launched a “no holds barred” offensive on East Pakistan.

Dr. Kissinger: Has Yahya said anything of a comparable nature?

Mr. Helms: He has said his army would push the invader back into his own territory and destroy him.

Dr. Kissinger: Is that objectionable? Can the UN object to someone driving an enemy back? The Pak Ambassador called me the other day to say he had been told by someone in the State Department to exercise restraint and wanted to know how he should do it. I told him to go back and ask the person who told him.

Mr. DePalma: If the statements track that way, both of them can be mentioned in our statement.

Dr. Kissinger: Can someone brief on what happened on the approach to the UN?

Mr. DePalma: The UK, Belgium, Japan and Italy are all set. Also probably France. We have had a little problem with the letter calling for the Security Council meeting. Japan and some of the others have detected the tilt in our draft and would prefer an absolutely bland letter. They have given us a substitute draft. (Handed both drafts9 to Mr. Kissinger)

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we were going to make an announcement.

Mr. DePalma: We are. We can make the announcement in our own terms.

Dr. Kissinger: I have no strong views on what the letter should say as long as we can get our version out through the announcement. Our letter is the same as our press statement. Is that what they object to?

Mr. DePalma: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: (Reading the text of the proposed substitute letter)10 I donʼt care how the request for the meeting is made as long as George Bush understands what he is to say. Are there any views on this? Does it make any difference?

Mr. Helms: I donʼt think it makes any difference.

Mr. Van Hollen: We do need a letter, though—it shouldnʼt just be done orally.

[Page 624]

Dr. Kissinger: Go ahead with the bland letter. We will put out our statement. Incidentally, whoever is backgrounding for the State Department has invoked the Presidentʼs wrath. He referred to UPI–5, saying he would like us to give the impression of a unified, coordinated government. The President believes he has been issuing some instructions in this matter, not just being kept “appraised.”

What will happen at the UN?

Mr. DePalma: We donʼt know the hour of the meeting yet—it will either be this afternoon or this evening. The opening statements will be made by India and Pakistan, and we should try to speak first immediately after they do. We should make our statement before the others speak and start to muck it up.

Dr. Kissinger: Do we have to take account of what anyone else says?

Mr. DePalma: The impact of our statement would be cleaner if it were not treated in the press as one of several lines being taken.

Dr. Kissinger: I have no objection to our speaking first after India and Pakistan.

Mr. DePalma: On the resolution, there is a question as to whether we can get things lined up in time to introduce it at the time we make our statement. We think it would be better to have our co-sponsors lined up. If they begin to quibble with the text, however, we will have to decide whether we want to take the time to work out an agreed text.

Dr. Kissinger: But we have told the Paks we are going to put in this resolution.

Mr. DePalma: Itʼs the one they expect.

Dr. Kissinger: Then we have to put it in.

Mr. DePalma: Alone?

Mr. Helms: Whatʼs the matter with being for peace?

Dr. Kissinger: Is our resolution so daring?

Mr. Helms: Why shouldnʼt we hand the text out to the press before we make our statement?

Mr. DePalma: We canʼt do that if we want co-sponsors.

Dr. Kissinger: Itʼs a question of whether we want a fan-dance or want to position ourselves. We want the resolution tabled. We know it wonʼt come out as it goes in. Having bitched around for the last two weeks, the only thing we want now is to make our position clear. Everyone knows we will end up with Indian occupation of East Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how all those people who were so horrified at what the Paks were doing in East Pakistan react when the Indians take over there. The only thing we want to achieve is to make our position clear. We want that resolution tabled.

[Page 625]

Mr. DePalma: All right. We will make a minimum effort for cosponsors. We will tell them we will table our resolution at the time we make our statement. If they want to co-sponsor, fine. If not, we will table it and the others can come in if they like.

Dr. Kissinger: Theyʼll play with the language anyway. The possibility of their accepting it as is is zero.

Mr. DePalma: Theyʼll quibble with it.

Dr. Kissinger: Their quibbles added together could be significant. If there is virtue in our speaking first, after the Indians and Pakistanis, there is virtue in positioning ourselves and getting our resolution in. We know nothing is going to happen at the UN. Anything will be vetoed.

Mr. Van Hollen: Both the Soviets and Indians will try to delay.

Mr. Helms: The headlines of the past week all take the line that the U.S. is vacillating—canʼt make up its mind about going to the UN.

Dr. Kissinger: We will hit hard on cease-fire and withdrawal of forces before political settlement. Iʼve talked to Secretary Rogers and that is his view too. I now assume that the resolution will be introduced by us at the time of Bushʼs statement. If anyone else wants to join us, fine. But there will be no hold-up.

Mr. DePalma: Okay.

Dr. Kissinger: And we understand that we will not go along with any specifics on political accommodation. We will accept general political settlement language, but not specifically related to Mujibʼs release. Is that understood?

Mr. DePalma: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: How long can India delay the proceedings?

Mr. DePalma: India will make a long speech. The Soviets will make a long speech. They will ask what the purpose of the exercise is, and take the position that a political settlement is the only important thing.

Mr. Van Hollen: They will spin it out as long as possible while they are moving militarily.

Mr. DePalma: They can do it for three or four days, then something has to happen.

Mr. Helms: Just about long enough to occupy East Pakistan.

Mr. DePalma: We can try to force a vote—to force them to veto, if there is any virtue in that. It should be weighed against the remote possibility of getting something useful.

Dr. Kissinger: Itʼs inconceivable that we will get anything useful out of this. The Soviets wonʼt tolerate it—the Indians wonʼt have it.

[Page 626]

Mr. DePalma: One guy or the other will veto.11

Dr. Kissinger: There will definitely be a Security Council session today?

Mr. DePalma: Yes.

Mr. Helms: That 11 oʼclock meeting this morning just went by the board?

Dr. Kissinger: What was that?

Mr. DePalma: The President of the Council was shilly-shallying around about calling a meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: When are we making our announcement about the meeting?

Mr. DePalma: Iʼm not sure.

Dr. Kissinger: On the question of economic assistance, the President wants to go ahead on India only. We canʼt do anything until Monday anyway. (to Williams) Will you get over here a paper indicating what we will say when our action becomes public and exactly what we have done. I will read it to the President so he knows exactly what heʼs getting into.

Mr. Williams: Should our statement also cover why we are not taking the same action for Pakistan?

Dr. Kissinger: No, letʼs keep that back. We should have a reason, though.

Mr. Williams: Agriculture wants us to point out that the price of vegetable oil in the U.S. is very weak and they want to substitute 50,000 tons of vegetable oil for part of the 400,000 tons of wheat remaining to be delivered from the FY 71 PL–480 agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I know their problem. Let me raise it with the President. Iʼll get you an answer by opening of business Monday morning. (to Adm. Zumwalt) Whatʼs the military situation? How long can the Paks hold out in East Pakistan?

Adm. Zumwalt: Not long. Their logistics will grind to a halt—in one or two weeks if theyʼre not overrun sooner. The Indians may occupy some essential parts but stop short of total occupation and let the guerrillas take the parts that the Indians donʼt want to hold. The Soviets will probably convert the aid they had proposed for India to permanent use of the naval base at Visak.

[Page 627]

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼll meet again Monday12 morning, unless something happens to require a meeting sooner. We have the draft reply to Yahya, but we donʼt need to do that now.

Mr. Nutter: It goes without saying that anyone relying on the newspapers for his information is convinced that this is entirely the fault of the Pakistanis. They failed to come to some political accommodation then they attacked India.

Dr. Kissinger: Itʼs a well done political campaign. Weʼll be paying for it for a long time. Youʼll look at UPI–5, wonʼt you?

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer record 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. Reference is to a statement made by Defense Secretary K.B. Lall on December 4 that India had launched a “no holds are barred” offensive in East Pakistan. (Intelligence memorandum prepared in the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, December 4; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 642, Country Files, Middle East, South Asia, Nov–Dec 1971)
  3. Attached but not printed. Helms briefed from notes that described a combined Indian-Mukti Bahini offensive in East Pakistan and the beginning stages of the fighting along the border between India and West Pakistan. Pakistani troops were being hard pressed in the east, but there was little beyond artillery exchanges in the west. The notes analyzed the movement of the Soviet Union away from opposing war on the subcontinent and pointed to the conclusion that Moscow would not do much to try to halt hostilities.
  4. Not found.
  5. In his statement to the United Nations Security Council on December 4, Ambassador Bush introduced a resolution that called for the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of armed forces by India and Pakistan from each otherʼs territory, and encouraged both countries to avail themselves of the Secretary-Generalʼs offer to use his good offices to promote a settlement. (UN doc. S/PV.1606)
  6. Reference is to the memorandum cited in footnote 2 above.
  7. The CIA prepared a chronology and covering memorandum entitled, “India– Pakistan: Responsibility for Initiating Hostilities on 3 December 1971” in response to this request. The documents are undated, but the chronology runs through December 4, suggesting that they were prepared and submitted on December 5. The covering memorandum concluded that it was difficult to determine conclusively which country initiated hostilities, but the weight of evidence tended to support Indian claims that Pakistan struck first in the west with air strikes. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 642, Country Files, Middle East, India/Pakistan Situation)
  8. President Yahyaʼs speech to the nation is summarized in the memorandum cited in footnote 2 above.
  9. Copies are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–082, WSAG Meeting, South Asia, 11/24/71.
  10. The letter submitted to the Security Council President on December 4 requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council to consider the deteriorating situation on the subcontinent and was signed by the representatives of Argentina, Belgium, Burundi, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Somalia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (UN doc. S/10411)
  11. The U.S. draft resolution (UN doc. S/10416) was vetoed by the Soviet Union; the vote was 11 to 2 (Poland, U.S.S.R.), with 2 abstentions.
  12. 12 December 6.