23. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1
- Ceylon and Pakistan
- Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
- John N. Irwin, II
- Joseph Sisco
- Christopher Van Hollen
- David Schneider
- Thomas Thornton
- G. Warren Nutter
- James H. Noyes
- Lt. Gen. Robert Cushman
- David Blee
- Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
- R/Adm. William St. George
- Harold H. Saunders
- Samuel M. Hoskinson
- Jeanne W. Davis
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS
[Omitted here are conclusions relating to Ceylon.]
It was agreed:
- to prepare a memorandum for the President on the implications of the provision of emergency food to West Pakistan;
- that the IG would continue with preparation of a paper outlining the dilemma, which would be considered by the SRG and by the NSC;
- that a draft reply to Yahyaʼs letter2 to the President should be prepared and held in readiness if the President should ask for it;
- to have another SRG meeting next Wednesday or Thursday (April 14–15) to consider the IG paper.
[Omitted here is discussion relating to Ceylon.][Page 57]
Mr. Kissinger: Letʼs turn to Pakistan. General Cushman?
Gen. Cushman: As you know, since March 25 there has been fighting in East Pakistan—30,000 West Pakistan troops against an armed peasantry, approximately 10,000 guerrilla fighters and a few battalions of Bengali troops which came over to the East Pakistan side. Dacca, Chittagong and most of the cantonments are controlled by West Pakistan. The countryside between the cities is controlled by the Bengalis. The prospects for peaceful settlement are not too bright. Mujib, the East Pakistani leader, is in jail, apparently in West Pakistan, but other leaders have come to the fore. They may be trying to hold out until the end of the dry season around the end of June. After that time, most of the countryside becomes a lake and transportation is very difficult. The Bengalis have cut bridges and are interfering with road traffic. The government is trying to get an inland water route going, without too much success. There is a shortage of aviation fuel in Dacca and a fuel shortage is developing in Ceylon, which may put a limitation on reinforcement flights for West Pakistan. However, the Bengalis are poorly armed and trained.
Mr. Kissinger: Do they have a cohesive command system or are they in isolated pockets?
Gen. Cushman: Their communications are very poor but we donʼt know if they have a central command and control system.
Mr. Sisco: We think it very doubtful. They (the Bengalis) seem to be collecting themselves and trying to regroup.
Gen. Cushman: We think this is a very dangerous period. There is a possibility of Chinese Communist influence. Or that an extremist group, like the Naxalites in West Bengali, might take over. There is also the danger of famine and disease. Planting in the countryside may be disrupted, and the problems would become acute if there is starvation or an epidemic. India has publicly stated they favor the Bengalis. Although they deny any intervention, they are probably sending in arms.
Mr. Kissinger: Why would they do that?
Gen. Cushman: They think that anything that makes trouble for Pakistan is in their interests.
Mr. Irwin: They also fear that, if they donʼt intervene, the Naxalites will make trouble for them.
Mr. Kissinger: I should think trouble in East Pakistan would fuel separatist feelings in West Bengal.
Gen. Cushman: India has taken the position that they would prefer to see an independent Bengali state.
Mr. Irwin: Before the trouble, however, India preferred continuation of a unified Pakistan.
Mr. Kissinger: How does East Pakistan strengthen West Pakistan?[Page 58]
Adm. Moorer: It provides the Pakistan government with more foreign exchange. Also, it has more people than West Pakistan.
Mr. Kissinger: But if West Pakistan succeeds in restoring order, East Pakistan would be unreliable.
Mr. Sisco: I agree that East Pakistan now would become a drain on West Pakistan.
Gen. Cushman: Jute sales from East Pakistan are one of the primary sources of hard cash for West Pakistan.
Mr. Sisco: There is an interesting article in the Washington Post this morning on the economic aspects.
Mr. Van Hollen: There has been a shift in the Indian position as a result of the crisis. They had preferred a unified Pakistan. After March 25, and the intervention of the military in East Pakistan, India became concerned primarily with the effect of long-term Pakistani military control, which they saw as leading to radicalization in West Pakistan, with an impact on West Bengal and therefore on India.
Gen. Cushman: There is a great deal of trade between the two Ben-gals and East Pakistan.
Adm. Moorer: I have just come from a CENTO military meeting and had long conversations with the Pakistani and Iranian military representatives. There is no question in their minds that the Indians would like to see an independent East Pakistan. The Pakistanis were very bitter about the arms supply.
Mr. Kissinger: Did they think West Pakistan could win with 30,000 troops?
Adm. Moorer: Yes.
Mr. Irwin: How important is West Pakistanʼs concern that East Pakistan would be helpful in a war?
Adm. Moorer: Their principal concern was foreign exchange. Also, they do have 25 jets there. I think more important, possibly, is the relationship of Iran to West Pakistan. Iran has a certain value to us and some of this spills over.
Gen. Cushman: We believe the actions of the West Pakistan army have made the breakup more certain. There is a psychological rift now and we donʼt think they can really bring the country back under West Pakistan control, particularly if the Indians supply arms.
Mr. Sisco: The Pakistan Ambassador on Wednesday,3 in what I think was a highly optimistic vein, said he assumed there would be some new political move by Yahya within X number of weeks.[Page 59]
Mr. Kissinger: Some move toward Mujib?
Mr. Sisco: He implied that Mujibʼs six-point program would be conceded. If this is true, Yahya will give them substantial autonomy. Our people believe this is too little too late, and that the likelihood of a united country is not too great. We will just have to wait and see, though.
Mr. Kissinger: Why would the Pakistan Government do this?
Adm. Moorer: They thought that they could do it a lot faster than they did.
Mr. Sisco: There is no question that it was an unwise act, but Yahya was confronted with a cruel dilemma. The use of force, per se, was probably the final step and precluded any real integration or unity.
Mr. Kissinger: We have a number of issues relating to Pakistan that are coming up piecemeal—emergency food, the program loan, the Presidentʼs reply to the letter from Yahya, military supply, etc.
Mr. Sisco: These decisions will all have to be taken within the broader framework. We will have to try to reach a judgment on the basis of the circumstances. I think the military picture may be inconclusive for some time.
Adm. Moorer: I agree.
Mr. Sisco: I think it likely, however, that East Pakistan will end in some form of separatism. Our job is to maintain reasonable relations with both wings. As we view the subcontinent, in terms of our relative interest, our interest in India is probably greater than our interest in Pakistan, although not in absolute terms. We have begun to draft a fundamental paper in which we will make the best assumptions that we can. In that framework then, we can attempt to reach the difficult decisions.
Mr. Kissinger: Could we have a preliminary discussion now? Does everyone agree with this analysis? Is there anyone that believes West Pakistan can reestablish complete control over the country?
No one disagreed with the analysis.
Mr. Kissinger: Suppose West Pakistan controls the cities? With whom would we establish contact in East Pakistan?
Mr. Sisco: We donʼt know who will come to the fore in East Pakistan. We donʼt have an organized insurgent resistance with identifiable leadership. We also have the added problem of how we deal with India, in the likelihood that they will support the Bengalis in East Pakistan either with direct help, their blessing, their acquiescence, etc.
Mr. Noyes: If this drags on, how do they intend to feed the people in the cities? Will we be confronted by a request from West Pakistan for food for city dwellers in East Pakistan in the area they control?[Page 60]
Mr. Sisco: We have told the Pakistanis they should begin to think about this problem and avail themselves of offers of food from the international community. This is an example of what we mean when we say we cannot not intervene.
Mr. Kissinger: On the question of emergency food, we had made a commitment to East Pakistan as a result of the cyclone, which had not been fulfilled because of Pakistani bureaucracy. If West Pakistan comes to us with a specific proposal to put food into East Pakistan, what do we do?
Mr. Sisco: One possibility would be to agree on the condition that we were satisfied the food was going to East Pakistan. The problem of our doing this on a bilateral basis, however, is that it appears to support Yahya in relation to East Pakistan. It would be better to do it in the context of an international mechanism which would depoliticize the situation and not create a situation where our position would be irrevocably jeopardized.
Mr. Kissinger: If there had been no civil war, would we have wanted to use an international mechanism?
Mr. Sisco: No.
Mr. Kissinger: It could be in Pakistanʼs interests to satisfy us as to distribution of food. The practical consequences would be helping West Pakistan consolidate its control. If we go back on our commitment to supply the food, it would be pretty strong medicine.
Mr. Irwin: We can wait and see how things develop with the international agencies.
Mr. Kissinger: What will we know then that we donʼt know now?
Mr. Irwin: I have talked with Maury Williams in AID about the food situation and he thinks they have adequate food stocks. The question is what mechanism should be used to get it to the countryside.
Mr. Sisco: They have two monthsʼ food supply.
Mr. Irwin: What I am saying is that AID could handle the problem.
Mr. Kissinger: That would be all right for a new agreement, but I am talking about our previous commitment.
Mr. Sisco: We would have to insist with Yahya that our people would play a role in the distribution to insure that the food was made available to all of East Pakistan.
Mr. Kissinger: If there were no war, would we assume they would deliver the food where they say they would?
Mr. Sisco: Yes, but circumstances have changed. There will undoubtedly be some rubs between the US and Yahya on this account.[Page 61]
Mr. Kissinger: If we insist that the food be delivered to all of East Pakistan, wouldnʼt it be spread awfully thin?
Mr. Sisco: We would have to be satisfied that it was being made available to the people.
Mr. Kissinger: In effect we will be saying that they wonʼt give them the food. What you are really driving at is whether we should get food in or keep food out.
Mr. Irwin: It is a real dilemma. The US wants to help maintain a food supply, ideally to both the cities and the countryside. But we could not accept working with West Pakistan if that meant starving the countryside. I donʼt know how we solve this.
Mr. Kissinger: We have to get at the implications. It would be as though, in our civil war, the British had offered food to Lincoln on the condition that it be used to feed the people in Alabama.
Mr. Sisco: The implications are very serious.
Mr. Irwin: We also should consider what the international agencies are doing themselves, if anything.
Mr. Kissinger: If the President decides to work through the existing government, with some humanitarian wrinkles, any failure to carry out our agreement, or to impose conditions that make it impossible to carry out, would represent a major shift in policy. This is not a technical question of how the food should be distributed. The position of the East Pakistanis as “rebels” is practically official. We didnʼt tell Mrs. Bandaranaike4 that we wonʼt give her aid in these circumstances.
Mr. Sisco: We could make the argument that this is humanitarian assistance. I agree with Henry, however, that this is not a technical question and that it does have far-reaching implications.
Mr. Kissinger: (to Saunders) Letʼs get a memo5 explaining these implications so that the President does not just decide on what he thinks is a simple matter.
Gen. Cushman: The countryside has plenty of food.
Mr. Kissinger: It depends on how we interpret the situation. If we accept the West Pakistani judgment that the food is needed in the cities, there is no problem. If we insist on distribution in the countryside, there is.
Mr. Saunders: Part of the countryside is the disaster area for which the post-cyclone emergency food was originally requested.[Page 62]
Mr. Noyes: Once the monsoon season starts it will be very difficult for West Pakistan to get food to the countryside.
Mr. Sisco: This is another reason why an international mechanism would be better.
Mr. Kissinger: Has this been raised with them?
Mr. Sisco: Yes. We have suggested to the Pakistanis that they give it some thought. We have pointed out that it would be in their interest, and that the US would help in any international effort.
Mr. Kissinger: Are they asking us to help now?
Mr. Sisco: The problem wonʼt arise for some time but we need to be ready when it does arise.
Mr. Irwin: The timing is uncertain.
Mr. Van Hollen: We are laying out these various dilemmas in the paper.
Mr. Kissinger: Who is we? Is the IG doing the paper? (to Saunders) Are you participating?
Mr. Sisco: It will be an IG paper and we have been in touch with Hal [Saunders]6 all the way. I see the paper coming to the SRG and, if necessary, to the NSC.
Mr. Kissinger: This issue will have to go to the NSC. We will schedule another SRG meeting next week on the basis of the IG paper. We should also get a draft reply to the letter from Yahya even though we may not send it.
Mr. Van Hollen: We have done a draft.
Mr. Sisco: We have done a hand-holding draft, but we want to give it a little more thought. I think we need to sort ourselves out on some fundamental questions first. It is difficult to have the President write a letter to Yahya in which he does not opt one way or the other in the present situation.
Mr. Kissinger: Letʼs get ourselves in a position so that, if the President gets restless about the Yahya letter, because he does have a special feeling about Yahya, we can get the text of the reply to him quickly.
Mr. Van Hollen: The Yahya letter to the President was substantially similar to that he sent to other heads of state. There was nothing special about his letter to the President.
Mr. Kissinger: We will have another SRG on this next Wednesday7 or Thursday.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. No drafting information is provided on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. According to Kissingerʼs appointment book, the meeting took place from 11:12 a.m. to 12:24 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)↩
- See Document 16.↩
- April 7; see footnote 2, Document 22.↩
- Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Ceylon.↩
- See Document 26.↩
- Brackets in the source text.↩
- April 14.↩