234. Minutes of Secretary of Defense Lairdʼs Armed Forces Policy Council Meeting1

    • Mr. Laird
    • Mr. Packard
    • Mr. Froehlke
    • Mr. BeLieu
    • General Westmoreland
    • Governor Chafee
    • Mr. Warner
    • Admiral Zumwalt
    • Dr. McLucas (for Dr. Seamans)
    • General Meyer (for General Ryan)
    • General Chapman
    • R/Adm Freeman (for Lt General Vogt)
    • Dr. Rechtin (for Dr. Foster)
    • Dr. Hall
    • Mr. Henkin
    • Mr. Kelley
    • Mr. Moot
    • Dr. Nutter
    • Dr. Wilbur
    • Mr. Gibson (for Mr. Shillito)
    • Dr. Tucker
    • Mr. Buzhardt
    • Mr. Wallace
    • Mr. Baroody
    • Mr. Johnson
    • Mr. Solomon
    • Dr. Walske
    • Mr. Friedheim
    • B/General Pursley
    • R/Admiral Murphy
    • Colonel Furlong
    • Colonel Boatner
    • Mr. Livesay

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]

2. India–Pakistan

Mr. Laird said that several meetings were held over the week-end in Washington and in the UN on the Indian-Pakistan situation. Mr. Packard [Page 653] and Dr. Nutter were involved as was General Westmoreland, who is Acting Chairman of the JCS. Mr. Laird asked Dr. Nutter to comment first. Dr. Nutter said that the U.S. took the issue to the UN Security Council on Saturday, with a resolution calling for both sides to cease-fire and withdraw to their borders. We had expected a Soviet veto of this resolution and they complied with our expectations. A modified resolution by other members was introduced which contained less stress on the actions by the Indians. The Soviets also vetoed this resolution. The primary achievement of the first 3 days then has been to build a record. In the meantime India has recognized the Bangla Desh as the Government of East Pakistan. This indicates clearly Indiaʼs development of a position, attitudes, and finally an attack against East Pakistan. Although he will leave it to General Westmoreland to comment on the military situation, Dr. Nutter said the Paks may be able to hold out for about 2 weeks in East Pakistan from the standpoint of their logistics. Military action in the West Pakistan/India border area is unclear. The Paks have invaded Kashmir and their plan appears to be to take as much of Kashmir as possible. We are evacuating U.S. dependents from West Pakistan. Most dependents have already been evacuated from East Pakistan. The UN had planned evacuation of UN personnel from East Pakistan, but the plane sent in for the purpose missed the end of the cease-fire by 15 minutes. A PanAm 707 is to try again today to evacuate the UN personnel. Of these personnel, 60 are U.S. citizens.

General Westmoreland said that on 3 December, Pak planes bombed 8 Airfields in Western India, which Pak spokesmen claim was retaliation for earlier Indian ground thrusts. Indian spokesmen denied the alleged ground attacks. On 4 December, Indian planes bombed West Pakistan, particularly Islamabad and Karachi. Since then they have bombed 5 oil targets in the Karachi area. We estimate 80 percent of Pakistanʼs oil is stored in the Karachi area.

India has a 3 to 1 advantage over Pakistan in aircraft. The Paks are on the offensive in 4 areas. One was a brigade size attack against Kashmir, where they have made little progress. They have met stiff resistance elsewhere. The U.S. Defense Attaché in New Delhi reports that the Indians at a briefing yesterday acknowledged the Pakistan attacks. They claim the Indian Army was holding their positions. It is reported that the Indian forces have made a successful attack in the area of Hyderabad. This, however, is unconfirmed. While the Pakistanis are attacking in northern India, the Indians are mounting a diversionary effort in the south toward Karachi. If successful, the Indians could cut the supply line to the Pakistan Army by sea (which is through Karachi). Shelling continues at the borders of East Pakistan and India from both sides. Indian air attacks have been primarily against Dacca and Chittagong. The amount of damage is unclear. The Paks have used their aircraft mainly to support ground forces. The Indians have acknowledged [Page 654] the loss of 17 aircraft and the Paks have admitted that 8 of their planes were lost. Other information available to us indicates possibly 11 Pakistani aircraft lost. If the latter report is correct, the Pakistanis only have 4 F–86s left in East Pakistan. In the east, the Indian Army in conjunction with the Mukti Bahini Rebels have commenced attacks all along the front. They are trying to cut the Pak lines of communications to Dacca and Chittagong. If successful, this would be critical to the Paks as it would cut off their seaports.

A U.S. Merchant Ship was attacked by 2 unidentified aircraft off the East Pakistan coast. The captain and two or three members of the crew were injured and the ship is returning to Rangoon, Burma. Indian aircraft from their one aircraft carrier have bombed the port of Chittagong. The Indians also claim one of their OSA boats sunk a Pakistani destroyer 20 miles off of Karachi. The Paks have admitted the loss, reporting a large number of survivors were rescued. With regard to naval strength, General Westmoreland said India has 1 carrier, 2 cruisers and 12 destroyers, which greatly outnumber the 1 cruiser and 6 destroyers of Pakistan.

The Indian government is trying for a rapid and successful conclusion of the fighting in East Pakistan. Indian Premier Gandhi, on 3 December, stated that Indian objective was to complete action within 10 days and redeploy Indian troops to the borders with West Pakistan. [1 line of source text not declassified] the West Pakistan objective is to overwhelm Indian forces in Kashmir. They feel Kashmir might be sufficient compensation for the loss of East Pakistan to India. If India should mount a full-scale attack, it is estimated that in conjunction with the Mukti-Bahini guerrillas they could take enough East Pakistan territory in 10 days to establish the rebel government. If their activity is no more than at present, however, it will allow the East Pakistani troops to withdraw to more easily defended positions and they might be able to hold out for at least a month. Indian aircraft strikes at West Pakistan oil targets will significantly reduce the combat ability of Pakistan forces. Pakistan strategy is to create a major diversion by attacking India from the west and taking Kashmir, which could balance off the possible loss of East Pakistan. The Indian objective is to take East Pakistan quickly and move to the defense of the western areas of India.

Mr. Froehlke2 asked if Kashmir was mostly populated by Moslems. Admiral Zumwalt said yes. Annexation of Kashmir by Pakistan would make sense. However, at the time of the Partition the Maharajah was Hindu, so it went to India. General Westmoreland said evidence suggests that the Pakistanis preempted in the west to relieve pressure on [Page 655] East Pakistan. Mr. Laird took issue with this conclusion saying it has been hard to pin this down. He had been trying to get DIA to prepare a statement on this and they have not come down hard on such a conclusion.

Admiral Zumwalt said the WSAG meetings and U.S. actions disturb him. Of course, we do not know what the Pakistan/Communist China master strategy is in this situation. Nevertheless, the U.S. will take a lot of lumps. We have come out on the side of the Pakistanis. East Pakistan will go down and it will look like we are ineffective allies. The USSR will gain with the Indians. In the short term the military balance in the Indian Ocean area will go against us. Mr. Packard commented one of the problems was what options does the U.S. have. The only way to prevent outbreak of war was to force the Pakistanis not to fight. Admiral Zumwalt said this was one case it might have been better for the United States to do nothing. Mr. Packard said we would have still come out on the short end. In the long run, we can expect the Soviets to have a larger influence in India and we can not yet assess what effect this will have on the naval situation in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Laird said in spite of what we might have done, it would have gone the way it has anyway. Mr. Packard said all of the aid we have given India over the years has not helped one bit. Maybe we should let the Soviets have this problem for awhile. Admiral Zumwalt inferred that the Washington actions had given the Pakistanis hope we would help them. Mr. Laird said we have certainly not given them any hope as far as East Pakistan. All the decisions and message traffic he has seen going back and forth certainly does not convey that we have given them such a hope. Mr. Packard said we tried to get both sides to withdraw to avoid war. The Pakistans agreed to do so, but the Indians did not. They stated they would only consider withdrawal after the Paks had withdrawn. The only alternate course was to pressure Pakistan to accept Indian takeover of East Pakistan. Admiral Zumwalt again commented that Peking was an unknown factor in the situation. Mr. Laird said as far as the Indian government was concerned that decision was already made for us. General Westmoreland noted that in his visit to India last year, he was impressed with the Indian officers and their pro-U.S. attitude. [4 lines of source text not declassified]

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]

R. Eugene Livesay
Staff Secretary
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0028, Office Chronological Files, Aug through Dec 1971. Top Secret. The meeting was held at the Pentagon.
  2. Robert F. Froehlke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Administration.