239. Editorial Note

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger met in the Oval Office of the White House at 6:14 p.m. on December 6, 1971, for another discussion of the confrontation between India and Pakistan. Both were focused upon the Soviet Union as key to a settlement of the crisis. Nixon began by saying that he wanted to “cool it” with the Soviet Union. Kissinger agreed: “This is the sort of signal the Russians understand.” “Youʼll be better off, Mr. President, 6 months from now,” he added. “If they lose respect for us now theyʼll put it to us.”

Nixon was also concerned that he had not made his position clear enough when he met in November with Prime Minister Gandhi. “What Iʼm concerned about, I really worry about, is whether or not I was too easy on the goddamn woman when she was here.” He felt that she had determined upon a course of action before their meeting and had “suckered” him in their talks. Kissinger reminded him that the advice given Nixon in the briefing materials prepared for the visit was to deal with Gandhi in such a way that she could not complain about her reception and use it as a pretext to pursue a course of military action. Nixon said that at least he had been “tougher” on her than the briefing [Page 675] materials had advised. In retrospect, Kissinger felt that a much tougher line had been called for. “When I look back on it now, should we have recommended to you to brutalize her privately? To say now I want you to know you do this and you will wreck your relations with us for five years, and we will look for every opportunity to damage you.” Nixon agreed: “Thatʼs right.” Kissinger concluded: “Thatʼs probably what we should have done.” Nixon said “This woman suckered us. But let me tell you sheʼs going to pay. She is going to pay. Now I mean on this aid side, I am not …” At this point Nixon and Kissinger both spoke at the same time and Nixon did not complete the thought.

Kissinger predicted that the Democratic Party would make India a campaign issue. Nixon responded: “Theyʼll probably say weʼre losing India forever. All right, who is going to care about losing India forever?” Kissinger agreed that it was not something to be concerned about. “Hell, if we could reestablish relations with Communist China we can always get the Indians back whenever we want to later—a year or two from now.”

Nixon saw China as offering perhaps the best prospect of putting pressure on India. “I think weʼve got to tell them that some movement on their part we think toward the Indian border could be very significant. And that as far as weʼre concerned … just say that we have sent a very tough note to the Russians, and that we are cooling our relations.” Kissinger suggested: “The way we could put it, Mr. President, is to say we shouldnʼt urge them to do it because theyʼll get too suspicious—if we could say if you consider it necessary to take certain actions we want you to know that you should not be deterred by the fear of standing alone against the powers that may intervene.” Nixon agreed: “Right, right, thatʼs right.” He went on: “Damn it, I am convinced that if the Chinese start to move the Indians will be petrified.” Kissinger observed that weather conditions would make such a move difficult and Nixon rejoined that it had not prevented the Chinese army from crossing the Yalu River in the dead of winter during the Korean War.

Nixon referred to the intelligence report they had received on Indiaʼs war plans (See Document 246). He said he wanted “to put it out to the press” and told Kissinger to sound out Joseph Alsop on whether he would be willing to use the report. “I want that report,” the President said, “put into the hands of a columnist who will print the whole thing.” He felt that the report “will make her bad.” Kissinger suggested that John Scali would be the proper person to leak the report. Nixon instructed Kissinger to send a message to Ambassador Keating to be “totally cold” in his relations with the Indians.

Kissinger reviewed the recent exchanges with the Soviet Union that emphasized that the bilateral relationship was at issue. The most recent “tough” note had made it clear, he felt, that the crisis “threatens the [Page 676] whole climate of confidence” which existed between the two countries. He added: “I told them yesterday.… How can you talk to us about Security Council guarantees if you thwart the Security Council. And I threatened them that we would not carry out the Middle East negotiations.” He indicated that his instinct was to turn down the invitation he had received to visit Moscow to prepare for the summit. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, December 6, 1971, 6:14–6:38 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 630–20) The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. A transcript of the conversation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 162.