24. Memorandum for the Record1


  • 40 Committee Meeting—April 9


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • John Irwin, Under Secretary of State
  • Thomas Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Robert Cushman, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense
  • Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State
  • David Blee, CIA
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

Following a Senior Review Group meeting on Ceylon and Pakistan,2 the meeting moved into executive session at the request of the CIA member in order to consider an item appropriate to the 40 Committee.

General Cushman began by summarizing a request that had been received [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which had been circulated in a short memo before the meeting (attached).3 This was a request for CIA provision of unmarked small arms [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to provide to the “freedom fighters” in East Pakistan. General Cushman remarked that the Agency had a secure channel through which it could deliver such weapons but that his personal opinion was that this operation would not remain secret much beyond that. He noted that Director Helms did not favor the project.

In response to Dr. Kissingerʼs query, the following views were expressed:

  • —Mr. Irwin was “reluctant.”
  • Admiral Moorer felt that it would be “very wrong” to be working on both sides of the East Pakistani issue at once.
  • —General Cushman felt that an affirmative response would prejudge the larger policy issue which the Senior Review Group had been discussing.
  • —Dr. Kissinger summarized by saying that he felt the President would never approve this project.

[Page 64]

Mr. Sisco said that he felt the Indians were “testing us.” It is one thing, he noted, for the U.S. to close its eyes to reports of clandestine Indian support for the East Pakistani resistance movement but quite another thing for the U.S. to collude with the Indians in this supply.

Dr. Kissinger stated his assumption that the U.S. could not, in any case, deliver enough equipment to make a difference in the outcome in East Pakistan. He assumed, in any case, that the Indians would have sufficient stocks to supply any small arms that might be needed.

Mr. Blee said that the Indians do not have a large enough quantity of unmarked, unattributable weapons to supply what the East Pakistanis need in the quantities they need, so there would be a need if someone wanted this done. On the other hand, he did not see how Indian supply could make a difference in the outcome of the contest between the leftists and the moderates to gain control over the East Pakistani nationalist movement. He felt that it was a foregone conclusion that the leftists would win out.

Dr. Kissinger said that that is a very serious judgment which should be taken into account in our policy considerations. If we feel that, under present circumstances, the radicals are likely to take over, that could affect our judgment about the necessity of bringing the civil war to an end. He continued that, if the U.S. had been presented with a choice on March 25, it would certainly have urged President Yahya not to take a military course of action. But he recalled that everyone had been taken by surprise when the negotiations broke down and Yahya turned to military action.

Mr. Sisco noted that the U.S. and President Yahya both have a large stake in the preservation of moderate leadership in East Pakistan. He noted that he had said privately to Ambassador Hilaly that Pakistan has some interest in allowing those whom it had jailed to play a role in establishing a moderate leadership in East Pakistan. He noted that he had said privately to Ambassador Hilaly that Pakistan has some interest in allowing those whom it had jailed to play a role in establishing a moderate leadership in East Pakistan. In response to a question from Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Sisco felt that CIA much earlier than State had indicated the likelihood of President Yahyaʼs taking recourse to military action. State had been much more inclined to see a negotiated settlement and therefore had worried less about this issue before March 25.

Mr. Blee noted that the main opposition to Mujibur Rahman was leftist. The moderate leadership was now mostly in jail or dead. He concluded by noting that President Yahya is trying to crank up a “quizzling leadership,” and Mr. Sisco described Ambassador Hilalyʼs present line about how Yahya is planning to concede the “six points” to East Pakistani leadership. Dr. Kissinger wondered why Yahya would have tried a military solution if he had expected to end up conceding [Page 65] anyway. Mr. Blee surmised that the army had misjudged its ability to subdue East Pakistan quickly.

The discussion then turned to what the Indians want. Dr. Kissinger noted that in earlier sessions of the SRG it had been assumed that the Indians wanted a unified Pakistan. Mr. Blee replied that he felt what the Indians had really wanted was a very loose confederal relationship between East and West Pakistan.

Mr. Irwin noted that the Indians had proposed rescheduling the US-Indian bilateral talks—postponed from January because of the election—for May 24–25. He noted the problem of going to New Delhi without stopping in Islamabad. Mr. Saunders noted the difficulty of going to New Delhi if the East Pakistani insurgency were continuing and the West Pakistanis were holding India responsible for fueling it.

Dr. Kissinger showed great reservation, noted that the President had a special feeling about Pakistan and said he felt this problem would have to be checked with the President.

Comment: The assumption underlying the discussion after Dr. Kissinger asked individualsʼ views on the Indian request was that there was no question of approving it.

  1. Source: National Security Council Files, 40 Committee, Minutes—1971. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 23.
  3. An April 9 memorandum from Helms to Kissinger was attached but not printed.