245. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India 1

220243. Subj: Secretaryʼs Meeting With Jha. Following based on uncleared memcon:

Indian Ambassador Jha called on Secretary December 6 to present copy of letter from Prime Minister Gandhi to President2 (text being transmitted septel).3 Jha accompanied by Rasgotra and Verma. Schneider and Quainton also present from NEA.
Jha began by saying that GOI was “greatly shocked and surprised” at USG reaction in last few days. Jha added that he was personally shocked since from conversations which he and Minister Rasgotra have had with USG officials GOI had been given no reason to expect strong US reaction blaming India which he read about in Sundayʼs4 paper. He said he would have expected to have been sent for before press talked to. His mind went back to conversation he had had [Page 684] with Secretary before Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit in which he had referred to earlier Keating and Swaran Singh conversation. In that conversation Keating had suggested if Pakistan had attacked India in the West India would be to blame. Jha said Secretary had said USG had not prejudged issue in that way.
Jha said that when PM was here and subsequently USG had indicated it attached importance to Indian withdrawal from western border. GOI had not been able to accept this. Pakistan had moved first and neither UN nor US had told it to move back. It had been Indiaʼs assessment of Pakistan strategy based on previous experience that Pakistan might use irregular troops to infiltrate into Kashmir and to follow this with attacks by regular forces. From GOI point of view presence of Indian troops on border was better safeguard of Indian position than withdrawal which would have exposed India to this risk. Jha said that one week ago just before he left New Delhi a high level decision was taken instructing Indian armed forces not to do anything on western border, not even to respond to minor acts of irritation. Although in substance GOI had not agreed with US withdrawal proposal, it was in general harmony with US thinking that it important western areas not be embroiled. Jha noted that PMʼs letter described Pakistani attack on Indian airstrips. For GOI to be blamed for having precipitated conflict was very unfair.
Secretary responded by saying that USG position was as set out by Ambassador Bush in speech to Security Council.5 In backgrounders what press selects is not always balanced and India should accept that US position is as Bush has stated it. There would be no useful purpose in rehashing the past. However, he wished to say that when Mrs. Gandhi was here President had tried as much as he could to make clear that use of force in these circumstances was unacceptable and would lead to tragic results. While we sympathize with Indiaʼs position and understood its plight, war was least desirable of all possibilities. We had tried to find an alternative. Rightly or wrongly we felt that India desired an independent Bangla Desh and believed that only solution was dismemberment of Pakistan. We could not subscribe to that in terms of use of force. We think events have justified our assessment. It is now important that there be a ceasefire and withdrawal and that then we work out a political solution. We recognize a political solution is essential but India seems to be saying that only armed force can bring it about. We are very unhappy about this; President is personally unhappy. We feel very strongly about it. We had wanted to be good friends with both India and Pakistan and help create two strong and economically viable nations. We had succeeded to very great extent. However, [Page 685] our economic assistance is wasted if war breaks out and everything is destroyed. Secretary noted that we had decided today to suspend economic assistance in pipeline of $87 million that was not firmly committed. There was now no Congressional support for any kind of economic assistance since Congressional leadership thinks everything is going down drain.
Secretary asked whether there had been any change in GOI position with regard to UN resolution. Jha said there was not and now that GOI had recognized Bangla Desh government it should be made party to discussions. It is up to them whether they are willing for cease-fire. Secretary asked whether Indian troops would stay in Pakistan. Jha again replied in negative. Rasgotra noted that UN resolutions so far did not touch on basic issues at all. Secretary said we recognized there must be political solution. GOI position seems to be that there must first be a political solution and then a ceasefire. Our position is the reverse. First step is to stop fighting and then to have political solution. Jha noted that India had waited for 8 months but there had been no encouraging progress toward political settlement. India only wanted conditions in which refugees could return.
Secretary noted that Yahya had political proposals which he thought would work. Perhaps they would not have worked, but they were not given a chance. Only acceptable position to India seemed to be independent Bangla Desh. India seemed to set a precondition of beginning dialogue with Mujib, whereas Yahya had indicated he would talk with designee. From Yahyaʼs point of view, however, Mujib not acceptable. Secretary said we have taken position that this was internal affair of Pakistan. We had tried to be helpful. He accepted several of our ideas such as mutual withdrawal and then unilateral withdrawal if India would respond. He indicated he would negotiate with Bangla Desh representatives from Calcutta or consider doing so through Mujibʼs designated representative. Jha noted that Indiaʼs response had not been negative, but there were problems in finding out who was designee and what were his bona fides. Secretary asked hypothetically whether, if this problem could be overcome now, there could be a beginning to negotiations. Schneider noted that we had put forward range of possibilities with regard to negotiations. Some Yahya had said he would accept, others he would consider. The progressive increase in use of force had, however, preempted dialogue. Rasgotra asked that we keep in mind other side of case: that Pakistan military had been moving forward in East Pakistan and that there were threats and provocations.
Secretary said US had had serious difficulty with idea that Pakistan is threatening India in east. We want to do everything we can to bring war to conclusion. We are greatly distressed at events. We have [Page 686] legitimate interest in area where we have tried to be of assistance. The President is very disappointed since as a result of his conference with Mrs. Gandhi he thought that resort to force could be avoided. In our judgment even if India succeeded in getting what it wanted situation would be worse than before.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 578, Indo-Pak War, India Chronology, Dr Kissinger. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Quainton, cleared by Schneider, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Islamabad, London, Tehran, Calcutta, Dacca, and USUN.
  2. Document 226.
  3. Telegram 220388 to New Delhi, December 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK)
  4. December 5.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 224.