248. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • South Asia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • U. Alexis Johnson
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Samuel DePalma
    • Christopher Van Hollen
    • David Schneider
    • Bruce Laingen
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • Armistead Selden
    • James H. Noyes
  • JCS
    • Gen. John D. Ryan
    • Capt. Howard N. Kay
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • John Waller
  • AID
    • Donald MacDonald
    • Maurice Williams
    • C. Herbert Rees
  • NSC Staff
    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Samuel Hoskinson
    • R/Adm. Robert O. Welander
    • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
    • Mrs. Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

CIA would assess the international implications of the situation;
Defense would assess Pakistanʼs military prospects in Kashmir;
State would prepare a paper on our military supply options;
State would revise the cable to King Hussein,2 telling him we are reviewing the matter of his providing aircraft obtained from the [Page 691] U.S. to Pakistan and giving him the reasons why we want to hold up for the time being.

Dr. Kissinger: Dick (Helms), where do we stand?

(Mr. Helms briefed from the text at Tab A.)3

Dr. Kissinger: What records are the Paks destroying?4

Mr. Helms: Military records—not intelligence records.

Dr. Kissinger: The southern part of Azad Kashmir—is that the part the Paks took in 1947?

Mr. Helms: Yes.

Mr. Sisco: (to Helms) How long do you think the Paks can hold out in the East?

Mr. Helms: Forty-eight hours—if it were not for the rivers, it would be over by now.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Ryan) What is your assessment of the military situation in the West?

Gen. Ryan: We still think the Indians plan a holding action—we donʼt think they will push very hard.

Dr. Kissinger: How long would it take them to transfer their troops from East to West?

Gen. Ryan: It would take a long time for a transfer of all their divisions, but their airborne division could be transferred in five or six days.

Mr. Williams: It is 28 hours by train from Calcutta to New Delhi, to give you some idea of time. This would mean, of course, clearing the rail line and using it exclusively for troop transport.

Gen. Ryan: How much they would want to transfer to the West is debatable. The Indians already have superiority in the West.

Dr. Kissinger: We have one major problem—what stance should we take toward a possible debacle in West Pakistan as well as in the East? Before we get to that, Maury (Williams), what is the situation on refugee aid?

[Page 692]

Mr. Williams: The recommendation of the World Bank was that the total cost of the refugee relief should be compensated to India to protect the Indian development program. The total was $700 million, of which the US quota would have been $250 million. This was not done, however. Instead, we made $90 million in direct commodity contributions—PL–480 food, other commodities, and some to U.S. voluntary agencies. It was agreed to provide $22.8 million in cash to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and to UNICEF, but 3/4 of that turned out to be in terms of commodities. The Indians have complained bitterly about this, claiming that this did not compensate them for their costs, which was the purpose of the exercise.

Mr. Johnson: A very small amount of U.S. dollars have flowed to the Indian economy—about $5 or $6 million.

Mr. Williams: The net result is that the Indians have lost foreign exchange. We still have $1.8 million unallocated which we were holding for the U.S. voluntary agencies, but the whole relief effort has now been suspended.

Dr. Kissinger: For both India and Pakistan?

Mr. Williams: Both.

Dr. Kissinger: I want to make it clear that the President wants all relief to be made available in kind—no cash! I also want to be sure that nothing is done in the future—the next tranche of the development loan, PL–480, etc.—without approval here. He doesnʼt want anything to slide through.

Mr. Williams: There is no next tranche—I can assure you nothing can slide through.

Dr. Kissinger: If the situation in the West worsens, what would be the next turn of the screw?

Mr. Williams: The only thing left to do in this area is to take possession of the goods already under contract. We have done everything short of that.

Mr. Sisco: In the post-war context, these other issues—PL–480, loans, etc.,—will be very important.

Mr. Williams: I want to be sure everyone understands that the free foreign exchange proposal made by the World Bank for India was not acted on by any of the donors. India has gained no net foreign exchange.

Mr. Packard: On the contracts, do we commit funds to India in advance or at the time of the contract?

Mr. Williams: These goods go under loan agreements, and the money is paid to U.S. banks. We have to stop payment and take possession of the goods. We would have to pay the suppliers and would have to settle the claims that would arise. It would be messy.

[Page 693]

Mr. Packard: It could be done, but it would be quite a job.

Mr. Kissinger: Why do you say it would be messy?

Mr. Williams: The U.S. Government would have to take possession of the goods and would have to settle all the claims of the companies.

Mr. Packard: First we would have to locate all the stuff.

Mr. Williams: We would have to make arrangements for storage, pay warehousing charges.

Mr. Packard: We can do it, but it would be difficult.

Mr. Johnson: Have we any precedents?

Mr. Williams: Only small amounts in cases where diplomatic relations had been broken. Even those claims took years to settle.

Mr. Kissinger: How is India handling next yearʼs development program? Are they negotiating with you (AID) now?

Mr. Williams: No, nothing is under negotiation with India.

Mr. Kissinger: What about your budget for next year?

Mr. Williams: Weʼll have to look at that. Itʼs a question whether AID will survive next year. Thereʼs an important vote on the future of AID in the House at 11:00 this morning. Weʼre a hostage to the Mansfield Amendment.5

Mr. Kissinger: Youʼll survive.

Mr. Williams: Of course, what goes into the budget does not constitute a commitment to a country.

Mr. Sisco: But it has an important psychological effect.

Mr. Williams: We can mention it as a contingency.

Mr. Kissinger: We have orders to put nothing in the budget for India. (to Williams) Iʼll have to discuss this with you. A $10 or $20 million cut wonʼt satisfy the President. Nor does he want any stories that AID recommended a big budget and the wicked White House cut it out. You should put your minds to work on a much smaller budget for next year, no matter what eventually happens in the present situation.

Letʼs now turn to the key issue. If India turns on West Pakistan, takes Azad Kashmir and smashes the Pak air and tank forces, a number [Page 694] of things seems inevitable. Should we, in full conscience, allow the liberation of the same disintegrating forces in West Pakistan as in the East? Baluchistan and other comparable issues are bound to come to the fore, as Mrs. Gandhi indicated to the President and as she told a Columbia University seminar in New York, I understand. Pakistan would be left defenseless and West Pakistan would be turned into a vassal state. We have to decide some questions—the military supply question, for example. I have reviewed the cables to Jordan which enthusiastically tell Hussein he canʼt furnish planes to the Paks. We shouldnʼt decide this on such doctrinaire grounds. The question is, when an American ally is being raped, whether or not the U.S. should participate in enforcing a blockade of our ally, when the other side is getting Soviet aid. I donʼt know what the decision will be, but we have to consider this in broader terms. Thatʼs why Iʼm holding up your cables. In any event, they should be toned down.

Mr. Sisco: We should tell Hussein to keep his options open. The question of military supply in the context of East Pakistan is one thing. If the situation evolves in the West as Henry describes, and there is a serious risk to West Pakistan, thatʼs something else. Personally, I doubt that that is the Indian objective, but it may be.

Mr. Johnson: (Foreign Minister) Singh told (Ambassador) Keating that India had no intention of taking “any” territory. He was presumably referring to Kashmir.

Mr. Sisco: I wonder if theyʼre not making a distinction here—Kashmir is a disputed area. I suspect theyʼre really talking about something other than that strip of Azad Kashmir that Dick (Helms) referred to.

Mr. Helms: In this connection, Mrs. Gandhi told her cabinet that she had expected a more balanced view from the Chinese. She expressed the hope that the Chinese would not intervene physically in the north, but said that the Soviets had said the Chinese would be able to “rattle the sword.” She also said that the Soviets have promised to counterbalance any such action.

Mr. Johnson: (to Helms) Your briefing this morning said there was no Chinese buildup in the area.

Mr. Helms: They already have enough forces there to rattle the sword. They have the people there to make some motions.

(Mr. Sisco left the meeting.)

Dr. Kissinger: We have two military supply questions: 1) to get King Hussein into a holding pattern on provision of aircraft to Pakistan, while the President considers the issue; and 2) how to convey to the Indians and possibly the Soviet Union that a turn of their attention to West Pakistan would present some problems.

Mr. Packard: The basic problem is that we canʼt authorize Jordan to do anything we canʼt do ourselves. If a third country has some planes that we donʼt have, we could authorize them to supply them to Pakistan. [Page 695] In these circumstances, it might be better for us to supply the planes directly, but we canʼt authorize Jordan to do it unless we are authorized to do it ourselves.

Mr. Johnson: We would have to make a judgment that Pakistan is eligible to make such purchases and then notify the Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: If we hadnʼt cut off arms to Pakistan, this problem wouldnʼt exist.

Mr. Packard: Thatʼs right.

Dr. Kissinger: We didnʼt analyze what the real danger was at the time we took that step—we all failed there. If we had understood the implications—I was wrong too—we were all wrong.

Mr. Packard: Thereʼs another issue on Jordan—if they deliver the planes to Pakistan, we will have to replace them, since we canʼt afford to let Jordan weaken itself.

Mr. Johnson: And we donʼt have the MAP to do that.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the judgment of this group? We have a country, supported and equipped by the Soviet Union, turning one-half of another country into a satellite state and the other half into an impotent vassal. Leaving aside any American interest in the sub-continent, what conclusions will other countries draw from this in their dealings with the Soviets? Dick (Helms), would you do an analysis of this?

Mr. Helms: Donʼt we have some obligation under CENTO?

Mr. Johnson: No legal obligation.

Dr. Kissinger: We had no legal obligation to India in 1962, but we came to the conclusion that if China should overrun India, it would present us with great problems. Iʼve read the bilateral treaty,6 and itʼs not easy to escape the conclusion that some conditions which would warrant some involvement of the constitutional process are close by. If India succeeds, what would be the impact in the larger threatre of world affairs?

Mr. Packard: It would negate SEATO.

Mr. Johnson: An India attack against Pakistan is excluded from SEATO.

Mr. Packard: But as a practical matter, SEATO would be down the drain.

Dr. Kissinger: We have been talking for two years about a Security Council guarantee for the Middle East. What is the impact of the recent chain of events on other areas and expectations in other areas?

Letʼs look at the military supply question. We could say that we have done everything two weeks too late. If we wait until India takes Azad Kashmir, then take action on military supplies for Pakistan, we [Page 696] would merely infuriate the Indians and demonstrate our impotence. If we had cut off aid two weeks ago, it might have had some influence on the situation in the East, instead of being a grandstand play. Letʼs look at this whole picture.

Mr. Packard: We should consider some way that would help West Pakistan hold its own.

Dr. Kissinger: How?

Mr. Johnson: I agree this should be examined. We should consider exactly what effect military supplies could have.

Dr. Kissinger: There are two separate problems: the threat of military supply and the fact of such supply. Once a war in West Pakistan is engaged, provision of planes by Jordan might combine all the disadvantages. Iʼm more interested in the deterrent effect. If it were done as a token before the war, it would be an indication that, while we donʼt accept what has happened in East Pakistan, we canʼt do anything about it, but if they move in West Pakistan, it would be a whole new ball game.

Mr. Johnson: We might introduce this element in our comeback to (Ambassador) Keating replying to his report of his conversation with Foreign Minister Singh.7

Mr. Van Hollen: Singh said the Indians had no territorial ambitions—we could pick him up on that.

Dr. Kissinger: If they succeed in destroying the Pakistan Army, they donʼt need any territorial ambitions.

Mr. Van Hollen: We could pick up both elements—ask for specific Indian assurances on Azad Kashmir and that they do not seek to destroy Pak forces in the West.

Dr. Kissinger: We should also make it clear that if they do, they will face a new situation.

Mr. Johnson: Of course, the Paks are trying to bite off Kashmir.

Dr. Kissinger: I donʼt think they have the punch.

Mr. Helms: I agree.

Mr. Selden: We have a new report8 indicating that the Paks may have knocked out as many as 120 Indian planes on their first attacks on those four airfields.

Mr. Helms: Our 1962 assurances to Ayub made it clear that we would come to Pakistanʼs assistance in the face of aggression against Pakistan from India.

[Page 697]

Mr. Van Hollen: That was in the context of our assurances to India when China moved in. This was overtaken by the events of 1965, and our legal people donʼt think the Paks have a binding case in international law.

Mr. Johnson: If we want to assist Pakistan, we can find a basis for doing it.

Mr. Van Hollen: If we make a policy decision to assist Pakistan militarily, we donʼt have to worry about it.

Dr. Kissinger: If the word of a country has any legal meaning, it seems to me this would apply. The Paks havenʼt raised it with us yet, of course.

Mr. Packard: There is the practical problem, though—if we do anything, we should do something effective.

Mr. Helms: I agree. If we donʼt win, donʼt do it.

Mr. Packard: We should take a good look at it.

Mr. Williams: In 1965, the Paks closed our base at Peshawar and for all practical purposes left CENTO. With the fall of East Pakistan two days away, I think an attempt to get a cease-fire in West Pakistan needs to be made diplomatically.

Mr. Johnson: But that would stop the Paks in Kashmir.

Mr. Williams: But if they will be chewed up, we might be doing them a favor.

Dr. Kissinger: Dick (Helms), would you get us by tomorrow an assessment of Pakistanʼs capabilities in Kashmir.

Mr. Helms: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: We need four things tomorrow:

1) the assessment of the international implications of the situation;

2) an assessment of Pakistanʼs military prospects in Kashmir;

3) our stance on the military supply question;

4) revision of the cable to Jordan to get word to King Hussein to stay in a holding pattern, that we are reviewing the situation, and that we share his concern and do not consider this a trivial issue.

If weʼre too enthusiastic about telling him not to do anything for Pakistan, he may think we would treat his country the same way in a comparable situation.

Mr. Johnson: We have done a new version of the note protesting the Indian blockade (circulated at the table and attached at Tab B),9 but [Page 698] I donʼt think we should send it. There is nothing to be gained. We have already protested the attack on our ship, and thereʼs not much purpose in doing anything more.

Dr. Kissinger: Except to show our displeasure with the Indian action.

Mr. Johnson: The Paks have also declared a blockade.

Dr. Kissinger: With what?

Mr. Johnson: On paper they have taken the same action as India.

Dr. Kissinger: We could protest to Pakistan too.

Mr. Van Hollen: We could make a paper protest to the Pakistanis.

Mr. Johnson: We donʼt have a legal case to protest the blockade as such. The two countries have declared a state of war between them and, under this declaration, they have the right of blockade. Itʼs more a question of how the blockade is carried out. Firing on an American ship is an illegal act, and we have protested that twice. We can protest that again.

Dr. Kissinger: Formally? We donʼt know how it was done—we just saw a press statement.

Mr. Van Hollen: I called in the Indian Minister, and the Secretary called in the Indian Ambassador.

Mr. Johnson: We would have no problem with a formal protest in writing on the Buckeye State incident.10 It would be difficult to protest the blockade, however. If we want to continue any even-handedness, we would have to protest to Pakistan also.

Dr. Kissinger: Weʼre not trying to be all that even-handed. The President has told all of you what he wants—do any of you have any doubts as to what he wants? He doesnʼt want to be completely evenhanded. Heʼs trying to get across to the Indians that they are running a major risk in their relations with the US. If every time we do something to the Indians, we have to do the same thing to Pakistan, we will be participating in the rape of Pakistan, given the difference in their strengths. This blockade protest is a tactical decision that doesnʼt bother me one way or the other. Am I misrepresenting what the President has said? You have all heard him. He said to look for things we can do to get the message across to India.

Mr. Johnson: We can do it.

[Page 699]

Mr. Packard: We have some reports that India may be experiencing a little concern about our attitude. Maybe we should pour it on a little.

Dr. Kissinger: Why should we do anything to ease Indiaʼs state of mind? If India is mad, they wonʼt get any less mad if we donʼt do some of these things. Mrs. Gandhi is a cold-blooded, tough customer. She wonʼt become a Soviet satellite out of pique. Weʼve had one NSC meeting on this. If anyone disagrees that this is the Presidentʼs intention, we can have another meeting. On the blockade, I donʼt care. But we shouldnʼt ease their minds about our intentions.

Mr. Helms: Have we a policy decision on the evacuation of white faces from Dacca?

Mr. Johnson: Thereʼs a meeting going on in New York now. Itʼs not a black-white issue. The evacuation is in the context of UN and third-country personnel, who happen to be white. Weʼre working with Defense on this in New York.

Dr. Kissinger: On the question of a massacre, does anyone know what is happening in the areas India has occupied? Will we know if there is a massacre?

Mr. Helms: Yes, but we wonʼt know developments minute by minute.

Mr. Johnson: We put something in the GA resolution11 on that.

Mr. Van Hollen: To recap the assignments, CIA will assess the overall implications, Defense will assess Pak capabilities in Kashmir, State will give you the options on military supply, and we will redraft the message to Hussein.

Dr. Kissinger: Let him know that we understand his problem and give him the reasons why we want to hold up for the time being.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer record of the meeting, prepared by James Noyes (OASD/ISA), is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 381, (Dec) 1971.
  2. On December 7 Executive Secretary Theodore Eliot sent a memorandum to Kissinger addressing the question raised at the December 6 WSAG meeting concerning the legal and policy problems involved in responding to the Jordanian request for U.S. consent to the transfer of F–104 fighters to Pakistan. The Department concluded that the President could not under law approve such a transfer unless he was willing to make a policy decision that the United States was willing to supply F–104s to Pakistan directly. Attached to Eliotʼs memorandum was a draft cable to Amman instructing the Ambassador to explain the prohibition to King Hussein. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 574, Indo-Pak War, South Asia Military Supply, 11/23/71–12/ 31/71)
  3. Not printed. According to his notes, Helms reported that Indian forces had broken through Pakistani lines in the Comilla area of East Pakistan, and the situation was deteriorating for Pakistani forces throughout East Pakistan. In the west Pakistan claimed to have captured Poonch on the Kashmir cease-fire line, but admitted to sustaining heavy casualties in Kashmir and in a tank battle on the Sind-Rajasthan frontier. According to a CIA report (Document 246) Prime Minister Gandhi told her Cabinet on December 6 that before accepting a UN call for a cease-fire there were three objectives that would have to be achieved: to guarantee the establishment of Bangladesh; to liberate the southern part of Azad Kashmir; and to destroy Pakistanʼs armor and air forces.
  4. Helms had noted in his briefing that Pakistani forces in East Pakistan were under such heavy pressure from the Indian offensive that they had begun to destroy their records.
  5. Reference is to an amendment to the foreign assistance bill first offered in June 1971 by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D–Montana), which set a date for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Indochina. The amendment was debated repeatedly during the course of the year and a variation was adopted in September as part of a defense authorization bill. President Nixon said in signing the bill that he would ignore the amendment. The original amendment was attached in November to the Senate foreign aid bill. The inclusion of the amendment led to a deadlock in conference from November 18 to December 16 when the House voted 130–101 against instructing its conferees to agree to the amendment. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. III, 1969–1972, Washington: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1973, p. 13)
  6. See footnote 9, Document 218.
  7. Keating met with Singh on December 7 at Singhʼs request to review the crisis. Keating reported on the extensive conversation in telegram 1877 from New Delhi, December 7. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 572, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, 12/7/71–12/9/71)
  8. Not found.
  9. Attached at Tab B, but not printed, are a draft protest note and a related draft press statement, under cover of an undated copy of a memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger. The memorandum, as sent with the attachments indicated, was dated December 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–2 INDIA–PAK)
  10. A situation report prepared by the Department of State India–Pakistan Working Group on December 4 noted that the U.S. merchant ship SS Buckeye State had been shelled by unidentified aircraft while at anchor in Chittagong Harbor. The captain and two crewmen were wounded. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 571, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, 12/1/71–12/4/71) The draft protest note, cited above, identifies the planes as belonging to the Indian Air Force.
  11. On December 7 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that made reference to the need for a political solution to the crisis, called upon India and Pakistan to agree to a cease-fire and the withdrawal of armed forces from each otherʼs territory, and urged the creation of the conditions necessary for the return of refugees to their homes in East Pakistan. (UN doc. A/RES/2793, adopted by a vote of 104 to 11, with 10 abstentions) For the debate that led up to the vote, see UN doc. A/PV.2003.