25. Editorial Note

President Nixon met in the Oval Office of the White House with Henry Kissinger and H. R. Haldeman on the morning of April 12, 1971, to discuss developments in Pakistan. Kissinger began by observing that “the Dacca consulate is in open rebellion.” Nixon and Kissinger expressed concern about the possibility of the United States becoming involved in the emerging civil war in Pakistan. Kissingerʼs assessment was that if the United States were to support the insurgents in East Pakistan “we get West Pakistan turned against us, and … the Bengalis are going to go left anyway.” Nixon agreed: “If we get in the middle of that thing it would be a hell of a mistake.” He observed that: “The people who bitch about Vietnam bitch about it because we intervened in what they say is a civil war.” “Now some of those same bastards … want us to intervene here—both civil wars.”

Kissinger said that the same people wanted the United States to cut off economic assistance to Pakistan. He judged that their argument was made for “pure doctrinaire reasons,” and in response to the loud [Page 66] complaints coming from India about the situation in East Pakistan. “But India is screaming,” Kissinger added, “because they are scared to death of their own Bengalis. Deep down the Indians donʼt really want an independent East Pakistan because within ten years of that the West Bengalis are going to start bringing pressure on them for autonomy.” He concluded: “Itʼs a classic situation for us to stay out of.” He added: “For us to cut off aid would infuriate the West Pakistanis.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Haldeman, April 12, 1971, 10:24–10:33 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 477–1)