263. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Richard Helms, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Maurice Williams, Agency for International Development
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
[Page 736]

Kissinger: The President read in the news summary2 that American planes were attacked by the Indians.

Johnson: This was several days ago. Itʼs been protested.

Moorer: Many are being killed in the West in ships.

Kissinger: They are asking also for withdrawal of Indiaʼs troops.3

Johnson: Not as a condition.

Kissinger: Where does this lead us?

Johnson: I talked with George Bush. The UN has received it and has asked the Security Council to decide on it. Only the Chinese havenʼt been in on it.4 Joe has the scenarios. We should send a flash message to Farland to confirm that this is Yahyaʼs view. We should bypass the Security Council. Itʼs quicker to do it by the Secretary General. We should get the UN Indian rep on the ground to talk with the Pak Generals. The Secretary General should tell his man.

Kissinger: The President feels we are obliged to call for a ceasefire in the West. We should demand a ceasefire in the West. It must be clearly understood that our policy is to get a ceasefire in the West. Weʼll make a treaty if necessary.

Sisco: Letʼs tell Yahya in a message that this is what we plan to do, and does he agree?

Kissinger: If there is a ceasefire now, we donʼt have to worry about the territorial question in the West.

Johnson: This goes right along with the UNGA resolution.5

Sisco: Add a sentence to the cable.6 Tell Yahya he can assume if this is his proposal, he can assume it is based on a ceasefire in the West. We will go all out.

[Page 737]

Kissinger: I assume they did this in the East because they are finished.

Moorer: With only 3–4 days left, there is time for the Indians to regroup.

Williams: Theyʼll fight to the death. The Indians are close now.

[omission in the source text]: The situation is hopeless.

Kissinger: We donʼt want to be the instrument pushing a Pakistani surrender, when the Chinese are on their side. Bush shouldnʼt do anything until we hear from Yahya.

Sisco: We donʼt want it in the Security Council again. Weʼll negotiate down from the resolutions.

Kissinger: Why not make Soviets put up?

Johnson: Weʼre apt to get into a long debate and lose track of whatʼs happening on the ground.

Sisco: The Paks have taken the initiative.

Kissinger: The President doesnʼt want us to move in the UN to arrange a surrender. Take a tough line with the Indians. If the Paks want it, we will help.

Helms: If we want West Pakistan tied in, we have to go to the Security Council. If there is an early agreement on what the Paks want in the East, we can move outside of the Security Council.

Kissinger: We want to stop the attack in West Pakistan. There is no objection to this proposal but we must prevent an attack in the West. Get a flash to Farland to get Yahyaʼs views. Tell him it is our judgment we should use it as a basis for a ceasefire in the West.

Sisco: Assume the Pakistani proposal is that Yahya wants a cease-fire in West. We will be helpful with the Indians to this end.

Kissinger: We must prevent the destruction of the Pak Army in the West. We donʼt want our Ambassador to press Yahya to surrender.

Sisco: There is no danger of that. Farland wouldnʼt do that.

Moorer: We should give Yahya our judgment that his army can be destroyed in three weeks. He doesnʼt see that.

Sisco: Let me make a language suggestion: We assume the Pakistani proposal was based on the assumption that Pakistan is ready for a ceasefire in the West as well. Please confirm, and indicate that we are prepared to weigh in heavily with the Indians and others to bring this about if this is Yahyaʼs desire.

Kissinger: The Indians must know our priority area and the Russians must know we are serious.

Moorer: How about the integrity of the border?

Sisco: Some mutual withdrawals will be necessary in the West but it means the Indians canʼt take any Pakistani territory.

[Page 738]

[omission in the source text]: Previous borders good.

Johnson: The Indians want to straighten out the border. We should add the status quo ante to the telegram.

Kissinger: We must be sure Yahya sees we are not turning on him.

Packard: They donʼt know where they are up there.

Johnson: He accepted the General Assembly resolution which calls for that.

Sisco: It wonʼt remove any danger. Leave it fuzzy.

[omission in the source text]: Itʼs o.k. at this time.

Kissinger: Couldnʼt we just say “Does this mean he is ready for a ceasefire in the West as well? If so, we are willing to make a major effort to bring this about to help preserve his territorial integrity and prevent the destruction of his army. Please respond FLASH.”

[All agree. Final text is attached at Tab A.]7

Kissinger: Back to the UN: Bush is to be clearly told that we should take no stance which suggests we are supporting the surrender of Pakistan. He should be one step back of what the Pakistanis say.

Sisco: Bhutto asked to see the President. We got an interesting cable from the DCM.8

Kissinger: I saw it. Bhuttoʼs comments are interesting. The DCMʼs comments suggested heʼs thinking of reconciliation with India. The President may be willing to see him—I donʼt know. It couldnʼt be sooner than Wednesday.

Sisco: Should the Secretary and Henry see him sooner? The Secretary returns tonight.

Kissinger: What is the Security Council problem?

Sisco: The document9 is circulated. I donʼt know whether the Secretary General has convened the Security Council. If we temporize— [Page 739] have Bush say we havenʼt decided whether a Security Council meeting is indicated—while we are checking the authenticity of the request. If Yahya wants it and the Secretary General then goes to the Indians, saying they are ready to talk&.

Kissinger: Suppose the President wants to go to the Security Council and insist we will cooperate only if there is a ceasefire in the West. This is like the Soviet resolution.10 If the choice is between stop in the East but not in the West or an end of action in the West, there may be no need to pursue withdrawal anymore except as a negotiating ploy.

Williams: An honorable withdrawal for Pak forces from the West [East] is a key point.

Helms: Letʼs get out the message.

[The meeting ended.]11

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–083, WSAG Meeting, Pakistan, 12/12/71. Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. The meeting was held in the Situation Room at the White House.
  2. The news summary prepared for the President on December 9 contained an item based on a televised report of Indian aircraft having attacked two neutral planes in Pakistan. One plane belonged to the UN, the other to the United States. Nixon penned an instruction to Kissinger in the margin that reads: “K—State immediately is to file a strong public protest on this—(India always protested our V. Nam actions even though they were not involved at all)”. (Ibid., White House Special Files, Presidentʼs Office Files, Annotated News Summaries, December 9–24, 1971)
  3. The discussion at this point apparently relates to telegram 5573 from Dacca, December 10. That telegram reported that UN Special Assistant Paul Marc Henry had received from the commander of the Pakistani forces, Major General Rao Farman Ali Khan, a copy of a message Farman sent to President Yahya asking him to approve a request by Farman for the UN to arrange for an immediate cease-fire in East Pakistan. Yahya approved Farmanʼs proposal, which stipulated the repatriation of Pakistani forces to West Pakistan, and asked for a guarantee of no reprisals. It was not an offer of surrender, and Farmanʼs message indicated that if the offer was not accepted, Pakistani forces would continue to fight “to the last man.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 INDIA–PAK)
  4. See Document 274.
  5. Reference is to the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on December 7; See footnote 11, Document 248.
  6. For text of this telegram, as sent to Ambassador Farland, See Document 264.
  7. Brackets in the source text. The attached text is identical to the final paragraph of the telegram sent to Farland; Document 264.
  8. Sober met with newly designated Deputy Prime Minister Bhutto in Rawalpindi on December 7, the eve of Bhuttoʼs trip to New York to participate in the UN debate on South Asia. To help facilitate a settlement to the crisis, Bhutto said that he was prepared to seek an accommodation with Awami League leaders, including negotiations with Mujib. At the appropriate time he was also prepared to go to New Delhi to seek a reconciliation with India. Bhutto added that while he was in the United States he hoped to meet with President Nixon in Washington to discuss the crisis in South Asia. (Telegram 12205 from Islamabad, December 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 PAK)
  9. Apparent reference to the December 9 letter from Pakistanʼs Permanent Representative Ambassador Shahi to the Secretary-General informing him that Pakistan had decided to accept the General Assemblyʼs call for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops, and expressing the hope that UN observers would be stationed along both sides of the border to supervise the cease-fire and withdrawals. (UN doc. S/10440)
  10. Apparent reference to the draft resolution introduced in the General Assembly on December 7 by the Soviet Representative that called upon Pakistan to effect a political settlement in East Pakistan by recognizing the will of the population of East Pakistan as expressed in the elections of December 1970. The Soviet resolution called for a cease-fire, but did not address the issue of withdrawal. (UN doc. A/L.648)
  11. Brackets in the source text.