275. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


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India-Pakistan Situation: Pakistan late yesterday revised the proposal reported here yesterday morning from Dacca2 for a cease-fire, repatriation of Pakistani troops and a transfer of power to the elected representatives of East Pakistan. The revised proposal contains only a call for cease-fire and guaranteed safety of military and civilian personnel; there is no reference to a political settlement or the withdrawal of Pakistani troops.

The diplomatic effort, therefore, stands still while Pakistani Foreign Minister Bhutto now in New York awaits instructions. He told Ambassador Bush late yesterday that he had arrived to find conflicting instructions and was seeking clarification. In an indication of the division of view that must exist within the Pakistani government, he said that yesterdayʼs first proposal had “flabbergasted” him and that if this remained policy he would take the first plane home and not be shackled with it. The Pak Ambassador at the UN observed that the first proposal had been drafted by a field commander under great strain and contained “such unprecedented requests as asking the UN to effect a transfer of power.”3

The other important development overnight was the failure of another effort to evacuate international personnel from Dacca. A cease-fire in the evacuation area had been arranged by the UN and Red Cross, and a British C–130 from Calcutta was within thirty minutes of landing when the Pakistani commander withdrew permission to land because the plane was coming from Indian soil and he feared the Indians would use it as cover for a movement of their own.

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The UN representative in Dacca has received an urgent message from U Thant instructing him to evacuate all UN personnel from Dacca. Thant earlier in the week had ordered them to stay on for possible usefulness in arranging a cease-fire. Thant said he had reversed position following Indiaʼs demand that all UN operations cease and notification that, in the case of non-withdrawal, the presence of UN personnel in neutral evacuation zones in Dacca would cause such zones not to be recognized as neutralized by India and Bangla Desh forces. Thant was reported to feel that he had no choice but to withdraw. Bush reports that Thantʼs staff is “deeply wounded in their pride” by the decision to cave in to the Indians. Keating has been instructed to protest this veiled threat to international personnel, and Bush is being instructed to follow up with Thant and Foreign Minister Singh, who arrives in New York this morning.

Meanwhile, Indian military advances throughout East Pakistan remains virtually unchecked outside the Dacca area as the Pak troops retreat in an increasingly disorderly fashion. Even in Dacca, where many of the survivors seem to be holing up, morale among both officers and enlisted men is reported to be low. From all indications, the Indian forces are consolidating for the final thrust at the capital city if efforts to secure a cease-fire fail.

On the Western front, there are press reports of the largest tank battles to date in two areas of Kashmir. According to a reliable [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] source, Mrs. Gandhiʼs staff as of Thursday was still saying that, as soon as the situation in the East is settled, India will launch a major offensive against West Pakistan and hope that all major fighting will be over by the end of the month. This, of course, was before Acting Secretary Irwin made his strong démarche to Ambassador Jha late Thursday4 concerning Indiaʼs intentions toward West Pakistan. At the same time, it is worth noting that the British also have been pressing the Indians for a statement that their war aims do not include Pak-held Kashmir but so far with no success. Reports are now being circulated in Delhi by the governmentʼs Press Information Bureau that the U.S. Seventh Fleet is moving toward the Bay of Bengal.

The Soviets show no sign of slackening their support for India. There are unconfirmed reports that a Soviet military team will soon be visiting New Delhi. Potentially more significant is a current trip to Moscow by D.P. Dhar, the negotiator of the friendship treaty and former Indian Ambassador to Moscow who is known to be very close to Mrs. Gandhi. Dhar could be going to sound out the Soviets on Indiaʼs intentions toward West Pakistan. Finally there is an unconfirmed [Page 766] Indian report that units of the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet have been ordered to move to the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, although even if true it would take some time for them to sail around the tip of Africa.

[Omitted here are summary reports on foreign policy issues unrelated to South Asia.]

Soviet Combatants Possibly En Route to Indian Ocean: Soviet ships equipped with surface-to-surface missiles may be en route to augment the Indian Ocean Squadron. A guided-missile light cruiser, a diesel-powered cruise-missile submarine, and a naval oiler left the Sea of Japan via Tsushima Strait yesterday and may be bound for the Indian Ocean. The cruiser and submarine together carry a total of 20 SS–N–s cruise missiles.5

Sixteen Soviet naval units are now in the Indian Ocean area, including three space support ships. Communications intelligence indicates that most of the ships are near Ceylon and Socotra, although one space-related unit may be monitoring British naval units in the Arabian Sea. However, of the sixteen ships less than half are combatants.

[Omitted here is a summary report on a foreign policy issue unrelated to South Asia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 37, Presidentʼs Daily Briefs, Dec 1–Dec 16, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. A stamp on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 263.
  3. President Nixon highlighted this paragraph and wrote: “K—Did we get caught on this too? We may look foolish with the Soviet[s] by claiming we helped to get the Paks to move in this direction.”
  4. December 9; See Document 262.
  5. The President added another marginal note here that reads: “K—a reaction to our move?”