304. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1

224566. Subj: Carrier Deployment in Indian Ocean.

Indian Ambassador Jha called at his request on Assistant Secretary Sisco to express GOI concern over reported US deployment of nuclear carrier in Indian Ocean for evacuation purposes. Ambassador accompanied by First Secretary Verma; Van Hollen, Schneider and Quainton present from NEA.
Jha said he wished to raise subject which has arisen out of his talks with Under Secretary Irwin. Under Secretary had, he said, informed him that helicopters had been pre-positioned in Thailand for evacuation purposes. Impression which he had received was that they were in Bangkok. However, subsequent reports indicate that helicopters were on nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, equipped with “all kinds of devices and gadgets.” In earlier conversations Jha said he had tried to make clear that GOI anxious to help in evacuation of foreign personnel and had made every facility available for that purpose. GOI is as anxious as before to insure safety of personnel in Dacca or their evacuation if necessary. In view of aircraft carrier report, GOI had instructed him to seek assurance from USG that there will be no evacuation operation without prior agreement with GOI or by force.
Sisco said he would report what Jha had said, but had nothing to add to December 13 statement by Secretary Laird re aircraft carrier.2 He said he would be back in touch if he had anything to add.
Jha said he had also a report from New Delhi that USG had some plan or intention to establish a beachhead in some part of Bangla Desh for evacuation of US personnel or to facilitate transfer of Pakistani personnel to West Pakistan. Any such attempt would be a very serious matter and would endanger long-term Indo-US relations. It [Page 817] might also have other implications and in any event would not have effect of bringing conflict to speedy end.
Sisco said he had seen report; while he was personally not aware of any such plan, he would take note of Ambassadorʼs remarks and if he had anything further would be back in touch. Sisco said he felt constrained to say, in view of Jhaʼs mention of possible impact on bilateral relations, that, although he did not wish to go into past history, we do see in GOIʼs actions things which not only reflect present strains in our relations but also which obviously could have implications for our long-term relations, which both sides will be looking at in the future.
  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 Van Hollen, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Islamabad, London, Calcutta, Dacca, USUN, CINCPAC, and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Laird was asked in a press conference at the Pentagon on December 13 to comment on reports that the aircraft carrier Enterprise had been ordered to sail to the Indian Ocean. Laird responded that he made it a practice not to comment on operational orders, but he noted that the government had contingency plans to deal with situations involving evacuation and he implied that the movement of the carrier was connected with those plans. (Public Statements of Secretary of Defense Laird, 1971, vol. VI, pp. 2262–2274)