32. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Pakistan and Ceylon


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin
    • Christopher Van Hollen
    • Tom Thornton
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • James S. Noyes
    • G. Warren Nutter
  • JCS
    • Adm. John P. Weinel
    • Col. James Connell, USA
  • CIA
    • Lt. Gen. Robert Cushman
    • David Blee
    • [name not declassified]
  • AID
    • Donald MacDonald
    • Maurice Williams
  • OMB
    • James Schlesinger
    • NSC Staff
    • Harold Saunders
    • Sam Hoskinson
    • Col. Richard Kennedy
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed to:

  • —Get a consolidated list of all items of military equipment scheduled for delivery in the next year.
  • —Get from the President an idea of the basic stance he wishes to take and, within the stance, present him with the various choices.
  • —Do nothing one way or the other on the military shipments or the loan questions until the President has had a chance to review the situation.

[Omitted here are conclusions relating to Ceylon.]

Mr. Kissinger: General Cushman, can you tell us where we are?

Gen. Cushman: After three weeks of fighting in East Pakistan, the West Pakistanis hold the cities and are moving along the roads west of the big river. They can apparently move throughout the countryside as they wish, and it is only the fact that they do not have enough men that is limiting their movement.

Mr. Kissinger: Is Bogra in rebel hands?

Gen. Cushman: The rebels are still there but the Army hasnʼt moved up there yet. They are taking the villages without any real resistance. There are 20,000 to 40,000 West Pakistan troops—possibly more. It is only a matter of time before they control all the population centers. The Bengali forces arenʼt resisting; theyʼre just melting away.

Mr. Kissinger: Are they melting away or disintegrating?

Gen. Cushman: Theyʼre disintegrating. They are not in communication with each other and are not an effective force. Their morale is low and they are disorganized and fatalistic. They could, however, be a long-term problem if the Indians keep supplying them and they turn to terrorism or acts of sabotage. There is no doubt that the Indians are [Page 78] involved in clandestine support activities; theyʼre supplying them with arms, ammunition, food and medical supplies, and have sent in advisers and sabotage teams. They also helped organize the Bangla Desh government that was proclaimed on April 13.

Mr. Kissinger: Where is it located?

Gen. Cushman: Chuadanga near Kushtia, although there is some question that they are still there. The press reports that the leaders have crossed the border into East Bengal. Mujib is its titular head, although its acting head is Ahmed, second man in the Awami League. They have no conception of what is happening. The Indians apparently had thought of recognizing the regime, but that is now doubtful since they donʼt control anything. The Russians have recommended against recognition because of their doubts about its viability. Chinese public statements remain favorable to West Pakistan and accuse India of intervening, but we doubt that they will go beyond verbal support. The Soviets are apparently opposed to the bloodshed and are not specifically supporting the insurgents. The East Pakistani economy may be a determining factor. The fighting has disrupted transportation, food is becoming short, the ports are barely operating. If this continues, we can anticipate a crisis by September. The cost of the operation, the drop in trade, the loss of foreign exchange from East Pakistan—these are all additional strains on an already stagnant economy.

Mr. Kissinger: The IG paper2 gives us three basic choices and seems to prefer the second. They are related to a number of issues: military supply, program loans, PL–480, a reply to the letter from Yahya, recognition of Bangla Desh, our public posture. Can we assume the recognition question is moot? There is nothing to recognize. The choices are described as “hands off”, use of selective influence, and an all-out effort to end the hostilities. These choices all seem to assume a prolonged war. How realistic is this since West Pakistani superiority seems evident. I agree I used to think that 30,000 men couldnʼt possibly subdue 75 million, which I suppose is the Western way of looking at it. But if the 75 million donʼt organize and donʼt fight, the situation is different.

Gen. Cushman: Itʼs a little too early to tell what the Bengalis will do. They could undertake acts of sabotage or massive non-cooperation.

Mr. Kissinger: Is that happening?

Gen. Cushman: Not yet.

Mr. Kissinger: If they organize themselves in guerrilla forces and go in for mass non-cooperation, it could be very tough. But we have no evidence that they are doing that.

[Page 79]

Mr. Irwin: We have no evidence either way. I canʼt help but think, however, that eventually there will be trouble. We have no evidence that there will be cooperation by any East Pakistan elements with any influence. We canʼt really tell yet, but I think there is a good possibility they will not cooperate.

Mr. Kissinger: Whom are we trying to impress in East Pakistan? If there were a functioning guerrilla force it would be one situation. Suppose West Pakistan regains control?

Mr. Irwin: Thatʼs the advantage of the middle solution.3 We donʼt have to commit ourselves.

Mr. Kissinger: But with the middle course we could get the disadvantages of every course of action. It could infuriate West Pakistan and mortgage our relations with them, without getting anything concrete from East Pakistan. Particularly when we canʼt define the East Pakistan leadership.

Mr. Van Hollen: Weʼve already passed the first phase in the paper. The West Pakistan army is in effective control of the major cities and is moving toward the border towns. The question is whether they have effective control in the areas in between. They canʼt unload ships at Chittagong since theyʼre not in full control and they canʼt get the Bengali stevedores to work. The question is whether India will sit still. They are worried about the radical element in East Pakistan and may step up their clandestine efforts across the border.

Mr. Kissinger: Iʼve read the SNIE 4 and I agree that it could happen. But weʼve seen no evidence of any effective opposition.

Mr. Van Hollen: You canʼt go by bus between Dacca and Chittagong. The railroad is not running. The East Pakistan government is simply not operating.

Mr. Kissinger: The recommendations under Option 2 would be interpreted by Yahya as a cut-off of military assistance. That may be what we want but we would be biting the bullet in terms of a substantial rupture of our relations with Yahya. If we hold up PL–480 shipments [Page 80] for assurance that the food will get to the countryside, this constitutes a substantial challenge to the West Pakistan notion of sovereignty. Although we may not consider it as a form of taking sides, it will be so read. And it may not be enough for East Pakistan.

Mr. Packard: Iʼve been looking at the items on the military sales supply list and there is not much shippable for some time. We may not have to take a position now and it would probably be better to wait.

Mr. Kissinger: We could do it on technical grounds. When is the question likely to come up?

Mr. Packard: In May 72 when we are due to ship 300 APCs.

Mr. Kissinger: And we donʼt have to take a position now?

Mr. Saunders: We have to decide whether or not to let the sale proceed.

Mr. Packard: We have some spares and accessories due to be shipped in the fourth quarter of 1971, but most other items are not due until 1972. We can take some more time with this …

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose West Pakistan should pay for the APCs?

Mr. Van Hollen: They have already made a down-payment of $1.3 million.

Mr. Kissinger: When is the next payment due?

Mr. Packard: We certainly shouldnʼt send the down payment back.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. Letʼs just sit on this one until closer to the delivery date.

Mr. Packard: We can sit still for sometime. There are a few things we might want to deliver which wouldnʼt come down on one policy or another. We might alienate West Pakistan if we donʼt go ahead, with no clear result.

Mr. Irwin: I thought that was what the paper is saying—that we should make each decision on a case by case basis.

Mr. Packard: With one difference—we wouldnʼt state any policy.

Mr. Van Hollen: We can hold in abeyance any policy judgment.

Mr. Irwin: The paper says we should defer for the time being. It doesnʼt say we should announce anything.

Mr. Packard: Iʼm more worried about possible domestic reaction.

Mr. Kissinger: Is there anything in the pipeline?

Mr. Packard: We donʼt think so and weʼve given State some guidance on a public position. We canʼt determine what is with the freight forwarding agents and we donʼt want to ask them for fear of stirring up public notice. Also there is the question of commercial sales from private companies. I think we should hold everything in abeyance but donʼt say anything publicly.

[Page 81]

Mr. Kissinger: (Reading from the paper) But the paper says “defer effective implementation of the one-time exception sales offer” and “defer all deliveries of ammunition and spare parts …” This goes beyond what Dave (Packard) is saying.

Mr. Schlesinger: When are the West Pakistanis likely to run out of ammunition?

Mr. Packard: We donʼt know.

Mr. Irwin: We have some more flexible wording of item 5 than in the original paper. (Passed a new paper5 around the table.)

Mr. Kissinger: (Reading from the new paper) “Defer for the time being deliveries of ammunition and deliveries of spare parts for lethal equipment which has been used or might be used in East Pakistan.”

Mr. Packard: We have some spare parts for torpedos due to be shipped on April 15 and May 15. I see no reason to stop them.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get a list of the deliveries scheduled for the next year.

Adm. Weinel: We have 28,000 rounds of ammo ($30,000) due to go in July. Also 507 150-pound bomb parts for $24,000 and $15,000 worth of fuses.

Mr. Kissinger: Would it be in our interest to defer these?

Mr. Irwin: From the point of view of Congress, these deliveries of ammunition might be troublesome.

Mr. Kissinger: But we would pay a very heavy price with Yahya if they were not delivered.

Gen. Cushman: These items wouldnʼt affect their ability to fight a war to any extent. They are using mostly small arms.

Mr. Packard: I think we should be prepared to take a little heat from Congress. We canʼt let Congress decide everything.

Mr. Kissinger: I think we must go to the President before we hold up any shipments. This would be the exact opposite of his policy. He is not eager for a confrontation with Yahya. If these weapons could be used in East Pakistan, it would be different. I suggest we ride along on the 300 APCs. We donʼt have to accept any more money or ship anything. I see no relation to East Pakistan.

Mr. Packard: We will get a consolidated list of everything that is still due for shipment. Then I think we should wait until the situation clarifies.

Mr. Irwin: I agree that we should do it on an informal basis.

Mr. Kissinger: Before we start shipping anything thatʼs due we should give the President a chance to rule on it. He should have a [Page 82] chance to get a crack at the APC shipment. Youʼre not recommending we stop the shipment?

Mr. Packard: No, but I recommend we look it over carefully. I donʼt think we should change our policy, but we will bring specific items to your attention. If anything looks troublesome, you can check it.

Mr. Kissinger: We have two bureaucratic choices. If we want to defer all military shipments, we will have to go to the President. If we want to defer particular items, we can raise them here and possibly settle them without going to the President.

Mr. Packard: We will get a consolidated list and work out a plan. Weʼll try not to ship any controversial items so to avoid facing the issue. (to Mr. Nutter) Will you go over the list?

Mr. Nutter: Yes. We donʼt know what may be on the way now.

Mr. Irwin: Is it possible something may show up in the near future?

Mr. Packard: Itʼs possible. Congress may holler and you can just blame it on the stupid Defense Department.

Mr. Nutter: We canʼt find out about the shipments for sure without alerting the forward freight shippers to a possible change of policy.

Mr. Schlesinger: Weʼre not talking about suspending sale of the APCs, are we?

Mr. Packard: No.

Mr. Kissinger: When is another payment due?

Adm. Weinel: The balance is due on the date of shipment which is expected to be May 1972.

Mr. Irwin: We donʼt have to suspend any contracts, just hold up deliveries. We need not do it officially.

Mr. Schlesinger: Are items 1 and 7 consistent?6 Item one chides Yahya because he is unable to carry on development activity. No 7 defers new development loans.

Mr. Irwin: We donʼt know what the established development criteria are.

Mr. Kissinger: Have we asked them to come up with a development plan for all Pakistan; or just for West Pakistan? What do we want them to do? Letʼs make sure we get an NSC meeting or a Presidential decision before we undertake a major revision of policy. If East Pakistan collapses, no matter what our view may be of the savagery of the West Pakistan troops, we would just be pulling Indiaʼs chestnuts out of the fire if we take on West Pakistan. If East Pakistan goes into [Page 83] guerrilla warfare, the paper is correct. But we need enough time to determine what the situation in East Pakistan really is. The President thinks he has a special relationship with Yahya; he would be most reluctant to take him on. This reluctance might be overcome, but we canʼt do it at this level.

Mr. Van Hollen: We definitely want an NSC meeting. Now that the ballgame has changed, I think the World Bank should take the lead in a new assessment of Pakistanʼs development potential.

Mr. Kissinger: Is a new development loan due?

Mr. Van Hollen: We were about to go for $70 million for Pakistan in the context of an integrated plan for both wings.

Mr. Kissinger: Is it for us to make a judgment? Should we say no and stop the loan?

Mr. Van Hollen: Letʼs get the World Bank to make a new assessment.

Mr. Nutter: $70 million wonʼt make or break the economy.

Mr. Packard: I think we should wait until the situation has clarified.

Mr. Kissinger: When is the $70 million due.

Mr. Williams: This is part of the aid program for FY 1971. They expect it now or in the next two months.

Mr. Kissinger: To stop it would be a major act.

Mr. Williams: I agree, it would be a major act. Also, the President told Yahya we might go as high as $100 million if they proceeded with their development as recommended by the IMF. They may say now that they are ready to go ahead with that development. They are losing their reserves rapidly, due largely to the loss of their jute earnings. They have a representative in Washington now talking to the IMF about a standby and to the World Bank about a moratorium on debt repayment. They have another $60 million due in April. They canʼt meet their debts and are looking to the international agencies, then to us. We need information from them on their revised development plan before we can do much.

Mr. Kissinger: There are many ways of handling this.

Mr. Williams: Thatʼs a good reason for a reassessment.

Mr. Nutter: This isnʼt a development question. Theyʼre in a financial crisis and need help.

Mr. Williams: But the funds were approved by Congress for development.

Mr. Kissinger: We have to know what we want to do. We either need an NSC meeting or some other mechanism for the President to get a crack at the basic decision—to find out what basic stance he wants to take.

Mr. Irwin: If we stop the loan, that is a major act. If we let it go through, that is a major act. We have to shape up what issues are before us and when we have to act on them.

[Page 84]

Mr. Kissinger: It would be less of a major act to go through with a loan which has already been approved for a government we recognize, than to stop it.

Mr. Irwin: Letʼs find out how the President looks at the overall problem, then we can fit the details in.

Mr. Packard: We have to decide whether to continue to support West Pakistan or to withdraw our support.

Mr. Kissinger: And to figure out what it gets us if we withdraw our support.

Mr. Irwin: We need time.

Mr. Kissinger: We need some indication from the President of what our basic stance should be. Within this stance then, we [defer?] the next step, we can present him with the choices either in the NSC or a smaller group. It would serve no useful purpose to go through the individual items here. The Bureau (NEA) can work out the implementing measures once we know what line he wants to take. Iʼll talk with the President and Secretary Rogers to see how best to get a Presidential determination. In the meantime, donʼt do anything by default one way or the other, on either the loan or the shipments, so as not to commit us to a course we canʼt avoid. I think thatʼs as much as we can do today. Do you all agree?

Mr. Irwin: Yes. We also have the problem of a reply to Yahyaʼs letter7 to the President.

Mr. Williams: The situation has changed a lot in a week. Another week will give us a better reading.

Gen. Cushman: We will lay on a requirement in the field for an estimate on the duration of the resistance.

Mr. Kissinger: Iʼll be in touch with the Secretary (Rogers) and the President.

[Omitted here is discussion relating to Ceylon.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Another record of this meeting was prepared in OASD/ISA by James Noyes. (Washington National Record Center, RG 330, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 092 (Jan–Jul) 1971) David Blee of the CIA also prepared a brief record of the meeting. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 80–M01044A, Box 1, Folder 9, DCI Helms: Various Subjects)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 28.
  3. The object of the selective influence option, as outlined in the IG paper, was to maintain influence in both parts of Pakistan without foreclosing future options. Under this option, the IG team recommended deferring all lethal military supplies as well as new development loans. To balance those deferrals, they recommended continuing technical assistance and loan support, and the resumption of the distribution of food supplies under PL–480 to the area affected in 1970 by the cyclone in East Pakistan. On the issue of how to respond to the resistance movement in East Pakistan, they recommended establishment of discreet contact with Bangla Desh representatives while refraining from recognition of a new government until the Bengali resistance gained effective control over East Pakistan.
  4. See Document 27.
  5. Only one version of the IG paper has been found.
  6. Reference is to items listed under the selective influence option of the IG paper.
  7. Reference is to the letter of March 31; Yahyaʼs letter of April 17 was not presented to Nixon until May 10; see Documents 16 and 29.