327. Memorandum for the Presidentʼs Files1


  • Presidentʼs Meeting with Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister designate Z.A. Bhutto, Saturday, December 18, 1971 at 1:30 p.m.


  • The President
  • Prime Minister Bhutto
  • Pakistani Ambassador Raza
  • Brigadier General A.M. Haig

The President opened the meeting by informing Deputy Prime Minister Bhutto that he was very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the Prime Minister prior to his return to Pakistan. He noted that this meeting was set up hastily and would have to be brief and less formal than the President would have desired due to the press of monetary business and a Group of Ten meeting occurring in Washington at that very moment. Mr. Bhutto responded that he understood completely and was most grateful that the President had agreed to see him on such short notice.2 He stated that Pakistan was completely in the debt of the United States for its support during the recent trying days. In the past he had been referred to as a “Yankee Hater” but his recent experiences with the United States in the Indo-Pak conflict assured him that relationships between United States and Pakistan must be built on mutual confidence and an improving dialogue.

President Nixon observed that he had admired the fine showing the Deputy Prime Minister had made in the United Nations. He noted [Page 857] especially the Deputy Prime Ministerʼs reference in his speech before the Security Council to the letter from his son. In that speech the Deputy Prime Minister had stated that his son had told him not to return to Pakistan with a surrender.

The Deputy Prime Minister then commented that it was an alarming situation which was widely misread by many people. He noted that President Nixon, however, had always had his feet on the ground and grasped the realities of the situation in their precise terms. He recalled that he knew President Nixon earlier when he was a student at Berkeley and when at that time he represented an opposing point of view. President Nixon recalled that he had met the Deputy Prime Ministerʼs wife while in Pakistan some years earlier but that on that occasion the Deputy Prime Minister was not there.

Mr. Bhutto stated that the strategic significance of events in South Asia was of importance to the entire world. In effect what was occurring was that one nation was trying to turn to the internal difficulties of a neighbor and rectify the situation through the use of armed force. More importantly, however, Mr. Bhutto stated, the real significance of recent events was the fact that the Soviet Union was able to neutralize Chinese flexibility and to vastly improve its influence in the area at the expense of Communist China. This would mean that Indian appetites for further aggression could be whetted. President Nixon replied that this was precisely his view as Mr. Bhutto knew.

The President then asked Mr. Bhutto what he thought the future would hold for Pakistan. Mr. Bhutto answered that in the long run he hoped to re-establish good relationships with the Indian people; however, this would depend largely on Indian actions in the weeks ahead. If they were intent on crushing Pakistan, there would be a permanent animosity which would prevail for decades. On the other hand, from his point of view, he felt it was essential that he return to Pakistan immediately and take about 30 days to assess the will of the people. In doing so he and his party, which was the majority party in Pakistan, could move immediately to establish the kinds of reforms that were essential for the future growth and stability of Pakistan. The Deputy Prime Minister was critical of past policies in Pakistan which he claimed were the result of the will of a clique of military leaders who were no longer in touch with the people of Pakistan. All of this contributed in large measure to the calamity which befell his nation. On the other hand, he noted that in East Pakistan the situation would be very fluid and that in the long run it might be that India had bitten off more than it would be able to successfully digest. For this reason, he hoped that the United States would avoid immediately recognizing the Bangla Desh as this would cause big difficulties for the Government of Pakistan.

President Nixon stated he did not feel that this was the time to address the question of recognition of the Bangla Desh. He added that [Page 858] the United States would do all within its power to help the rebuilding of Pakistan after this tragic setback. He noted that for obvious domestic reasons, reflected most sharply in Congressional attitude, the United States would be able to do more in the economic and humanitarian area. Military assistance was of course a more difficult problem. Nevertheless, the United States would do all that it could within existing restraints to help Pakistan.

Mr. Bhutto again thanked President Nixon for his personal leadership and support for the Government of Pakistan at that critical time and added that he looked forward to improving relations with the United States despite his reputation for being less than friendly in the past. Those problems he noted were the results of U.S. policies at the time. Now the situation had changed and it was essential that the United States, China and Pakistan all work together to insure stability in the area. This he stated was a problem of worldwide interest and importance and not purely a local continental problem.

As the meeting concluded Mr. Bhutto informed the President that he looked forward to seeing him again and jokingly added that he might be willing to return to manage the Presidentʼs 1972 campaign. President Nixon asked the Deputy Prime Minister to extend his best wishes to President Yahya and to reassure him that the United States would continue to do all that was possible within existing constraints.

The meeting concluded at 2:00 p.m.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Presidentʼs Office Files, Box 1, Memoranda for the President, Beginning December 12, 1971. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Drafted by Haig. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. The time of the meeting is from the Presidentʼs Daily Diary. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The conversation was tape recorded; parts of the tape are difficult to understand, particularly when Bhutto is speaking. From what can be gleaned from the tape, Haigʼs memorandum appears to be an accurate summary of the conversation. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between President Nixon and Deputy Prime Minister Bhutto, December 18, 1971, 1:36–2:06 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 639–11)
  2. Bhutto also met with Secretary Rogers shortly prior to his call upon the President. During that conversation, Bhutto made at greater length many of the same points that he made with the President, and he received similar assurances. (Telegram 227784 to Islamabad, December 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 PAK) Telegram 227784 is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 193.