38. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon 1


  • Relief Assistance for East Pakistani Refugees in India

Pursuant to your question this morning about the Indian request for U.S. assistance in behalf of East Pakistani refugees who have moved into India,2 you should be aware that we have received a request from Secretary Rogers recommending a modest program of relief assistance to be extended through international and U.S. voluntary agencies for East Pakistani refugees in India.3 State has in mind an initial grant of some $1.4 million in food and another $1 million worth of other assistance if needs are established which other donors cannot meet. OMB has no budgetary problems with such a program.

The flow of refugees from East Pakistan into India has increased sharply in the last week. According to the Indians, there are now over 500,000 East Pakistani refugees and they expect their numbers could eventually total one to two million.

The magnitude of this problem—coming suddenly as it does—is beyond Indiaʼs limited resources. We have already told them that we would support Indian efforts to obtain assistance through international relief agencies. At the request of the West Bengal state government— the Indian state most heavily affected—U.S. voluntary agencies traditionally operating there are already involved in a very limited relief effort.

It is believed that the Pakistanis would take strong exception to relief efforts which were channeled through the Indian government. To minimize this criticism, we plan to channel our assistance through international agencies like the Red Cross and U.S. voluntary agencies. By utilizing international agencies we can insist on an objective assessment of the needs and a reasonable inspection of the use of relief supplies in the border areas and be sure the supplies are not used to support the insurgency in East Pakistan.

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Attached at Tab A4 is a question and answer which you might wish to draw upon tonight if the question arises.


It is recommended that you approve this $2.5 million modest program of assistance to East Pakistani refugees to be administered through appropriate international and voluntary agencies.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 575, Indo-Pak Crisis, South Asian Relief, 3/25/71–8/1/71. Confidential. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See Document 37.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 35.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. President Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendation on April 29. The Embassy in India was informed of the Presidentʼs decision in telegram 75479 to New Delhi, May 1. Ambassador Keating was instructed to emphasize that it was important for the refugee relief program to be an international undertaking in both appearance and substance. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK)