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


  • Humanitarian Relief for Pakistan

The Pakistani relief problem is attracting increasing attention in the Congress and press and you will want to know how the problem is being handled.

There are two aspects to the human problem:

There are now almost 2 million refugees from East Pakistan in India, and the figure could go substantially higher. You approved $2.5 million for US participation in an international effort, and this is operating through the UN High Commission for Refugees and private voluntary agencies. More food will be required, but basically this seems in hand for now, though there are the makings of a long-term problem.
The larger problem lies in East Pakistan. Food stocks seem adequate in most areas for another two or three months, but the transportation and distribution systems are not functioning. We have privately offered Pakistan assistance through an international effort. U Thant has offered UN help and Secretary Rogers joined Foreign Secretary Home in encouraging U Thant to urge the Pakistanis to accept. As you know, President Yahya is adamant against inviting foreigners into East Pakistan.

In immediate terms there are two issues:

Mounting Congressional criticism must be dealt with. This involves marshalling the facts on what we are doing in such a way as not to be offensive to President Yahya. This may be done by State Department statement.2
A compromise must be found to meet President Yahyaʼs sensitivity to foreign involvement as well as donorsʼ requirements for assurance that the food and equipment they give will be used for humane and not military purposes. This issue will become active only when food begins to move again.

I shall keep you informed of developments.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 575, Indo-Pak War, South Asian Relief, 3/25/71–8/1/71. Confidential. Sent for information. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. The President underlined the final sentence of the first paragraph and endorsed it with a marginal notation: “OK”. In a statement to the press on May 19 by Department of State spokesman Charles Bray, the United States welcomed the appeal issued by UN Secretary-General U Thant for assistance to help support East Pakistani refugees in India. Bray noted that the United States was participating with other countries in providing such assistance through voluntary agencies and under the guidance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The United States had set aside $2.5 million for short-term assistance to the refugees, and Bray anticipated that under the guidance of the United Nations a longer-term program of international assistance would be developed to help meet the burgeoning problem. (Department of State Bulletin, June 14, 1971, pp. 764–765)