57. Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson and Richard Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- WSAG Meeting on India–Pakistan, Wednesday,2 4:00 p.m.
You are aware that there are some disturbing indications that India and Pakistan are moving closer to the brink of a new war. Neither side really wants a war at this point but they are drifting in this direction.
The situation on the ground shapes up like this:
- —For the past several weeks mortar barrages and small arms fire have been exchanged frequently across the East Pakistan–India border. The substantial Indian army forces in the area are on high alert and the situation appears very tense in the border areas.
- —Intelligence reports indicate that on the West Pakistan–India border the Indians are taking military preparatory measures such as dispersal of fighter aircraft in the potential combat area and perhaps the movement of additional combat troops and armor into forward areas. The Pakistanis reportedly have their forces in forward positions along the border also.
- —Mrs. Gandhi reportedly has ordered her army to prepare a plan for a rapid take-over of East Pakistan and is said to be particularly [Page 144] interested in an “Israeli-type lightening thrust” that would present the world with a fait accompli.
- —The Indians have launched a major diplomatic and public relations campaign to promote domestic and foreign appreciation of the mounting economic, social and political problems posed by the massive continuing influx of more than three million East Pakistani refugees. The latest manifestation of this was on Monday3 when at the opening session of Parliament Mrs. Gandhi warned that Pakistan must provide “credible guarantees” for the return and future safety of the refugees and that unless the great powers take action to remedy the situation, India will be “constrained to take all measures that might be necessary” to safeguard its own well-being.
- —There is strong and mounting public pressure in India to take direct action against the Pakistanis over the refugee problem. The West Pakistanis for their part are still tending to blame most of their problem in East Pakistan on the Indians.
There are essentially three underlying causes for this situation:
- —Continuing military repression, economic dislocation and lack of political accommodation in East Pakistan.
- —The very heavy flow of Bengali refugees into India which is imposing a mounting economic, social and political burden on India.
- —Indian training of and cross-border support to Bengali guerrillas. Some Indian paramilitary forces may even have conducted small-scale operations within East Pakistan.
Purpose of Meeting
There are three basic reasons for calling a WSAG meeting at this time:
- To focus high level bureaucratic interest on a developing major problem in Asia. (It is just dawning on most of the bureaucracy that we might soon be faced with a major blow-up in South Asia.)
- To make sure that any actions we might decide to take to prevent further escalation are well thought out within the context of a more general plan. (There will be an inevitable tendency by State to rush into a series of tactical maneuvers to defuse a potential crisis without a clear idea of where they are collectively leading us.)
- To begin to consider the situation that will face us if war were to break out between India and Pakistan.
At tab “Contingency Study” is Stateʼs first cut at a “Contingency Study for Indo-Pakistani Hostilities.”4 The most relevant sections are:
- —“Steps to Prevent Escalation” on pages 5–6.
- —“Actions in the Event of Escalation” on pages 7–8.
These are so short and boiled down that it would serve no purpose to summarize them here. You will want, however, to read these sections to see how far thinking has gone at State.
Talking Points for Opening Meeting
The best way to open this discussion would seem to be to get a fix of the major elements of the situation:
- You might open by asking Mr. Helms for a characterization of Indo-Pakistani relations at this point and his assessment as to where developments seem to be heading and why. (He will be prepared to answer both these questions.)
- Having heard the CIA assessment, you might next seek the Groupʼs consensus on the likelihood that India and Pakistan are drifting toward a new war. This will provide the basis for determining how far we might wish to go in defusing a potential crisis.
Talking Points for Discussion
- Theoretically, there are a number of diplomatic and other actions the US could take in an attempt to prevent further escalation (see pp. 5–6 of State paper). We all can think of these. The real problem is determining the basis for selecting one over another and in formulating a general strategy to accomplish our objectives. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to do this?
- A peaceful accommodation between East and West Pakistan appears to be at the heart of the problem of the deterioration in Indo-Pak relations. If this were accomplished, Indian public opinion would tone down and the refugee flow would stop and might even be reversed. Therefore, what might we do, that we are not already doing, to encourage this process?
- What actions might be taken on the Indian side of the equation? It seems to me this is just as delicate a situation in terms of longer range US interests as with the West Pakistanis since it would be easy to destroy our relationship with the Indian Government and have nothing to show for it.
- The Chinese are potentially a major factor in this situation. Is there anything we can do, perhaps through the British Canadians or [Page 146] French, to encourage them to act with restraint? Or is this not even worth exploring in view of the Chinese relationship with the West Pakistanis and rivalry with India?
- In the short run at least we share a strong interest with the Soviets in avoiding another Indo-Pak war. The Soviets have very little clout in Islamabad but they do have a so-called “special relationship” with New Delhi. Is it possible and desirable to encourage the Soviets to play a peacemaking role? Or would some sort of consultation and joint, or at least parallel, action with the Soviets be more in our interests?
- Is there a peacemaking role here for U Thant who appears genuinely concerned about the situation and perhaps would be inclined to adopt a more open political role? What about the Security Council, especially in view of the potentially constructive Soviet attitude, or is this more than our relationship with the Paks will bear?
- We need to think ahead about the situation that would arise if war does break out between India and Pakistan. What would our position be, say, if the Chinese began harassing India in the Himalayas? What could we do to stop the fighting?
We need to further develop and refine our thinking. This could be done by asking State to develop an expanded contingency paper that would include:
- Alternative scenarios for attempting to halt the drift toward war in South Asia.
- A hard and more detailed look at how we might respond to the outbreak of hostilities between India and Pakistan.