62. Letter From President Nixon to Indian Prime Minister Gandhi 1

Dear Madame Prime Minister:

Your recent letter2 was of very great interest to me. I fully share your concern at the loss of life which has taken place as the result of developments in East Pakistan, at the dislocations which the flow of refugees is causing for India, and at the dangers for the political stability of the area which are implicit in the present situation.

We share your governmentʼs hope that peace and stability can be restored in the sub-continent and that all the countries of the area can develop democratic systems of government consistent with their own traditions and history.

The United States Government has not been a passive observer of these events. We have had under active and continuous review two elements of the situation which we regard as particularly urgent: the human suffering and dislocation which has taken place and the basic political cause of this suffering and dislocation. The public focus of our attention and activity has been upon the urgent relief problems which have arisen in East Pakistan as a result of civil conflict there and which have been created in India by the refugee flow. We have actively supported over the last two months a variety of actions to promote an international humanitarian relief effort. We have discussed these matters on several occasions with your representatives as well as with representatives of the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations.

I am happy to see that these efforts have borne fruit. As you know, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is in the process of mounting and coordinating a relief effort in India in close cooperation with your government. The UN Secretary General has appealed to the world community for emergency relief assistance. In April I authorized $2.5 million for refugee relief, $500,000 of which was contributed in response to the Secretary Generalʼs appeal. We have further decided to provide an additional $15 million in food and cash to help the UN High Commissioner with refugee feeding and other assistance and to support the program already initiated by United States voluntary agencies under [Page 161] which 300,000 refugees are being fed. We have also agreed to your governmentʼs request to provide four C–130 aircraft to move refugees from Tripura to Assam and food supplies from Assam to Tripura. We stand ready to assist in other ways.

Let me emphasize again that I fully realize the dangers which this massive movement of people have created. I recognize the very great burdens which India has to bear. I know that the international response to the Secretary Generalʼs appeal will only blunt the economic impact of the influx of refugees on your plans for the future. Certainly we will keep this fact in mind as we plan our economic assistance programs.

In regard to the basic cause of this human suffering and dislocation, my government has also been active. We have chosen to work primarily through quiet diplomacy, as we have informed your Ambassador and Foreign Minister. We have been discussing with the Government of Pakistan the importance of achieving a peaceful political accommodation and of restoring conditions under which the refugee flow would stop and the refugees would be able to return to their homes. I feel that these approaches were at least in part behind President Yahyaʼs press conference on May 24 and especially his public acceptance of international assistance, offer of amnesty to the refugees and commitment to transfer power to elected representatives. We will continue this effort.

I am also deeply concerned that the present situation not develop into a more widespread conflict in South Asia, either as a result of the refugee flow or through actions which might escalate the insurgency which may be developing in East Pakistan. The problems involved in this situation can and should be solved peacefully. As you know, in recent months we have been impressed by the vitality of Indian democracy and the strength of purpose which your government has shown in meeting the complex social and economic problems which India faces. Indiaʼs friends would be dismayed were this progress to be interrupted by war. As one of Asiaʼs major powers, India has a special responsibility for maintaining the peace and stability of the region. I hope and trust that India, in the face of what I recognize to be very trying and difficult circumstances, will continue to act with maximum restraint.

I very much appreciate your kind comments on my daughterʼs engagement. I know she and her fiancé appreciate your expression of happiness at their engagement.

With warm personal regards,


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence File, India (1971). No classification marking. The text of the letter was transmitted to New Delhi on May 28 in telegram 95110 for delivery to Prime Minister Gandhi. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 US/NIXON)
  2. Document 46.