65. Editorial Note

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger discussed Ambassador Keating and his approach to the crisis developing in South Asia in a conversation in the Oval Office of the White House on June 4, 1971. Nixon said that he had seen Keating at a social function the previous evening and agreed to meet with him later in the month. That opened a discussion of the extent to which Nixon and Kissinger felt that Keating had effectively become an advocate of the government to which he was accredited. Nixon said that he told Keating that the United States should not become involved in an internal conflict. He was skeptical about Keating holding to that line: “What the hell does he think we should do?” Kissinger responded: “He thinks we should cut off all military aid, all economic aid, and in effect help the Indians to push the Pakistanis out.”

Nixon and Kissinger took exception to Keatingʼs outlook, with Kissinger observing that it was important to buoy up Yahya for at least another month while Pakistan served as the gateway to China. Nixon said: “Even apart from the Chinese thing, I wouldnʼt do that to help the Indians, the Indians are no goddamn good.” He noted that it seemed as though every U.S. Ambassador who went to India got “sucked in,” Keating included. Kissinger said that it made no sense to follow Keatingʼs advice and get involved in the conflict in East Pakistan. “If East Pakistan becomes independent, it is going to become a cesspool. It is going to be 100 million people, they have the lowest standard of living in Asia, no resources. Theyʼre going to become a ripe field for communist infiltration. And then theyʼre going to bring pressure on India because of West Bengal. So that the Indians in their usual idiotic way are playing for little stakes, unless they have in the back of [Page 168] their minds that they could turn East Pakistan into a sort of protectorate that they could control from Calcutta.” Nixon concluded that all the Indians had in mind was to damage Pakistan. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, June 4, 1971, 9:42–9:51 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 512–4) A transcript of this conversation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 136.