69. Memorandum of Conversation1

Lunch Conversation Between Indian Ambassador Jha and Mr. Kissinger

The purpose of the conversation was to prepare for the meeting of Foreign Minister Singh and also to prevent Indian military action against Pakistan while the Chinese channel was being maintained.

I opened the conversation by telling Jha that we understood the suffering that was caused in India and the sense of concern that India [Page 175] would naturally feel. I also told him that if India took unilateral military action, it would have to mean the end of any assistance on our part. It would turn the issue into an international problem involving China, the Soviet Union and other great powers, in which the Bengal problem would soon be submerged.

Jha made a very eloquent defense then of the Indian position. He said six million refugees had already entered India. They were in the most heavily-populated states, in the states with the most heavy radical element. They could shift the voting balance in Bengal, for example, entirely in the direction of the Communists. It was a matter in India of its internal stability—there was nothing that the government wanted to do less than to go to war, but something had to be done.

I asked him for a solution. He replied that it wasnʼt enough to offer for the refugees to come back while new refugees were being created all the time. What was needed was a political conversation and a political solution, which he personally believed were unlikely except on the basis of independence for East Pakistan. He thought we could stop economic aid to Pakistan or suspend it as an interim measure.

I said that the President had a special relationship to Pakistan which enabled him to use his influence behind the scenes much more effectively. But I said that I remembered very well a conversation he had with me at Kay Grahamʼs2 house in which he said that at some point India and the United States would have to see how to bell the cat. I was prepared to have personal contacts with him in a channel going from the President to the Prime Minister if they could give us four or five months to work on matters. Ambassador Jha said he thought that this was feasible. I told him that to show our goodwill we would immediately review the aid request to see whether we could substantially increase the refugee aid.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 150, India, 21 May 1971–21 Dec 1971. Secret. Drafted by Kissinger. The memorandum is dated June 1, but it is apparently a typographical error. According to Kissingerʼs appointment book, the luncheon meeting took place on June 11. (Ibid., Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)
  2. President of the Washington Post company.