78. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon1


  • Military Supply for Pakistan

Attached is a study covering a recommendation from Secretary Rogers2 that all shipments of military equipment be temporarily suspended until it can be determined what remains in the pipeline. This recommendation is in reaction to press stories and Congressional criticism of shipments that have left the US in recent days.3 One more ship is known to be loading.

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The Secretary poses three options:

Continue present policy. This would retain under administrative hold those items still under US Government control but would allow to continue shipments of items which have already passed to Pakistani control or which were licensed before the outbreak of fighting in East Pakistan.
Suspend further export of all military items. This would, in effect, be a formal embargo, and no one urges this now.
Suspend all shipments temporarily while we review items still in the pipeline. The purpose would be to screen out those items which could have military significance in East Pakistan or cause trouble on the Hill.

Secretary Rogers recommends Option 3. The attached study recommends Option 1—continuing present policy—with an urgent study of what is in the pipeline and an accurate explanation to the Congress of what our policy is.

The rationale for this recommendation is that a temporary suspension would convey the wrong political signal to the Pakistanis—it would look like an embargo. Also, temporary suspensions have a way of becoming permanent, and we could become locked into a full embargo. Approving this recommendation would require meeting critics head-on with the argument that a total suspension would be counterproductive in our effort to work with Pakistan in helping to resolve the present problem. The recommendation is spelled out on the last pages of the attached.


Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon4


  • Military Supply for Pakistan

A relatively low point in scheduled military equipment shipments to Pakistan has, by coincidence, helped keep military assistance from becoming a pressing issue between us and the Pakistanis since the outbreak of fighting in East Pakistan March 25. Knowing the sensitivity of this issue in the Congress, the Pakistanis seem to have chosen not to press it.

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On the US side, we have deliberately avoided imposing the kind of formal embargo that was declared during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. What has been done is to establish a series of internal Executive Branch controls that permitted us to hold any dramatic shipments without putting ourselves in the box of a publicly proclaimed embargo which would be difficult to reverse. The WSAG felt that close control was warranted in view of the strong public and Congressional outcry here in reaction to the reports of killing in East Pakistan. It was thought that the appearance of insensitivity could result in restrictions to the Foreign Assistance Act that could have prevented our being helpful, if possible, with economic aid, which is more important than our military sales.

Under these in-house measures:

  • —No Foreign Military Sales items from US stocks under direct Defense Department control have been released since early April.
  • —No new licenses for Munitions List items have been issued since early April, either under the Foreign Military Sales program or for export through commercial channels.
  • —No action under the one-time exception (300 APCs and about 20 aircraft) approved last fall was scheduled for this period and it is in suspense.

But shipments in the following categories have not been held:

  • —Items under the Foreign Military Sales program which had been turned over to the Pakistanis in the US prior to early April. The Pakistanis normally make their own shipping arrangements for items like these under their control.
  • —Items under the Foreign Military Sales program which Defense Department had contracted out to commercial suppliers before early April.
  • —Items purchased by Pakistan through normal commercial channels for which licenses had been issued prior to early April. These licenses are valid for one year.

The rationale for this approach was that (a) an in-house hold could be made to appear to the Pakistanis for a time as simple administrative sluggishness while (b) an effort to reach out into the commercial market or to stop export at Customs would have the appearance of an embargo. Since we wanted to avoid the political signal which an embargo would convey, it was decided not to try to control any items which had already passed beyond US Government control.

Now opponents of the military assistance and sales policy who have been particularly upset by the reports of brutality from East Pakistan (e.g. Senators Church, Kennedy and Mondale) have attacked a policy that allows any military items at all to be shipped to Pakistan. [Page 197] A story in the New York Times Tuesday5 on two Pakistani ships that left New York in recent days triggered a letter6 to you from Senator Church urging that one of them be intercepted in US or Canadian waters.

The criticism has been compounded by the fact that State in its press and Congressional briefings has stressed the items that have been held by Executive Branch action without acknowledging those items beyond US administrative control which we had chosen to let go. Critics have—perhaps honestly, perhaps with malice—interpreted Administration policy as a policy of embargo. Consequently, a first point of criticism has been that the departure of these ships constitutes a violation of that supposed embargo. Now that some are coming to understand our actual policy, they are claiming that the State Department at best was misleading. They are beating the “credibility” issue again.

This news story has also caused a reaction from the Indians. So far this is in proportion, but it could well grow to the point where the progress made during Foreign Minister Singhʼs visit could be undercut.

There are two separate issues involved with military supply for Pakistan:

  • —The first is whether to confirm and to explain publicly (or at least to Congress) with greater accuracy our present policy or whether to tighten further our control over shipments to Pakistan. Your options are set out below.
  • —The second is whether to begin, in addition, to release equipment still under US Government control. I had prepared a memo for you on this, but I will hold that momentarily until this present problem is sorted out. If you were to release more, it would probably be best to wait in any case until the current flap dies down.

On the current problem, Secretary Rogers in the attached memorandum suggests three options:

Option 1: Continue present policy. This would mean that equipment up to a value of $34 million might still be legally shipped from the US by the Pakistanis. Because of long delays in reporting procedures through commercial channels and other technical factors, those who work with this program say the real figure is probably considerably less, perhaps only half.

The advantage of this approach would be that it would continue to avoid the unfavorable political signal to Pakistan that would result from revoking licenses already issued or from stopping at the docks [Page 198] items already under Pakistani title. This would be done without becoming involved in the supply of amounts of equipment that could have major military significance, although some of the items would be useful spares or support equipment.

The disadvantage would be that any military shipments to Pakistan would be subject to sharp Congressional (and Indian) criticism. This could add momentum to the already active movement in the Senate to amend the Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit economic aid to Pakistan until the political problem is settled.

Option 2: Suspend the further export of all Munitions Control items for which licenses were granted prior to early April. In effect, this would seem to be to impose a full embargo.

The advantage would be fully meeting Congressional and Indian concerns and lessening the danger of Congressional restrictions on economic assistance to Pakistan.

The disadvantage would lie in the negative political signal to Pakistan. Their concern would be less over the military items themselves than over the sign of diminished US support.

Option 3: Issue a temporary suspension of any further matériel for which there are valid outstanding licenses while we review those items still in the pipeline. The purpose would be to screen out those items which could have military significance in East Pakistan or cause major problems with Congress. This might result in a decision to release some innocuous spare parts while withholding ammunition.

The advantage of this approach would be that it would tighten control and permit us to be selective in what goes without imposing an embargo.

The disadvantage would be that temporary suspensions have a way of becoming permanent and we could become locked into a total embargo. The political signal to Pakistan is not what you want. I feel this disadvantage provides the most compelling argument.

Secretary Rogers recommends Option 3. If you select Option 1— continuing present policy—he urges a more precise briefing to press and Congress. In the course of this it would probably be necessary to meet the argument for embargo head-on and to say that the Administration does not feel that a formal suspension would be useful.

Recommendation: A prompt decision is desirable in order to permit a firm response to critics. I recommend that you:

  • —approve Option 1, which is to continue present policy rather than to authorize even a temporary suspension on items beyond US control;
  • —instruct State and Defense to prepare the most complete possible list of (a) those items still in the pipeline and (b) those items scheduled for release from US stocks in the rest of 1971;
  • —authorize an accurate explanation of our policy to members of Congress and to the press with the instruction that this (a) avoid restricting your future flexibility and (b) maintain the position that overall military supply policy toward Pakistan is under review.7

Once your decision on this is made, you will receive a memo looking to the larger military supply question.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 574, Indo-Pak War, South Asian Military Supply, March 25–August 26, 1971. Secret. Sent for action. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. A June 23 memorandum from Rogers to Nixon was attached but not printed.
  3. On June 22 The New York Times reported that two Pakistani freighters were preparing to sail from New York with cargos of military equipment for Pakistan. Ambassador Jha called on Under Secretary Irwin on the same day to warn that if the report were true, the shipment of arms to Pakistan would have an unfortunate impact upon relations between the United States and India. Irwin replied that no export licenses for military equipment had been issued since March 25. He speculated that the ships carried arms and munitions authorized before March 25. (Telegram 112954 to New Delhi, June 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 PAK) The Embassy in New Delhi reported on June 23 that news of the arms shipments had come to Foreign Minister Singh as a “shock and surprise” after his trip to Washington. (Telegram 9984 from New Delhi; ibid.) News of the arms shipments prompted angry scenes in both houses of the Indian parliament. (Telegram 10110 from New Delhi, June 25; ibid.) On June 27 the Indian Embassy delivered a note to the Department of State formally protesting the shipments and urging that steps be taken to prevent the shipments from reaching Pakistan. (Telegram 10211 to New Delhi, June 27; ibid.)
  4. Secret; Exdis. Sent for action. The attachment is dated by hand and is not signed.
  5. June 22.
  6. Not found.
  7. President Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendation.