91. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India
- P.N. Haksar, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister An Aide to Haksar
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
- Kenneth Keating, US Ambassador to India
- Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff
The Prime Minister and Dr. Kissinger met privately for the first 10–15 minutes. During this time, Dr. Kissinger delivered a letter2 from the President. He later told Mr. Saunders that she had explained her political problems. She said that she does not wish to use force and that she is willing to accept any suggestions that the US may have. She told Dr. Kissinger how serious the situation was and said that India is not wedded to any particular political solution in East Pakistan. She also volunteered that India is not preventing the refugees from returning to East Pakistan, as the Pakistanis have charged. She is afraid of mounting Chinese influence in East Pakistan.[Page 222]
During this private meeting, Dr. Kissinger said he explained the Nixon Administrationʼs policy toward China. He said that it has been the policy of the Administration gradually to establish a relationship with Communist China. He said that there could be significant developments in the months ahead and that he wanted the Prime Minister to understand that these were not directed at India and that they derived from our global policy. They derived from the Presidentʼs feeling—which India seems to have shared in the past—that a more normal world order and structure for maintaining world peace requires that China be drawn into the international community of nations.
At this point, the remainder of the party joined Dr. Kissinger and the Prime Minister.
Dr. Kissinger began this portion of the conversation by saying that he had been impressed by the intensity of Indian feeling in regard to the present situation. It is one thing to read about it, another to feel it first hand. There is a major problem: On the one hand, there is the possibility of the use of force in the present situation which could lead to a serious war. On the other hand, there is a political situation in Pakistan which must in some way be resolved so as to permit refugees to return to their homes.
The Prime Minister recalled that she had written the President about the urgency of resolving the problem created by the 6.8 million refugees who had come into India. She noted that, while the flow seems to be slowing, it is difficult to be accurate about the actual numbers because many are in private homes fearing that if they register formally, the Indian government will send them back across the border. The number of 6.8 million is the number of “registered” refugees.
Dr. Kissinger said that the US has no ideas at this moment. He said he would have to form a judgment in Islamabad on how President Yahya plans to proceed. He said he had read President Yahyaʼs June 28 speech. He does not know whether President Yahya has any long-range ideas. We certainly would use what influence we have to encourage a solution. The whole point of our policy has been to retain influence in order to help create a situation which would enable the refugees to return. If this does not produce results, we will have to reexamine our policy. He said he could not promise how any re-examination of policy would evolve.
The Prime Minister said that a good part of the feeling in India is emotional. It is due to circumstances created by the refugees—the shortages and the rising prices and depressed wages.
Dr. Kissinger asked how much time was available before the problem became unmanageable. The Prime Minister said that the problem is unmanageable right now. “We are just holding it together by sheer will power.” She said there are “hardly two people in Parliament who [Page 223] approve our policy.” Many parties in the Parliament are using this as a political lever.
Dr. Kissinger said he surmised that, after the Prime Ministerʼs extraordinary electoral victory in March, the opposition is more frustrated than normal. Then Dr. Kissinger asked whether the settlement in East Pakistan must include Awami League leader Mujibur Rahman.
The Prime Minister said the settlement must be between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. This is not an Indo-Pakistani problem. India would not have been involved except for the refugees.
The Prime Minister then turned to Mr. Haksar and said that she had found the news alarming that the West Pakistanis were talking about errors in the past census. It appears that the West Pakistanis are trying to change the official picture of the entire population. Their idea seems to be to reduce the population and thereby to reduce the majority of the East Pakistanis in the total population of Pakistan.
There was a brief exchange on the political nature of a census, beginning with Mr. Haksarʼs comment that a census can produce political problems. Dr. Kissinger noted that the Lebanese Government had to maintain the fiction that the balance between Christians and Muslims is even.
Dr. Kissinger went on, saying that it is a tragedy that the refugee problem came about at this particular moment. It was the assessment of all of the US specialists in March that it was impossible that force would be used by the West Pakistani Government in East Pakistan.
Ambassador Keating broke a moment of silence by noting that Dr. Kissinger had met with Planning Minister Subramaniam and that the Minister had explained the dislocation in development plans which had been caused by the refugee influx. Prime Minister Gandhi responded that India had been through a “dark period” since 1962 culminating in the drought years of 1965–67. Now the government is in a situation where it could deal with those Indian problems.
Dr. Kissinger told the Prime Minister that the US would take a new look at the problem. The ability of the US to move events even with strong advice is extremely limited. Moreover, we do not know what the effect of the economic pressures inherent in the present situation will be. Mr. McNamaraʼs judgment in the World Bank is that the pressures would begin to mount by September.
Mr. Haksar said that Indiaʼs assessment is that Pakistan can last beyond that. Economies like Pakistanʼs have a remarkable capacity to retrench and to go on well beyond the time when Western economic experts feel they should have collapsed. The Prime Minister added “and they donʼt mind if the people starve.”
Ambassador Keating noted that the foreign exchange situation seemed to have improved in Pakistan in recent days. Mr. Haksar used [Page 224] the analogy of an octogenerian faster who nobody felt could live more than thirty days but who lasted for 69 days before he finally died.
Dr. Kissinger asked if it is true that Pakistan can survive economic shortages for a substantial period under present conditions, what can the US do? What is the point of cutting off economic assistance?
Mr. Haksar stated that the disbursements from earlier AID commitments already in the pipeline are still being made. Therefore, there is no diminution yet in the flow of economic assistance to Pakistan. Then, if the Pakistanis can anticipate new commitments through the consortium in September, there has not been present in this situation a concern in the Pakistani government that it will lose outside support.
Dr. Kissinger said that Pakistan, as of the present, can not anticipate new aid commitments in September. The IMF would not advance money without prompt commitments to development aid from the consortium countries.
Mr. Haksar said that there is unrest among the Karachi commercial/ industrial community. It is the assessment of Mr. Gus Papanak [a former head of the Harvard advisory group in Pakistan] that in a short time there would be a huge economic distress in Pakistan. [Comment: Although this seems to contradict Mr. Haksarʼs earlier statement, the implication seemed to be that the mere prospect of a diminution in the flow of economic assistance would have a psychological rather than an immediate economic effect on the communities in Pakistan who would have some political influence.]3
Dr. Kissinger, still probing the question of what effect the cut-off of assistance would have, said the limited number of arms now being shipped to Pakistan makes almost no difference in the military balance. What, therefore, is the actual effect of cutting off assistance?
Mr. Haksar replied that it is important to make clear that future aid is dependent on well-timed political developments. According to Peter Cargill, the senior World Bank expert on South Asia, President Yahya is “impervious to economic facts.” Yahya either has no access to the real facts or he is deluding himself to avoid seeing the seriousness of the present situation. Haksar quoted the recent British parliamentary delegation under Mr. Bottomley to the effect that President Yahya is insulated from the real situation. He felt that the act of cutting off assistance, while it might not have an economic impact forcing Pakistan to take certain political steps, could have the effect of forcing President Yahya and others in Pakistan to face up to the costs of their present policies. This would be the purpose of cutting assistance.[Page 225]
Dr. Kissinger said he felt it was important to avoid “extreme measures” for another few months [in order to give present pressures a chance to operate in Pakistan].
The Prime Minister said that India does not want to take extreme measures. What India will do will be a question of how the situation develops and what it can do. It is true that the shipment of a few arms to Pakistan does not make much practical difference, but psychologically the US has made the situation more difficult.
The Prime Minister continued that Pakistan has felt all these years that it will get support from the US no matter what it does. This has encouraged an “adventurous policy.” India is “not remotely desirous of territory.” It is irritating to have the Pakistanis base the whole survival of their country on hostility to India. “If they really had the good of Islam at heart, they would think of the 60 million Muslims in India also.”
Dr. Kissinger summarized by saying that he felt there were two problems:
- —There is the immediate problem created by the influx of refugees. Intensity of Indian concern on this subject is greater than US concern because the dangers and pressures are naturally more immediate on India, despite the sympathy which the US feels.
- —The other problem is how to put US-Indian relations on a more stable basis over a longer term. It is not logical that this fundamental relationship should be repeatedly jeopardized over a regional dispute.
Dr. Kissinger continued, recalling the period of the 1950s and stating that the US no longer bases its foreign relations on the assumption that a neutral nation like India is an opponent of the US if it will not align itself with the US in the global scheme.
The question now is how to stabilize relations. Dr. Kissinger said he could not conceive of India and the US having serious clashing interests on the global scale. A strong India is in the interest of the United States. The US will attempt to have as full a dialogue with India as India is willing to have.
Dr. Kissinger concluded by saying that the Prime Ministerʼs visit to the United States, if she did see her way clear to come, could contribute to the on-going dialogue between the US and India.
The Prime Minister smiled and said that she would like to come but that she “could not breathe a word of it” now because she feared she would end up in a position where she would have to say no. Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Keating acknowledged their understanding of this point.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders on July 12. The meeting was held in the Prime Ministerʼs Office in New Delhi. The conversation was summarized in telegram 10864 from New Delhi, July 8. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 578, Indo-Pak War, India Chronology, Dr Kissinger)↩
- Document 86.↩
- All brackets in the source text.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩