92. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Swaran Singh, Foreign Minister of India
- T.N. Kaul, Foreign Secretary
- Mrs. Rukmini Menon, Chief, American Division, Ministry of External Affairs
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
- Kenneth Keating, US Ambassador to India
- Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff
Dr. Kissinger opened the conversation by saying, “As a point of honor, we owe you a discussion of events since your visit to Washington.” The President had felt that the Foreign Ministerʼs visit had been very successful. Then the story on arms shipments to Pakistan had appeared in the New York Times.2 Dr. Kissinger said that when he had seen these stories, his reaction was the same as he imagined the Foreign Ministerʼs had been. He had assumed that the reports could not be true.
He felt that it was important for the Foreign Minister to understand how the US position had evolved since the end of March. At that time, an immediate meeting had been held. Initially, it seemed a civil war of a peculiar nature in Pakistan, but we looked at the question of our arms shipments nevertheless. At that time, no orders had been placed under the one-time exception to our general embargo on the shipment of lethal equipment to the subcontinent. The US had felt at that time that the arms problem could be handled by administrative measures. We felt that it could be handled if no new licenses were issued and if there were an administrative delay on any existing undertakings. “We thought in the White House and at the top of the State Department that the matter had been taken care of.”
Dr. Kissinger continued that he had not been aware of a category which included licenses issued prior to the beginning of April under which equipment had already left depots or was waiting on the docks. “None of us was aware of this category when we talked to you. We were very much surprised.”[Page 227]
Dr. Kissinger said he was explaining this because whatever the outcome of the present tragedy, nations must not stoop to pettiness. Whatever we do, we will do above board with India.
Dr. Kissinger explained that we are now trying to get a catalogue of all pending orders and impending shipments. We want to see if we can make a distinction between various types of equipment, for example, equipment like aircraft engines which belong to the Pakistanis but which are in the US for reconditioning on the one hand and ammunition which is on new order on the other hand. We are trying to get a fix on the exact amounts and types of equipment which are involved.
Dr. Kissinger continued that the Presidentʼs policy has been based on recognition that there should be a political solution in Pakistan. It recognizes that such a solution has to include the return of a substantial majority of refugees. The US wants to use its influence to this end in Islamabad.
US policy-makers had had to judge at the outset whether this objective was best achieved by a policy of confrontation with Pakistan or by preserving our relationship and attempting to use our influence. At some point, we will have to see whether the policy which we have chosen—trying to use our influence—has worked. In looking at the question of our military shipments, we will have to see whether they affect the military balance. However, there will be enough disagreement between India and the US without adding suspicion to it. Therefore, we are anxious to establish a basis of genuine understanding with the Indians.
The Foreign Minister said that, suspicions apart, what is the precise US policy?
Dr. Kissinger replied that no licenses had been issued after 1 April. He asked Mr. Saunders whether this was absolutely correct and it was agreed by all that there had been two licenses issued after that date but that they had been revoked, so the statement was essentially correct. Also, there had been no orders fulfilled on the one-time exception. Dr. Kissinger noted that this is a big step in the Presidentʼs eyes because there has always been a personal relationship with the President of Pakistan and with the Pakistani people. Finally, nothing has been delivered out of US depots during this period. The only equipment available now consists of those items now in commercial channels, items which do not need licenses, items turned over to the Pakistanis before the beginning of April. The maximum possible in this category is $29 million and it is probably substantially less.
The Foreign Minister noted that Dr. Kissinger had specified that no goods had left “military depots.” He asked whether there were other depots.[Page 228]
Mr. Saunders explained that in a number of instances, equipment provided under foreign military sales credit was provided directly by the manufacturer. There is, therefore, equipment which is provided to the Pakistani procurement mission directly from manufacturers and would go to them without going through US depots.
Dr. Kissinger noted that since April 1, the Pakistanis could not buy new equipment which required a munitions export license.
The Foreign Minister asked how far back the licenses ran. Dr. Kissinger replied that the licenses were good for one year. He noted that it is relatively easy to find out what the licenses have been issued for. But it is very difficult to find out exactly what orders have been placed under the licenses that have been issued because that is a transaction often directly between the Pakistani procurement mission and a manufacturer.
Foreign Minister Singh said that the Indian government had been under the impression that no equipment would actually move to Pakistan. It would have been proper, if there was a loophole, that the Indian government be told this.
Dr. Kissinger replied that he agreed. He acknowledged that “we had all handled this issue too lackadaisically.” He said that he too had been under the impression that nothing could move. He had neglected to ask whether there were other categories of equipment which could move outside the scope of the administrative delays that had been applied.
The Foreign Minister asked whether the government should not have given the Secretary and the President this picture, whether or not the questions had been asked. “I would give Kaul the devil if this happened to me.”
Dr. Kissinger indicated that it is no consolation to either of us that the US has misled itself.
The Foreign Minister said that all this is peripheral, it is “no embarrassment to me,” but it is a serious blow to the relationship between our nations. We should not have to cross-examine each other on issues of this kind. Dr. Kissinger agreed that “we have to have confidence in each other.” Singh continued that events of the past few days had been very disappointing to him. After his meeting with the President, he said he had had a feeling that there had been moves to help India that had been directly traceable to the Presidentʼs attitude. Later, he said, he had not known how to proceed.
Dr. Kissinger said that the President had felt that he and the Foreign Minister had understood the general direction in which the US would proceed.
The Foreign Minister said he wished to be advised what the Indian government could say. Dr. Kissinger replied that he did not want [Page 229] to give a quick answer for fear of risking further misunderstanding. What he would like to do, he said, is to go back to Washington and review the lists of pending orders that have been prepared. Then it will be possible to tell the Indians precisely where we stand. Dr. Kissinger repeated that he did not wish to make any rash statements that might prove later to be untrue.
The Foreign Minister asked Dr. Kissinger please to convey to the President that the Indian Government hopes that there would be a good review of military assistance policy. He said that the US would be the best judge of the methods to be employed but that the Indian government urges a revision of the present policy. India feels the continued supply of arms in the face of all that is happening is prejudicial to Indian interests.
Broadening the conversation, the Foreign Minister said that when he had talked with Secretary Rogers, the Secretary had said it is in the US national interest to continue the general policy the US has taken toward the present South Asian crisis. The Foreign Minister said he would like to know what Dr. Kissingerʼs definition of the US national interest in this situation is. The Foreign Minister said he did not see where Indiaʼs interests conflicted with US interests in this region.
Dr. Kissinger replied, “neither do we.”
The Foreign Minister said that, if there is no conflict in our respective interests, India would like to know what the content of US interests is. He felt that there had never been even a clear discussion on this important issue.
The Foreign Minister said he wished to elaborate. He said he could understand how, at the time of US containment policy, the US had an important interest in maintaining its intelligence facilities at Peshawar. Although India always took the view that the weapons supplied by the US for maintaining this facility could be used against India and could not be used against Communists, India understood these weapon shipments as a payment for necessary facilities. But now, Pakistan has changed, and the policies of the United States have changed. “It passes my comprehension what your interest in maintaining such a close relationship with Pakistan is.”
Dr. Kissinger acknowledged that the Foreign Minister was asking a profound question. After a moment of thought, he replied that the general US view is that India is one of the pivotal countries in the world because of its size, position, form of government, example to other developing nations and as a force for peace and stability whose influence reaches beyond its own region.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is a regional country, smaller and of a peculiar religious origin that limits its appeal to other nations.[Page 230]
“Our commitment to the cohesion and vitality of India,” he said, “is very great.” The independence and strength of India is important to us. Unlike the other major powers from outside the region, the US has an essentially disinterested concern in developments in South Asia. The US has no political party there to which it has allegiance. The US sincerely believes that it is not involving itself in the internal affairs of the subcontinent.
There followed at this point a digression on the question of Pak-Indian charges of US involvement in Indian politics. Dr. Kissinger said that to the best of our knowledge, we are not doing anything. But if the Foreign Minister had a suspicion that we were, he would hope that the Foreign Minister would let him or the Ambassador know. The Foreign Minister recalled that he had had a long talk with Ambassador Keating on this subject and they had reached the understanding that they would talk if anything new came to the Foreign Ministerʼs attention. He said that he did not wish to be reckless in making charges of involvement.
Dr. Kissinger repeated that we were not aware of any US involvement, but it was always possible that some US official somewhere was operating from a mandate of some sort out of the past.
Returning to the main theme of the discussion, Dr. Kissinger continued, saying that the special US relationship with Pakistan had grown out of a period when the US believed that there were only two camps in the world. The US has now become more sophisticated. We do not think that the threat comes from the military direction which was seen as the threat in the 1950s.
Dr. Kissinger continued that the President believes:
- That a war between India and Pakistan would be a disaster for both countries. It would risk that the subcontinent could become an arena for contention among outsiders. We prefer a political solution.
- The President feels he has a certain equity in Islamabad which he could use in helping to achieve a political solution. If his equity is not what it appears to be, then we would have a new situation. We know that India cannot absorb 6 million refugees.
Foreign Minister Singh returned to the first point and asked what interests of the US would not be served if arms shipments did not continue. He said he hoped that the US did not feel that not giving arms would provoke a war.
Dr. Kissinger said that our judgment this week is that the amount of equipment in the pipeline will not affect the military balance in South Asia. The major problem is the symbolic effect of a cut-off.
Dr. Kissinger noted that the Indians wanted us to cut off shipments for the sake of the shock effect on Pakistan. The President, on the other hand, now thinks that trying to shock Pakistan in this manner would [Page 231] put the US in the same category as a lot of other countries who are attempting to pressure Pakistan in this way. He felt that we could perhaps gain more by showing some sympathy and then attempting to encourage Pakistan to face hard decisions. If this policy does not produce any results, then we will have to re-examine it.
The Foreign Minister said he hoped that Dr. Kissinger would examine the full implications of President Yahyaʼs statement of June 28. The comments on Mujibur Rahman were not helpful. The Minister said he understood Dr. Kissinger would be discussing a political settlement in Pakistan. He said he feared that a settlement along the lines of some sort of confederal relationship appeared to have been snapped by President Yahyaʼs statement. It does not appear now that the constitution will be drafted by the elected representatives of the people. It is not clear what role there will be for the political parties. And it is not clear what role Mujib can play.
The Foreign Minister continued, saying that the real question is whether there is a chance for a political settlement. “I am very doubtful.” The parliamentary delegation here from the UK headed by Mr. Bottomley—whom the Foreign Minister has known for a long time— said that it was convinced that Yahya does not know the whole story. He is not being told the facts about the situation in Pakistan. The Indians have the uneasy feeling that the international community under US leadership may be taking a course of following what fate has already decided.
Dr. Kissinger noted that he had no judgment about whether or not President Yahyaʼs policies were based on a recognition of the real problems or not. This is one of the things he expected to learn in Pakistan.
The meeting concluded with Dr. Kissinger and the Foreign Minister chatting briefly alone.
- 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 Foreign Minister Singhʼs office in New Delhi. The conversation was summarized in telegram 10865 from New Delhi, July 8. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 578, Indo-Pak War, India Chronology, Dr Kissinger) Kissinger also met on July 7 with Minister of Planning Chidambara Subramaniam. A memorandum of that conversation is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 78.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩