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


  • Soviet Attitude on South Asia

Recent [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports2 provide some insight into Soviet attitudes toward India and Pakistan.

As you know, Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh visited Moscow on this way to Washington. [1 line of source text not declassified], his discussions there, especially with Kosygin, concerned Soviet assistance on the issue of East Pakistan. According to one report, Kosygin agreed immediately to provide small arms for the Indian-supported guerrillas operating in East Pakistan.3 Singh also asked for a guarantee of Soviet military protection if the Chinese made any threatening gestures to dissuade India from intervention in East Pakistan. Kosygin seemed favorably inclined, although he reportedly asked that Mrs. Gandhi make a formal written request.

These reports are a bit surprising since the Soviets have traditionally seen their interests in South Asia best served by stability, or at least they have not encouraged dramatic instabilities. They may well, however, have concluded that a divided Pakistan is no longer viable and that they may as well be on the side of “new realities.” Soviet policy in South Asia has always been to support India, and since 1965 to gain a foothold in Pakistan. They may calculate that this balance is no longer tenable, and that in a crisis Moscow would have to oppose Pakistan. Assurances on the Chinese threat could be viewed as mainly psychological, if the Soviets share our judgment that the Chinese probably would not go beyond threatening noises and border incidents in support of the West Pakistanis.

The most disturbing aspect of this report is that, if Kosygin does come through with some guarantee against China, the Indians will feel much less inhibited about military intervention in East Pakistan.4 [Page 245] Despite all their brave talk about being able to defend against the Chinese and fighting on two other fronts against Pakistan, the Indians are still haunted by the 1962 humiliation. This could be why Foreign Minister Singh is reported to regard his Moscow visit as “a major political development” and Mrs. Gandhi is said to also be pleased.

We must bear in mind that these reports may be intended as psychological pressure to persuade us and Pakistan of Soviet support for New Delhi. It would be a major and radical break in Soviet policy to issue the Indians a blank check.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 715, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XIV, 1 Jun–31 Jul 71. Secret; Limdis. Sent for information. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See Document 87.
  3. Nixon underlined this sentence from the word “provide” to the end and wrote in the margin: “K If this is true—Keating is to be ordered to protest strongly (privately at first).”
  4. Nixon highlighted the first sentence of this paragraph and wrote in the margin: “Warn them that if they intervene RN will personally cut off all aid to India.”