19. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I address this urgent message to you because of my profound concern about the deepening gravity of the situation in the Indian Subcontinent.

Whatever one’s view of the causes of the present conflict, the objective fact now is that Indian military forces are being used in an effort to impose political demands and to dismember the sovereign state of Pakistan. It is also a fact that your Government has aligned itself with this Indian policy.

You have publicly stated that because of your geographic proximity to the Subcontinent you consider your security interests involved in the present conflict. But other countries, near and far, cannot help but see their own interests involved as well. And this is bound to result in alignments by other states who had no wish to see the problems in the Subcontinent become international in character.

It had been my understanding, from my exchanges with you and my conversation with your Foreign Minister, that we were entering a new period in our relations which would be marked by mutual restraint [Page 64] and in which neither you nor we would act in crises to seek unilateral advantages. I had understood your Foreign Minister to say that these principles would govern your policies, as they do ours, not only in such potentially dangerous areas as the Middle East but in international relations generally.

I regret to say that what is happening now in South Asia, where you are supporting the Indian Government’s open use of force against the independence and integrity of Pakistan, merely serves to aggravate an already grave situation. Beyond that, however, this course of developments runs counter to the recent encouraging trend in international relations to which the mutual endeavors of our two governments have been making such a major contribution.

It is clear that the interests of all concerned states will be served if the territorial integrity of Pakistan were restored and military action were brought to an end. Urgent action is required and I believe that your great influence in New Delhi should serve these ends.

I must state frankly that it would be illusory to think that if India can somehow achieve its objectives by military action the issue will be closed. An “accomplished fact” brought about in this way would long complicate the international situation and undermine the confidence that we and you have worked so hard to establish. It could not help but have an adverse effect on a whole range of other issues.

I assure you, Mr. Secretary, that such a turn of events would be a painful disappointment at a time when we stand at the threshold of a new and more hopeful era in our relations. I am convinced that the spirit in which we agreed that the time had come for us to meet in Moscow next May requires from both of us the utmost restraint and the most urgent action to end the conflict and restore territorial integrity in the Subcontinent.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8. No classification marking. A draft of this letter by Sonnenfeldt is ibid.