137. Conversation Among President Nixon, his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the Ambassador to India (Keating), Washington, June 15, 1971, 5:13–5:40 p.m.1 2
Nixon: Like all of our other Indian ambassadors, he’s been brainwashed. Completely throw in [unclear]. Anti-Pakistan.
Keating: All right, now let me—
Nixon: Where are your sandals?
Keating: Give me—
Keating: Give me 5 minutes.
Nixon: I hope you haven’t turned the Embassy over to those hippies like your predecessor. [unclear exchange]
Keating: Let me have 5 minutes to—
Nixon: Go ahead.
Keating: —just give you a little background. Then you want to ask me some questions about the Foreign Minister.
Nixon: Go ahead. No, I—he should meet with the Foreign Minister, don’t you think so?
Kissinger: Yeah. Are you going to leave—
Keating: Yes, I’ll be—
Nixon: I think he ought to come in with him. [unclear]
Nixon: The point is, the point is it’s best to get you with the Foreign Minister. If he wants to talk to us, talk to the Ambassador. We don’t normally have ambassadors in. I’d get some iced tea? Would you like iced tea?
Keating: No, no.
Keating: No, nothing.
Nixon: Maybe coffee.
Keating: Now in all seriousness—
Nixon: India thinks that they’re [unclear], you’re a good Ambassador, I know.
Keating: They are difficult.
Nixon: I listen to it all the time.
Keating: The Indians are—
Nixon: [unclear exchange]
Keating: Let me say personally, I’m delighted that you’re starting off that way because—
Nixon: I’m not [unclear].
Keating: Don’t let any of these bastards get you down. And you’re not, that’s great. That—I don’t mean any.
Keating: The Indians are difficult, and time after time I’ve had to talk to them, to have stood up to them on Vietnam and many other things. Since this election, and that tremendous majority she got—350 out of 520 members—the next party to her is 27, which is the left-wing Communists. The next party is the right-wing Communists, 25. Because you expect India to—
Keating: But the rightist parties were completely wiped out. And since that time there has been evidence of greater stability and a better relationship with us.
Nixon: That’s good.
Keating: Let me give you chapter and verse of two things. Remington Rand and Union Carbide have big interests there. Union Carbide very big. They’ve been trying for several years to get a license to extend their activities. All bureaucrat stuff from one ministry to another. Three weeks after the election they were called in and said we’re going to approve your license. Get going. We need employment. Have as much of your product as possible, export oriented, but get going and there will be no delay. And the presidents of the Indian companies of those two concerns came in to see me. And we’ve been trying to help. Just delightful, and they are. I went to call on the new Minister of Industrial Development, Choudhury [Moinul Haq], who succeeded my friend Mr. DINESH SINGH, the son-of-a-bitch, and he is a top notch. Just top notch. And I had a conversation with him that I have never had since I’ve been in India. He said, now Mr. Ambassador, we have a list, as you know, of things in the public sector. We have things in the private sector. We have a big list of things that can be either public or private sector. And, by the way, he said with a smile, "I might point out to you that the percentage of our gross national product in the public sector is about half of what yours is in America.” I said, "I’m aware of that.” And he said, "in this 146 items, which are in the private sector, there are some that we can’t possibly fix, where we need foreign investment. The impression has gotten abroad that we don’t want foreign investment. I want to disabuse your mind of that. We want, and let me say something else to you, if you have a business group from America come in there and they want to, there is something that isn’t on that list, you come and see me and we’ll work it out.” Now, I have never had a conversation like that with any Indian since I’ve been there. He’s top notch. He wants to work with us.
Next, Mrs. Gandhi. Our relations have always been pleasant. She has never turned me down when I wanted an appointment. But since then, they’re more cordial since her election. Now part of it is because she’s got this weight off her mind. She was trying to run a government with a minority party. And now she can, if she has the will, can do the things that she thinks ought to be done. I escorted her to a concert that Mahalia Jackson gave her; if I had the time I’d tell you about it, it was the most fantastic performance and she just loved it. And she couldn’t be nicer in her dealings with me. So that I consider that there is a change in the situation. And I sent two cables to the Department. Henry, the numbers are 5311—New Delhi 5311—and 6031.
Keating: One was sent shortly after the Army went in and started the killing in East Pakistan.
Kissinger: Yeah, I’ve read it.
Keating: You know, it was the result of a lot of talk. It represents my—
Kissinger: The basic principle is that [unclear].
Keating: Yes. [unclear exchange]The main thing is to… I’m convinced there is a change in the subcontinent. And that India should not be equated with Pakistan. India is a strong, stable power now while Pakistan is having all this difficulty. The other one, the second one, had to do with the AID program and my recommendations as to what should be done about aid. And both of those I stand on as my recommendations, which—
Kissinger: No, I didn’t see that.
Nixon: Is it something to act on now?
Keating: No, no. They represent in further form my views, and they’re the consensus of my staff that is super. I have a wonderful staff, I think, and they’re so loyal, and they’re just great.
Nixon: That’s good.
Keating: Now, I presume you’re interested in knowing what the Foreign Minister is going to say to you. And I can only guess, but I have talked—
Nixon: What does he want? Does he want to talk about—I suppose he wants to talk about Pakistan.
Keating: Yes, that’s it. Because—
Nixon: What do they want US to do?
Keating: Well this—
Nixon: Break up Pakistan?
Keating: No. No. In the beginning they were, just as we were, for a single Pakistan after that election, because this sheik, Mujibur Rahman, was Pro-Indian and Pro-American. He was—they envisioned a different picture in that they were going to be friends with Pakistan. And then when the army walked in and knocked out the elections of course they were upset. There were two reasons they were upset. That was one. The other was that there are Bengalis on both sides of the border and they have family ties and all that. Now I went to see him to tell him about the AID we’re to give him. And it’s greater now. And I think he’ll express his appreciation for that, he should. I believe he will.
Nixon: What are we up to now?
Keating: Seventeen and a half million.
Nixon: The first one was two and a half million.
Keating: Yes, it was two and a half million when I went in.
Kissinger: The C–130s.
Keating: And the C–130s. That’s all a new—we’re doing quite a little. And he should be, I believe will be grateful. He’s a very nice fellow; I don’t know that you’ve met him.
Keating: Very kind fellow. Now, beyond that, he will say, as he did to me: "This AID is great. We appreciate it very much.” But he said the basic problem is to try to get these refugees back into Pakistan. We cannot stand this drain on India, which, if it lasted for a year with the present numbers would cost $400 million—
Nixon: What is it, 300,000?
Kissinger: No, it’s about—
Keating: Five million. And add that it’s in a crowded part of India.
Nixon: Sorry, it was 300,000 we were feeding.
Keating: That’s right. That’s correct. About five million, and of that about three of them—
Nixon: Why don’t they shoot them?
Keating: About three of them are in Calcutta. Calcutta is the size of New York. It’d be like dumping three million people into New York, except that Calcutta is in much worse shape than New York. Not too much, but it’s worse. And it’s a horrible problem. Now, he said they’re still coming at that time at 100,000 a day—the latest I heard was 150,000 a day—because they’re killing the Hindus. And the thing that, in the beginning, these refugees were about in the proportion to the population—85 percent Muslim, 15 percent Hindus. Because when they started the killing it was indiscriminate. Now, having gotten control of the large centers, it is almost entirely a matter of genocide killing the Hindus. And the intellectual leaders, the leaders in the country that they want to get rid of, primarily these Awami League people, they’ve killed them. They’ve outlawed the Awami League that got 98 percent of the polls, elected 167 out of the 169 members of Parliament. And they arrested him as a traitor, Mujib, and they have outlawed the Awami League. Now what he is going to plead for, I have heard that even since I have left, they have come to the conclusion that because of this horrible refugee problem, this is since I’ve talked to you, they are for a political settlement of any kind in East Pakistan which will get the people back. Now the Hindus, I don’t think, will go back. But a lot of the Muslims would go back if there was some kind of a political settlement. And I think he will probably urge a political settlement there. The thing that—two things: he wants to stop the refugees coming, which means stop the killing. And two, get the refugees flowing the other way back into Pakistan.
Nixon: What does he think, Ken, we should do? What would we recommend?
Keating: He thinks—I think he thinks—
Nixon: We should pressure Yahya?
Keating: Yes. I think he feels that—what he said is Russia and the United States are the only ones that can influence Yahya to stop the killing. And he said in my judgment the United States has more leverage with him than Russia has. And the only way is an economic way. Of course, I understand that there’s no plan to just go on as business as usual in economics. After this consortium meeting, the Bank and the—this informal meeting that takes place next week—the [World] Bank and the International Monetary Fund sent this Peter Cargill [Director of the South Asia Division of the World Bank] up there. And he is going to make a report to them on what he has found and what he feels should be done. And the next thing they’re going to consider it back here and take it up at that time. No commitments, I believe, are going to be made at this Paris meeting. But I suspect he will find that the situation in East Pakistan, which Yahya says is normal, or practically normal, is far from normal and won’t be normal in a year. And what the political settlement is that he can bring about, that I’m not able to get in my head because this Amin was the biggest leader next to Mujib, he got one or two members of Parliament, and they tried to get, Yahya tried to get him to head it up and he wouldn’t touch it because he’d get his throat slit. Now they had a few, I’m told, a few members of the Awami League, about nine, who are ready to help form a government. But the bitterness is so great that I believe, and indeed Joe Farland does, that the old Pakistan is through. There will be—they cannot catch this together. Joe has said that in his cable, and I feel it very strongly. And there’s got to be a new pressure.
Now, I am conscious of the special relationship that you have with Yahya. And I respect it and I don’t to want to—
Keating: Personal relationship.
Nixon: Not only just that, but there are some other major considerations.
Nixon: Well, let me say this, when do we see SINGH? Tomorrow?
Kissinger: Thursday, Mr. President.
Nixon: Thursday, fine. [Thursday was June 17. The meeting took place on June 16.]
Keating: There has been some suggestion that it will be possible for you to, I don’t think this has come to you yet, but it’s something we’ve talked about in the Department—
Keating: It will be so long before AID to Pakistan, in the way of developmental aid, will be possible that a diversion, a certain amount of that, to help India with its refugee problem. It might be possible for you to suggest that to him in this meeting. That paper I don’t know whether that’s reached you yet or not. But—
Kissinger: No, no. I know about the—Connally told me about it.
Kissinger: That’s a scheme they thought up of taking $25 million out of—
Nixon: The Pakistan aid—
Kissinger: The Pakistan AID and give it to India.
Nixon: I think we just better find the money to give to India.
Keating: I don’t think any, I don’t think any—I think they had about $80 million for Pakistan. And it will be some time before they—
Kissinger: Well they want to take—there’s $70 million for Pakistan—well, there are two issues here. One is whether they could use it, whether the Pakistanis could use it if we gave it to them. The second is how Pakistan will react if we take money from their budget for India.
[Omitted here is a discussion unrelated to South Asia]
Nixon: Let me say this, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about India. There are 400 million Indians.
Nixon: 550? [unclear]
Keating: There are.
Nixon: I don’t know why the hell anybody would reproduce in that damn country but they do. But nevertheless, I know that country is trying to make it [unclear]basically with some semblance of democracy—private enterprise, call it whatever you want. And I know that looming over from the north are the Chinese [unclear]. It’s, therefore, very much in our interest to see that India, we want them to succeed. Because there are 550 million people, we want them to do well. And they always hate US [unclear]internationally, we know that.
Keating: Not always.
Nixon: Not always. But that’s irrelevant. I mean [unclear] but what I’m getting at is here, right now, you can be sure that we will play a friendly game with the Indians. Particularly in view of the fact that the Government is more stable, that is good, and you can take a more rational line on things like Kashmir. But the other thing is that, I think we have to realize too, that it would not be in our interest, maybe there is going to be a Pakistan collapse, depends on what happens in the next 6 months. It may never be in our interest. But it certainly is not now for reasons we can’t go into. Under those circumstances, what we have to do, Ken, is to find a way to be just as generous as we can to the Indians, but also we do not want to do something that is an open breech with Yahya—an open breech, an embarrassing situation. And that’s really the problem. You can reassure Mrs. Gandhi, [unclear] we want to help here in every way we can [unclear].
Nixon: And let me say, the openness as far as the Congress is concerned, there really isn’t anything in it. [unclear] Not one goddamn bit. It’s not a popular country in this Congress.
Keating: No, I know that. I served there. I know that.
Nixon: But that is even less popular today because foreign AID is less popular.
Keating: That’s right.
Nixon: But nevertheless—
Keating: But in the Congress there’s a strong feeling on this Pakistan—India—
Nixon: I understand that, I understand that. [unclear] Hell, they had US involved in a civil war in Biafra, and now they want US out of Pakistan. But nevertheless, we’ve got to take up here for reasons that go far beyond India-Pakistan relations another position. So we will be very, very conciliatory with the Foreign Minister. But we must not do it in a way, I hope our Embassy has our position on this [unclear] refugees in both Pakistan and India wherever they are. But, on the other hand, not to allow the refugee problem to get US involved in the internal political problems. You see that’s our policy too. He might, if he asks me about it [unclear].
Keating: And we also must avoid—if possible—any conflict, armed conflict, between the two.
Nixon: Oh, God.
Keating: And the Indians, they’re pressing Mrs. Gandhi so hard, and Parliament is now in session, the politicians are—
Keating: And up to date I must say she’s been a [unclear]. They’re pressing her very hard that we can’t stand this refugee thing. We’ll just go in and take a little piece out of Pakistan where you can put these refugees. We can’t hold them here, so that means war. And he will probably bring that up.
[Omitted here is a discussion unrelated to South Asia. Nixon and Kissinger continued their discussion after Keating left.]
Nixon: I don’t know what the Christ we are up to.
Kissinger: The most insulting way we can—
Nixon: You have to go now?
Kissinger: I have an appointment with Rush but he can wait.
Nixon: [unclear] My God, does Farland, is he sending memoranda that he thinks Pakistan is finished also?
Kissinger: Baloney. He’s got this maniac in Dacca, the Consul General who is in rebellion; the point is, Mr. President, first of all, I’ve talked to the Indian Ambassador as I’ve said to you, I said you want to have a direct communication through him with Mrs. Gandhi. That we need 3 or 4 months to work it out. We will find them some money, we will gradually move into a position to be helpful, but we’ve got to do it our way. Just to shut them up.
Nixon: Right. Right. You told him that?
Kissinger: I told him all of that.
Nixon: We don’t tell the Foreign Minister that?
Kissinger: No, you can tell the Foreign Minister that above all. But in front of Keating he’ll blab it all over. Yeah, I’d say we have great sympathy, but they must be restrained. And we’ll try to find some money but we cannot take it out of the Pakistan budget.
Nixon: Well the Ambassador will tell the Foreign Minister that.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: But Keating will go blab it over to the State Department. What Keating had [unclear] Pakistan—they’re out of their goddamn minds. Of course we’re not going to take it out. That would bring down the Pakistan Government.
Kissinger: Well it would be considered such an insult by Yahya that the whole deal would be off.
Nixon: I don’t know what the Christ he’s talking about.
Kissinger: I will, when I’m talking to the Chinese, set up a separate channel so that we’re not so vulnerable. I mean we can’t be that—
Nixon: Of course, I don’t know, Henry, it just may be that the poor son-of-a-bitch can’t survive. Five million? Is it that bad really or are they exaggerating?
Kissinger: Of course, I don’t know how many of them they generate?
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Keating, Oval Office, Conversation No. 521–13. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.↩
- Keating gave Nixon and Kissinger his appreciation of the developing crisis in South Asia in the course of briefing them on their impending meeting with Indian Foreign Minister SINGH.↩