138. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the Indian Foreign Minister (Singh), and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1 2

Kissinger: Now on the Indian who’s waiting; the basic problem is to give him a combination of both sympathy, so that he can go home with—to Mrs. Gandhi and—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger:—and great firmness. Now I have, in addition to what you will say, but with Sisco there you won’t have much of a chance to. I’ve told Yahya that he had a personal channel through me to you. I’m just trying to keep them [the Indians] from attacking for 3 months. Now, if you could say that you are directing, that $60 million be made available for refugee support after July 1.

Nixon: Do they know that yet?

Kissinger: No. This is why it would be very helpful.

Nixon: Does Sisco know?

Kissinger: No, but it’s based on a recommendation from the State Department.

Nixon: That’s all right.

Kissinger: Out from the Embassy there. They’ll be delighted.

Nixon: Fifty thousand?

Kissinger: Yeah, and $20 million. You will see whether you can get $20 million from other programs this month. Now, they wanted to take it out of Pakistan. I stopped that.

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: But we can take a little from Turkey and a little from Indonesia and pay it back to them after July 1st. But if you could give those two figures, then you’ll get the credit for it and—

Nixon: And that we are concerned.

Kissinger: Well, he’ll have a story. And that we cannot—that you think that overt pressure on Pakistan would have a counter-productive effect, and that you are working with Yahya in your own way. It’s a little duplicitous, but these bastards understand that.

Nixon: I must say I am not too damned impressed with Keating. I think he’s just gone overboard. Now I must say maybe there’s a hell of a problem on which the TV is starting to pick it up now.

Kissinger: Oh, it is a hell of a problem.

[Omitted here is a portion of the conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

Nixon: I don’t want to see [unclear, them start war?] just now.

Kissinger: Because you saw harm on it from Pakistan.

Nixon: I know, but I don’t want to see it more. You see? I just, they’re wasting my time. I just [unclear].

Kissinger: That really depends what we have to do. We have to keep them from attacking for our own reasons.

[Pleasantries were exchanged as Foreign Minister Swaran Singh, Ambassadors Jha and Keating, and Assistant Secretary of State Sisco entered the Oval Office. The White House photographer was present at the beginning of the meeting.]

Singh: Our Prime Minister asked me to convey her warmth and greetings. She greatly appreciates your letter, the United States [unclear]conveyed in that and she asks me to convey her greetings to you [unclear].

Nixon: Sure. I appreciate that. Tell her that we were all very impressed by her great political victory out there. It gave her the stability that she, that she needs now. It’s much, much better to look after a very successful election like that. [unclear] There’s a lot more to this. She has more confidence than previously.

Singh: Yes [unclear]—

Nixon: Things are going well from what Ambassador Keating tells me.

Singh: Yes, she has always had confidence, but now she also has strength to—

Nixon: That’s right.

Singh:—put them on [unclear]—

Nixon: Oh, I know. I know.

Singh: And, in fact, she was looking for a period when, as a result of this victory—

Nixon: Yeah.

Singh:—she’d have both peace and opportunity to implement the socio-economic content of the program on the basis of which she won.

Nixon: Uh-huh.

Singh: But suddenly she’s confronted with a—

Nixon: Yeah.

Singh:—type of situation not of her making.

Nixon: Oh. Yes.

Singh: Not to place blame here...

Nixon: Uh-huh.

Singh:... [unclear] being subjected at this present moment.

Nixon: Uh-huh.

Singh: [unclear] and she wanted to, wanted me to convey, Your Excellency, the latest situation, as the present one has no [unclear]and we are coming and that every second [unclear, refugees they come?]

Nixon: Every second?

Singh: Every second. So this is the type of situation that we face. And this has caused a tremendous problem to us, because they come in an area that traditionally is very dependent, both politically and economically.

Nixon: Would you like some tea or coffee?

Singh: Thank you very much.

Nixon: [aside] Ken?

Singh: I’m all right.

Nixon: [aside; whispering] Some tea perhaps, please. Thank you.

Singh: [unclear]

Nixon: No, I can’t.

Singh: Politically, economically adept. And if another six million people are ready to come in a state of anger, frustration, and destitute, that adds to the [unclear] ability and the social-economic tension that all of them have created. [unclear] We’ve reduced any financial [unclear]. In this situation, that we seek your advice how we should achieve that objective. But perhaps most important thing in that situation [unclear] will use this movement of refugees which always [unclear]. Technically, on this issue, we gave a clear [unclear, signal?]. We [unclear] the objective will be [unclear]. In this situation where we [unclear] many field commanders that we called feel it’s their own problem. It ceases to be an internal problem and it should affect [unclear] tension [unclear]. And it’s the best end right now that we’ve got. Support for this approach of ours and help with [unclear]. How to meet this objective, we believe that if the building of the [unclear] can be seen [unclear] make up their minds. [unclear]can be sure as he can be [unclear] security take [unclear].

Nixon: Hmmm.

Singh: And secondly, then, the condition that they are to be restored should enable you to return that. In the statements we are prepared to take, we must perhaps create this. [unclear] And for this, obviously some political settlement is needed. You mentioned in your letter to the Prime Minister you are engaged in this task in your quiet manner and tried to impress on them what you have done. We believe that the return from [unclear] is possibility if the military actions of trying to solve a situation [unclear]. Apparently those people who have now demonstrated [unclear] that they enjoy the confidence of the people [unclear]. In the long range there are really two guys [unclear]. This will be a situation in which [unclear].

Nixon: What do you think is the, what do you think is the benefit of [unclear] being able to—East Pakistan will to have to become independent, or what happens in the long run? This does not mean that your personal view, I know—that’s not what I meant. How do you see the historical process working down there?

Singh: I have a feeling, Mr. President, that showing, telling the United Nations that there’s a very good chance of saving Pakistan and [unclear]. [unclear] maintain central authority in an area of confrontation of the [unclear] can they handle central authority?

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Singh: [unclear] There’s a very good chance to have. Even the course of the negotiations, with all that we know, would even the Awami [unclear]more than contained in their six-point program in the direction. [unclear] without direction of this nature, and we have authority to create [unclear], so it could be saved. The Council has become most angered because they [unclear]. The confidence has been very rudely shaken. When the military rulers in Pakistan can still bring back the country themselves, those for the present moment who find themselves in the [unclear].

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Singh: [unclear] Then it appears that they’re pushing them more and more into the point of, the position of the point of no return. And it appears [unclear]. They must. We have an opposition quite clearly; it’s developed between the central authority of Pakistan and the leaders. So that [unclear] anything that we want to. They do not realize that from our point of view is when they separate from [unclear]. But we are bothered by the continuance of conditions of instability. Continuation of the conditions there you will find [unclear]; continuation of conditions where the military rule is pitted against almost united will of [unclear] people. [unclear] We’ll do that to maintain control of the situation. And that is something [unclear] from our [unclear]. [unclear]from our point of view; certainly from our point of view and maybe even from your point of view. Because it is a holy land, trying to resort to that. That your country and ours, we can work together, work in a [unclear] manner. To that extent [unclear] stability, so much in common. We should not.

Nixon: You don’t, you don’t have a feeling that the situation would be to your interest to have a, to have an independent country? What would be in India’s best interest? To have it independent or under the central government, for example—?

Singh: No, we have—we have no fixed position on that.

Nixon: That’s up to them, isn’t it?

Singh: On this matter we leave it up to the Pakistanis and the leaders of the Awami League to decide about their future in any manner they like. We will not press one or the other solution, or [unclear] to it. We are interested in observing the neutrality in [unclear] considering the situation.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Singh: That being our fixed position.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Singh: [unclear] silent spectators all [unclear] agreeing with what, to our arrangement to [unclear] the people and until then, it seems to me, there will be unstable conditions, at least.

Nixon: Yes.

Singh: And we are conscious of our responsibility and even when we were facing this big trouble in the end with these people when we [unclear] did our best. [unclear] All provisions are to be clear which were settled by [unclear] extra-constitutional means. [unclear]

Nixon: Sure. First let me say that we, that you couldn’t have a man more [unclear] in so far as bringing this matter to our attention, than your own Ambassador here. He’s talked to our people and he’s a very persuasive man and has let us know what the position is. And, of course, he has—we have great respect for him. And on our part we couldn’t have a person who is more vigorous in presenting this point of view which you have described. Of course, you would describe it in a more precise way than, which you naturally can in your position. It’s obvious that Ambassador Keating, of course you know an old friend of mine in the House and Senate. He lives here. We had a long talk yesterday. We went over all these matters.

Singh: [unclear]

Nixon: He is, he is just—he is concerned as your Ambassador, and of course we’re aware of this. So I am keenly aware of the problem. I’m aware, too, of the enormous agony that must be caused—I have not been, Rogers has been only once. [unclear] I have not been to Dacca, but I know that part of the subcontinent, that the problems of poverty are serious, very serious. And added to it is this instability. However simple their homes may be, they are their homes. And pouring into an already overcrowded city. This must be a terrible agony for a country to go through. We’re aware of this thing. Also imposed upon your country, big as it is, 600 million people. Nevertheless, five million people is a lot of people, because ...

Singh: We count six, Mr. President.

Nixon: Six million. Yeah, that’s right.

[unclear exchange]

Nixon: One every second, that’s 60 every minute.

Singh: [unclear]?

Nixon: [unclear] That’s over 600 an hour.

Singh: [unclear]

Nixon: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Now the, the—I am sure you realize, too, that what we can do, you know, what we feel is one thing; what we can do is another. We have the deepest sympathy and we will try to do as much as we can. We don’t want to do anything that would be, that has the opposite results from what we want, you know. Naturally, our—with regard to the Government of Pakistan, we of course have our contacts with them, our relations with them, with the President, of course. It’s terrible. The question is how we can discuss this matter with them in a way that will maybe, may bring about action that would lead to amelioration of the situation. Or how we, or—and avoiding [unclear, the woodshed?] might set up, as often is the case when such things are done too publicly, which would set up an antagonistic attitude. I’m not speaking personally from the standpoint of those who would look for something to be antagonistic about. That might just upset it all. We, I would like to say this: that we, I think that under best course of action—I’d like to talk first of all what would we need your advice with regard to what we can do with the meeting situation—the best course of action we think as a Government is for us to, is for you to have confidence, and I want you to convey this to the Prime Minister, on a completely off-the-record basis. Discussions that are publicly talked about would have exactly the opposite effect on that. You’ve got to, you must have confidence that one, I am acutely aware of the problem. I am deeply concerned about the problem for humanitarian [unclear, reasons?] and I am concerned about it for its foreign policy implications, for all this could erupt into some armed conflict. We know that. Now—therefore, we, I will use all the persuasive methods that I can, but I must use them in the way that I think is the most effective, in a way perhaps that, say, she might never use, in a way that any nation would want used when we talk with their leader and so forth. But I am aware of the problem, I shall try to use my influence as effectively as possible at least if effectively means not using it in a public, blunt way. And I [unclear] such and such is, had been. Not only has our concern been expressed but that you will have this in mind in future discussions that we have that we have to do it this way. And that has to be answered. The second thing is, of course, looking at the immediate problem that you need more funds; the Ambassador has discussed with us the various options that we have. We have an immediate problem between now and July 1st, and it’s just for here [unclear, ’til then?] And, but on the other hand, but because, you know, we’ve run out of money because it’s all been spent with only 15 days left. On the other hand we have out of other aid programs that won’t need any [unclear] because that would cause problems for where they came from. But we have been able to acquire $20 million that we will, we will find immediately available. And then in addition to that, on the July, on July 1st, we will be able to apply $50 million, so which will give you a total of $70 million to relieve them, the aid problem. We’d give you more, but that’s, that’s as much as we can find. You see, we have to take from various other commitments that have been made. So you get $20 million between now and the first of July, $50 million more on the first of July or just as soon as the fiscal year begins.

Keating: Yes.

Nixon: And that your Government can count on. Is that correct, roughly speaking, or is the 20—?

Kissinger: The difference is that we had to piece together the $20 million, Mr. President, out of other programs.

Nixon: Right. The point is we’ll find the $20 million. You can count on it. The $50 million—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Sisco: We’ve got that.

Kissinger: Including the lowest parts of your supplemental appropriations

Nixon: Right. And we’ve got to look down towards that, but on the other hand, I’m aware of the fact that this will take care of how many? Six million people. For how long? Not long. It’ll help. On the other hand, I realize that that does not get at the long-range problem. The long-range problem is how do we stop this inflow of people? How—maybe you’d start having them turn around, start outflowing them. That’s what we’re getting at. I think you, you first, you brought it to my attention when you met me. The Prime Minister and you heard this conversation with our Ambassador, Ambassador Keating. All brought it to my attention and I’m convinced of the seriousness of the problem. I will, I will try to find the methods that I think will be effective. I think it will protect [unclear] can’t do that. [unclear] effective. There may be other ways for this to be effective. But I think we have to, I think it must not be in a way that appears that we’re, that what has happened here is that the United States is inserting itself into basically an internal situation in an open way. That is we have to—we can be most effective by persuading the parties involved to come to a decision of theirs rather than one that’s imposed upon them. That’s at least my [unclear, instinct?] telling the individual players and so forth. That’s the way I see it at this time. And we will—the results will tell us whether we’re right or not. And also after trying that method for a while we’ll have to see the situation, but in the meantime, I think, and to the extent that we can, to keep as cool as possible, in terms of charges and counter-charges and all that sort of thing. We’ll—You can count on our financial assistance to the extent that we are able. And this—we will find this money. [unclear] Second, you will have the, on other side which is far more [unclear, important?] the governmental side. Let us, if you will, let us do that in our way, in the way we think will be more effective. That’s the way I would like to do it. You’re, do you approve or do you think there’s a better way to do it?

Singh: We greatly appreciate your sentiment and [unclear] in coming to a concrete conclusion in a short time. [unclear] This is an international responsibility. [unclear] We appreciate it, yes. [unclear]. You yourself mentioned it. [unclear] The question, one, how to stop it, and how to create conditions [unclear].

Nixon: This is the fundamental question now.

Singh: This is the fundamental question. [unclear]

Nixon: I know. I am aware of that. I am aware of the, I am aware of the fact that the funds, while essential, [deal] with a temporary problem do not handle—I am not suggesting at all, or have any illusions, that if we found $700 million to put into this thing that would simply buy the problem away. The problem is going to go away only as the deeper causes are resolved. And I am aware of that. How we get at those deeper causes is a very sensitive problem as you well know, and the Foreign Minister has to be highly sensitive to how people feel and approach us and so forth. And how other governments may feel about this, how they react. One way the public pressure, another way the private, shall we say persuasion. I have always believed in the latter myself as the most effective way, particularly when I know the individuals fairly well.

Singh: That we are agreed. Perhaps the whole problem can be divided into two parts. There are some aspects, which could [unclear]. France has agreed to make a statement to that effect. [unclear] in Moscow. And also the necessity of their returning. I agree that that’s a question to how [unclear]. We know what is actually happening. [unclear]

Nixon: We will then proceed on that basis. I don’t think anything, however, certainly at this point, would be served by any indication of the United States putting public pressure on Pakistan. That I know would be wrong if we want to accomplish our goal. On the other hand, something might be, something might very well be accomplished in other directions. I am aware of that. I would like to try it this way. We will, you can be sure that we’re as totally concerned about it as we can be, not being there. Incidentally, how much did the Germans provide? How much are they providing?

Singh: The German money, I honestly—

Nixon: How about the French?

Sisco: I looked at a figure today, Mr. President, I think the Germans are somewhere around two million, and the French are something a little less than that.

Nixon: That’s not enough.

Sisco: That’s not enough.

Nixon: All right, that’s not enough. The French and Germans have just as great an interest as we have. Here they are making all sorts of big statements and doing very little. Now, you head over to the French and Germans and their colleagues formally, that clear? The same with the low countries that talk big and don’t help much. I have no sympathy for them. [unclear] made a statement when he was here. The Germans can afford—if we can afford $70 million, the Germans can afford 10, easy—or 15.

Kissinger: We’ve already given 17.5.

Nixon: That’s right. We’ll, we’ve put in 100 so the Germans should put in 25. That’s the way it ought to be. Because you know, we don’t believe in this office of talking big and doing little.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation among Nixon, Singh, Kissinger, and Sisco, Oval Office, Conversation No. 523–2. No classification marking. Ambassadors Keating and Jha were also present.
  2. In a discussion of mounting tensions on the subcontinent, Singh sought to emphasize the “tremendous problem” created for India by the influx of refugees from East Pakistan. Nixon counseled patience while the U.S. provided additional funds to deal with the refugees and used quiet diplomacy to try to mediate a settlement in Pakistan.