154. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan1 2

Nixon: Our sentiments I expressed to your previous ambassador who—before he left, a fine man. And we talked very directly to Mrs. Gandhi. Believe me. Publicly we did all those things. But very directly, and I speak straight from the shoulder. And Kissinger, Henry, can tell you what I said. And I think you have it, do you not? So did Rogers. Rogers was very tough on it. Now, Rogers told me he saw you Monday. Now the thing we, the thing we can do is that—what we are trying desperately to do is not to allow this terrible tragedy, the agony that you’re going through, [to] be a pretext to start a war. We just aren’t going to allow that if we can help it. We’re also talking with our Soviet friends.

[unclear exchange]

Nixon: At my suggestion—

Kissinger: To explain that.

Nixon:—we’ve done that. Now, yet, I hear every morning, as Henry will tell you, I’m on the phone with him Sunday; I was on the phone with you Saturday. I was, you know, every morning we worry about these things. But what we can do from here remains to be seen. There was one unfortunate thing, that announcement to the effect that the arms were [unclear] gave the impression [unclear–that it was done?] because she was here. It had nothing to do with that at all.

Khan: This I can assure you, the President—

Nixon: He knows that.

Khan:—he knows fully—

Nixon: You know I was the one who put them back in, and—but I didn’t want you to be embarrassed by that.

Khan: [unclear] Democratic pundits and all that. He fully appreciates that it could not have been your intention to embarrass him in any way, and we just took it in stride that it will show that. He asked me, he asked me in that way, a very sincere position. He knows the concern you have, sir, for Pakistan [unclear].

Nixon: I have indeed. Let me say that the President is a good friend to me. He is a good friend to Kissinger. I—let me be quite candid with you. As I told your former ambassador, and as the President knows, there’s a huge public relations campaign here. Many of our friends in the other party, and including, I must say, some of the nuts in our own party—soft heads–have jumped on it, have completely bought the Indian line. And India has a very great propaganda line. And if you read our press, I mean, you get the whole impression that India’s completely right. Now that’s shifting a little. India may have overplayed its hand a bit. I’m talking with great candor with you, and this is just for your ears and the President’s. The important thing is we know—I know—that this is one of those terrible problems that, frankly, must be solved by a political solution; it must not be solved by force. And we simply want to play a role which will be helpful and won’t harm you. We will try to restrain to the extent that we have any influence [on] the Indians. We will do everything we can to try to help you in your cause. That’s where we stand here. How, what we can do—what we can do, of course, is limited by the circumstances. We don’t control the Indians. That’s accurate. The fact that, if you, if there’s any more—I’d like, I would, I’d like to give you more encouragement than this, but I’d like to be totally honest.

Khan: [Unclear] We realize that the Indians are not [unclear].

Nixon: Yeah.

Khan: [unclear] And I’m grateful you anticipated our desire and have [unclear—been in contact with the Russians?] on this. Because, if you can [unclear—bring the Russians?]with you on the need for maintaining peace on the subcontinent, it just might turn the tide.

Nixon: I hope so. Well, the Russians should have some influence. What reaction did we get from our—well he doesn’t know.

Kissinger: Well, he claims that they are not sending much military equipment, and that they are warning the Indians against precipitous action. But I’m seeing him again later this week.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: And this will be one of the high items on my agenda.

Nixon: For what effect it has, the Indians are aware that this must stop. Or they can count us out. Do you see what I mean?

Khan: I do, sir.

Nixon: That’s the way it’s going to be.

Kissinger: I’ve also told the Foreign Secretary that in their contacts with the Chinese they can emphasize to them that we are prepared to discuss joint tactics with them in the UN, for example.

Nixon: Yes, yes. Now the UN thing is very, we can, of course, I don’t want our State Department people talking to the Chinese at the UN at this point. That can be your job, right?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: On the other hand, we should do this [unclear—same thing?]. The difficulty with the UN thing, as I would see it, is if you get it in to the UN, and you may want to go there, but on the other hand, you don’t want to get it in there and then get that General Assembly—you just don’t know how the votes are going to come out. Now, of course, the Chinese are in the Security Council. So, what we want to do—

Kissinger: It’s a bad line up.

Nixon: Huh?

Kissinger: Bad line up.

Nixon: It doesn’t impress me as being a very good show.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Sultan Khan, Oval Office, Conversation No. 617–17. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.
  2. Nixon briefed Sultan Khan on his conversation with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi, assured him of U.S. sympathy and support for Pakistan, and discussed U.S. efforts to try to prevent a war.