163. Conversation Among President Nixon, Secretary of Commerce Stans, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig), and the President’s Assistant and Press Secretary (Ziegler)1 2
Stans: And what you said before I left was that this could be a watershed in our relations. And Kosygin opened up the meetings saying, “Mr. Secretary, we have high hopes for your mission.” And so the thinking was parallel all the way through.
[Omitted here is discussion of an 11-day trip to the Soviet Union just completed by Secretary Stans.]
Nixon: I was wondering, Henry, what questions Ron would [unclear].
Kissinger: Let me tell you first—
Nixon: Don’t you think you ought to cover—
Kissinger: What I thought I would do is to take a very—
Nixon: Do you think we ought to postpone?
Ziegler: No, no. Backgrounder.
Nixon: No, I didn’t mean—the whole corps. The whole corps.
Kissinger: Well, what I thought, Mr. President, I do—
Nixon: But this isn’t too bad. This isn’t too hard.
Nixon: Forty people, perhaps. Or do you expect more?
Nixon: Well, that’s good. Then you can have an intelligent conversation. Go ahead, Henry.
Kissinger: What I thought I would do is to first, say a lot of nice things about the Indians. As, you know, of our concern for the Indians, how we consider them one of the key countries in the world. And that what we have been forced to say the last few days has been done with enormous reluctance. I think we ought to parse it this way. Then to say—
Nixon: You might even say this: The President, our concern is, why don’t you put it—be a little bit stronger. First of all, I visited India in 1953, and I visited there on two other occasions, but for a considerable time in 1967 and, of course, briefly as President. I have great interest, as I’ve said there, and I said when she was here, expressed our views that it is the policy of the United States to help the largest nation of the world—free nation—succeed because [unclear] very important that they succeed. That’s why we’re one of the strongest supporters in terms of [unclear]. I think that’s not a bad idea. If there is a problem, and you think there’s a problem [unclear]. I don’t know how or when. [unclear]
Nixon: Oh my God, when I was in India in 1967, I was there 3 days, and I saw Mrs. Gandhi, the President, the Vice President, every goddamn Indian [unclear].
Kissinger: Yeah. I don’t really think I ought to—
Nixon: Who said it?
Nixon: I think it was Hal.
Kissinger: I don’t think—
Nixon: Utterly ridiculous.
Kissinger: I don’t really—
Nixon: If it comes up, [unclear] you know what the [unclear] she said quite the contrary [unclear].
Kissinger: But then I thought I would simply summarize everything we had done—on both sides. And I can make in a very low key way an enormously damning case against the Indians.
Nixon: What are you going to do? Well, what is our purpose?
Kissinger: Our purpose is to say—
Nixon: [unclear] Let me just get—as I understand, Teddy has attacked on what ground? That we should have expressed concern about Pakistan’s rape of East Pakistan? Did we—did we express concern about that?
Kissinger: We cut off—
Nixon: Jesus Christ—
Kissinger:—No, what I would—
Kissinger: What I will say to that is that our actions spoke for us. That we cut the economic assistance. We cut all military supplies except some licenses.
Nixon: Those that were in the pipeline.
Kissinger: And not even all of—and even some of those.
Nixon: Right. And we used our influence to create [unclear].
Kissinger: That when I was in India, at your request, I told the Indians that we thought we should maintain some equity with the Pakistanis, and they said they understood this. So they weren’t asking us to make any condemnation.
Nixon: The question was to condemn and have no influence or to continue relations and have some.
Kissinger: Let’s find out how much military aid we cut off.
[Unclear exchange of conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, and Ziegler]
Ziegler: I think the overriding—
Nixon: What do they need to hear?
Ziegler: I think the overriding advantage of Henry, the way he knows how to do these things, will be without even referring directly to Kennedy, which I don’t want to do, for sure. He will put it in perspective that will put Kennedy out here in left field and not really relating to realities. And I think the documentation on India at the time of the East Pakistani blow up, and how it all evolved to the point where we can say that India has led to the crisis.
Nixon: It’s what we need at this time.
Ziegler: It’s a prospectus.
Nixon: He wants to see my schedule.
Ziegler: l called him on that.
Nixon: I also said yes to [unclear].
Ziegler: And I also talked to him about the fact, I said, if you have any question at all, Marvin, I said if you have any question at all about the humanitarian concerns we have expressed both the last months about East Pakistan and Pakistan, number one, you know damn well how much money we put in there. I said, number two, I can refer you to transcript after transcript where we have referred to the President’s concern [unclear].
Nixon: [unclear exchange] But Marvin Kalb, the fact that he’s on it shows the Russians are helping.
Kissinger: Oh, yeah. The Russians have an outrageous [unclear]. And you know they just—We have an intelligence report today that they told the Indians we were [unclear-providing?] arms to Pakistan.
[Omitted here is a portion of the conversation not related to South Asia]
Nixon: You want—you’re going to try and make the point that we have maintained our influence with Pakistan. That influence, as a result of it, they have accepted all the various conditions we have laid down and were prepared to accept others. Right? And if we had not maintained our influence they would have done nothing.
Kissinger: Well, I—
Nixon: The UN observers, the military civilian government, the—you know, good God.
Kissinger: And I can show a real pattern of Indian deceit. For example, on November 19, I saw the Indian Ambassador. On November 15 I saw the Pakistan Foreign Secretary. And I told him we needed a maximum program because it would be very difficult to prevent hostilities from breaking out. He said he would let me know after he came back on the 22nd.
Nixon: Well, is this—
Kissinger: And on the 19th I told this to the Indian Ambassador. And he said, “Well let me know as soon as you know when will that be.” I said around the 28th. On the 22nd they attacked. So—
Nixon: Henry, what do you want to have come out of it?
Kissinger: Well, I what I want to have come out of this, for your sake Mr. President, is to show first of all, that in action we showed enormous concern.
Nixon: For the refugees?
Kissinger: For the refugees. That in practice we’ve made major efforts to bring about a political settlement. In fact, the only political movement that has occurred has been at our urging.
Nixon: That’s right.
Kissinger: Thirdly, that we were in the process of negotiating with the Pakistanis to move them even further. That we told this to the Indians—
[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]
Nixon: So the purpose is to show that we’ve done the best we can. We have no influence—we have no responsibility for either. It’s not our job. The Russians have an interest in India. The Chinese have a hell of an interest in Pakistan. We only have an interest in peace. We’re not anti-Indian; we’re not anti-Pakistan. We are anti-aggression, as a means of solving an internal, a very difficult internal problem.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among Nixon, Kissinger, Haig, and Ziegler, Oval Office, Conversation No. 631–4. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.↩
- Following a report to Nixon by Stans on his trip to the Soviet Union, Nixon, Kissinger, Haig, and Ziegler discussed a background briefing Kissinger intended to give the press concerning the crisis in South Asia.↩