172. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

Kissinger : Today, I want to tell you what I have done, tentatively, subject to your approval.

Nixon : Let’s go ahead.

Kissinger : They’ve got this East Pakistan—they’ve got the offer of the commander of the Pakistan forces in East Pakistan to get a ceasefire and so forth. They were going to run to the Security Council and get that done. We don’t want to be in a position where we push the Pakistanis over the cliff.

Nixon : No.

Kissinger : So I told them to link the ceasefire in the east with the ceasefire in the west.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

Kissinger : The ceasefire in the west is down the drain.

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : I mean the east is down the drain. The major problem now has to be to protect the west.

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : So I’ve told them that they should link any discussion of ceasefire in the east with ceasefire in the west. And to use this to wrap the whole business up. I’ve got Vorontsov coming in at 11:30 and I’m going to tell him what the Pakistanis did in the east—

Nixon : was a result of our—

Kissinger :—was as a result of what we did. Which is true. I’m going to show him the Kennedy understanding. I’m going to hand him a very tough note to Brezhnev and say, “this is it now, let’s settle the—let’s get a cease fire now.” That’s the best that can be done now. They’ll lose half of their country, but at least they preserve the other half. The east is gone.

Nixon : What is it the east in effect offered?

Kissinger : Well, the east—the commander in the east has offered—it’s a little bit confused. He’s asked the United Nations to arrange an immediate, honorable repatriation of his forces. In other words, turn over to civilian authority.

Nixon : Right. And?

Kissinger : And that’s, in effect, all. And a promise that the Indians would eventually withdraw too. But that’s going to happen anyway. I mean, to participate in that is a nice humanitarian effort, but it does not solve the overwhelming problem of the war in the west.

Nixon : Does State understand that?

Kissinger : No. Well they understand it now, believe me.

Nixon : Yeah. See the point is, our desire is to save West Pakistan. That’s all.

Kissinger : That’s right. That is exactly right.

Nixon : All right. Fine. What is State up to now? We’re still getting, you’re still getting those—keep those carriers moving now.

Kissinger : The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis, the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

Nixon : When are you going to see the Chinese? This afternoon?

Kissinger : 5:30.

Nixon : What are you going to tell them?

Kissinger : I’m going to tell them everything we did, and I’m going to tell them that we, I’m going to tell them what forces we’re moving.

Nixon : Could you say that it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?

Kissinger : Absolutely.

Nixon : They’ve got to threaten or they’ve got to move, one of the two. You know what I mean?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Threaten to move forces or move them, Henry, that’s what they must do. Now goddamn it, we’re playing our role and that will restrain India. And also tell them that this will help us get the ceasefire. We don’t want to make a deal with the Russians [that] the Chinese will piss on.

Kissinger : Absolutely. Oh, God. That’s why—

Nixon : The Chinese at the present time are kicking the hell out of the Russians about this, you know. The Russians are kicking the Chinese saying that the Chinese are playing with the Paks and the Paks—you know what I mean? This is a Russian-Chinese conflict.

Kissinger : Mr. President, if we stay strong, even if it comes out badly, we’ll have come out well with the Chinese, which is important.

Nixon : How about getting the French to sell some planes to the Paks?

Kissinger : Yeah. They’re already doing it.

Nixon : All right, why not? I mean, if they need some supplies, why not the French?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Now the French are just—they’ll sell to anybody.

Kissinger : Yeah, they are selling them now.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to Pakistan.]

Nixon : Let me say this on the French thing, can you talk with the French? And, is there any way we can get them—I mean we talk about the United States helping, furnishing arms to Pakistan, how about getting the French to sell them in some instances?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : It’s a question of sales, isn’t it really?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Yeah.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

Nixon : Now coming back to this India-Pakistan thing, have we got anything else we can do?

Kissinger : No. I think we’re going to crack it now.

Nixon : Then I hope that the Indians will be warned by the Chinese, right?

Kissinger : Well, I’ll have to find out tonight.

Nixon : You do your best, Henry.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : This should have been done long ago. The Chinese have not warned the Indians.

Kissinger : Oh, yeah.

Nixon : They haven’t warned them that they’re going to come in. And that’s the point. They’ve got to warn them—it’s just—

Kissinger : Uh, huh.

Nixon : All they’ve got to do is move something. Move their, move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. We’re not doing a goddamn thing, Henry, you know that. We’re just moving things around, aren’t we?

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : But these Indians are cowards. Right?

Kissinger : Right. But with Russian backing. You see, the Russians have sent notes to Iran, Turkey, to a lot of countries threatening them. The Russians have played a miserable game.

Nixon : So we’ll do the same thing, right?

Kissinger : Exactly.

Nixon : Threatening them with what? If they come in and what?

Kissinger : They’ll do something. They haven’t said what they’ll do. But they’ll settle now. After your conversation with Matskevich yesterday, they’re going to settle.

Nixon : What basis [unclear]?

Kissinger : The ceasefire in the west is all that’s left.

Nixon : The ceasefire in the west. And what, though, on East Pakistan? What do we do about that? Are we going to just say that—

Kissinger : No, we—

Nixon : Indian occupation or Bangladesh? Or what?

Kissinger : What we—

Nixon : Are we going to oppose Bangladesh recognition? What’s our position?

Kissinger : The best would be—

Nixon : Is anybody involved on these things?

Kissinger : Yes, yes. The best not [unclear], but the best would be if—

Nixon : See, how are we, if we cannot tell those people how we want it to come out, we can’t have a decent plan. That’s what we haven’t had at this point.

Kissinger : That’s right. Well, we’ve had—after the Brezhnev letter came yesterday we sent a copy of it to Yahya.

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : We’ve told him the pros and cons of accepting it.

Nixon : Right.

Kissinger : And now Yahya has come back with a proposal saying ceasefire, negotiations for mutual withdrawal, and negotiations to settle the political future of—

Nixon : [unclear]

Kissinger : And then what will happen on the Bangladesh, Mr. President, is that whatever West Pakistan and these people work out, we will accept. But we will not be in the fore—in the front. If we can get—

Nixon : Whatever West Pakistan works out with whom?

Kissinger : With—the negotiations on East Pakistan.

Nixon : India has not even—but India will not agree to negotiations on East Pakistan.

Kissinger : Yeah, but the Russians have already agreed to it. So what will happen, let’s be realistic, what will happen is that the representatives of East Pakistan will demand independence. And in practice I think that is what West Pakistan will then agree to. But then it won’t be us who’ve done it. This will solve the problem of do we recognize Bangladesh against the wishes of the Pakistan Government.

Nixon : That’s right. We must never recognize Bangladesh. That’s why no answer’s the right thing, until West Pakistan—

Kissinger : Well, that’s the point.

Nixon : Gives us the go-ahead. Bhutto will do it. Now, I want a program of aid to West Pakistan formulated immediately. Have some sort of a program, you know, after they’re there. We cannot let them hang out there by themselves. I don’t think we can do much from a military standpoint, but let’s find a way to let others do it. That’s one suggestion. On the French thing, I want you to talk to the French cold turkey. We’d like to find a way to help to work with the French, can we? You got any arms in there?

Kissinger : I will do my best.

Nixon : Can you think of anything else?

Kissinger : No, I think—

Nixon : I don’t think we can get—frankly Henry, I don’t think we can get through the Congress arms sales to West Pakistan. That’s what I mean. Do you?

Kissinger : No.

Nixon : All right. Then what was our answer? Give them a hell of a lot of economic assistance, correct?

Kissinger : I can let them convert it into—

Nixon : And let them convert into—well that’s their, that’s their, we don’t ask the Indians, we’ve given the Indians all this economic assistance, and we didn’t ask any questions when they made a treaty with the Russians and bought Russians arms. Did we raise any questions about that?

Kissinger : And the point you made yesterday, we have to continue to squeeze the Indians even when this thing is settled. They can’t get—these 84 million dollars are down the drain.

Nixon : That’s right. That’s gone. And incidentally we’ve already spent 25 million of it on the crap that—take another 25 million and give it to the Paks.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : We’ve got to for rehabilitation. I mean, Jesus Christ, they’ve bombed—I want all the war damage; I want to help Pakistan on the war damage in Karachi and other areas, see?

Kissinger : See the reason—I’m getting Vorontsov in, Mr. President, at 11:30—

Nixon : Yeah. Yeah.

Kissinger : I’m going to put before him, I’m going to show him that Kennedy

Nixon : Yeah. And say, “This is what the President’s talking about.”

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : Now, and say now listen, we didn’t [unclear] and we just want to say we’re not—don’t get, just say the President is, as you know, you must never misjudge this man. He doesn’t pound on the table, and he doesn’t shout. But when he talks the way he does—I’ve walked with him for 3 years, this is the way he means it. It’s just cold fact. I’d put it that way. I think you’ve got to be [unclear—personable?]

Kissinger : Mr. President, I don’t have, this was, if this thing comes up, between you and me we know that West Pakistan is lost. If you can save West Pakistan it will be an unbelievable achievement because West Pakistan has had all its oil supplies destroyed.

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : They’ve had no spare parts from us for months. Their army is ground down. And 2 more weeks of war and they’re finished in the west as much as they are in the east. So if we can save West Pakistan, it would still be a defeat, but we would have done it. And the Chinese will know that. And the Russians will know it. And the Indians will not be happy with it.

Nixon : I don’t want the Indians to be happy. I want the Indians—I want also, put this down, and get Scali in. Use him more. I want a public relations program developed to piss on the Indians. I mean, that atrocity of the [unclear], for example.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : I want to piss on them for their responsibility. Get a white paper out. Put down, White paper. White paper. Understand that?

Kissinger : Oh, yeah.

Nixon : I don’t mean for just your reading. But a white paper on this—

Kissinger : No, no. I know.

Nixon : I want the Indians blamed for this, you know what I mean? We can’t let these goddamn, sanctimonious Indians get away with this. They’ve pissed on us on Vietnam for 5 years, Henry.

Kissinger : Yeah.

Nixon : And what do we do? Here they are raping and murdering, and they talk about West Pakistan, these Indians are pretty vicious in there, aren’t they?

Kissinger : Absolutely.

Nixon : Aren’t they killing a lot of these people?

Kissinger : Well, we don’t know the facts yet. But I’m sure [unclear] that they’re not as stupid as the West Pakistanis—they don’t let the press in. The idiot Paks have the press all over their place.

Nixon : Well, the Indians did, oh yes. They brought them in, had pictures of spare tanks and all the rest. Brilliant. Brilliant public relations.

Kissinger : Yeah, but they don’t let them in where the civilians are.

Nixon : Oh, I know. But they let them in to take the good shots. The poor, damn Paks don’t let them in at all.

Kissinger : Or into the wrong places.

Nixon : Yeah.

Kissinger : The Paks just don’t have the subtlety of the Indians.

Nixon : Well, they don’t lie. The Indians lie. Incidentally, did Irwin carry out my order to call in the Indian Ambassador?

Kissinger : Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Nixon : He did?

Kissinger : Within an hour.

Nixon : And he told him he would not accept a—what they, well it came out fortuitously, didn’t it? The right thing to say at this time.

Kissinger : It could not have worked better. It’s all working together.

Nixon : Because we said to them that the acquisition of territory will not be accepted, correct?

Kissinger : Right.

Nixon : And that we had to have their assurance. What did the Ambassador say on [to] these instructions?

Kissinger : Well, he said, “How can you even suspect this?” and “What gave you this idea?”

Nixon : That’s what you expected him to say.

Kissinger : Oh, yeah.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, Oval Office, Conversation No. 635–8. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation published here specifically for this volume.
  2. Nixon and Kissinger discussed the measures that could serve to preserve the territorial integrity of West Pakistan. Nixon ordered a program of economic support for West Pakistan and a public relations campaign to fix the blame for the crisis on India.