212. Telegram 11838 From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1 2


  • Indo-American Relations


  • (a) New Delhi 642
  • (b) New Delhi 774
At his request, India Ambassador Jha accompanied by Minister Rasgotra and First Secretary Verma called on Under Secretary Irwin January 20. Quainton, NEA/INC, also present. Although Jha clearly wished to explore US views Under Secretary contented himself primarily with listening and asking a few questions. Jha began by noting recent Keating/Kaul meeting (ref A) and discussion of need to mend bilateral relations and get back on [Page 2] more even keel. Jha said he personally strongly believed in need to do this. Problem was how US planned to respond. Perhaps it was premature to expect response. It was important to take cognizance in both countries of fact that there is large public opinion. [Page 3] Indian public opinion very hurt and Utter about recent events and it would therefore be more difficult for GOI to take any initiatives than in this country. Basic fact is that India and US cannot remain aloof and indifferent. It is only a question of time before this is recognized. Jha asked whether it was better to bide our time or do something to hasten long term process.
Under Secretary replied that we have been carefully looking at what has happened and at present events. Amb Keating would be here next week, and we would be reviewing with him variety of aspects of our relations. We were interested in Keating/Kaul conversation. We will be looking at these questions over next period, and he hoped that out of that would come a time when, depending on attitudes of each government, we would be able to take new look at each other and develop a new relationship. Unfortunately in past, although India recognized US helpful economically, we seem never to have been politically attuned. We have certainly felt that India [Page 4] has never responded in a politically helpful way to our positions and problems throughout the world. Recent unequal recognition of Hanoi, when India was chairman of ICC, seemed to be continuation of past attitudes and practice. We recognize that India is and has been a power and that it is a great democracy. In time we hope for and look to develop our relations on a new basis.
Jha commented that while he recognized that Under Secretary was only citing Hanoi as example, he felt USG did not appreciate that GOI had never consciously taken any decision meaning it to be anti-American. GOI took decision in principle to recognize Hanoi some time back, but deferred out of deference to US sensitivities. Decision did not mean any departure from objectivity in dealing with problems of Indo-China. Recognition was only of North Vietnam and not of any DRV claim to take South by force.
Jha added that in context of misunderstandings he wished to touch on question of development of US relations with China. USG had felt that India was against it, and took it for granted that India would oppose. India does not oppose. Thus where USG could have taken Indian support for granted, it assumed opposition. Equally, where, as in case of Hanoi, there was no intention to be hostile, US took Indian actions to be hostile. USG misjudged not only Indian support but also its hostility. Jha asked where fault in communication had been. Speaking personally he thought a lot of trouble and misunderstanding came from reliance of some in US on “custodians of intelligence” and gossip they picked up. He said he believed great deal can be achieved by being frank and by believing each other. Under Secretary agreed these were necessary ingredients for any two countries to develop good relations. If USG sees no prospect of improving relations at this time Jha said it should say so, so that we are at least [Page 6] working with certain degree of mutual understanding and trust.
Jha then discussed at length current situation in subcontinent and problem of establishing internal balance and viability. While he had never been admirer Of President Bhutto, he thought Bhutto had recently displayed great deal of realism and critical sense in what he has done and said. Bhutto had told someone in whom Jha said he had trust that he recognized that if Pakistan continued to have running battle with India and kept arming with view to going to war, power of army would have to be maintained and there would never be return to democracy. He had therefore concluded Pakistan must come to terms with India. If true, this could lead to good relations not only between India and Pakistan, but also between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Jha said India wanted Pakistan to prosper just as it wanted Bangladesh to have economic viability which could make difference between an extreme leftist government and dedication to democracy. Nepal, which in no sense takes policy decisions to please India, and which has very good relations with China, Pakistan and US, has seen wisdom of recognizing BD, and of strengthening and supporting process now going on in BD.
Under Secretary asked Jha for his assessment of BD’s chances for stability and economic development and about Indian plans for keeping troops in BD for purposes of stability. Jha responded that Indian troops would be out in a few weeks as soon as apparatus for maintenance of law and order built up. India had declined to take responsiblities for linguistic minorities, because it felt it important for new government to accept responsibility. India was determined and anxious to pull out at earliest possible opportunity. Under Secretary [Page 8] noted Mujib’s call for turning in of arms. Jha acknowledged that success uncertain, but fact Mujib had called or it would deny guerrillas who failed to comply with much of their local base and support.
Rasgotra then commented on economic complimentarity of East and West Bengal. Before partition East Bengal was granary of West Bengal and much of India, and there was also a natural flow of economic activity. Rasgotra said that, in his view, BD would not be “international basket case” although it would need inputs from and cooperation with India. Jha added that after partition complimentary elements had been suppressed and denied, and such development, as took place, particularly in establishment of jute mills, was competitive with India. However, in future there would be more trade. BD would export fish, poultry and fresh vegetables to India and import cheap coal, steel and textiles. However, India could not afford customs union with BD [Page 9] in view of competitive jute situation. He hoped both sides would have sense to avoid trade war over jute. In addition rice production would go up rapidly in BD and there would be great opportunities for cooperative water management. There would also be considerable transit trade from Assam to Calcutta from which BD would derive revenue.
Jha commented that there would also be strong desire in BD to retain separateness and identity. Only Naxalites would want to carve out unified Communist Bengal. Under Secretary said he assumed it was important to India to have stable country on its eastern front, but wondered what would be demands on India to maintain that stability. Jha replied that stability for all India’s neighbors of utmost importance. However, India’s concern with their stability did not give it duty or right to meddle in what goes on in those countries. India cannot subjugate or dominate their political processes.
Rasgotra said he had nagging worry about West Pakistan stability. In BD he thought there was good chance of responsible system of government, which would give it stability. However, unless role of army in Pakistan not greatly reduced in West Pakistan, problems would remain. Jha added that BD is homogeneous unit with strong sense of having fought for its freedom. West Pakistan, on other hand, like India consists of diverse groups. Even India had felt disruptive tendencies, but it had handled them politically. In Pakistan this political handling had been lacking and instead there had been reliance on military authority. Rasgotra asked whether we had any estimate of how long Bhutto would rely on martial law. Under Secretary said he could not predict.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–US. Secret; Limdis. Drafted on January 20 by Quainton, cleared by Van Hollen, and approved by Irwin. Repeated to Kathmandu, Dacca, Islamabad, Saigon, and Moscow.
  2. Ambassador Jha met with Under Secretary of State Irwin to reiterate India’s interest in improved relations with the United States.