268. Memorandum of Conversation1 2


  • Prime Minister Chou En-Lai
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Vice Foreign Minister
  • Chang Wen-Chin, Assistant Foreign Minister (4:40 p.m. to conclusion)
  • Wang Hai-jung, Assistant Foreign Minister
  • Chi Chao-chu, Interpreter
  • Tang Wen-sheng, Interpreter
  • Two Notetakers
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]

[Page 2]

Prime Minister Chou: There is another question which I originally planned to discuss—the question of the Subcontinent. We will first go into that. We believe we should do this rather quickly because there is still some more about Vietnam we want to discuss.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Also I want to say a word about Germany to the Prime Minister. Let’s talk about the Subcontinent first.

Our assessment is that India is pursuing at the moment a quite aggressive foreign policy. (Prime Minister questions translator’s translation.) And it is in some respects becoming obviously, whatever its own intentions, an extension of some aspects of Soviet foreign policy.

For example, the Prime Minister no doubt knows that India has offered to both Indonesia and even to Japan treaties which are word for word the same as its own treaties with the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Chou: That is right.

Dr. Kissinger: So that if this came to be, it would be in effect an alliance with India which in turn would be linked to the Soviet Union.

And I believe also that Indian interests extend as well to Southeast Asia.

Prime Minister Chou: That is so. Mrs. Gandhi has taken over the legacy of her father in his work, The Discovery of India. That was the ambition of Nehru—the ambition of discovery.

Dr. Kissinger: He did not have the energy to carry it out. He was more theoretical.

Prime Minister Chou: Anyway he showed the direction of his ambitions.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. And when we spoke yesterday of a zone of relaxation in Southeast Asia, I want to say to the Prime Minister as far as we are [Page 3] concerned, we would also look with disfavor on an attempt by India to establish hegemony in that area. The Prime Minister may also be aware that when I was asked in Japan about the various proposals for Asian collective security arrangements I stated—not publicly, but since there is no such thing as a private conversation in Japan, I support suppose it became public—that we would join no arrangement which objectively was directed against the PRC. If he is not aware, I am telling him now.

I think we agree in our analysis of the situation. The immediate problem is that the ability of India to pursue these policies depends to some extent on its ability to gain freedom of action on the Indian Subcontinent. We believe that the strategy of India is to do to West Pakistan what it has already done to East Pakistan by disintegrating it, by bringing about the succession of to Northwestern frontier and Baluchistan. Indeed, when Mrs. Gandhi was in Washington in November and talked with the President she stressed that she did not even talk much about East Pakistan any more. She talked about the betrayal that was involved in West Pakistan. Therefore the problem is whether it is possible to save West Pakistan and thereby absorb some of India’s energies on the Subcontinent rather than free them all for expansion. I’m saying this cold-bloodedly; it’s our analysis.

To preserve West Pakistan there are two aspects—one is economic; the other is military. On the economic side we have been able to do quite a bit. We have given $150 million in direct aid and about $180 million through international institutions—that is, the US share of it.

Prime Minister Chou: That is recently—after the war.

Dr. Kissinger: I am talking about since the war, and we are somewhat handicapped because we refused to give any economic assistance to India so we have a complicated Congressional problem with which I will not bore the Prime Minister. But we have not given any aid to India. This is not so much of a punishment because India owes us $3.5 billion and, it will simply refuse to repay. (Chou and Ch’iao laugh).

Now the big problem is military assistance to the Pakistanis. We have been prevented by the Democratic Congress from giving aid directly. I wanted to tell the Prime Minister in strictest confidence that when we [Page 4] were in Iran we asked the Shah to organize a consortium of Greece, Iran, Turkey, maybe Jordan, to establish military assistance to Pakistan with American weapons. We did some of this illegally during the war, as the Prime Minister knows. To do it legally we will have to start a small arms program to Pakistan because there is a provision in our law that American weapons can be transferred to third countries only if those countries are eligible to receive American weapons directly. (Chou asks Mr. Chi a question. He answers. Miss Tang also speaks.) We think we can solve that in the next few months.

Prime Minister Chou: I don’t want at all to interfere in internal affairs. However, I want to make a suggestion. I think it would be best that Jordan does not take part in this.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. That will not happen.

Prime Minister Chou: Because Iran and Turkey are somewhat different; there is the question of CENTO. But Jordan is not quite in the Arab world.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Prime Minister Chou: In December when you went to give them 12 planes by Jordan it was not easy nor did it give any good influence, impression.

Dr. Kissinger: But at that time we had to do it because the Soviet Union was bringing so much pressure on Iran. There was a complicated arrangement. We flew Iranian planes to Jordan and Jordan planes to Pakistan. It was an emergency. This won’t happen again.

So in this I wanted to tell the Prime Minister our intention, but something depends on what your intentions are, because if you should have come to the conclusion nothing can be done for Pakistan in the military field then it will be very difficult for us to do it all. But we can and we are prepared to give certain types of equipment that you will find it difficult to supply, and to see whether there can be a combination of Iranian and, Turkish tanks and modern airplanes. And we have also encouraged France to sell airplanes to Pakistan, and they are doing it now.

Prime Minister Chou: We have not stopped our aid to Pakistan. Our aid to Pakistan is continuing. As for our tanks to Pakistan, they are, [Page 5] of course, light tanks. The planes we supply Pakistan are renovated versions of MIG–19s. In fact, to be very honest with you, the renovated MIG–19s we have been giving Pakistan are greater in numbers than those we have been giving Vietnam. We haven’t been giving so many MIG–19s to Vietnam. So what is there so bad about stopping the war in Indochina? Why must we test our weapons on the Indochina battlefield?

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. We don’t want to continue the war in Indochina.

Prime Minister Chou: We will discuss it later. And once the war in Vietnam comes to a stop then we can supply Pakistan even more quickly with our weaponry. We have already agreed to give so many things to them, but we are not able to complete their orders to us. Because East Pakistan lost two divisions of equipment without even fighting.

Dr. Kissinger: That was a very stupid deployment.

Prime Minister Chou: But we said nothing. Because we have made it clear that once we have given those weapons to them they have full freedom to make use of them as they like. We have no right to interfere in their affairs. We have not a single adviser there. We don’t want any such prerogatives of interfering in their sovereignty.

Dr. Kissinger: We have no interest in Pakistan except to maintain its independence. We have no other purposes there.

Prime Minister Chou: It is not possible for you not to mind yourself about the Subcontinent because the Soviet Union is attempting to exercise hegemony.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, this is what we are trying to...

Prime Minister Chou: Britain is already expressing her dissatisfaction. Dr. Kissinger: But Britain contributed to this in December.

Prime Minister Chou: To Secretary Home we say, why do you come to realize these things afterwards? And also Foreign Minister Schumann.

Dr. Kissinger: It would be very interesting if you would tell the Europeans about your situation because the Vice Foreign Minister knows last December they made our life very difficult.

[Page 6]

Prime Minister Chou: Of the 104 votes in the General Assembly Britain and France were not included, and the Vice Minister openly criticized them about that. But only on 20, 21 December at the Security Council meeting they agreed on the rules of ceasefire after Dacca had fallen, but that was too late already. The General Assembly also voted on December 7. Actually if action was taken at that time, then Dacca would have been saved.

Mr. Ch’iao: The greatest procrastinations came about in the Security Council on the 11th and 12th.

Dr. Kissinger: I was just going to say that. The British were particularly bad, as the Vice Foreign Minister knows.

Prime Minister Chou: Then the situation was rather clear to some, but it was already too late.

Dr. Kissinger: The art in foreign policy is to be right before it is self-evident.

Prime Minister Chou: That is right. You need foresight.

Dr. Kissinger: So if I may say so, I think a clear analysis of your point of view to both Schumann, who is less steady, and to the British would be very important when they come here. Because Britain is no better off with India for having tried to curry the favor of India than we for having opposed India (Chou laughs).

Prime Minister Chou: The British think they are still in the days of Lord Mountbatten, but those are days long gone.

Dr. Kissinger: And they try to substitute maneuver for substance. And that can’t be done. But I believe our government, at least this Administration, believes that the Indian extension of Soviet foreign policy, can be very grave throughout Southeast Asia. In the last five years India received one billion two hundred million dollars of military equipment from the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Chou: So very expensive.

[Page 7]

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. And produced $1 billion worth of its own. During that same period Pakistan received not quite $500 million, of which most came from you. That includes the domestic production which isn’t great. That explains...

Prime Minister Chou: India gets her military aid in the form of loans from the Soviet Union?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. Very low interest loans. I have promised the Vice Chairman to give him some further details, and I will do that if you tell me where I should do it.

Prime Minister Chou: You think it will be all right to have it conveyed through Ambassador Huang Hua?

Dr. Kissinger: I will do that next week. As you know they have given India—they plan to produce MIG–21s in India.

Prime Minister Chou: The characteristics of the MIG–21 actually are not very good. Their maneuverability is even worse than that of the MIG–19 and inferior to planes of the same calibre of your country.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. We are speeding up giving Iran more modern planes so that some of their planes can be free to go to Pakistan. They will still be very good. But they are producing some F-14s and F-15s. And we are speeding that up so that they can give some of their F–4s to Pakistan. That is what I wanted to tell you about our attitude on the Subcontinent.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

[Page 8]

Prime Minister Chou: And Pakistan is still remaining a member of CENTO?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, it is still technically a member of CENTO. But the major strategy is to give Pakistan enough strength so that India will not be able to attack it; or that it turns itself into a vassal of India and therefore frees India to move into Southeast Asia or other parts.

Prime Minister Chou: Has your diplomatic representative gone to East Pakistan?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: The situation in East Pakistan is not good.

Dr. Kissinger: The situation in East Pakistan is very bad. In the long term I think this will be a cancer for India.

Prime Minister Chou: I think so.

Dr. Kissinger: Because if the situation remains chaotic, it will absorb Indian resources and if the situation improves it will be a magnet for West Bengal (Chou laughs). But our impression is that the government in Dacca is so incompetent that the effective administration is in the hands of the Indians.

Prime Minister Chou: It really has the flavor of a colonial regime.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: And actually some Indian forces are still remaining in Pakistan.

[Page 9]

Dr. Kissinger: As police.

Prime Minister Chou: And officers.

Dr. Kissinger: And also it is surrounded by Indian forces.

(At this point, 4:40 p.m., Chang enters.)

Prime Minister Chou: And so that is about the Subcontinent. As for the Subcontinent we will continue to support the independence of West Pakistan. That is a responsibility that we will continue to carry out. At the same time we shall say West Pakistan is a friendly country to us. And in fact the period of friendship is longer than that with India. But the Pakistanis are rather worried because Mrs. Gandhi has been over the past three months saying everywhere she wants to improve relations with China. Naturally, we haven’t paid any attention to her. As for exchange of Ambassadors with India, we think even that we can wait somewhat. In fact up till now that is the only country with which we have relations but have no Ambassadors. Just petty maneuvers on the part of the Indians.

Dr. Kissinger: Their freedom of action is circumscribed by their dependence on Soviet military aid.

Prime Minister Chou: The Indians also have tremendous domestic difficulties. As President Nixon said on his visit here, all the loans to India, including those by the World Bank, amount to $10 billion. So India adopts the policy of not repaying.

Dr. Kissinger: Not yet, but I am sure that is what she is going to do. (Chou laughs). So far they have only made difficulty about repaying $100 million (Chou laughs).

Prime Minister Chou: But don’t you have in your hands some of the rupees—the Indian rupees?

Dr. Kissinger: In counterpart funds.

Prime Minister Chou: They buy grains from you with Indian rupees.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, they do. But we can’t take them out of the country. We can spend them only in India.

[Page 10]

Prime Minister Chou: I have probably told you about the history of the story about the situation of my visit to India in 1960 for talks with Nehru, my final visit and my last talk with Nehru. Did I tell you that?

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t remember. Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell me again.

Prime Minister Chou: That is, in 1960 for the last time I went to New Delhi to have negotiations with Nehru on the Sino-Indian border question. After a week of negotiations, towards the end, I just copied principles cited by Nehru at various periods in the past and said, “let’s agree on those principles.” And even this Nehru refused to agree to. Not a single word of agreement was reached.

And then after the breakdown of the negotiations I went to Nepal the next day. On the eve of my departure from Delhi I received some foreign correspondents. At that press conference an American correspondent reminded me, “do you not know the Indian Minister of Food is now in Washington.” I said, “Now I know. Thank you for reminding me of that fact.” And then on the next day in Nepal I saw in the papers that an agreement of a loan on food grains to India, in the amount of 15 million tons of food grains, was signed in Washington to supply India two or three times a year, which was to be repayed in rupees. That was the encouragement on your side to Nehru.

And on the other side was encouragement given to him by Khrushchev. That is, Khrushchev in order to obtain the so-called Spirit of Camp David—a spirit which you never recognized—Khrushchev tore up in 1959 a treaty he entered into with us on cooperation in the economic field.

At that time, in October 1959, the Indians made a military provocation against us at the Natula Pass on the border with India. The Pass is on the top of the plateau. The Indians when they went up to the Pass they had more casualties, and because the Indians suffered more casualties they [the Russians] said it was China which launched the attack against India. And from that time the Indians believed what Khrushchev told them. Afterwards Neville, the British correspondent, made that clear.

[Omitted here is conversation unrelated to South Asia.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Kissinger Papers, Manuscript Division, Box TS 36, South Asia Chronological File, July 1971-Nov 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The conversation was held in a guest house.
  2. The President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai shared their concern about Soviet influence in South Asia and their opposition to the development of Indian hegemony over the subcontinent.