270. Telegram WH 22043 From the White House to the Embassy in New Zealand1 2

Dr. Kissinger has asked me to mention to you one important point that will have to be dealt with in your talks with Prime Minister Gandhi in New Delhi. It arises from two related facts:

Mrs. Gandhi on her current trip in Europe has continued to make harsh statements about our policy in Vietnam. See details below.
At the same time, the Indians are looking to your trip as the possible beginning of a dialogue which could improve Indian-American relations.

The point you will have to make without having it sour all you discussions is that these two facts are incompatible. In a very firm way it will be necessary to get across to the Indians that gratuitous slaps at US policy on an issue which is of great importance to the US will not contribute to an improvement in US-Indian relations. This point has been made to the Indians at all levels here and in New Delhi over the past two months, but Indian officials from the top down continue their criticism.

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In order that you will be able to speak with specific instances in mind, the following are the more notable examples of Indian comment:

Foreign Minister Swaran Singh on May 10 told the Indian Parliament after describing the President’s decision: “It will serve neither the cause of peace nor achieve the objectives President Nixon has set out in his statement while ordering the latest military action. It is a matter of deep regret that the US Government should have unilaterally broken off the peace talks in Paris which had been resumed only recently. What is even more grave is the growing danger of an escalation of the Vietnam war into a bigger and wider conflict. I am sure this house will join the government in condemning this latest escalation.” Under Secretary Irwin told Indian Ambassador Jha this was an unfriendly act.
More recently, in her speech to the conference on the environment in Stockholm on June 14, Mrs. Gandhi indirectly referred to Indo-China, saying that there is nothing so destructive and useless as modern warfare and referring in this respect to Swedish Prime Minister Palme’s speech, which had been critical of US policy, as a clear statement of a worldwide concern on this matter. The Indian press reported the critical comment by Mrs. Gandhi and the Swedish Prime Minister regarding US policy in Vietnam, emphasizing the community of interests and views between Sweden and India.
In accepting an honorary doctorate in Prague on June 19, Mrs. Gandhi confined herself to noting the “struggle of the Vietnamese people” and saying: “we have the greatest sympathy for the agony of the people of Vietnam and admiration for their unparalleled heroism.” But, according to the Czech press, at a predeparture press conference in Prague on June 20 she “sharply condemned American escalation in Vietnam.” The press report did not give the substance of her comments.
In Budapest on June 20, she said: “It is tragic that Asia is still a theater into which arms are pouring and on which new, devilish weapons are being tested. This policy is undoubtedly based on the supposition that countries exercising overly powerful military and economic force can dictate the march of world history. But events present a different picture. In our complex, interdependent modern world, the power of weapons cannot achieve what it could achieve in colonial times.”
Throughout her comments both at the Stockholm conference and at some of her other stops is the general theme that the rich countries must not act as a club for exploiting the poor. In Stockholm, she challenged environmentalists who would slow industrial development to curb damage to the environment and urged that the developed nations should not saddle the developing ones with the burdens of environmental control, even though that control is important. This was coupled with reference to the arrogant attitudes of certain countries seeking to dominate smaller states.

The question, therefore, is one of an attitude of taking gratuitous swipes at the US, whatever the issues. This obviously is not conducive to improving our relations. And yet Indian Ambassador Jha in a conversation with Secretary Rogers on june 21 (being reported to you separately) talked about how he was encouraged by indications that the US wishes to improve bilateral relations. He expressed optimism that your visit would lead to constructive results. The Indian pressure, while speculating on whether the purpose of your visit is fence mending or something more limited, generally notes that you would be well placed for breaking the ice in a real dialogue between Washington and New Delhi.

The point of this telegram is not to suggest that you deal with the problem of India’s position toward Vietnam in such a way as to sour your whole visit in New Delhi. It is to give you the details of a situation which must be dealt with firmly if any kind of reasonable kind of relationship with India is to get off the ground. We have to persuade them that a sound relationship will exist only when they respect our interests, whether they agree with our policies or not.

We will be sending you later a telegram wrapping up the latest developments in South Asia and incorporating this point in a broader context. Dr. Kissinger wanted you to have this background separately and in some detail.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 150, Geopolitical File, India, 21 May 1971-Dec 1972. Secret; Eyes Only. The telegram was sent from Haig to Connally and marked for the attention of Hoskinson who was traveling with Connally.
  2. Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Haig cabled former Treasury Secretary Connally on President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger’s instructions to suggest that when he met with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi in New Delhi he inform her that a continuing stream of public criticism of U.S. policy in Vietnam on the part of her and members of her Government would not form a basis for the dialogue to improve India’s relations with the U.S. that they indicated they wanted to initiate.