1. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, December 19, 19691 2



  • Agha Hilaly, Ambassador of Pakistan
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Harold H. Saunders

DATE AND PLACE: Friday, December 19, 1969, in Dr. Kissinger’s Office

Ambassador Hilaly began by recalling his last call on Dr. Kissinger with the Pakistani Minister of Information and National Affairs, Sher Ali, on October 10. He recalled that, at that time, Dr. Kissinger had indicated that the Pakistanis might inform the Communist Chinese informally of U.S. intentions to pull out two destroyers from the Taiwan Straits.

Ambassador Hilaly explained the passage of time before that message was conveyed. Sher Ali did not leave the U.S. for Pakistan until October 25th. President Yahya did not return to Pakistan from his State visit to Iran until November 5th.

Shortly after November 5, President Yahya called in the Chinese Communist ambassador in Rawalpindi and explained his feeling that the U.S. is interested in normalizing relations with Communist China and as a gesture was withdrawing two destroyers from the Taiwan Straits. President Yahya based what he said on his conversation with President Nixon on August 1.

In a letter of November 28 to Ambassador Hilaly, Minister Sher Ali reported that the ambassador’s immediate reaction had been that the U.S. always “double-talked.” The ambassador cited China’s shooting down of a U.S. intelligence plane. President Yahya asked the ambassador to convey President Yahya’s views to Chou En-lai.

Ambassador Hilaly then said that on December 13 he had received another letter from Minister Sher Ali reporting the Chinese ambassador’s reply after hearing from Peking. The Minister’s letter reported that reply in these words: “They appreciate our [the Pakistani] role and efforts. As a result, they [the Chinese] had let off the two Americans the other day.” Dr. Kissinger [Page 2] surmised that the two Americans referred to were two yachtsmen who had been recently released.

Ambassador Hilaly asked whether there is anything further of a substantive nature that could be discussed between President Yahya and Chou En-lai. Pakistan does not have a firm date yet for Chou’s visit. The Chinese had been trying to persuade President Yahya to visit China first, but President Yahya has told them it is their turn to visit Pakistan. Ambassador Hilaly surmised that there might be some issue for China in the fact that this would be Chou’s first foreign trip following the cultural revolution and it might have to be related to other visits.

Ambassador Hilaly suggested that perhaps the prompt Chinese response in resuming the Warsaw talks had resulted from the message the Pakistanis had passed to them.

In response to Ambassador Hilaly’s question, Dr. Kissinger said that we could now do the following:

When a date for Chou En-lai’s visit to Pakistan is settled, he would give to Ambassador Hilaly something that the Pakistanis could say to the Chinese.
The Pakistanis could tell the Chinese now that the U.S. appreciates this communication and that we are serious in our desire to have conversations with them. If they want to have these conversations in a more secure manner than Warsaw or in channels that are less widely disseminated within the bureaucracy, the President would be prepared to do this.

Ambassador Hilaly noted that President Yahya might pass these thoughts to the Chinese so that when Chou En-lai comes to Pakistan he can have thought about this suggestion. When he asked whether Dr. Kissinger, in referring to other channels, intended to continue using the Pakistani channel, Dr. Kissinger said we have no problem doing this through Pakistan but would be open to any other suggestions the Chinese might have.

Ambassador Hilaly noted the possibility that should it be desirable [Page 3] for this channel to be active at a high level sooner than Chou En-lai’s visit to Pakistan, President Yahya is probably now in a position to send Sher Ali himself to Peking. Delegations are going back and forth now in the normal course of events.

Ambassador Hilaly and Dr. Kissinger agreed that they would keep the channel between them active.

A brief exchange of views on the Warsaw talks followed. Ambassador Hilaly said he assumed they were in the nature of a preliminary exchange of views, and Dr. Kissinger said that this was consistent with our impression.

Ambassador Hilaly turned to the subject of the forthcoming U.S. decision on military supply policy. He said that he had been working for three years with members of the Congress urging them to understand Pakistan’s difficulties. Now the House Foreign Affairs Committee has submitted a report which favors the resumption of military sales to South Asia. He thought the State Department favored resumption of some sort of arms sales and therefore he assumed that the question was up to the White House. He noted that President Yahya would be going in the early spring to the Soviet Union and then perhaps to China on visits and hoped that Pakistan would have a decision on U.S. arms supply policy before then. He also noted the important political steps that President Yahya has taken recently and said that the U.S. military supply decision would be important support for him.

Dr. Kissinger interjected that we are not in the business of changing Pakistan’s domestic structure, but he acknowledged the fact that a U.S. decision might be helpful. He explained that the decision should be made in the near future. The White House has not been holding up this decision, but must hold a meeting on it, probably in January. Dr. Kissinger noted that he could not say what the answer would be, and Ambassador Hilaly said that it was important to have an answer, whatever it might be, although he assumed that there were good chances it would be favorable.

Harold H. Saunders
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1031, Files for the President-China Material, Exchanges Leading up to HAK Trip to China, December 1969-July 1971. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders. All brackets in the source text. The conversation was held in Kissinger’s office at the White House. There is no indication as of the time of the meeting.
  2. Pakistani Ambassador Agha Hilaly and President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger discussed the role of the Pakistani Government as a backchannel between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Kissinger indicated that the Pakistanis could inform the Chinese that the United States appreciated this type of communication. National Security Council staff member Harold Saunders also attended the meeting.