Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting/1/
/1/ Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer record of the meeting, prepared by Brigadier General Devol Brett of OSD, is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 092 (Jan-Jul) 1971.
Chairman-Henry A. Kissinger
U. Alexis Johnson
Christopher Van Hollen
James S. Noyes
Brig. Gen. Devol Brett
David H. Blee
Vice Adm. John Weinel
Col. Richard Kennedy
Jeanne W. Davis
SUMMARY OF DECISIONS
It was agreed to:
-discuss the situation with the British to see if they would take the lead in an approach to
-advise our missions at
-consult by telephone on Sunday, March 7 following word on Mujib's speech./2/
/2/ Reference is to a
speech Mujibur Rahman was
scheduled to deliver in
Mr. Kissinger: I thought we might have a brief discussion of what may be ahead and what our basic choices may be. I assume we will know something tomorrow.
Mr. Johnson: We have a good interagency contingency paper./3/
/3/ See footnote 5, Document 5.
Mr. Kissinger: Yes, it's a very good paper.
Mr. Johnson: We're
already on page 7 of that paper/4/ so far as events go. I would like to make
two points. First, this is not an East-West, or a US-Soviet, or a US-Indian
/4/ Page 7 of the
contingency study introduced the question of what the
a radio address on March 6, Yahya announced that he
had decided to convene the National Assembly on March 25. He concluded the
speech by warning that as long as he was in charge of the armed forces he would
defend the integrity of
I plan to send something out today to give our people in Dacca and Islamabad the flavor of our thinking in terms of the pros and cons, and to instruct Dacca, if they are approached by Mujib, to stall and refer to Washington./6/ We can then make a decision on our reply in the light of the circumstances at the time. In general, we would like to see unity preserved. If it cannot be, we would like to see the split take place with the least possible bloodshed or disorder. If Mujib approaches us, we will have to walk a tightrope between making him think we are giving him the cold shoulder and not encouraging him to move toward a split if any hope remains for a compromise.
Telegram 38122 to
Mr. Van Hollen: There are three possibilities for Mujib tomorrow: a unilateral declaration of independence; something just short of that-possibly a suggestion for two separate constitutions; or acceptance of Yahya's proposal that the National Assembly meet on March 25.
Mr. Kissinger: But doesn't Mujib control the Assembly?
Mr. Van Hollen: Yes, but Yahya controls its convening.
Mr. Kissinger: Why
wouldn't the convening of the National Assembly on March 25 be acceptable to
Mr. Van Hollen: They may interpret it as another stalling tactic by Yahya.
Mr. Kissinger: If they accept the proposal for an Assembly meeting, we have no foreign policy problem.
Mr. Johnson: I agree; the temperature drops.
Mr. Kissinger: What would be the motive for a declaration of independence?
Mr. Van Hollen: There has been movement in
/7/ March 3.
Mr. Kissinger: I agree that force won't work.
Mr. Van Hollen: Yes, but they might try.
Mr. Helms: To coin a
phrase, Yahya's attitude is that he did not become
President of Pakistan to preside over the dissolution of the
Mr. Kissinger: What force do they have?
Mr. Helms: 20,000 troops.
Mr. Kissinger: Would
Mr. Johnson: 75 million, and they would resist. Also,
Mr. Kissinger: It would be impossible. They would have to reinforce by ship.
Mr. Johnson: They have
some C-130's which could fly around
Mr. Van Hollen: They do it now, but they might not if circumstances should change.
Mr. Johnson: They could use their jet transports.
Mr. Noyes: They only have 11 of limited capacity.
Mr. Kissinger: They would have to have some logistics back-up.
Mr. Noyes: They have three ships which could move 8000 men in a week's time.
Mr. Van Hollen: Despite all the problems, our mission in
Mr. Noyes: They have
15,000 troops in
Mr. Kissinger: You mean
15,000 of their 20,000 troops are in
Mr. Johnson: This is not a situation which would be resolved by the use of force.
Mr. Kissinger: Doesn't contingency 3/8/ get us three weeks, if not more. If the matter goes to the National Assembly we should have several months to study it.
/8/ Contingency 3 of the
contingency study cited in footnote 3 above outlined a
Mr. Johnson: In those circumstances we would have no immediate foreign policy problem.
Mr. Kissinger: If an autonomous situation develops-possibly two constitutions with some vague confederal links-would we be required to make some immediate decisions?
Mr. Van Hollen: It would depend on the
Mr. Kissinger: How would two separate constitutions work? The National Assembly wouldn't meet? Or would meet and draft two separate constitutions?
Mr. Van Hollen: It wouldn't have to be done by the National
Assemblies; the country could be operated by the provincial assemblies. The
Provincial Assembly in
Mr. Kissinger: Would
Mr. Van Hollen: That's a moot point.
Mr. Kissinger: In any
event, that's not our problem. If
Mr. Johnson: On
Mr. Kissinger: If I may be the devil's advocate, why should we say anything?
Mr. Johnson: If the West
Pakistanis use force, there will be a bloodbath or, at least, a situation of
great turmoil in
Mr. Kissinger: What would we do to discourage the use of force? Tell Yahya we don't favor it?
Mr. Johnson: We would first go to the British to try to get them to take the lead. We shouldn't take the lead.
Mr. Helms: Amen!
Mr. Kissinger: Intervention would almost certainly be self-defeating.
Mr. Johnson: We have no control over developments and very little influence.
Mr. Kissinger: When is Mujib's statement?
Mr. Helms: Tomorrow at 1600 GMT.
Mr. Van Hollen: Another reason for our not taking the lead is that
Mr. Kissinger: The
President will be very reluctant to do anything that Yahya
could interpret as a personal affront. When we talk about trying to discourage
Mr. Johnson: We're not at that point yet. We've just begun to look for someone to do it, if necessary. How it is done and the degree of our association will be decided at the time. Our objective is to discourage the use of force.
Mr. Kissinger: Will this mean that Yahya is through anyway?
Mr. Van Hollen: Not necessarily. He could still remain as President with Bhutto wielding all effective political power.
Mr. Kissinger: Yahya had counted on being in control because of the divisions in the National Assembly.
Mr. Van Hollen: Of course, the elections seriously eroded his position.
Mr. Kissinger: He had
been able to play off Bhutto against
Mr. Van Hollen: Yahya will continue to
represent the military establishment which is a significant political force in
Mr. Kissinger: In any event, we can't neglect him.
Mr. Johnson: No.
Mr. Kissinger: Let's keep that in mind.
Mr. Johnson: It would be most unwise to do anything to prejudice our relations with Yahya. To whatever degree he remains and has power, we should do what we can to help him.
Mr. Kissinger: Would it
make any difference if we suggested to
Mr. Johnson: When we say "discourage" or "participate in discouraging" we don't mean pound the table and tell them they can't do it. We mean discuss it with them.
Mr. Helms: We don't want to get into a family fight.
Mr. Kissinger: If we could go in mildly as a friend to say we think it's a bad idea, it wouldn't be so bad. But if the country is breaking up, they won't be likely to receive such a message calmly. If we can get the British to do it, I wish them well!
Mr. Johnson: There has been no decision on our part to do anything. This is the purpose of our talks with the British.
Mr. Kissinger: If we
should make an approach, we might give them an alibi, so that Bhutto could say
that the Americans, by warning them against the use of force, kept
Mr. Johnson: That's right.
Mr. Kissinger: It is essential that we discuss this with the British.
Mr. Johnson: We can't reach a decision now on how to proceed. If we can get someone else to take the lead, okay. If not, we will have to decide whether we want to do anything. I am not proposing we do anything, but it is a course of action we may have to consider.
Mr. Kissinger: I think we all see the pros and cons clearly. Alex (Johnson) and I will talk after his talks with the British. Every department will be consulted before we make any move. We will also have a chance to take the issue before the President if necessary.
Mr. Van Hollen: The British may be very reluctant to do anything.
It does have some advantages, though, because the Pakistanis are not as
suspicious of the British as they are of us and the British odor in
Mr. Kissinger: In the
highly emotional atmosphere of
Mr. Helms: I agree. My visceral reaction is to keep our distance as long as we can.
Mr. Kissinger: Alex (Johnson) will talk to the British and we will all consult tomorrow-unless, of course, Mujib's speech is conciliatory. What if they declare their independence? Will we get an immediate recognition request?
Mr. Johnson: Probably,
but we don't have to rush. We can see what Mujib says
in his approach to us. We shouldn't be the first to recognize. We will want to
consult with the British first since they have interests in both East and
Mr. Van Hollen: The Japanese do too; also, possibly the West Germans and the French.
Mr. Johnson: We will want to recognize eventually but not be the first.
Mr. Van Hollen: Of course, if the parting is amicable and we get a request for recognition, it would be okay.
Mr. Kissinger: Suppose
the request for recognition comes to our Consul General in
Mr. Van Hollen: He will refer to
Mr. Johnson: I'll tell
them so this afternoon, not that I think he would do anything else.
Mr. Kissinger: Option 3/9/ suggests we consult with the Indians in case a military situation develops. I wonder whether we should do that. I can see that, if there is a threat of Indian military intervention, we might wish to advise them that we think it unwise.
/9/ Of the contingency study.
Mr. Van Hollen: The prospect of Indian intervention is very slim in the early stages.
Mr. Kissinger: I question too great activity on our part. We can't win anything from it, and some Pakistani leaders would be delighted to stick us with it. I wonder whether we should intervene with them or with the Indians.
Mr. Johnson: There is a case to be made for massive inaction.
Mr. Helms: Absolutely.
Mr. Kissinger: I'm just going through the options. The possibility of Chinese military intervention seems so unlikely.
Mr. Johnson: The paper dismisses it.
Mr. Kissinger: I assume the mention of international diplomatic intervention was put in for intellectual symmetry.
Mr. Van Hollen: That is far down the road. If a real blood-bath
develops, comparable to the
Mr. Johnson: In any
event, we wouldn't threaten
Mr. Kissinger: Or call our Ambassador home for consultation.
Mr. Johnson: Our
Ambassador is in
Mr. Kissinger: Who is our Chargˇ?
Mr. Saunders: Sid Sober. He's a good man.
Mr. Johnson: Yes. We don't need to rush the Ambassador back.
Mr. Kissinger: I was really only joking. We'll be in touch tomorrow.
Mr. Johnson: I'll get something out to our people today giving them our thinking. When will we know about the speech tomorrow?
Mr. Noyes: About
Mr. Saunders: There is a ten-hour time difference. We should know fairly early in the morning. Yahya's speech of yesterday was on the CBS 8:00 a.m. news today.
Mr. Johnson: Our Operations Center will be on the alert for the speech.
Mr. Kissinger: We'll check with each other as soon as we know about the speech-with a view to taking no action!
Mr. Helms: What's the
situation at the
Mr. Kissinger: What about the four Airmen? Do they still think they are in the University?
Mr. Saunders: We have no word. The Embassy doesn't think they are in the University and the Turks have widened their search-they went into 100 private homes last night looking for them. The demonstrations have stopped, though, and things are quieter today.
Source: Document 6, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.