Conclusions about Pakistan

It should be clear that Pakistan, though a deeply troubled state, is also a tough one; and that, barring catastrophic decisions in Washington, New Delhi-and of course Islamabad-it is likely to survive as a country. In the long run, the greatest threat to Pakistan’s existence is not insurgency, but ecological change. However, Pakistan’ s farmers are also tough and adaptable, and while some areas like the Quetta valley are likely soon to suffer disastrous water shortages in the country, drought will take several decades to become truly catastrophic. Floods, though devastating in the short term, can also be controlled and harnessed given determination, organization and money. This allows time for human action to ameliorate the impending crisis, if the West, China and of course Pakistan itself have the will to take this action.

Featured image: The aftermath of a suicide attack by the Pakistan Taliban on the Lahore High Court, 10 January 2008

The rest of the world should work hard to help Pakistan, because, long after Western forces have left Afghanistan, Pakistan’s survival will remain a vital Western and Chinese interest. This should encourage cooperation between Beijing and Washington to ensure Pakistan’s survival. By contrast, a Sino-US struggle for control over Pakistan should be avoided at all costs, as this would add enormously to Pakistan’s destabilization.

A terrorist attack by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in Mumbai India, November 2008. The aftermath of the attack on the railway station
In the short term, of course, Western policy towards Pakistan will be shaped by developments in Afghanistan, but this policy should not be dictated by those developments. For Pakistan is in the end a great deal more important and potentially dangerous than Afghanistan. Whatever strategy the US ends up adopting in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be critical to its success. Quite apart from Islamabad’s strategic calculations, this is made inevitable by the fact that more than half of the Pathan ethnicity lives in Pakistan, while maintaining a strong interest in what happens to the Pathans on the other side of the Durand Line.

Whatever happens, Pakistan will therefore insist both that Pathans are strongly represented in any Afghan regime, and that Islamabad has a share of influence in Afghanistan, at least to the point where other countries-meaning above all India-cannot use Afghanistan as a base from which to threaten Pakistan.

No conceivable short-term gains in the Western campaign in Afghanistan or the ‘war on terror’ could compensate for the vastly increased threats to the region and the world that would stem from Pakistan’s collapse, and for disasters that would result for Pakistan’s own peoples. Though many Indians may not see it this way, the collapse of Pakistan would also be disastrous for India, generating chaos that would destabilize the entire region. Western and Indian strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan should therefore be devised with this fact firmly in mind.

Destruction caused by floods in Azalkhel, NWFP, 9 August 2010
This would include recognition, at least in private, that it has above all been the US-led campaign in Afghanistan which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan since 2001. By this I do not mean to advocate a humiliating US and British scuttle from Afghanistan, nor to suggest that a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan would end the extremist threat to Pakistan, a threat which has long since developed a life of its own. Nonetheless, concern for the effects of the US military presence in Afghanistan on the situation in Pakistan is one of the strongest arguments for bringing that presence to an end as soon as this can honourably be achieved, and against conducting more wars against Muslim states under any circumstances whatsoever.

Mehsud tribesmen meet for a jirga to discuss US drone attacks, Tank, 20 April 2009

A Taliban patrol in Swat, April 2009
This also implies that the US should observe restraint in its pressure on Pakistan. Drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas have killed many Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders, but they have not noticeably impaired the Afghan Taliban’s ability to go on fighting effectively, while causing outrage among Pakistanis–especially because of the very large numbers of women and children who have been killed by the attacks. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, discussed the risks of the drone strategy in a cable sent to the State Department in 2009 and revealed by Wikileaks. She acknowledged that drones had killed ten out twenty known top Al Qaeda leaders in the region, but stated that they could not entirely eliminate the Al Qaeda leadership and, in the meantime:

Increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistan state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis within Pakistan without finally achieving the goal [of eliminating the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership].

The well substantiated belief that–despite official denials–the Pakistan high command and government have provided information to the US in return for strikes against Pakistan Taleban leaders has also been confirmed by WikiLeaks. As Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told US officials in August 2008,

‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly, then ignore it.’

Pakistani acquiescence in the drone strikes, however, damaged the prestige of the military in society and the morale of ordinary soldiers, and encouraged the perception of the military as a ‘force for hire’. There should therefore be no question of extending the attacks to new areas of Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which would further enrage local society, spread the Pakistani Taliban insurgency to new areas, and reduce existing Pakistani cooperation with the US.

Even more dangerous is the presence of US special forces on the ground in Pakistan. Reports of this in Pakistan are greatly exaggerated. According to the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks, as of October 2009 only sixteen such soldiers were deployed in Pakistan, to two Pakistani military bases in north and south Waziristan. While they are doing some useful work against the Taliban, they are also potential hostages to fortune, and likely to provoke mass anger at their presence in the population and the military.

Above all, there must be no open intervention of US ground forces in FATA, as this risks outright mutiny in the Pakistani army. This restraint should be observed even if the US comes under new terrorist attack. Britain should use whatever influence it possesses in Washington to oppose any such interventions, which could have the most disastrous effects on both terrorism and ethnic relations within Britain itself.

Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban, hitherto seen in the West overwhelmingly as a problem, should also be seen potentially a critical asset in the search for an exit from Afghanistan. We might as well try to use Pakistan in this way, since, as the US embassy in Islamabad reported gloomily but accurately in September 2010:

There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced (US) assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups (i.e. the Afghan Taliban and their allies) which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India. The only way to achieve a cessation of such support is to change the Pakistani government’s perception of its security requirements.

The US and other Western countries fighting in Afghanistan should use Pakistan as an intermediary to initiate talks with the Taliban in the hope of eventually reaching a settlement, if, as seems highly probable, the attempt to defeat the Taliban by force does not succeed. Because of its links with the Taliban, Pakistan will have to play a key role in bringing about such negotiations. In 2010 the Obama administration began to move towards the idea of talks, but still seemed very far away from a recognition of what such talks would really entail. In the words of a senior Pakistani diplomat:

The US needs to be negotiating with the Taleban, those Taleban with no links to al-Qaida. We need a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan and it will have to be negotiated with all parties . . . The Afghan government is already talking to all the stakeholders, the Taleban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar. The Americans have been setting ridiculous preconditions for talks. You can’t lay down such conditions when you are losing.

Such a Western strategy should also stem from a recognition that Pakistan’s goals in Afghanistan are in part legitimate–even if the means by which they have been sought have not been–and this legitimacy needs to be recognised by the West. The US and EU should work hard to try to reconcile legitimate Pakistani goals in Afghanistan with those of India, and to draw other regional states into a consensus on how to limit the Afghan conflict. China, close to Pakistan and fearful of Islamist extremism, could be a key player in this regard.

The US needs to continue to limit Indian involvement in Afghanistan if it is to have any hope of a long-term cooperative relationship with Pakistan. The West also needs to seek a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute, despite all the immense obstacles in both Pakistan and India. As Ambassador Patterson told her government:

Most importantly, it is the perception of India as the primary threat to the Pakistani state that colours its perceptions of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s security needs. The Pakistani establishment fears that a pro-Indian government in Afghanistan would allow India to operate a proxy war against Pakistan from its territory . . . Increased Indian investment in, trade with, and development support to the Afghan government, which the USG (US Government) has encouraged, causes, Pakistan to embrace Taleban groups as anti-India allies. We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India . . .Resolving the Kashmir dispute would dramatically improve the situation.

The overall question of the future of US-Indian relations is far too broad to be discussed here. What can be said is that a balance needs be struck between the economic and security benefits to the West of closer ties to India and the security threats to the West stemming from a growth of Islamist militancy in Pakistan. In the end, not even the greatest imaginable benefits of the US-Indian friendship could compensate for the actual collapse of Pakistan, with all the frightful dangers this would create not just for the West but for India too.

We should also not dream-as US neoconservatives are apt to do–that India can somehow be used by the US to control Pakistani behaviour. The truth, outlined by Ambassador Patterson, is exactly the opposite.

Only Pakistanis can control Pakistan, and the behaviour of the Pakistani security establishment will always be determined by what they see as the vital needs of Pakistan and the Pakistani army.

A new approach to Pakistan over the future of Afghanistan should therefore be part of a much deeper long-term engagement with Pakistan by the West in general, and one tied not to the temporary war in Afghanistan but to the permanent importance of Pakistan as a state. This is crucial for Britain, whose large minority of Pakistani origin retains extremely close ties with Pakistan and forms an enduring organic link between the two countries, and, through Britain to Europe and North America.

Whatever happens, this human link is not going to go away. To help make it a force for good rather than a danger, the west needs to develop a much deeper knowledge of Pakistan, a much deeper stake in Pakistan, and a much more generous attitude to helping Pakistan. I hope that by showing Pakistan in all its complex patchwork of light and shadow, this book will help bring about such a new approach.

General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, military ruler 1977-88; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Prime Minister 1971-77; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan; Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, military ruler 1958-69; Poster of the Bhutto-Zardari family 2010; Nawaz Sharif (left) and Shahbaz Sharif 2008



Courtesy of: Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. Published by Penguin Group, London 2011




Henry Kissinger



Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, 1973-1977.jpg

 56th United States Secretary of State

  • In office: September 22, 1973 – January 20, 1977 under President: Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

8th National Security Advisor

  • In office: January 20, 1969 – November 3, 1975 under President: Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

Chairman of the 9/11 Commission

  • In office: November 27, 2002 – December 13, 2002 under President: George W. Bush

Henry Alfred Kissinger born on May 27, 1923 is an American diplomat and political scientist who served as the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Born in Germany, Kissinger is a Jewish refugee who fled the Nazi regime with his family in 1938. He became National Security Adviser in 1969 and later concurrently United States Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest. Kissinger later sought, unsuccessfully, to return the prize after the ceasefire failed. After his term, his advice has been sought by world leaders including subsequent U.S. presidents.

A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with the People’s Republic of China, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger has also been associated with such controversial policies as CIA involvement in Chile and U.S. support for Pakistan, despite the genocide during the Bangladesh War. He is the founder and chairman of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm. Kissinger has been a prolific author of books on diplomatic history and international relations with over one dozen books authored.

General opinion of Henry Kissinger is strongly divided. Several scholars have ranked him as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State since 1965, while some journalists, activists, and human rights lawyers have condemned him as a war criminal.


Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, in 1923 during the Weimar Republic, to a family of German Jews. His father, Louis Kissinger (1887–1982), was a schoolteacher. His mother, Paula (Stern) Kissinger (1901–1998), from Leutershausen, was a homemaker. Kissinger has a younger brother, Walter Kissinger. The surname Kissinger was adopted in 1817 by his great-great-grandfather Meyer Löb, after the Bavarian spa town of Bad Kissingen. As a youth, Heinz enjoyed playing soccer, and played for the youth wing of his favorite club, SpVgg Fürth, which was one of the nation’s best clubs at the time.  In 1938, fleeing Nazi persecution, his family moved to London, England, before arriving in New York on September 5.

Kissinger spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan as part of the German Jewish immigrant community that resided there at the time. Although Kissinger assimilated quickly into American culture, he never lost his pronounced Frankish accent, due to childhood shyness that made him hesitant to speak. Following his first year at George Washington High School, he began attending school at night and worked in a shaving brush factory during the day.

Following high school, Kissinger enrolled in the City College of New York, studying accounting. He excelled academically as a part-time student, continuing to work while enrolled. His studies were interrupted in early 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.


Kissinger underwent basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina. On June 19, 1943, while stationed in South Carolina, at the age of 20 years, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. The army sent him to study engineering at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, but the program was cancelled, and Kissinger was reassigned to the 84th Infantry Division. There, he made the acquaintance of Fritz Kraemer, a fellow Jewish immigrant from Germany who noted Kissinger’s fluency in German and his intellect, and arranged for him to be assigned to the military intelligence section of the division. Kissinger saw combat with the division and volunteered for hazardous intelligence duties during the Battle of the Bulge.

During the American advance into Germany, Kissinger, only a private, was put in charge of the administration of the city of Krefeld, owing to a lack of German speakers on the division’s intelligence staff. Within eight days he had established a civilian administration. Kissinger was then reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, with the rank of sergeant. He was given charge of a team in Hanover assigned to tracking down Gestapo officers and other saboteurs, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.  In June 1945, Kissinger was made commandant of the Bensheim metro CIC detachment, Bergstrasse district of Hesse, with responsibility for de-Nazification of the district. Although he possessed absolute authority and powers of arrest, Kissinger took care to avoid abuses against the local population by his command.

In 1946, Kissinger was reassigned to teach at the European Command Intelligence School at Camp King, continuing to serve in this role as a civilian employee following his separation from the army.


Henry Kissinger received his AB degree summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in political science from Harvard College in 1950, where he lived in Adams House and studied under William Yandell Elliott. He received his MA and PhD degrees at Harvard University in 1951 and 1954, respectively. In 1952, while still studying at Harvard, he served as a consultant to the director of the Psychological Strategy Board. His doctoral dissertation was titled “Peace, Legitimacy, and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich)”.

Kissinger remained at Harvard as a member of the faculty in the Department of Government and, with Robert R. Bowie, co-founded the Center for International Affairs in 1958. In 1955, he was a consultant to the National Security Council’s Operations Coordinating Board.  During 1955 and 1956, he was also study director in nuclear weapons and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He released his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy the following year. From 1956 to 1958 he worked for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as director of its Special Studies Project.  He was director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program between 1958 and 1971. He was also director of the Harvard International Seminar between 1951 and 1971. Outside of academia, he served as a consultant to several government agencies and think tanks, including the Operations Research Office, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Department of State, and the Rand Corporation. Keen to have a greater influence on U.S. foreign policy, Kissinger became an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller and supported his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1960, 1964, and 1968. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he made Kissinger National Security Adviser.



Kissinger being sworn in as Secretary of State by Chief Justice Warren Burger, September 22, 1973. Kissinger’s mother, Paula, holds the Bible upon which he was sworn in while President Nixon looks on.

Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, and continued as Secretary of State under Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford. A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. In that period, he extended the policy of détente. This policy led to a significant relaxation in US–Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai. The talks concluded with a rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alignment. He was jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Lê Đức Thọ for helping to establish a ceasefire and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. The ceasefire, however, was not durable, Thọ declined to accept the award and Kissinger appeared deeply ambivalent about it (donating his prize money to charity, not attending the award ceremony and later offering to return his prize medal. As National Security Advisor, in 1974 Kissinger directed the much-debated National Security Study Memorandum 200.


As National Security Advisor under Nixon, Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, seeking a relaxation in tensions between the two superpowers. As a part of this strategy, he negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (culminating in the SALT I treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Negotiations about strategic disarmament were originally supposed to start under the Johnson Administration but were postponed in protest upon the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.



Kissinger, shown here with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, negotiated rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China.

Kissinger sought to place diplomatic pressure on the Soviet Union. He made two trips to the People’s Republic of China in July and October 1971 (the first of which was made in secret) to confer with Premier Zhou En-lai, then in charge of Chinese foreign policy. According to Kissinger’s book, “The White House Years”, the first secret China trip was arranged through Pakistan’s diplomatic and Presidential involvement, as there were no direct communication channels between the states. His trips paved the way for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between Nixon, Zhou, and Communist Party of China Chairman Mao Zedong, as well as the formalization of relations between the two countries, ending 23 years of diplomatic isolation and mutual hostility. The result was the formation of a tacit strategic anti-Soviet alliance between China and the United States.

While Kissinger’s diplomacy led to economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides and the establishment of Liaison Offices in the Chinese and American capitals, with serious implications for Indochinese matters, full normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China would not occur until 1979, because the Watergate scandal overshadowed the latter years of the Nixon presidency and because the United States continued to recognize the government of Taiwan.

In September 1989, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fialka disclosed that Kissinger took a direct economic interest in US-China relations in March 1989 with the establishment of China Ventures, Inc., a Delaware limited partnership, of which he was chairman of the board and chief executive officer. A US$75 million investment in a joint venture with the Communist Party government’s primary commercial vehicle at the time, China International Trust & Investment Corporation (CITIC), was its purpose. Board members were major clients of Kissinger Associates. Kissinger was criticized for not disclosing his role in the venture when called upon by ABC’s Peter Jennings to comment the morning after the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown. Kissinger’s position was generally supportive of Deng Xiaoping’s clearance of the square and he opposed economic sanctions.




Kissinger with President Richard Nixon, discussing Vietnam situation in Camp David, 1972.

Kissinger’s involvement in Indochina started prior to his appointment as National Security Adviser to Nixon. While still at Harvard, he had worked as a consultant on foreign policy to both the White House and State Department. Kissinger says that “In August 1965 … [Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.], an old friend serving as Ambassador to Saigon, had asked me to visit Vietnam as his consultant. I toured Vietnam first for two weeks in October and November 1965, again for about ten days in July 1966, and a third time for a few days in October 1966 … Lodge gave me a free hand to look into any subject of my choice”. He became convinced of the meaninglessness of military victories in Vietnam, “… unless they brought about a political reality that could survive our ultimate withdrawal”. In a 1967 peace initiative, he would mediate between Washington and Hanoi.

Nixon had been elected in 1968 on the promise of achieving “peace with honor” and ending the Vietnam War. In office, and assisted by Kissinger, Nixon implemented a policy of Vietnamization that aimed to gradually withdraw U.S. troops while expanding the combat role of the South Vietnamese Army so that it would be capable of independently defending its government against the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, a Communist guerrilla organization, and North Vietnamese army (Vietnam People’s Army or PAVN). Kissinger played a key role in bombing Cambodia to disrupt PAVN and Viet Cong units launching raids into South Vietnam from within Cambodia’s borders and resupplying their forces by using the Ho Chi Minh trail and other routes, as well as the 1970 Cambodian Incursion and subsequent widespread bombing of Khmer Rouge targets in Cambodia. The bombing campaign contributed to the chaos of the Cambodian Civil War, which saw the forces of leader Lon Nol unable to retain foreign support to combat the growing Khmer Rouge insurgency that would overthrow him in 1975.  Documents uncovered from the Soviet archives after 1991 reveal that the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1970 was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge and negotiated by Pol Pot’s then second in command, Nuon Chea. The American bombing of Cambodia resulted in 40,000-150,000 deaths from 1969 to 1973, including at least 5,000 civilians. Kissinger himself said there were about 50,000 civilian casualties in the bombing.  Pol Pot biographer David P. Chandler argues that the bombing “had the effect the Americans wanted—it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh.” However, Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen suggest that “the bombs drove ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, a group that seemed initially to have slim prospects of revolutionary success.”

Along with North Vietnamese Politburo Member Le Duc Tho, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1973, for their work in negotiating the ceasefires contained in the Paris Peace Accords on “Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”, signed the previous January. According to Irwin Abrams, this prize was the most controversial to date. For the first time in the history of the Peace Prize, two members left the Nobel Committee in protest. Tho rejected the award, telling Kissinger that peace had not been restored in South Vietnam.[ Kissinger wrote to the Nobel Committee that he accepted the award “with humility,” and “donated the entire proceeds to the children of American service members killed or missing in action in Indochina.” After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Kissinger attempted to return the award.


Under Kissinger’s guidance, the United States government supported Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Kissinger was particularly concerned about the expansion of Soviet influence in South Asia as a result of a treaty of friendship recently signed by India and the USSR, and sought to demonstrate to the People’s Republic of China (Pakistan’s ally and an enemy of both India and the USSR) the value of a tacit alliance with the United States.

Kissinger sneered at people who “bleed” for “the dying Bengalis” and ignored the first telegram from the United States consul general in East Pakistan, Archer K. Blood, and 20 members of his staff, which informed the US that their allies West Pakistan were undertaking, in Blood’s words, “a selective genocide“.  In the second, more famous, Blood Telegram the word genocide was again used to describe the events, and further that with its continuing support for West Pakistan the US government had “evidenced […] moral bankruptcy“. As a direct response to the dissent against US policy Kissinger and Nixon ended Archer Blood’s tenure as United States consul general in East Pakistan and put him to work in the State Department’s Personnel Office.

Henry Kissinger had also come under fire for private comments he made to Nixon during the Bangladesh–Pakistan War in which he described Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a “bitch” and a “witch“. He also said “The Indians are bastards“, shortly before the war. Kissinger has since expressed his regret over the comments.


According to notes taken by H. R. Haldeman, Nixon “ordered his aides to exclude all Jewish-Americans from policy-making on Israel”, including Kissinger. One note quotes Nixon as saying “get K. [Kissinger] out of the play—Haig handle it”.

In 1973, Kissinger did not feel that pressing the Soviet Union concerning the plight of Jews being persecuted there was in the interest of U.S. foreign policy. In conversation with Nixon shortly after a meeting with Golda Meir on March 1, 1973, Kissinger stated, “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy, and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Kissinger argued, however:

That emigration existed at all was due to the actions of “realists” in the White House. Jewish emigration rose from 700 a year in 1969 to near 40,000 in 1972. The total in Nixon’s first term was more than 100,000. To maintain this flow by quiet diplomacy, we never used these figures for political purposes. … The issue became public because of the success of our Middle East policy when Egypt evicted Soviet advisers. To restore its relations with Cairo, the Soviet Union put a tax on Jewish emigration. There was no Jackson–Vanik Amendment until there was a successful emigration effort. Sen. Henry Jackson, for whom I had, and continue to have, high regard, sought to remove the tax with his amendment. We thought the continuation of our previous approach of quiet diplomacy was the wiser course. … Events proved our judgment correct. Jewish emigration fell to about a third of its previous high.


Documents show that Kissinger delayed telling President Richard Nixon about the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to keep him from interfering. On October 6, 1973, the Israelis informed Kissinger about the attack at 6 am; Kissinger waited nearly 3 and a half hours before he informed Nixon.


On October 31, 1973, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi (left) meets with Richard Nixon (middle) and Henry Kissinger (right), about a week after the end of fighting in the Yom Kippur War.

According to Kissinger, in an interview in November 2013, he was notified at 6:30 a.m. (12:30 pm. Israel time) that war was imminent, and his urgent calls to the Soviets and Egyptians were ineffective. He says Golda Meir’s decision not to preempt was wise and reasonable, balancing the risk of Israel looking like the aggressor and Israel’s actual ability to strike within such a brief span of time.

The war began on October 6, 1973, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Kissinger published lengthy telephone transcripts from this period in the 2002 book Crisis. On October 12, under Nixon’s direction, and against Kissinger’s initial advice, while Kissinger was on his way to Moscow to discuss conditions for a cease-fire, Nixon sent a message to Brezhnev giving Kissinger full negotiating authority.

Israel regained the territory it lost in the early fighting and gained new territories from Syria and Egypt, including land in Syria east of the previously captured Golan Heights, and additionally on the western bank of the Suez Canal, although they did lose some territory on the eastern side of the Suez Canal that had been in Israeli hands since the end of the Six Day War. Kissinger pressured the Israelis to cede some of the newly captured land back to its Arab neighbors, contributing to the first phases of Israeli-Egyptian non-aggression. The move saw a warming in U.S.–Egyptian relations, bitter since the 1950s, as the country moved away from its former independent stance and into a close partnership with the United States. The peace was finalized in 1978 when U.S. President Jimmy Carter mediated the Camp David Accords, during which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for an Egyptian peace agreement that included the recognition of the state of Israel.


Following a period of steady relations between the U.S. Government and the Greek military regime after 1967, Secretary of State Kissinger was faced with the coup by the Greek junta and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July and August 1974. In an August 1974 edition of the New York Times, it was revealed that Kissinger and State Department were informed in advance of the impending coup by the Greek junta in Cyprus. Indeed, according to the journalist, the official version of events as told by the State Department was that it felt it had to warn the Greek military regime not to carry out the coup. The warning had been delivered by July 9, according to repeated assurances from its Athens services, that is, the U.S. embassy and the American ambassador Henry J. Tasca himself.

Ioannis Zigdis, then a Greek MP for Centre Union and former minister, stated in an Athenian newspaper that “the Cyprus crisis will become Kissinger’s Watergate”. Zigdis also stressed: “Not only did Kissinger know about the coup for the overthrow of Archbishop Makarios before July 15th, he also encouraged it, if he did not instigate it.”

Kissinger was a target of anti-American sentiment which was a significant feature of Greek public opinion at the time—particularly among young people—viewing the U.S. role in Cyprus as negative. In a demonstration by students in Heraklion, Crete, soon after the second phase of the Turkish invasion in August 1974, slogans such as “Kissinger, murderer”, “Americans get out”, “No to Partition” and “Cyprus is no Vietnam” were heard.

Some years later, Kissinger expressed the opinion that the Cyprus issue was resolved in 1974,  a position very similar to that held by Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit, who had ordered the invasion.



Ford and Kissinger conversing on grounds of the White House, August 1974

 The United States continued to recognize and maintain relationships with non-left-wing governments, democratic and authoritarian alike. John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress was ended in 1973. In 1974, negotiations about a new settlement over the Panama Canal started. They eventually led to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties and the handing over of the Canal to Panamanian control.

Kissinger initially supported the normalization of United States-Cuba relations; broken since 1961 (all U.S.–Cuban trade was blocked in February 1962, a few weeks after the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States because of U.S. pressure). However, he quickly changed his mind and followed Kennedy’s policy. After the involvement of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces in the independence struggles in Angola and Mozambique, Kissinger said that unless Cuba withdrew its forces relations would not be normalized. Cuba refused.


Chilean Socialist Party presidential candidate Salvador Allende was elected by a plurality of 36.2% in 1970, causing serious concern in Washington, D.C. due to his openly socialist and pro-Cuban politics. The Nixon administration, with Kissinger’s input, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to encourage a military coup that would prevent Allende’s inauguration, but the plan was not successful.


Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with Kissinger in 1976

 United States-Chile relations remained frosty during Salvador Allende’s tenure, following the complete nationalization of the partially U.S.-owned copper mines and the Chilean subsidiary of the U.S.-based ITT Corporation, as well as other Chilean businesses. The U.S. claimed that the Chilean government had greatly undervalued fair compensation for the nationalization by subtracting what it deemed “excess profits”. Therefore, the U.S. implemented economic sanctions against Chile. The CIA also provided funding for the mass anti-government strikes in 1972 and 1973, and extensive black propaganda in the newspaper El Mercurio.

The most expeditious way to prevent Allende from assuming office was somehow to convince the Chilean congress to confirm Jorge Alessandri as the winner of the election. Once elected by the congress, Alessandri—a party to the plot through intermediaries—was prepared to resign his presidency within a matter of days so that new elections could be held. This first, nonmilitary, approach to stopping Allende was called the Track I approach. The CIA’s second approach, the Track II approach, was designed to encourage a military overthrow.

On September 11, 1973, Allende died during a military coup launched by Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet, who became President. A document released by the CIA in 2000 titled “CIA Activities in Chile” revealed that the United States, acting through the CIA, actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet’s officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military.

In 1976, Orlando Letelier, a Chilean opponent of the Pinochet regime, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. with a car bomb. Previously, Kissinger had helped secure his release from prison, and had chosen to cancel a letter to Chile warning them against carrying out any political assassinations.  The U.S. ambassador to Chile, David H. Popper, said that Pinochet might take as an insult any inference that he was connected with assassination plots. It has been confirmed that Pinochet directly ordered the assassination. This murder was part of Operation Condor, a covert program of political repression and assassination carried out by Southern Cone nations that Kissinger has been accused of being involved in.

On September 10, 2001, the family of Chilean general René Schneider filed a suit against Kissinger, accusing him of collaborating in arranging Schneider’s kidnapping which resulted in his death. According to phone records, Kissinger claimed to have “turned off” the operation. However, the CIA claimed that no such “stand-down” order was ever received, and he and Nixon later joked that an “incompetent” CIA had struggled to kill Schneider.  A subsequent Congressional investigation found that the CIA was not directly involved in Schneider’s death. The case was later dismissed by a U.S. District Court, citing separation of powers: “The decision to support a coup of the Chilean government to prevent Dr. Allende from coming to power, and the means by which the United States Government sought to effect that goal, implicate policy makers in the murky realm of foreign affairs and national security best left to the political branches.”  Decades later the CIA admitted its involvement in the kidnapping of General Schneider, but not his murder, and subsequently paid the group responsible for his death $35,000 “to keep the prior contact secret, maintain the goodwill of the group, and for humanitarian reasons.”


Kissinger took a similar line as he had toward Chile when the Argentinian military, led by Jorge Videla, toppled the elected government of Isabel Perón in 1976 with a process called the National Reorganization Process by the military, with which they consolidated power, launching brutal reprisals and “disappearances” against political opponents. During a meeting with Argentinian foreign minister César Augusto Guzzetti, Kissinger assured him that the United States was an ally, but urged him to “get back to normal procedures” quickly before the U.S. Congress reconvened and had a chance to consider sanctions.  According to declassified state department files, Kissinger also attempted to thwart the Carter Administration’s efforts to halt the mass killings by the 1976-83 military dictatorship.


In September 1976 Kissinger was actively involved in negotiations regarding the Rhodesian Bush War. Kissinger, along with South Africa’s Prime Minister John Vorster, pressured Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith to hasten the transition to black majority rule in Rhodesia. With FRELIMO in control of Mozambique and even South Africa withdrawing its support, Rhodesia’s isolation was nearly complete. According to Smith’s autobiography, Kissinger told Smith of Mrs. Kissinger’s admiration for him, but Smith stated that he thought Kissinger was asking him to sign Rhodesia’s “death certificate”. Kissinger, bringing the weight of the United States, and corralling other relevant parties to put pressure on Rhodesia, hastened the end of minority-rule.


The Portuguese decolonization process brought U.S. attention to the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which lies within the Indonesian archipelago and declared its independence in 1975. Indonesian president Suharto was a strong U.S. ally in Southeast Asia and began to mobilize the Indonesian army, preparing to annex the nascent state, which had become increasingly dominated by the popular leftist FRETILIN party. In December 1975, Suharto discussed the invasion plans during a meeting with Kissinger and President Ford in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Both Ford and Kissinger made clear that U.S. relations with Indonesia would remain strong and that it would not object to the proposed annexation. They only wanted it done “fast” and proposed that it be delayed until after they had returned to Washington.  Accordingly, Suharto delayed the operation for one day. Finally on December 7 Indonesian forces invaded the former Portuguese colony. U.S. arms sales to Indonesia continued, and Suharto went ahead with the annexation plan. According to Ben Kiernan, the invasion and occupation resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of the Timorese population from 1975 to 1981.


In February 1976 Kissinger considered launching air strikes against ports and military installations in Cuba, as well as deploying Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, in retaliation for Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision in late 1975 to send troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.


Kissinger left office when Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Republican Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential elections. Kissinger continued to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements.

Shortly after Kissinger left office in 1977, he was offered an endowed chair at Columbia University. There was significant student opposition to the appointment, which eventually became a subject of wide media commentary.  Columbia cancelled the appointment as a result.

Kissinger was then appointed to Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. He taught at Georgetown’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service for several years in the late 1970s. In 1982, with the help of a loan from the international banking firm of E.M. Warburg, Pincus and Company, Kissinger founded a consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and is a partner in affiliate Kissinger McLarty Associates with Mack McLarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He also serves on the board of directors of Hollinger International, a Chicago-based newspaper group, and as of March 1999, was a director of Gulfstream Aerospace.

From 1995 to 2001, Kissinger served on the board of directors for Freeport-McMoRan, a multinational copper and gold producer with significant mining and milling operations in Papua, Indonesia.  In February 2000, then-president of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid appointed Kissinger as a political advisor. He also serves as an honorary advisor to the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.

From 2000–2006, Kissinger served as chairman of the board of trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships. In 2006, upon his departure from Eisenhower Fellowships, he received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service.

In November 2002, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to chair the newly established National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to investigate the September 11 attacks.[Kissinger stepped down as chairman on December 13, 2002 rather than reveal his business client list, when queried about potential conflicts of interest.

Kissinger—along with William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George Shultz—has called upon governments to embrace the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, and in three Wall Street Journal op-eds proposed an ambitious program of urgent steps to that end. The four have created the Nuclear Security Project to advance this agenda. In 2010, the four were featured in a documentary film entitled “Nuclear Tipping Point”. The film is a visual and historical depiction of the ideas laid forth in the Wall Street Journal op-eds and reinforces their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons and the steps that can be taken to reach that goal.

On 17 November 2016, Kissinger met with then President Elect Donald Trump during which they discussed “China, Russia, Iran, the EU and other events and issues around the world”.



In several articles of his and interviews that he gave during the Yugoslav wars, he criticized the United States’ policies in Southeast Europe, among other things for the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state, which he described as a foolish act. Most importantly he dismissed the notion of Serbs, and Croats for that part, being aggressors or separatist, saying that “they can’t be separating from something that has never existed”. In addition, he repeatedly warned the West of inserting itself into a conflict that has its roots at least hundreds of years back in time, and said that the West would do better if it allowed the Serbs and Croats to join their respective countries. Kissinger shared similarly critical views on Western involvement in Kosovo. In particular, he held a disparaging view of the Rambouillet Agreement:

The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that any Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.— Henry Kissinger, Daily Telegraph, June 28, 1999

However, as the Serbs did not accept the Rambouillet text and NATO bombings started, he opted for a continuation of the bombing as NATO’s credibility was now at stake, but dismissed the use of ground forces, claiming that it was not worth it.


In 2006, it was reported in the book State of Denial by Bob Woodward that Kissinger met regularly with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to offer advice on the Iraq War. Kissinger confirmed in recorded interviews with Woodward that the advice was the same as he had given in an August 12, 2005 column in The Washington Post: “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”

In a November 19, 2006, interview on BBC Sunday AM, Kissinger said, when asked whether there is any hope left for a clear military victory in Iraq, “If you mean by ‘military victory’ an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible. … I think we have to redefine the course. But I don’t believe that the alternative is between military victory as it had been defined previously or total withdrawal.”

In an April 3, 2008, interview with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, Kissinger reiterated that even though he supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq he thought that the George W. Bush administration rested too much of its case for war on Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. Robinson noted that Kissinger had criticized the administration for invading with too few troops, for disbanding the Iraqi Army, and for mishandling relations with certain allies.


Kissinger said in April 2008 that “India has parallel objectives to the United States,” and he called it an ally of the U.S.


Kissinger was present at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. In 2011, Kissinger published On China, chronicling the evolution of Sino-American relations and laying out the challenges to a partnership of ‘genuine strategic trust’ between the U.S. and China.


Kissinger’s position on this issue of U.S.–Iran talks was reported by the Tehran Times to be that “Any direct talks between the U.S. and Iran on issues such as the nuclear dispute would be most likely to succeed if they first involved only diplomatic staff and progressed to the level of secretary of state before the heads of state meet.”



Henry Kissinger in 2016.

On March 5, 2014, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Kissinger, 11 days before the Crimean referendum on whether Autonomous Republic of Crimea should officially rejoin in Ukraine or join neighboring Russia. In it, he attempted to balance the Ukrainian, Russian and Western desires for a functional state. He made four main points:

  • Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe;
  • Ukraine should not join NATO, a repetition of the position he took seven years before;
  • Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. He imagined an international position for Ukraine like that of Finland.
  • Ukraine should maintain sovereignty over Crimea.
  • Kissinger also wrote: “The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other—as has been the pattern—would lead eventually to civil war or break up.”

Following the publication of his book titled World Order; Kissinger participated in an interview with Charlie Rose and updated his position on Ukraine, which he sees as a possible geographical mediator between Russia and the West. In a question he posed to himself for illustration regarding re-conceiving policy regarding Ukraine, Kissinger stated: “If Ukraine is considered an outpost, then the situation is that its eastern border is the NATO strategic line, and NATO will be within 200 miles (320 km) of Volgograd. That will never be accepted by Russia. On the other hand, if the Russian western line is at the border of Poland, Europe will be permanently disquieted. The Strategic objective should have been to see whether one can build Ukraine as a bridge between East and West, and whether one can do it as a kind of a joint effort.”

In December 2016, Kissinger advised then President-elect Donald Trump to accept “Crimea as a part of Russia” in an attempt to secure a rapprochement between the United States and Russia, whose relations soured as a result of the Crimean crisis.


At the height of Kissinger’s prominence, many commented on his wit. In February 1972, at the Washington Press Club annual congressional dinner, “Kissinger mocked his reputation as a secret swinger.” The insight, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, is widely attributed to him, although Kissinger was paraphrasing Napoleon Bonaparte. Some scholars have ranked Kissinger as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State in the 50 years to 2015. A number of activists and human rights lawyers, however, have sought his prosecution for alleged war crimes. According to historian and Kissinger biographer Niall Ferguson, however, accusing Kissinger alone of war crimes “requires a double standard” because “nearly all the secretaries of state … and nearly all the presidents” have taken similar actions.

Kissinger was interviewed in Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, a documentary examining the underpinnings of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.  In the film, Kissinger revealed how close he felt the world came to nuclear war during the 1973 Yom Kippur War launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel.

Attempts have been made to attach liability to Kissinger for injustices in American foreign policy during his tenure in government. In September 2001, relatives and survivors of General Rene Schneider, the former head of the Chilean general staff, commenced civil proceedings in Federal Court in Washington, DC, and, in April 2002, a petition for Kissinger’s arrest was filed in the High Court in London by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, citing the destruction of civilian populations and the environment in Indochina during the years 1969-75. Both suits were determined to lack legal foundation and were dismissed before trial. British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens authored The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in which Hitchens calls for the prosecution of Kissinger “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture”.  Critics on the right, such as Ray Takeyh, have faulted Kissinger for his role in the Nixon administration’s opening to China and secret negotiations with North Vietnam. Takeyh writes that while rapprochement with China was a worthy goal, the Nixon administration failed to achieve any meaningful concessions from Chinese officials in return, as China continued to support North Vietnam and various “revolutionary forces throughout the Third World,” “nor does there appear to be even a remote, indirect connection between Nixon and Kissinger’s diplomacy and the communist leadership’s decision, after Mao’s bloody rule, to move away from a communist economy towards state capitalism.” On Vietnam, Takeyh claims that Kissinger’s negotiations with Le Duc Tho were intended only “to secure a ‘decent interval’ between America’s withdrawal and South Vietnam’s collapse.” Johannes Kadura offers a more positive assessment of Nixon and Kissinger’s strategy, arguing that the two men “simultaneously maintained a Plan A of further supporting Saigon and a Plan B of shielding Washington should their maneuvers prove futile.” According to Kadura, the “decent interval” concept has been “largely misrepresented,” in that Nixon and Kissinger “sought to gain time, make the North turn inward, and create a perpetual equilibrium” rather than acquiescing in the collapse of South Vietnam, but the strength of the anti-war movement and the sheer unpredictability of events in Indochina compelled them to prepare for the possibility that South Vietnam might collapse despite their best efforts. Kadura concludes: “Without Nixon, Kissinger, and Ford’s clever use of triangular diplomacy … The Soviets and the Chinese could have been tempted into a far more aggressive stance” following the “U.S. defeat in Indochina” than actually occurred. In 2011, Chimerica Media released an interview-based documentary, titled Kissinger, in which Kissinger “reflects on some of his most important and controversial decisions” during his tenure as Secretary of State.

Kissinger’s record was brought up during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton had cultivated a close relationship with Kissinger, describing him as a “friend” and a source of “counsel.” During the Democratic Primary Debates, Clinton touted Kissinger’s praise for her record as Secretary of State.  In response, candidate Bernie Sanders issued a critique of Kissinger’s foreign policy, declaring: “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.”


Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were jointly offered the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the Paris Peace Accords which prompted the withdrawal of American forces from the Vietnam war. (Le Duc Tho declined to accept the award on the grounds that such “bourgeois sentimentalities” were not for him and that peace had not actually been achieved in Vietnam. Kissinger donated his prize money to charity, did not attend the award ceremony and would later offer to return his prize medal after the fall of South Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces 18 months later.

In 1973, Kissinger received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.

In 1976, Kissinger became the first honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters.


President Ford, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, and Kissinger speaking informally at the Vladivostok Summit in 1974

  • On January 13, 1977, Kissinger received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford
  • In 1980, Kissinger won the National Book Award in History for the first volume of his memoirs, The White House Years.
  • In 1995, he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • In 2000, Kissinger received the Sylvanus Thayer Award at United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • In 2002, Kissinger became an honour member of the International Olympic Committee.
  • On March 1, 2012, Kissinger was awarded Israel’s President’s Medal.
  • In October 2013, Kissinger was awarded the Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service by Lighthouse International
  • Kissinger was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford.


1979. The White House Years. ISBN 0-316-49661-8 (National Book Award, History Hardcover)

1982. Years of Upheaval. ISBN 0-316-28591-9

1999. Years of Renewal. ISBN 0-684-85571-2


Born: Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923 (age 93) at Fürth, Germany

Political party: Republican


  • City College of New York
  • Harvard University (BA, MA, PhD)

Civilian awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Military service in United States Army

  • Years of service: 1943–1946
  • Rank: US Army WWII SGT.svg Sergeant
  • Unit: 970th Counter Intelligence Corps


  • World War II

Military awards

  • Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star


Kissinger married Ann Fleischer, with whom he had two children, Elizabeth and David. They divorced in 1964. Ten years later, he married Nancy Maginnes. They lived in Kent, Connecticut and New York City. His son David Kissinger was an executive with NBC Universal before becoming head of Conaco, Conan O’Brien’s production company.

Children: 2

He described diplomacy as his favorite game in a 1973 interview.

By courtesy of

The Crisis Accelerates

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

Just before my departure for Asia, Yahya on June 28 announced a plan to transfer political power to civilians. A new constitution drawn up by experts would be proclaimed within four months; Awami League members not associated with secession would be eligible to participate in the new government. Yahya did not explain to what category of leaders this might apply.

While I was en route, I received disturbing information that the Soviet Union had at last perceived its strategic opportunity. Abandoning its caution, it had informed India of its approval of guerrilla operations into East Pakistan and had promised India protection against Chinese reprisals. A new and ominous dimension had been added to the conflict. (This occurred well before our China initiative.)

In visiting New Delhi, I had two partially contradictory missions. One was to prepare India circumspectly for the news of my visit to China. Noting the Ping-Pong diplomacy and our two-year record of overtures in trade and travel, I stressed that we were bound to continue to improve our relations with Peking. On the other hand, we would take a grave view of an unprovoked Chinese attack on India. If this unsolicited comment did not utterly mystify my interlocutors, it may have given them a brief moment of encouragement–though that moment of euphoria surely ended with the July 15 announcement of my trip to China.

We must await the memoirs of my interlocutors to see whether the Indian ministers considered my reassurances the best we could do given our constraints, or an effort at deception. The major topic of my talks in New Delhi was the crisis in East Pakistan. I reported to the President:

There seems to be a growing sense of inevitability of war or a least widespread Hindu-Muslim violence, not necessarily because anyone wants it but because in the end they fear they will not know how to avoid it . . .

I assured [Mrs. Gandhi] the whole point of our policy has been to retain enough influence to urge creation of conditions that would permit the refugees to go back, although we would not promise results. I asked how much more time she thought there was before the situation became unmanageable, and she replied that it is unmanageable now and that they are “just holding it together by sheer willpower.”

The conversation with Indian leaders, in fact, followed the ritual of the previous weeks. As I had done on many occasions with Indian Ambassador Jha in Washington, I tried to assure them that the United States was eager to maintain good relations with India. We did not oppose Bengali autonomy, and we were confident we could encourage a favourable evolution if we dealt with Yahya as a friend instead of as another tormentor. I invited Mrs. Gandhi to visit the United States for a fundamental review of Indian-American relations with President Nixon.

But Mrs. Gandhi and her ministers were in no mood for conciliation. The invitation to Washington was evaded. They avowed their desire to improve relations with the United States but passionately accused us of deception over arms sales to Pakistan. The stridency of these complaints was in no way diminished by the facts: that almost all arms shipments to Pakistan had been stopped, including the “one-time exception”; that no new licenses were being issued; and that the only items still in transit were the trickle licensed before the ban went into effect. India could have no serious concern about this minuscule flow; it would end automatically as licenses expired; our estimate, indeed, was that nothing would be left in the pipeline after October. Mrs. Gandhi even admitted to me that the amounts were not the issue, but the symbolism. In other words, India wanted the demoralisation of Pakistan through the conspicuous disassociation of the United States. I was pressed to cut off not only arms but all economic aid as well. Indian leaders evidently did not think it strange that a country which had distanced itself from most of our foreign policy objectives in the name of nonalignment was asking us to break all ties with an ally over what was in international law a domestic conflict. The American contribution to refugee relief by July had reached nearly $100 million; this did not keep Mrs. Gandhi from broadening her criticisms to encompass the entire twenty-four-year record of our policies toward Pakistan. I left New Delhi with the conviction that India was bent on a showdown with Pakistan. It was only waiting for the right moment. The opportunity to settle scores with a rival that had isolated itself by its own short-sightedness was simply too tempting.

On my visit to Islamabad, I was preoccupied with my impending journey to Peking. But I had several conversations with President Yahya and Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan. I urged them to put forward a comprehensive proposal to encourage refugees to return home and to deny India a pretext for going to war. I urged Yahya and his associates to go a step farther in the internationalization of relief by admitting the United Nations to supervise its distribution. And I recommended the early appointment of a civilian governor for East Pakistan. Yahya promised to consider these suggestions. But fundamentally, he was oblivious to his perils and unprepared to face necessities. He and his colleagues did not believe that India might be planning war; if so, they were convinced they would win. When I asked tactfully as I could about the Indian advantage in numbers and equipment, Yahya and his colleagues answered with bravado about the historic superiority of Moslem fighters.

There simply was no blinking the fact that Pakistan’s military leaders were caught up in a process beyond their comprehension. They could not conceive of the dismemberment of their country; and those who could, saw no way of surviving such a catastrophe politically if they cooperated with it. They had no understanding of the psychological and political isolation into which they had manoeuvred their country by their brutal suppression. They agreed theoretically that they needed a comprehensive program if they were to escape their dilemmas. But their definition of “comprehensive” was too grudging, legalistic, technical and piecemeal. The result was that never throughout the crisis did Pakistan manage to put forward a position on which it could take its international stand. In fact, its piecemeal concessions, though cumulatively not inconsiderable, played into India’s hands; they proved its case that something was wrong without providing a convincing remedy. Yahya found himself at a tragic impasse. Accused by conservative colleagues of hazarding his country’s unity and by foreign opinion of brutally suppressing freedom, he vacillated, going too far for his conservatives, not far enough for the world, and especially American, public opinion.

At a dinner given for me the night before I left for Peking, I had an opportunity to chide Yahya for the mess that had been created. “Everyone calls me a dictator,” bellowed Yahya in his bluff imitation of the Sandhurst manner. “Am I a dictator?” he asked every guest, American as well as Pakistani, in turn. Everyone protested with varying degrees of sincerity that of course Yahya was not a dictator. When it came to me, I said: “I don’t know, Mr. President, except that for a dictator you run a lousy election.”

 The festering crisis naturally came up in my conversations in Peking. Chou en-lai’s perspective could not have been more different from the conventional wisdom in Washington. He quite simply considered India the aggressor; he spent an hour of our scarce time recounting his version of the Sino-Indian clashes of 1962, which he claimed had been provoked by Indian encroachments. Chou insisted that China would not be indifferent if India attacked Pakistan. He even asked me to convey this expression of Chinese support to Yahya–a gesture intended for Washington, since Peking had an Ambassador in Islamabad quite capable of delivering messages. I replied that the United States had traditional ties with Pakistan, and we were grateful for its arranging the opening to China. We would continue to maintain friendly relations with India, but we would strongly oppose any Indian military action. Our disapproval could not, however, take the form of military aid or military measures on behalf of Pakistan.

I returned to Washington with a premonition for disaster. India, in my view, would almost certainly attack Pakistan shortly after the monsoon ended. Though I was confident that we could succeed in nudging Islamabad toward autonomy for East Pakistan. I doubted that India would give us the time and thus miss an opportunity, which might not soon come again, of settling accounts with a country whose very existence many of its leaders found so offensive. China might then act. The Soviet Union might use the opportunity to teach Peking a lesson. For us to gang up on Pakistan–as our media and Congress were so insistently demanding– would accelerate the danger; it would give India an even stronger justification to attack. It would jeopardize the China initiative. At that time, prior to Nixon’s visit to Peking, we had no way of knowing how firm China’s commitment to the opening to Washington really was.

Nixon called the National Security Council together on July 16, the day after he announced his trip to China. It was a sign of how seriously he took the crisis. He asked me to sum up the issues. I said India seemed bent on war. I did not think that Yahya had the imagination to solve the political problems in time to prevent the Indian assault. On the other hand, 70,000 West Pakistani soldiers (they had been augmented since March) could not hold down 75 million East Pakistanis for long. Our objective had to be an evolution that would lead to independence for East Pakistan. Unfortunately, this was not likely to happen in time to head off an Indian attack. Therefore, immediate efforts were needed to arrest and reverse the flow of refugees and thereby remove the pretext for war.

There was no disagreement with my analysis. Rogers had his judgement that India was doing everything in its power to prevent the refugees from returning. Nixon concluded that we would ask the Pakistanis to do their maximum on refugees. We would not countenance an Indian attack; if India used force, all American aid would be cut off. Every effort should be made to avoid a war.

On July 23, Pakistani Ambassador Agha Hilaly informed us that his government accepted our suggestion of UN supervision of the resettlement of refugees to guarantee them against reprisals. Yahya also went along with our recommendation to appoint a civilian administrator to oversee refugee relief and resettlement. I strongly urged Hilaly to accelerate their efforts.

Unfortunately, India would have none of it. The very reasons that made the strategy of concentrating on refugees attractive to us caused India to obstruct it. As early as July 15, Indian Ambassador Jha told us that India could not accept proposals to curb guerrilla activity from its territory. On July 16, Indian Foreign Secretary Kaul told us ha India would not accept UN personnel on its side of the border even to handle refugees. This was Catch-22 again. Everyone agreed that a condition for political progress in the East was the return of the Pakistani army to its barracks, which was one reason we were pressing for the appointment of a civilian administrator. But there was no way to induce the Pakistani army to do so as long as its neighbour conducted a guerrilla war against it–and proclaimed its determination to escalate that war. Pakistan had agreed to place the resettlement of refugees under UN supervision. But this could not be implemented if the refugees could not even learn of Pakistan’s offers because UN personnel were barred from any contact with them in India to explain their prospects if they returned. In the absence of any outside observers in these camps we could not even be sure of the actual number of refugees.

Two Senior Review Group meetings, on July 23 and July 30, discussed these dilemmas. On no issue–except perhaps Cambodia–was the split between the White House and the departments so profound as on the India-Pakistan crisis in the summer of 1971. On no other problem was there such flagrant disregard of unambiguous Presidential directives. The State Department controlled the machinery of execution. Nixon left it to me to ensure that his policy was carried out and to bring major disagreements to him. But what we faced was a constant infighting over seemingly trivial issues, any one of which seemed too lightweight or technical to raise to the President but whose accumulation would define the course of national policy. Nixon was not prepared to overrule his Secretary of State on what appeared to him minor operational matters; this freed the State Department to interpret Nixon’s directives in accordance with its own preferences, thereby vitiating the course Nixon had set.

No one could speak for five minutes with Nixon, without hearing of his profound distrust of Indian motives, his concern over Soviet meddling, and above all his desire not to risk the opening to China by ill-considered posturing.

Nixon had ordered repeatedly that we should move Pakistan toward political accommodation through understanding rather than pressure. The State Department had every right to a contrary view: that massive public pressure would make Pakistan more pliable. What strained White House–State relations was the effort by State to implement its views when the President had chosen a different course. For example, in early September we found out through the Pakistanis that the State Department had privately opened negotiations with them to cut off even the trivial amount of military equipment licensed before March 25. The White House thought that Pakistan was moving through the painful process of disintegration and wanted to take account of the anguish of an old ally, the limited horizon of its leaders, and its internal stresses; therefore, we wanted to avoid announcing a formal embargo, although our actions amounted to as much. The State Department was more conscious of our critics at home and was loath to antagonise India. My nightmare was that the effort to placate India would generate a war. As I told the Senior Review Group on July 30, “We should urge Yahya to restore an increasing degree of participation by the people of East Pakistan. But the clock of war is running in India faster than the clock on political accommodation. We are determined to avoid war.” I had told the President on July 27 that the State was beginning to throttle even our economic aid to Pakistan: “If anything will tempt the Indians to attack, it will be the complete helplessness of Pakistan.” Whatever the merits of this debate, the fact was that Nixon was President, and that departments, after having stated their case, should carry out not only the letter but also the spirit of Presidential decisions even if they disagree and even if they have to face outside or Congressional criticisms in doing so.

The problem was accentuated by the anomaly that some long-forgotten State Department reorganization had placed the subcontinent in the Near East Bureau, whose jurisdiction ended at the subcontinent’s eastern boundary; it excluded East Asia and any consideration of China. Senior officials who might have been conscious of China’s concerns had been excluded from the opening to Peking. Hence, there was no one at State who felt fully responsible for the “China account” or even fully understood its rationale–this was one of the prices paid for our unorthodox method of administration. In inter agency debates my office was not infrequently accused of an obsession with “protecting the trip to China,” as if preserving that option were somehow an unworthy enterprise. Not a single bureaucratic analysis of India-Pakistan during the period seriously addressed the impact of our conduct on China. Peking was not rejected by our bureaucracy. It was simply ignored. The gulf in perception between the White House and the rest of the government became apparent in an options paper prepared for the July 23 Senior Review Group meeting. It recommended that if China intervened in an India-Pakistan war, the United States should extend military assistance to India and coordinate its actions with the Soviet Union and Great Britain. Nothing more contrary to the President’s foreign policy could have been imagined.

Nixon stated succinctly at his August 4 press conference that we were not going to engage in public pressure on Pakistan: “That would be totally counterproductive. These are matters that we will discuss only in private channels.” Despite this, nearly all operational proposals by the bureaucracy were aimed at increasing pressure on Pakistan. I asked at the July 30 Senior Review Group meeting: “What would an enemy do to Pakistan? We are already cutting off military and economic aid to them. The President has said repeatedly that we should lean toward Pakistan, but every proposal that is made goes directly counter to these instructions.”

As I have mentioned, State had come up with the proposal that the remaining $3-to-$4 million in the military pipeline be cancelled by agreement with Pakistan. The justification was that this would make it easier for us to maintain economic assistance. I reluctantly went along, though I thought it an unworthy response to Pakistan’s assistance on China. The negotiation for drying up the pipeline took two months. It was finally accomplished in early November, woundingly for Pakistan, just in time to create a “good atmosphere” for Mrs. Gandhi’s visit. But no sooner did Pakistan agree to negotiate a total arms cut off than foot-dragging began on economic assistance. No new development loans were made throughout 1971. As I said acidly on September 8 at a Senior Review Group meeting, the State Department sold us a dried-up arms pipeline in return for a dried-up economic aid policy.

And none of these manoeuvres addressed the central issue. I was convinced that East Pakistan would become independent Bangladesh relatively soon. But Yahya could not possibly accomplish this before October or November, when the Indians were most likely to attack. Hence, I thought it imperative to make a massive effort to alleviate the refugee problem immediately and to bring our influence to bear in the direction of constitutional rule at as fast a pace as the Pakistani political structure could stand. Constitutional government, in turn, was almost certain to produce at least Bangladesh autonomy and eventually independence. So, we multiplied our aid contribution, providing some $90 million to India and over $150 million for internationally supervised famine relief in East Pakistan to reverse the tide of refugees. We appointed an able senior official o our Agency for International Development, Maurice Williams, to coordinate all US refugee relief.

But it was to no avail. Our actions were outstripped by India’s deliberate acceleration of tensions. On July 24, Kaul again rejected the idea of UN personnel on the Indian side of the border. On August 4, Ambassador Jha rejected suggestions of Under Secretary of State John Irwin that India control the guerrillas operating from its territory. Jha made a new suggestion–that the United States take up an offer of contact with the Bangladesh exiles in Calcutta. When we did so, as will be seen, it was aborted in part because of Indian obstruction.

By courtesy:

The Military Crackdown

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

What prompted Yahya to his reckless step on March 25 is not fully known. No doubt the Bengali population taunted the Pakistani soldiers drawn almost exclusively from the West. Mujib’s version of autonomy seemed indistinguishable from independence. Almost all nations will fight for their unity, even if sentiment in the disaffected area is overwhelmingly for secession. So, it was during our Civil War, with Nigeria toward Biafra, and with the Congo toward Katanga. Pakistan was unique, however, in that the seceding province was separated from West Pakistan by a thousand miles of Indian territory. There was no likelihood that a small military force owing to loyalty to one wing of the country could indefinitely hold down a population of 75 million of the other. Once indigenous Bengali support for a united Pakistan evaporated, the integrity of Pakistan was finished. An independent Bengali state was certain to emerge, even without Indian intervention. The only question was how the change would come about.

We wanted to stay aloof from this if we could, as did Britain. We even received reports of West Pakistani suspicions that we might favour an independent East Pakistan, but neither the British nor we wished to be made scapegoats for the country’s breakup. We had few means to affect the situation. We had, moreover, every incentive to maintain Pakistan’s goodwill. It was our crucial link to Peking; and Pakistan was one of China’s closest allies. We had sent a message in December through Pakistan accepting the principle of an American emissary in Peking. In March and April, the signs were multiplying that a Chinese response was imminent. April was a month of Ping-Pong diplomacy.

In this first stage of the crisis the consensus of the US government was to avoid precipitate action even among those who knew nothing of our China initiative. At a WSAG meeting on March 26, I repeated my own view that the prognosis was for a civil war, leading to independence fairly quickly. A State Department representative noted that Britain was unwilling to engage itself in pressing Pakistan. I told my colleagues:

I talked to the President briefly before lunch. His inclination is the same as everybody else’s. He doesn’t want to do anything. He doesn’t want to be in the position where he can be accused of having encouraged the split-up of Pakistan. He does not favour a very active policy.”

Yet pressures for an active policy began to mount. There was general and justified outrage as during April, reports began to come in of Pakistani atrocities in Bengal. Our Consul General in Dacca was sending cables to Washington urging a public American stand against Pakistani repression; other members of the consulate staff signed a similar message in early April. Secretary Rogers told me he found it ” outrageous” that his diplomats were writing petitions rather than reports. But in a favourite device of subordinates seeking to foreclose their superiors’ options, the cables were deliberately given a low classification and hence wide circulation. Leaks to the Congress and press were inevitable. A Pakistani editor who visited East Pakistan wrote a firsthand account of army killings for the London Sunday Times. Our Ambassador in New Delhi, Kenneth Keating, reported to Washington that he was “deeply shocked at the massacre” and was ” greatly concerned at the United States’ vulnerability to damaging association with a reign of military terror.” He urged that the United States promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore ” this brutality,” privately intervene with Yahya Khan, abrogate our “one-time exception,” and immediately suspend all military deliveries to Pakistan.

We faced a dilemma. The United States could not condone a brutal military repression in which thousands of civilians were killed and from which millions fled to India for safety. There was no doubt about the strong-arm tactics of the Pakistani military. But Pakistan was our sole channel to China; once it was closed off it would take months to make alternative arrangements. The issue hit Washington, moreover, in the midst of another of the cyclic upheavals over Vietnam. A massive campaign of disobedience was planned for May 1. To some of our critics our silence over Pakistan–the reason for which we could not explain–became another symptom of the general moral  insensitivity of their government. They could not accept that that it might be torn between conflicting imperatives; some had a vested interest in undermining their government’s standing on whatever issue came to hand in the belief that this would collapse our effort in Vietnam. The Administration reacted in the same ungenerous spirit; there was some merit to the charge of moral insensitivity. Nixon ordered our Consul General transferred from Dacca; he ridiculed Keating for having been “taken over by the Indians.” a tragic victim of the war in Vietnam was the possibility of rational debate on foreign policy.

The State Department moved on its own to pre-empt the decisions. Ignorant of the China initiative, heavily influenced by its traditional Indian bias, in early April– without a clearance with the White House– the Department moved toward a new arms embargo on Pakistan. It suspended issuance of new licenses for the sale of munitions and renewal of expired licenses; it put a hold on the delivery of items from Defense Department stocks and held in abeyance the “one-time exception” package of 1970. Some $35 million in arms to Pakistan was cut off, leaving some $5 million trickling through the pipeline. (This $5 million became a contentious issue with the Congress in early July). The State Department also began to throttle economic aid to Pakistan, again without White House clearance, by the ingenious device of claiming that our existing programs could no longer be made effective throughout the entire country because of the civil war. My NSC staff expert Hal Saunders wrote me that State Department was moving from a posture of detachment to one of disassociation from the Pakistani government, but “they are not acknowledging to themselves that is what the are doing. The are justifying their move on technical grounds.”

Anyone familiar with Nixon’s attitudes could not doubt that this was contrary to his wishes; those unfamiliar should have checked with the White House. The pre-emption of Presidential prerogatives goes far to explain Nixon’s (and my) attitude later that year, throughout April, my major task was to get control of the government process with two objectives: to preserve the channel to Peking and to preserve the possibility of a political solution in Pakistan. By then, Islamabad was not only a point of contact but also my likely place of departure for China. And signs began to appear that India’s proposed solution to the undoubted burden of millions of Bengali refugees was not so much to enable them to return as to accelerate the disintegration of Pakistan (or at any rate to identify one objective with the other). On March 31, the Indian Parliament unanimously expressed its wholehearted “sympathy and support” for the Bengalis. As early as April 1, I reported to the President that “the Indians seem to be embarking on a course of public diplomatic and covert actions that will increase the already high level of tension in the subcontinent and run the risk of touching off a broader and more serious international crisis.” On April 14, a Bangladesh government in exile was established in Calcutta. By the middle of April we received reports that India was training Bengali refugees to become guerrilla fighters in East Pakistan (the so-called Mukti  Bahini). By the end of April, we learned that India was about to infiltrate the first 2,000 of these guerrillas into East Pakistan.

I considered a policy of restraint correct on the merits, above and beyond the China connection. For better or worse, the strategy of the Nixon Administration on humanitarian questions was not to lay down a challenge to sovereignty that would surely be rejected, but to exert our influence without public confrontation. In retrospect, I believe that we sometimes carried this basically correct approach to pedantic lengths which antagonised potential supporters. In the case of Pakistan, it seemed appropriate because its government was an ally that, we were convinced, was bound soon to learn the futility of its course. We undertook to persuade Yahya Khan to move toward autonomy, advising him as a friend to take steps that he would surely have rejected had we demanded them publicly. As I wrote the President on April 29, the central government “may recognise the need to move toward greater East Pakistani autonomy in order to draw the necessary Bengali cooperation. What we seem to face, therefore, is a period of transition to greater East Pakistan autonomy and, perhaps, eventual independence.” Yet, I noted, India’s policy was bound to work against such a settlement: By training and equipping a relatively small Bengali resistance force, India can help keep active resistance alive and increase the chances of a prolonged guerrilla war. From all indications, the Indians intend to follow such a course.”

Following the customary procedure, I asked the State Department in April to suggest opinions in preparation for a decision by the President as to what our policy should be in light of the unfolding crisis. A broad policy decision would provide the framework for handling the specific economic and military aid issues with Pakistan; it was especially needed in view of the fact that State had already begun moving in its own desired direction. As usual, the Department placed its preferred option between alternatives so absurd that they could not possibly serve as a basis of policy. (One proposal, for example, was all- out support for Yahya. This was neither the White House conviction nor a feasible course of action.) I distilled a recommendation from the range of options that State proposed. To respond to Congressional and public desires I proposed that the President ratify the State Department’s unauthorised action of early April shutting down the military supply pipeline, allowing only some spare parts and no lethal equipment to move. I also urged that economic aid be used as a carrot to induce political concessions, ” to make a serious effort to help Yahya end the war and establish an arrangement that could be transitional to East Pakistan autonomy.”

Nixon approved my recommendations on May 2, and added a handwritten note:” To all hands. Don’t squeeze Yahya at this time. RN.”

But we ran up against three obstacles: the policy of India, our own public debate, and the indiscipline of our bureaucracy.

On May 18– when we were already in the advanced stage of preparing the secret trip to Peking with Islamabad–Mrs. Gandhi warned Pakistan in a public speech that India was “fully prepared to fight if the situation is forced on us.” Indian ambassadors alerted Britain and France that India ” may be forced to act in its national interest” in view of the flood of refugees. By then an estimated 2.8 million. The burden of refugees was indeed monumental; the danger of communal riots could not be dismissed. But as the weeks passed, we began increasingly to suspect that Mrs. Gandhi perceived a larger opportunity. As Pakistan grew more and more isolated internationally, she appeared to seek above all Pakistan’s humiliation, perhaps trying to spread the centrifugal tendencies from East to West Pakistan. When the United States agreed to assume the major cost of refugee relief, India switched to insisting that the refugee problem was insoluble without a political settlement. But India’s terms for a settlement escalated by the week. When the United States offered to alleviate famine in East Pakistan, India– together with many in the United States–demanded that the relief program be run by an international agency. The reason was ostensibly to ensure its fair distribution, but it would also prevent the Pakistan government from gaining credit with its own population.

In May 1971, we learned from sources heretofore reliable that Mrs. Gandhi had ordered plans for a lightning “Israeli-type” attack to take over East Pakistan. And we had hard evidence that India was dispersing aircraft and moving combat troops and armour to the border. Nixon took the reports seriously enough to order on May 23 that if India launched such an attack, US economic aid to India was to be cut off. I assembled the WSAG on May 26 to review our policy in the event of a war.

Around this time we learned that Indian military leaders thought Mrs. Gandhi’s proposal of an attack on East Pakistan was too risky. They feared Chinese intervention, the possibility of other countries’  military aid to Pakistan (especially Iran’s), the uncertainty of resupply of Soviet weapons, and the likelihood that all of Pakistan might have to be occupied to bring the war to a conclusion. The Indian commanders insisted, at a minimum, on waiting until November when weather in the Himalayas would make Chinese intervention more difficult. While Mrs. Gandhi set about systematically to remove these objections and waited for the snows to fall in the mountains, we had a breathing space. (I must stress that most in the United States government did not credit these reports as I did; most senior officials considered an Indian attack improbable.) We used the interval first of all to step up our assistance to the refugees; the original authorisation of $2.5 million in the spring was eventually multiplied a hundredfold to $250 million. At the same time we pressed Pakistan to take steps of political accommodation, urging Yahya first to internationalize the relief effort in East Pakistan, and then come up with a political proposal. And we recommended the replacement of the military governor in the East by a civilian; we succeeded in securing a general amnesty covering all persons not already charged with specific criminal acts.

On May 28 Nixon sent letters t both Mrs. Gandhi and Yahya Khan outlining our policy. The letter to Yahya was not exactly strong; it reflected our need for Yahya as a channel to Peking. But it left no doubt that we favoured a political and not a military solution to the problem of East Pakistan. Nixon acknowledged Yahya’s readiness to accept the internationalization of relief. He encouraged Yahya to continue on the course of “political accommodation“:” I have also noticed with satisfaction your public declaration of amnesty for the refugees and commitment to transfer power to elected representatives. I am confident that you will turn these statements into reality.” Nixon urged restraint in Pakistan’s relations with India; he deemed it “absolutely vital” to restore conditions in East Pakistan ‘conducive to the return of refugees from Indian territory as quickly as possible.”

The President’s parallel letter to Mrs. Gandhi on May 28 stressed our desire to reduce the refugee flow into India and to help ease the burden on India by financial and technical aid. Nixon informed her of our efforts to move Yahya:

We have chosen to work primarily through quiet diplomacy, as we have informed your Ambassador and Foreign Minister. We have been discussing with the Government of Pakistan the importance of achieving a peaceful political accommodation and of restoring conditions under which the refugee flow would stop and the refugees would be able to return to their homes. I feel that these approaches were at least in part behind President Yahya’s press conference on May 24 and especially his public acceptance of international assistance, offer of amnesty to the refugees and commitment to transfer power to elected representatives.

Nixon complimented India on the vitality of its democracy and its economic and social progress, and added a veiled warning against a military solution: “India’s friends would be dismayed were this progress to be interrupted by war.” on June 3 I explained our strategy to Kenneth Keating. I was convinced that East Pakistan would eventually become independent. Our policy was to “give the facts time to assert themselves.”

During June Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh arrived in Washington to urge termination of both military and economic aid to Pakistan. India was increasingly presenting us with a Catch-22 dilemma. It claimed that the enormous flow of refugees would sooner or later force India into drastic measures. But at the same time India would do nothing to curb– indeed, it trained, equipped, and encouraged– the guerrillas whose infiltration from Indian territory guaranteed unsettled conditions that would generate more refugees. Despite Yahya’s proclamation of an amnesty, India made the return of refugees to East Pakistan depend upon a political settlement there. But India reserved the right to define what constituted an acceptable political settlement on the sovereign territory of its neighbour. In mid-June Mrs. Gandhi declared that India would not agree to any solution that meant ” the death of Bangladesh”; in other words, India’s condition for staying its hand was the breakup of Pakistan. With evolution to autonomy rejected, refugees encouraged, and their return precluded, India had made a mounting crisis inevitable.

Many in our country saw it differently. Unfortunately, the debate began to take on some of the bitterness and impugning of motives characteristic of the Vietnam debate. And the Administration, which had a case, did not help matters by enveloping itself in silence. Congressman Cornelius Gallagher of New Jersey, Chairman of the House subcommittee concerned with the problem, declared on the floor of the House on June 10 after a visit to Indian refugee camps, that India had shown “almost unbelievable”  restraint in the face of the refugee burden. (This was three weeks after Mrs. Gandhi’s public threat to go to war.) on June 17, the New York Times took the Administration to task, calling our public statement urging restraint on both sides “belated”, our appeal would be fruitless, said the Times, unless we matched word with deed, that is, cut off all American aid to Pakistan until there was a genuine political accommodation in East Pakistan. The Times, too praised Mrs. Gandhi for having shown “remarkable restraint” in the face of the staggering refugee problem.

Then there occurred one of those media events by which small facts become surrogates for larger debates, focussing and in the process distorting the issues. On June 22, the New York Times carried a story that a Pakistani freighter was preparing to sail from New York with a cargo of military equipment for Pakistan, seemingly in violation of the Administration’s officially proclaimed ban. Soon a second ship carrying military items was reported on its way to Pakistan. There was outrage from the press and Congress, and from India. The next day the New York Times charged that the shipments were a “breach of faith” with the American people and Congress and with India and “further” undermined American credibility. Senator Stuart Symington said that it was either ignorance or deliberate deception. State’s announcement of June 24 that Washington was providing an additional $70 million to India for  refugees was drowned out by reports that a third Pakistani freighter had sailed from New York to Karachi with military equipment. It did not still the charges of government duplicity that all the equipment in question had been purchased under licenses issued before the ban and was thus legally out of control; and that the third freighter had sailed four days before the State Department suspension of licenses went into effect. Here was another of the credibility gaps so cherished during the Vietnam period. We could convince no one that we simply had no mechanism to track down licenses already issued, nor that the amount of “seepage” was minuscule and could affect the military balance neither on the subcontinent nor in Bengal. The Washington Post on July 5 could barely contain its outrage: it was

An astonishing and shameful record. . .[which] must be read in the context of the current controversy over the Pentagon Papers, which turns on the public right to know and the government’s right to conceal. Here we have a classic example of how the System really works; hidden from public scrutiny, administration officials have been supplying arms to Pakistan while plainly and persistently telling the public that such supplies were cut off.

The irony was that the “credibility gap” was caused by the State Department, whose precipitate action in the embargo had so angered the White House. The department most in accord with the media and Congressional criticism became, unintentionally, its focus.

By courtesy:


Two cyclones

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

Ever since it had come into being, Pakistan had sought a sustained legitimacy. No government after the death of the founder of the state had served out its term. Every change had occurred through some sort of coup; military and civilian governments alternated with the military dominant. The year 1970 was expected to see a constitutional government. Elections would finally take place in December. Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan visited Nixon in October during the United Nation’ twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, when Nixon gave him the message to Chou En-lai. I took the opportunity to ask Yahya what would happen to the powers of the President after the election. Yahya could not have been more confident. He expected a multiplicity of parties to emerge in both West and East Pakistan, which would continually fight each other in each wing of the country and between the two wings; the President would therefore remain the arbiter of Pakistan’s politics.

Before his prediction could be tested a devastating cyclone struck East Pakistan over November 12-13. By most accounts, I wrote Nixon, this was the greatest disaster of the century in terms of destruction of property and human life; over 200,000 were thought to have died. The all-out relief program that Nixon ordered could only touch the surface of the suffering. Recovery efforts were chaotic and ineffective. The opposition charged the Yahya government with gross incompetence and worse. The political storm turned out in the end to be even more destructive than the natural one.

Whether the cyclone crystallised opposition to the central government and enhanced East Pakistan’s sense of grievance and identity, or whether Yahya had misjudged the mood all along, the elections held on December 7, 1970, turned into a plebiscite on Yahya’s handling of the crisis and produced a catastrophe for the military rulers. The Awami League, dedicated to East Pakistan autonomy, won 167 out of 169 seats contested in the East, giving it a majority of the 313 seats in the National Assembly. Its leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (known as Mujib), was thus bound to be an unchallengeable figure in East Pakistan and a powerful influence in the entire country. To heighten the political drama, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, emerged in a comparably dominant position in West Pakistan. While opposed to military rule, Bhutto was an advocate of a strong central government and of a united Pakistan; he fiercely resisted Mujib’s insistence on East Pakistani autonomy and in this he was certain to be supported by the military. (Indeed, he may well have adopted this position in order to become more acceptable to the military.) The Awami League had put forward a six-point program for full provincial autonomy for East Pakistan that left the central government some vague responsibility only in the fields of foreign policy and defense. Each of the two constituent units of Pakistan, it proposed, would have its own currency, keep its own separate account for foreign exchange, raise its own taxes, set its own fiscal policy, and maintaòin its own militia and paramilitary units. Yahya and Bhutto rejected this as tantamount to secession. A stalemate-or crisis-was imminent.

On February 16, 1971, I requested an interagency study of the alternatives should East Pakistan try to make a break; on February 22, I sent my own analysis to the President:

[Mujib and Bhutto] have failed so far to forge even the beginning of an informal consensus on the new constitution. President Yahya remains committed to turning his military government over to the civilian politicians, but maintains that he will not preside over the splitting of Pakistan . . .[Mujib] is now planning to stick with his demands for the virtual autonomy of East Pakistan and if he does not get his way– which is very likely– to declare East Pakistan independence.

Yahya was caught between his reluctance to make common cause with Bhutto and his resistance to the quasi-independence of East Pakistan demanded by Mujib. He postponed the convening of the National Assembly set for early March to give the political leaders more time to sort out their differences, but this move further antagonised the East. Yahya ultimately rescheduled the Assembly for March 25, gambling that the two civilian antagonists, faced with a deadlock that might break up the country, would choose to compromise. In this judgement, too, Yahya proved to be mistaken. Bhutto was undoubtedly the most brilliant man in Pakistan politics; he was also arrogant and strong-willed. Later on, he would preside over the recovery of his dismembered country with statesmanship and courage. In early 1971, he feared that compromise would bring down on him the wrath of the very masses in West Pakistan whose support had swept him to the threshold of power. Mujib, for his part, could not arrest the forces he had unleashed. He was far less inclined to do so than Bhutto, and more prone to believe in his own rhetoric. Like figures in a Greek tragedy, each of these two popular Pakistani leaders refused to let the other cross the threshold beyond which lay power for both of them; they would yield to necessity but not to each other.

As the tension increased, our government reviewed its options. The Senior Review Group met on March 6 to consider the interagency study I had requested on February 16. Our consensus was that Pakistan would not be able to hold the East by force. I made it clear to the agencies that the President would be reluctant to confront Yahya, but that the White House would not object to other countries’ efforts to dissuade him from using force. If Pakistan broke up, it should be the result of its internal dynamics, not of American pressures. All agencies agreed that the United States should not get involved. This was also the policy of Great Britain, which had a much longer historical relationship.

During March we experienced the confusions that mark the onset of most crisis. In a major speech on March 7, Mujib stopped short of a total break with West Pakistan, but he demanded an end to martial law and a return to popular rule, making clear his goal remained the “emancipation” of the East. Yahya announced he was flying to Dacca, capital of East Pakistan to negotiate with Mujib on March 15. Meanwhile, in India in early March, Prime Minister Gandhi scored an enormous victory in the Indian general elections. Until then events in Pakistan had been the internal problems of a friendly country; we might have our view but they were not a foreign policy issue. Busy with the election campaign and its immediate aftermath, Mrs. Gandhi adopted a hands-off policy. As late as the middle of March, the permanent head of the Indian Foreign Office, T.N. Kaul, told our ambassador in New Delhi, Kenneth Keating, that India wanted Pakistan to remain united. On March 17, the Indian Ambassador in Washington, the skilful L.K. Jha, spoke in the same sense to me. Neither gave the slightest indication that India would consider the troubles in neighbouring East Pakistan as affecting its own vital interests.

But sometimes the nerves of public figures snap. Incapable of abiding events, they seek to force the pace and lose their balance. So, it was that Yahya Khan, with less than 40,000 troops, decided to establish military rule over the 75 million people of East Pakistan, to suppress the Awami League, and to arrest Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The crisis in Pakistan then became international.

By courtesy:


Origins of Tragedy

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

In every administration some event occurs that dramatizes the limits of human foresight. In the year of uncertainty on Vietnam, the opening to China, and the evolving relationship with the Soviet Union, there was almost nothing the Administration was less eager to face than a crisis in South Asia. And as if to underscore the contingent quality of all our planning, it was triggered by, of all things, a cyclone.


Bordered on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the north by the Himalayas, and on the west by the Hindu Kush mountains that merge with the heavens as if determined to seal off the teeming masses, and petering out in the east in the marshes and rivers of Bengal, the Indian subcontinent has existed through the millennia as a world apart. Its northern plains simmer in enervating heat in summer and are assailed by incongruous frost in winter; its lush south invites a life of tranquility and repose. Its polyglot peoples testify to the waves of conquerors who have descended upon it through the mountain passes, from the neighbouring deserts, and occasionally from the sea. Huns, Mongols, Greeks, Persians, Moguls, Afghans, Portuguese, and at last Britons have established empires and then vanished, leaving multitudes oblivious of either the coming or the going.

Unlike China, which imposed its own matrix of law and culture on invaders so successfully that they grew indistinguishable from the Chinese people, India transcended foreigners not by co-opting but by segregating them. Invaders might raise incredible monuments to their own importance as if to reassure themselves of their greatness in the face of so much indifference, but the Indian peoples endured by creating relationships all but impervious to alien influence. Like the Middle East, India is the home of great religions. Yet unlike those of the Middle East, these are religions not of exaltation but of endurance; they have inspired man not by prophetic visions of messianic fulfilment but by bearing witness to the fragility of human existence; they offer not personal salvation but the solace of an inevitable destiny. Where each man is classified from birth, his failure is never personal; his quality is tested by his ability to endure his fate, not to shape it. The caste system does not attract civilisations determined to seek fulfilment in a single lifetime. It provides extraordinary resilience and comfort in larger perspectives. The Hindu religion is proud and self-contained; it accepts no converts. One is either born into it or forever denied its comforts and the assured position it confers. Foreign conquest is an ultimate irrelevancy in the face of such impermeability; it gives the non-Indian no status in Indian society, enabling Indian civilisation to survive, occasionally even to thrive, through centuries of foreign rule. Of course, so many invasions have had to leave a human, not only an architectural, residue. The Moslem conquerors, representing a proselytizing religion, offered mass conversion as a route for lower-caste Hindus to alleviate their condition. They succeeded only partially, for once converted the new Moslems lost the respect to which even their low-caste status had entitled them. Here were sown the seeds of the communal hatred that has rent the subcontinent for the past generations.

Britain was but one of the latest conquerors, replacing Moslem Mogul and some Hindu rulers in the north and propping up indigenous Hindu rulers in the south– carrying out the cycle, it seemed of the ages. But in one important respect Britain’s conquest was different. True, it was made possible precisely because the British replaced one set of rulers by another in a pattern that had become traditional; its psychological basis was that the concept of nationhood did not exist. But it was Britain that gave the subcontinent– heretofore a religious, cultural, and geographic expression– a political identity as well. The British provided for the first time a homogenous structure of government, administration, and law. They then supplied the Western values of nationalism and liberalism. Paradoxically, it was their implanting of values of nationalism and democracy that made the British “foreign,” that transformed a cultural expression into a political movement. Indian leaders trained in British schools claimed for their peoples the very values of their rulers. And the half-heartedness of Britain’s resistance demonstrated that it had lost the moral battle before the physical one was joined.

As the prospect of nationhood appeared, the polyglot nationalities that the flood of invasions had swept into India now were left alone with their swelling numbers, their grinding poverty, and above all with one another. Nearly a third of the total population was Moslem, concentrated in the West Punjab and East Bengal but with important pockets all over India. Many of these peoples, by now outcasts of Indian society, found it unacceptable to live in a secular state dominated by those who through the centuries had disdained them. The British solution in 1947 was partition along religious lines.

Thus was born, amidst unspeakable horrors and communal riots, the states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan was composed of two units: the West, dominated by the Punjab; and the East Bengal*, separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory, with no common language, held together not by economics or history but by Islam and a common fear of Hindu domination. Pakistan’s very existence was an affront to Indian nationalists who had, like other leaders of independence movements, dreamed of claiming all the territory ruled by the former colonial power. And India saw in the neighbouring Moslem state a potential threat to its own national cohesion. Since more than fifty million Moslems remained under India’s rule, either they would sooner or later claim their own national existence, or else the creation of Pakistan had been in fact the needless British imposition that some Indian nationalists never tired of proclaiming it was. For its part, Pakistan conscious that even the lowest-class Hindus believed themselves part of a system superior to the Moslems, looked on its larger neighbour with fear, with resentment, and occasionally with hatred.

* Bengal was split by the 1947 partition. The eastern portion became East Pakistan; West Bengal remained part of India.

Few old neighbours have less in common, despite their centuries of living side by side, than the intricate, complex Hindus and the simpler more direct Moslems. It is reflected in the contrasts of their architecture. The finely carved Hindu temples have nooks and corners whose seemingly endless detail conveys no single view or meaning. The mosques and forts with which the Moguls have covered the northern third of the subcontinent are vast, elegant, romantic, their resplendent opulence contrasting with the flatness of the simmering countryside , their innumerable fountains expressing a yearning for surcease from a harsh environment and a nostalgia for the less complicated regions that had extruded the invader.

In the 1950s and 1960s, America, oblivious to these new countries absorption with themselves, sought to fit them into its own preconceptions. We took a face value Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s claim to be neutral moral arbiter of world affairs. We hardly noticed that this was precisely the policy by which a weak nation seeks influence out of proportion to its strength, or that India rarely matched its international pretensions with a willingness to assume risks, except on the subcontinent where it saw itself destined for pre eminence. And we treated Pakistan simply as a potential military ally against Communist aggression. There was no recognition that most Pakistanis considered their real security threat to be India, the very country that we had enshrined in the pantheon of abstract morality and that in turn viewed our arming Pakistan as a challenge undermining our attempt to nurture its favour.

At one and the same time we overestimated the feasibility of obtaining India’s political approbation and misjudged the target of Pakistan’s military efforts. We were overly sensitive to the “world opinion” that India purported to represent. But we also sought to include Pakistan in a conception of containment that it did not share. The legal obligation to the common defense was thought to represent a deterrent to Communist aggression even when the members of the alliances in question could do little to reinforce each other’s strength or had a few shared objectives. Pakistan became our ally in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and in the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). Pakistan thus became eligible for US arms aid, which was intended for use against Communist aggression but was suspected by India of having other more likely uses.

The military alliances formed in the Eisenhower Administration became controversial in America when the Democratic opposition attacked them as examples of overemphasising on military considerations. India became the special favourite of the American liberals, who saw in its commitment to democracy the foundation of a notional partnership and in its hoped-for-economic success the best refutation of Communist claims to represent the wave of the future. No wonder that after a change of administrations in 1961, Washington’s interest in Pakistan cooled noticeably; verbal assurances of American protection came increasingly to be substituted for military hardware. (The multiplication of these assurances came back to haunt in 1971). And all the while India worked tenaciously and skilfully to undermine the military relationship between Pakistan and the United States even after India had built up a significant weapons industry of its and established a substantial military supply relationship with the Soviet Union.

The 1965 India-Pakistan war furnished us a pretext to disentangle ourselves to some degree. The United Sates stopped the supply of all military equipment to both sides (this policy was modified somewhat in 1966-1967, to permit the provision of non-lethal items and spares for all equipment). The seeming even-handedness was deceptive, the practical consequence was to injure Pakistan, since India received most of its arms either from Communist nations or from its own armouries. President Johnson, aware of the one-sidedness of the action, promised to arrange a transfer to Pakistan of some obsolescent American tanks through a third party such as Turkey. But he never completed the transaction, in part because he did not want to spend his waning Congressional support on what must have appeared to him a marginally important decision, in part because the third parties developed second thoughts.

Henry Kissinger

My own experience with the subcontinent should have forewarned me of its fevered passions. In January 1962, while I was still technically a consultant to President Kennedy, the United States Information Agency arranged a series of lectures for me on the subcontinent. Our Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, a good friend of mine, was not a little disquieted about the impact on his presumptively sensitive and pacifist clients of a Harvard professor whose chief claim to fame at that time was a book called Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. I promptly put his mind at ease by getting myself embroiled with Pakistan upon my arrival at the New Delhi airport. At the inevitable press conference, I replied to a question about Kashmir with what I thought was a diplomatic answer–that I did not know enough about it to form a judgement. When queried bout Pakistan’s budding flirtation with China, I was loath to admit my ignorance of a development that, in the light of the prevalent view of China’s congenital aggressiveness, seemed preposterous. I therefore opined that I could not imagine Pakistan doing such a foolish thing. Pakistan’s leaders already felt discriminated against because a Harvard professor had been assigned as Ambassador to New Delhi while Islamabad rated “only” a career appointment. But they had been too circumspect to attack a personal friend of Kennedy. My airport interview was a godsend. It enabled the Pakistani press to vent its disappointment against another Harvard professor and lesser associate of Kennedy. My confession of ignorance about Kashmir was transmuted into a symbol of American indifference. Using the word “foolish” in the same sentence as “Pakistan”–even to deny that Pakistan was foolish–became a national insult. There was one compensation. The Pakistani press campaign turned me fleetingly into a figure of consequence in India. Thus in 1962, at least, the charge was that I was tilting toward India.

Matters eventually calmed down enough so that I could show my face in Pakistan on the same trip. I proved immediately that I had not lost my touch. Returning to Peshawar from sight-seeing at the Khyber Pass, I was waylaid by a Pakistani journalist who asked me whether I had seen any sign of Pushtoon agitation.* on the theory that the subcontinent had been deprived of my wisecracks long enough, I replied: “I would not recognise Pushtoon agitation if it hit me in the face.” the resulting headline, “Kissinger Does Not Recognise Pushtoonistan,” triggered an official Afghan protest in Washington, but at least it made me a momentary hero in Pakistan. There is no telling what else I might have achieved had I followed my wanderlust to visit Afghanistan. But the USIA judged that it had more than gotten its money’s worth of cultural exchange and that home was a safer place for my talents.

*this referred to a movement to detach the border region from Pakistan and connect it with people speaking a similar language on the Afghan side of the Khyber Pass. Thus, perhaps I should have known better than to become involved in the frenzies of the subcontinent in 1971.

When the Nixon Administration took office, our policy objective on the subcontinent was quite simply to avoid adding another complication to our agenda. In their uneasy twenty-two years’ coexistence India and Pakistan had fought two wars. We sought to maintain good relations with both of them. Nixon, to put it mildly, was less susceptible to Indian claims of moral leadership than some of his predecessors; indeed he viewed what he considered their alleged obsequiousness toward India as a prime example of liberal soft headedness. But this did not keep him from having a moderately successful visit to New Delhi in 1969 on his round-the-world trip. He quickly abandoned his vision of crowds comparable with Eisenhower’s in 1956. The reception was restrained; crowds were merely adequate; the discussions were what in communique language would be called “constructive” and “businesslike.” Nixon gave a very eloquent dinner toast, paying tribute to the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi and ruminating thoughtfully on the nature of peace in the modern wold.

But Nixon and Mrs. Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister and daughter of Nehru, were not intended by fate to be personally congenial. Her assumption of almost hereditary moral superiority and her moody silences brought out all of Nixon’s latent insecurities. Her bearing toward Nixon combined a disdain for a symbol of capitalism quite fashionable in developing countries with a hint that the obnoxious things she had heard about the President from her intellectual friends could not all be untrue. Nixon’s comments after meetings with her were not always printable. On the other hand, Nixon had an understanding for leaders who operated on an unsentimental assessment of the national interest. Once one cut through the strident, self-righteous rhetoric, Mrs. Gandhi had few peers in cold-blooded calculation of the elements of power. The political relationship in substance was thus far better than the personal one.

Whatever Nixon’s personal qualms about its Prime Minister, India continued throughout his first Administration to enjoy a substantial constituency in the Congress and within the US government. Mrs. Gandhi had not yet disillusioned Americans by her nuclear test and assumption of authoritarian rule.
Emotional ties with the world’s most populous democracy remained. Large annual aid appropriations were proposed by the Administration and passed by the Congress with little opposition. Between 1965 and 1971 India received $4.2 billion of American economic aid, about $1.5 billion of it during the Nixon years.

If India basked in Congressional warmth and was subject to Presidential indifference, Pakistan’s situation was exactly the reverse. Pakistan was one of the countries where Nixon had been received with respect when he was out of office; he never forgot this. And the bluff, direct military chiefs of Pakistan were more congenial to him than the complex and apparently haughty Brahmin leaders of India. On the other hand, Pakistan had never found the sympathy in America that India enjoyed, at least among opinion-making groups. It did not represent principles with which Americans could identify as readily as with the ” progressive” slogans and pacifist-sounding morality of the world’s largest democracy. Moreover, India was much larger and had four or five times the population of Pakistan. There were thus hard headed reasons for the priority attached to our relations with India.

Nixon made few changes in the policies he inherited on the subcontinent except to adopt somewhat warmer tone toward Pakistan. He and I–as the only senior officials who knew the facts- were profoundly grateful to Pakistan’s role as the channel to China. It was a service for which Pakistan’s leaders, to their lasting honour, never sought any reciprocity or special consideration. The only concrete gesture Nixon made– and it was also to maintain the promise of his predecessor–was to approve in the summer of 1970 a small package of military equipment for Pakistan. This was to be a “one-time exception to the US arms embargo. It included some twenty aircraft and 300 armoured personnel carriers, but no tanks or artillery. The package amounted to $40 to $50 million (or somewhat more, depending on the type of aircraft chosen). India, which was increasing its military procurement at the average rate of $350 million a year–nearly ten times this amount– raised a storm of protest. At the same time,  India was accusing us of interfering in its domestic affairs because some of our Embassy personnel–in perhaps the most overstaffed Embassy of our diplomatic service– occasionally saw opposition leaders. This was not fulfilling a Washington-designed strategy but was a natural activity in a country with free institutions; it was an old accusation for the leaders of a democracy to make. But the storm soon blew over.

By 1971 our relations with India had achieved a state of exasperatedly strained cordiality, like a couple that can neither separate nor get along. Our relations with Pakistan were marked by a superficial friendliness that had little concrete content. On the subcontinent, at least, alliance with the United States had not been shown to produce significant benefits over non-alignment.

At the beginning of 1971 none of our senior policy makers expected the subcontinent to jump to the top of our agenda. It seemed to require no immediate decisions except annual aid programs and relief efforts in response to tragic natural disasters in late 1970. It appeared to be the ideal, subject for long-range studies. I ordered three of these in late 1970. Two addressed Soviet naval strength in the Indian Ocean and its implications; the third examined our long- term policy onward India and Pakistan, including the objectives of the Soviet Union and Communist China and the interplay between them.. Each of these studies was given a due date far ahead; no serious crisis was expected.

By Courtesy:


The Memoirs of Richard Nixon

The Presidency 1971
On the morning of November 4,  I met in the Oval Office with the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Her visit to Washington came at a critical time. Eight months earlier there had been a rebellion in East Pakistan against the government of President Yahya Khan. Indian officials reported that nearly 10 million refugees fled from East Pakistan into India. We knew that Yahya Khan eventually would have to yield to East Pakistan’s demands for independence, and we urged him to take a more moderate and conciliatory line. We could not have known the extent to which India would seize this opportunity not just to destroy Pakistan’s control of East Pakistan but to weaken West Pakistan as well.
Mrs. Gandhi complimented me highly on the way I was winding down the war in Vietnam and on the boldness of the China initiative. We talked about the uneasy situation in Pakistan, and I stressed how important it was that India not take any actions that would exacerbate it.

She earnestly assured me that India was not motivated in any way by anti-Pakistan attitudes. “India has never wished the destruction of Pakistan or its permanent crippling,” she said. “Above all, India seeks the restoration of stability. We want to eliminate chaos at all costs.”

I later learned that, even as we spoke, Mrs. Gandhi knew that her generals and advisers were planning to intervene in East Pakistan and were considering contingency plans for attacking West Pakistan as well.

Even though India was officially neutral and continued to receive foreign aid from us, Mrs. Gandhi had gradually become aligned with the Soviets, and received substantial economic and military aid from Moscow. President Ayub Khan and his successor, Yahya Khan had responded by developing Pakistan’s relations with the People’s Republic of China. With Moscow tied to New Delhi and Peking tied to Islamabad, the potential for the subcontinent’s becoming a dangerous area of confrontation between the Communist giants was great.
In our conversation that morning I was disturbed by the fact that although Mrs. Gandhi professed her devotion to peace, she would not make any concrete offers for de-escalating the tension. Yahya Khan had agreed to move his troops away from the border if India would do the same, but she would not make a similar commitment.

I said, “Absolutely nothing could be served by the disintegration of Pakistan. For India to initiate hostilities would be almost impossible to understand.” I said that in some respects the situation was similar to that in the Middle East: just as American and Soviet interests were involved there, so Chinese, Soviet and American interests were at stake in South Asia and the Indian subcontinent. “It would be impossible to calculate precisely the steps which other great powers might take if India were to initiate hostilities,” I said.
A month later, primed with Soviet weapons, the Indian army attacked East Pakistan. Fighting also erupted along the border with West Pakistan, but it was impossible to tell whether the Indian objective there was to pin down Pakistani forces or whether the action was the prelude to a full-scale attack. Battle plans of such dimensions are not formulated in less than a month, and I could not help thinking that Mrs. Gandhi had purposely deceived me in our meeting. I was also concerned that the Soviets had ignored several, clear signals from us that we would react very unfavourably if they supported India in an invasion of Pakistan. I felt that one of the primary Soviet motives was to show the world that, despite the much-heralded Sino-American rapprochement, the U.S.S.R. was still the premier Communist power. In fact, the Soviets moved troops to the Chinese border in an unsubtle attempt to tie up Chinese forces and prevent them from going to the aid of Pakistan.

In the Lincoln Sitting Room with Henry Kissinger

I felt it was important to discourage both Indian aggression and Soviet adventurism, and I agreed with Kissinger’s recommendation that we should demonstrate our displeasure with India and our support for Pakistan. To coordinate our planning, Kissinger convened a meeting of the Washington Special Action Group (WSAG), composed of representatives from State, Defense, CIA, and the NSC. He found that the State Department felt that independence for East Pakistan was inevitable and desirable, and that India had limited aims in East Pakistan and no designs on West Pakistan. The risk of Soviet or Chinese intervention, according to this reasoning, was small. The State Department, therefore, argued that we should keep calm, sit back, and let the inevitable happen.

In the Oval Office in 1970 with staff aides John Ehrlichman, Henry Kissinger and Bob Haldeman (seated)

I completely disagreed with this bland assessment. I wanted to let the Soviets know that we would strongly oppose the dismemberment of Pakistan by a Soviet ally using Soviet arms. Kissinger, therefore, summoned Soviet Charge Vorontsov to the White House and told him that this crisis had once again brought our relations to a watershed because we considered that promoting a war in the Indian subcontinent was inconsistent with improved relations with us.
Kissinger said that we wanted a cease-fire and the withdrawal of all Indian troops from Pakistan. Once the fighting had stopped, the parties could begin to negotiate a political settlement of the problem. We recognized that political autonomy for East Pakistan would be the probable outcome of a political solution, and we were willing to work in that direction. The main point was that the fighting should stop and the danger of a great power confrontation should be removed.

The next day I wrote a letter to Brezhnev that left no doubt about my feelings:

The objective fact now is that Indian military are being used in an effort to impose political demands and to dismember the sovereign state of Pakistan. It is also a fact that your government has aligned itself with this Indian policy . . .
I am convinced that the spirit in which we agreed that the time had come of us to meet in Moscow next May requires from both of us the utmost restraint and the most urgent action to end the conflict and restore territorial integrity in the subcontinent.

At eleven that night, Vorontsov delivered a note replying to the points Kissinger had made the day before. It accused the United States of not being active enough in maintaining peace, and it proposed an immediate cease-fire coupled with a demand that Pakistan immediately recognise the independence of East Pakistan. The Soviets clearly intended to play a hard line. What we had to do, therefore, was remain absolutely steadfast behind Pakistan. If we failed to help Pakistan, then Iran or any other country within the reach of Soviet influence might begin to question the dependability of American support. As Kissinger put it, “We don’t really have any choice. We can’t allow a friend o ours and China’s to get screwed in a conflict with a friend of Russia’s.”

On December 9 Vorontsov arrived with a long letter from Brezhnev. In an attempt to put the shoe on the other foot, he said that the crux of the problem lay in finding ways to exert influence on Yahya Khan to give up East Pakistan. Kissinger felt that the cordial tone of the letter at least indicated some responsive movement on the Soviet side, but I expressed my doubts.

In the meantime, the crisis had taken a disturbing turn. Through intelligence sources we learned that at a meeting of the Indian Cabinet Mrs. Gandhi had led a discussion of plans to expand the war on the western front and to invade West Pakistan. Kissinger called the Indian Ambassador, virtually told him that we knew his government’s plans, and demanded that the Ambassador urge New Delhi to reconsider any precipitate action.

The Soviet Minister of Agriculture happened to be visiting Washington at this time. I knew he was a close friend of Brezhnev’s, so I asked him to carry back a personal message to Brezhnev from me, conveying my seriousness in saying that it was incumbent upon the two of us as the leaders of the two nuclear superpowers not to allow our larger interests to become embroiled in the actions of our smaller friends.
Late that afternoon I authorised Admiral Moorer to dispatch a task force of eight ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise, from Vietnam to the Bay of Bengal.

The military situation in East Pakistan was hopeless. The numerically superior Indians had been joined by fierce Bengali rebels, and Yahya Khan’s forces were in total retreat. The almost unbelievable cruelty of the fighting on both sides had turned the situation into a nightmare. Millions of people were left homeless before the fighting ended.
Finally, Yahya recognised that he should follow the course of action we had been recommending: that he could no longer defend East Pakistan and that he should concentrate his forces in the defence of West Pakistan, in which event I indicated he would have my complete support. On December 9 Pakistan accepted the UN General Assembly’s call for a cease-fire. India rejected it, however, and tension was still rising along the border in West Pakistan, as I wrote another letter to Brezhnev calling on him to join me in ending the crisis before we ourselves were dragged into it. I began by stating that, in our view, his proposal for the political independence of East Pakistan had been met by Pakistan’s own action. Then I wrote:

This must now be followed by an immediate cease-fire in the West. If this does not take place, we would have to conclude that there is in progress an act of aggression directed at the whole of Pakistan, a friendly country toward which we have obligations.
I therefore propose an immediate joint appeal for a complete cease-fire. Meanwhile, I urge you in the strongest terms to restrain India with which, by virtue of your treaty, you have great influence and for whose actions you must share responsibility.

On December 11 we waited all day for a reply from Brezhnev. This delay was intolerable, since the possibility of an Indian attack on West Pakistan increased with each passing hour. On December 12, shortly before I was to fly to the Azores for a Franco-American Summit with President Pompidou on the international monetary crisis, a brief reply arrived from Moscow, stating simply that the Government of India had no intention of taking any military action against West Pakistan.
I immediately sent back a message that the Indian assurances lacked any concreteness. In view of the urgency of the situation and the need for concerted action, I proposed that we continue consultations through the secret Kissinger-Dobrynin channel. I added that I could not emphasise too strongly that time was the essence to avoid consequences that neither of us wanted.
Despite the urgent tone of my message, the hot-line wires were cold until 5 A.M. the next day, when a three-sentence message arrived that the Soviets were conducting a “clarification” of the circumstances in India and would inform us of the results without delay.
In Washington on December 14, Vorontsov handed Haig another message from the Kremlin. Once again it offered only vague assurances that India had no intention of taking any military action against Pakistan. Since this reply offered no improvement over the earlier message, I agreed with Kissinger that Haig should call Vorontsov and tell him so.
On the flight from Azores back to Washington, Kissinger talked to the three pool reporters flying aboard Air Force One. One of them asked if there was any danger that the crisis might deteriorate to the point that it would affect my plans to go to the summit. “Not yet,” Kissinger replied, “but we will have to wait and see what happens in the next few days.the reporters immediately realised that they just been given a big story. “Should we infer from statement that if the Russians don’t begin to exercise a restraining influence very soon, the plans for the President’s trip might be changed?” one asked.
Kissinger replied, “We are definitely looking to the Soviets to become a restraining influence in the next few days, and if they continue to deliberately encourage military actions, we might have to take a new look at the President’s plans.”
As soon as the plane landed, the reporters rushed to share their notes with their colleagues and file their stories. The early evening news programs flashed the report around the country and around the world.

Kissinger summoned Vorontsov to the White House and told him that I had been concerned that the Soviet leaders were not doing everything possible to arrive at a settlement. In view of their continued delays, I had begun to believe that they were dealing only in words, with the intention of letting events on the ground dictate the ultimate outcome.
“It is not President Nixon’s style to threaten, ” Kissinger said. “He has long sought a genuine exchange in U.S.-Soviet relations. Despite his desire, however, your government has proceeded to equip India with great amounts of sophisticated armaments. If the Soviet government were to support or to pressure other foreign leaders to dismember or to divide an ally of the United States, how can they expect progress in our mutual relationships?”

The next day, Kissinger called Vorontsov back and showed him the text of a letter I had written to Kosygin urging that our countries take prompt and responsible steps to ensure that the military conflict not spread and that assurances be given against territorial acquisition by either side.

Vorontsov complained that the Indians were proving very resistant to Soviet pressure. Kissinger replied, “There is no longer any excuse. The President has made any. Umber of personal appeals, all of which have been rejected, and it now time to move.”

Vorontsov said that the Soviets were prepared unconditionally to guarantee that there would be no Indian attack on West Pakistan or on Kashmir. But to do this publicly would mean that they were, in effect speaking for a friendly country. In other words, the Soviets would urge the Indians to accept a cease-fire as long as they did not have to do so publicly. Without the prospect of Soviet support and aid, the Indians were almost certain to agree to a settlement.

The next day Yahya Khan’s forces in East Pakistan surrendered unconditionally. On December 17, the explosive situation on the western front was also resolved when Pakistan accepted the Indian offer of a cease-fire there. By using diplomatic signals and behind-the-scenes pressures we had been able to save West Pakistan from the imminent threat of Indian aggression and domination. We had also once again avoided a major confrontation with the Soviet Union.

The Indo-Pakistan war involved stakes much higher than the future of Pakistan–and that was high enough. It involved the principle of whether big nations supported by the Soviet Union would be permitted to dismember their smaller neighbours. Once that principle was allowed the world would have become more unstable and unsafe.

The Chinese played a very cautious role in this period. They had troops poised on the Indian border, but they would not take the risk of coming to the aid of Pakistan by attacking India, because they understandably feared that the Soviets might use this action as an excuse for attacking China. They consequently did nothing, but the presence of their forces probably had a deterrent effect on India.
Three days after the cease-fire was arranged, we sent the Chinese a brief description of its major points. We concluded, “It is the U.S. view that recent events in South Asia involve sobering conclusions. The governments of the People’s Republic of China and the United States should not again find themselves in a position where hostile global aims can be furthered through the use of proxy countries.”
As a result of the Indo-Pakistan crisis, my respect and regard for Mrs. Gandhi diminished. A few months later, in March 1972, after having seen a film biography of Mahatma Gandhi–who was no relation to her–during a weekend at Key Biscayne, I dictated a brief reflection in the diary I had begun keeping in November 1971.

As I saw Gandhi’s assassination and heard his words on violence, I realised how hypocritical the present Indian leaders are, with Indira Gandhi talking about India’s victory wings being clipped when Shastri went to Tashkent and her duplicitous attitude towards us when she actually made up her mind to attack Pakistan at the time she saw me in Washington and assured me she would not. Those who resort to force, without making excuses, are bad enough– but those who resort to force while preaching to others about their use of force deserve no sympathy whatever.

One of the most serious incidents of the Indo-Pakistan crisis occurred on our domestic front. On December 14, while we were still uncertain whether India would attack West Pakistan, syndicated columnist Jack Anderson published verbatim excerpts of the minutes of the WSAG meetings of December 2,4, and 6. The minutes revealed Kissinger’s statements to the group relaying my strong pressure to “tilt” toward Pakistan, which differed from the posture that had been adopted by some State Department sources as well as from the more neutral public position we embraced in order to exercise greater leverage on all parties. From a diplomatic point of view, the leak was embarrassing; from the point of view of national security, it was intolerable.
The leak came as a shock because WSAG meetings had been attended by only the highest-ranking members of the military intelligence organisations and the State Department. We learned that Rear Admiral Robert O. Welander believed that one of the leaked documents had to have come from his office, which handled liaison between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council. Bud Krogh and David Young were assigned to investigate.
Suspicion centred on a young Navy yeoman assigned to Welanders’s office. In the course of questioning, Young learned that for some time the yeoman has been making copies of secret NSC documents. He had rifled burn bags for carbon or xerox copies, and in some cases, he actually took documents for copying out of Kissinger’s and Haig’s briefcases. On one occasion, he copied a memo of Kissinger’s conversation with Chou En-lai during the first secret mission to Peking. He passed the documents to his superiors in the Pentagon.
We were not able to establish beyond doubt that the yeoman was Anderson’s source. However, circumstantial evidence was strong. They were personally acquainted and had met on several occasions. Whether or not he had disclosed classified information to Anderson, the fact remained that he had jeopardised the relationship of the JCS to the White House.
I was disturbed–although not perhaps really surprised–that the JCS was spying on the White House. But I was, frankly, very reluctant to pursue this aspect of the case because I knew that if it were explored, like so many other sensitive matters it would wind up being leaked to the media where it would be completely distorted, and we would end up doing damage to the military at a time when it was already under heavy attack.
The yeoman himself presented a similar problem. I felt the circumstantial evidence that he had provided information to Anderson was convincing, and I knew that such actions could not be tolerated.

What concerns me about this story is the Ellsberg complex that drove the yeoman to put out the information. His spying on the White House for the Joint Chiefs is something that I would not particularly be surprised at, although I don’t think it’s a healthy practice. But his proceeding to put out top secret information to a newspaper columnist, because he disagreed with the policy on India is the kind of practice that must, at all costs, be stopped.

I felt, however, that it would be too dangerous to prosecute the yeoman. He had travelled with Kissinger and others on a number of secret missions and had had access to other top-secret information, which if disclosed, could have jeopardized our negotiations with China and with North Vietnam. In this respect, he was a potential time bomb that might be triggered by prosecution. We had him transferred to a remote post in Oregon and kept him under surveillance, including wiretaps for a time, to make sure that he was not dispensing any more secret information. It worked: there were no further leaks from him.

By courtesy:



Does History Repeat Itself?

The Crowe Memorandum
A number of commentators, including some in China, have revisited the example of the twentieth-century Anglo-German rivalry as an augury of what may await the United States and China in the twenty-first century. There are surely strategic comparisons to be made. At the most superficial level, China is, as was imperial Germany, a resurgent continental power; the United States, like Britain, is primarily a naval power with deep political and economic ties to the continent. China throughout its history, was more powerful than any of its plethora of neighbours, but they, when combined, could – and did – the security of the empire. As in the case of Germany’s unification in the nineteenth century, the calculations of all these countries are inevitably affected by the re-emergence of China as a strong, united state. Such a system has historically evolved into a balance of power based on equilibrating threats.

Can strategic trust replace a system of strategic threats? Strategic trust is treated by many as a contradiction in terms. Strategists rely on the intentions of the presumed adversary only to a limited extent. And the essence of sovereignty is the right to make decisions not subject to another authority. A certain amount of threat based on capabilities is therefore inseparable from the relations of sovereign states.
It is possible—though it rarely happens—that relations grow so close that strategic threats are excluded. In relations between states bordering the North Atlantic, strategic confrontations are not conceivable. The military establishments are not directed against each other. Strategic threats are perceived as arising outside the Atlantic region, to be dealt with in an alliance framework. Disputes between the North Atlantic states tend to focus on divergement assessments of international issues and the means of dealing with them; even at their most bitter, they retain the character of an interfamily dispute. Soft power and multilateral diplomacy are the dominant tools of foreign policy. And for some Western European states, military action is all but excluded as a legitimate instrument of policy.

In Asia, by contrast, the states consider themselves in potential confrontation with their neighbours. It is not that they necessarily plan on war; they simply do not exclude it. If they are too weak for self-defense, they seek to make themselves part of an alliance system that provides additional protection, as in the case with ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian nations. Sovereignty, in many cases regained relatively recently after periods of foreign colonization, has an absolute character. The principles of the Westphalian system prevail, more so than on their continent of origin. The concept of sovereignty is considered paramount. Aggression is defined as the movement of organized military units across borders. Non-interference in domestic affairs is taken as a fundamental principle of interstate relations. In a state system so organized, diplomacy seeks to preserve the key elements of the balance of power.
An international system is relatively stable if the level of reassurance required by its members is achievable by diplomacy. When diplomacy no longer functions, relationships become increasingly concentrated on military strategy—first in the form of arms race, then as a manoeuvring for strategic advantage even at the risk of confrontation, and, finally, in war itself.

A classic example of a self-propelling international mechanism is European diplomacy prior to World War I, at a time when world policy was European policy because much of the world was in colonial status by the second half of the nineteenth century; Europe had been without a major war since the Napoleonic period had ended in 1815. The European states were in rough strategic equilibrium, the conflicts between them did not involve their existence. No state considered another an irreconcilable enemy. This made shifting alliances feasible. No state was considered powerful enough to establish hegemony over the others. Any such effort triggered a coalition against it.

The unification of Germany in 1871 brought about a structured change. Until that time, Central Europe contained—it is hard to imagine today—thirty nine sovereign states of varying size. Only Prussia and Austria could be considered major powers within the European equilibrium. The multiple small states were organized within Germany in an institution that operated like the United Nations in the contemporary world, the so-called German Confederation. Like the United Nations, the German Confederation found it difficult to take initiatives but occasionally came together for joint action against what was perceived as overwhelming danger. Too divided for aggression, yet sufficiently strong for defense, the German Confederation made a major contribution to the European equilibrium.

But equilibrium was not what motivated the changes of the nineteenth century in Europe. Nationalism did. The unification of Germany reflected the aspirations of a century. It also led over time to a crisis atmosphere. The rise of Germany weakened the elasticity of the diplomatic process, and it increased the threat to the system. Where once there had been thirty-seven small states and two relatively major ones, a single political unit emerged uniting thirty-eight of them. Where previously European diplomacy had achieved certain flexibility through the shifting alignments of multiplicity of states, the unification of Germany reduced the possible combinations and led to the creation of a state stronger than each of its neighbours alone. This is why Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli of Britain called the unification of Germany an event more significant than the French revolution.

Germany was now so strong that it could defeat each of its neighbours singly, though it would be in grave peril if all the major European states combined against it. Since there were only five major states now, the combinations were limited. Germany’s neighbouring states had an incentive to form a coalition with each other—especially France and Russia, which did so in 1982—and Germany had a built-in incentive to break the alliances.

The crisis of the system was inherent in the structure. No single country could avoid it, least of all the rising power Germany. But they could avoid policies that exacerbated latent tensions. This no country did—least of all, once again, the German empire. The tactics chosen by Germany to break up hostile coalitions proved unwise as well as unfortunate. It sought to use international conferences to demonstratively impose its will on the participants. The German theory was that the humiliated target of German pressure would feel abandoned by its allies and, leaving the alliance, would seek security within the German orbit. The consequences proved the opposite of what was intended. The humiliated countries (France, in the Moroccan crisis in 1905, and Russia, over Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908) were reinforced in their determination not to accept subjugation, thereby tightening the alliance system that Germany had sought to weaken. The Franco-Russian alliance was, in 1904, joined (informally) by Britain, which Germany had offended by demonstratively sympathizing with Britain’s Dutch settler adversaries in the Boer war (1899-1902). In addition, Germany challenged Britain’s command of the seas by building a large navy to complement what was already the most powerful land army on the continent. Europe had slipped into, in effect, a bipolar system with no diplomatic flexibility. Foreign policy had become a zero-sum game.

Will history repeat itself? No doubt were the United States and China to fall into strategic conflict, a situation comparable to the pre-World War I European structure could develop in Asia, with the formations of blocs pitted against each other and with each seeking to undermine or at least limit the other’s influence and reach. But before we surrender to the presumed mechanism of history, let us consider how the United Kingdom and German rivalry actually operated.

In 1907, a senior official in the British Foreign Office, Eyre Crowe, wrote a brilliant analysis of the European political structure and Germany’s rise. The key question he raised, and which has acute relevance today, is whether the crisis which led to World War I was caused by Germany’s rise, evoking a kind of organic resistance to the emergence of a new and powerful force, or whether it was caused by specific and, hence, available German policies. Was the crisis caused by German capabilities or German conduct?

In his memorandum submitted on New Year’s Day in 1907, Crowe opted for the conflict being inherent in the relationship. He defined the issue as follows:
For England particularly, intellectual and moral kinship creates a sympathy and appreciation of what is best in the German mind, which has made her naturally predisposed to welcome, in the interest of the general progress of mankind, everything tending to strengthen the power and influence—on one condition there must be respect for the individualities of other nations, equally valuable coadjutors, in their way, in the work of human progress, equally entitled to full elbow room in which to contribute, in freedom, to the evolution of a higher civilization.

But what was Germany’s real goal? Was it natural evolution of German cultural and economic interests across Europe and the world, to which German diplomacy was giving traditional support? Or did Germany seek ‘a general political hegemony and maritime ascendancy, threatening the independence of her neighbours and ultimately the coexistence of England?

Crowe concluded that it made no difference what goal Germany avowed. Whichever course Germany was pursuing, ‘Germany would clearly be wise to build as powerful a navy as she can afford.’ And once Germany achieved naval supremacy, Crowe assessed, this in itself—regardless of German intentions—would be an objective threat to Britain, and ‘incompatible with the existence of the British Empire.’

Under those conditions, formal assurances were meaningless. No matter what the Germans government’s professions were, the result would be ‘as formidable a menace to the rest of the world as would be presented by any deliberate conquest of a similar position by ‘malice aforethought.’ Even if moderate German statesmen were to demonstrate their bona fides, moderate German foreign policy could ‘at any stage merge into’ a conscious scheme for hegemony.

Thus structural elements, in Crowe’s analysis, precluded cooperation or even trust. As Crowe wryly observed: ‘It would not be unjust to say that ambitious designs against one’s neighbours are not as a rule openly proclaimed, and that therefore the absence of such proclamation, and even the profession of unlimited and universal political benevolence, are not in themselves conclusive evidence for or against the existence of unpublished intentions.’ And since the stakes were so high, it was ‘not a matter in which England can safely run any risks.’ London was obliged to assume the worst, and act on the basis on its assumptions—at least so long as Germany was building a large challenging navy.

In other words, already in 1907 there was no longer any scope for diplomacy; the issue had become who would back down in a crisis, and whenever that condition was not fulfilled, war was nearly inevitable. It took seven years to reach the point of world war.

Were Crowe to analyse the contemporary scene, he might emerge with a judgement comparable in his 1907 report. I will sketch the interpretation, though it differs substantially from my own, because it approximates a view widely held on both sides of the Pacific. The United States and China have not been so much nation-states as continental expressions of cultural identities. Both have historically been driven to visions of universality by their economic and political achievements and their people3’s irrepressible energy and self-confidence. Both Chinese and American governments have frequently assumed a seamless identity between their national policies and the general interests of mankind. Crowe might warn that when two such entities encounter each other on the world stage significant tension is probable.

Whatever China’s intentions, the Crowe school of thought would treat a successful Chinese ‘rise’ as incompatible with America’s position in the Pacific and by extension the world. Any form of cooperation would be treated as simply giving china scope to build its capacities for an eventual crisis. Thus the entire Chinese debate recounted and the question of whether China might stop ‘hiding its brightness,’ would be immaterial for purposes of a Crowe-type analysis: someday it will (the analysis will posit), so America should act now as if it already had.

The American debate adds an ideological challenge to Crowe’s balance-of-power approach. Neoconservatives and other activists would argue that democratic institutions are the prerequisite to relations of trust and confidence. Nondemocratic societies, in this view, are inherently precarious and prone to the exercise of force. Therefore the United States is obliged to exercise its maximum influence (in its polite expression) or pressure to bring about more pluralistic institutions where they do not exist, and especially in countries capable of threatening American security. In these conceptions, regime change is the ultimate goal of American foreign policy in dealing with nondemocratic societies; peace with China is less a matter of strategy than of change in Chinese governance.

Nor is the analysis, interpreting international affairs as an unavoidable struggle for strategic pre-eminence, confined to Western strategists. Chinese ‘triumphalists’ apply almost identical reasoning. The principal difference is that their perspective is that of the rising power, while Crowe represented the United Kingdom, defending its patrimony as a status quo country. An example of this genre is Colonel Liu Mingfu’s China Dream. In Liu’s view, no matter how much china commits itself to a ‘peaceful rise,’ conflict is inherent in U.S. China relations. The relationship between China and the United States will be a ‘marathon contest’ and the ‘duel of the century.’ Moreover, the competition is essentially zero-sum; the only alternative to total success is humiliating failure: ‘If China in the 21st century cannot become world number one, cannot become the top power, then inevitably it will become a straggler that is cast aside.’

Neither the American version of the Crowe memorandum nor the more triumphalist Chinese analyses has been endorsed by either government, but they provide a subtext of much current thought. If the assumptions of these views were applied by either side—and it would take only one side to make it unavoidable—China and the United States could easily fall into this escalating tension. China would try to push American power as far away from its borders as it could, circumscribe the scope of American naval power, and reduce America’s weight in international diplomacy. The United States would try to organize China’s many neighbours into a counterweight to Chine3se dominance. Both sides would emphasize their ideological differences. The interaction would be even more complicated because the notions of deterrence and pre-emption are not symmetrical between these two sides. The United States is more focused on overwhelming military power, China on decisive psychological impact. Sooner or later, one side or the other would miscalculate.

Once such a pattern has congealed, it becomes increasingly difficult to overcome. The competing camps achieve identity by their definition of themselves. The essence of what Crowe described (and the Chinese triumphalists and some American neoconservatives embrace) is its seeming automaticity. Once the pattern was created and the alliances were formed, no escape was possible from its self-imposed requirements, especially not from its internal assumptions.

The reader of the Crowe Memorandum cannot fail to notice that the specific examples of mutual hostility being cited were relatively trivial compared to the conclusions drawn from them: incidents of colonial rivalry in Southern Africa, disputes about the conduct of civil servants. It was not what either side had already done that drove the rivalry. It was what it might do. Events had turned into symbols; symbols developed their own momentum. There was nothing left to settle because the system of alliances confronting each other had no margin for adjustment.

That must not happen in the relations of the United States and China insofar as American policy can prevent. Of course, was Chinese policy to insist on playing by Crowe Memorandum rules, the United States would be bound to resist. It would be an unfortunate outcome.

I have described the possible evolution at such length to show that I am aware of the realistic obstacles to the cooperative U.S. China relationship I consider essential to global stability and peace. A cold war between the two countries would arrest progress for a generation on both sides of the pacific. It would spread disputes into internal politics of every region at a time when global issues such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, energy security, and climate change impose global cooperation.
Historical parallels are by nature inexact. And even the most precise analogy does not oblige the present generation to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors. After all, the outcom3e was disaster for all involved, victors as well as defeated. Care must be taken lest both sides analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. This will not be an easy task. For, as the Crowe memorandum has shown, mere reassurances will not arrest the underlying dynamism. For were any nation determined to achieve dominance, would it be offering assurances of peaceful intent? A serious joint effort involving the continuous attention of top leaders is needed to develop a sense of genuine strategic trust and cooperation.

Relations between China and the United States need not—and should not—become zero-sum game. For the pre-World War I European leader, the challenge was that a gain for one side spelled a loss for the other, and compromise ran counter to an aroused public opinion. This is not the situation in the Sino-American relationship. Key issues on the international front are global in nature. Consensus may prove difficult, but confrontation on the issues is self-defeating.

Nor is the internal evolution of the principal players comparable to the situation before World War I. When China’s rise is projected, it is assumed that the extraordinary thrust of the last decades will be projected into the indefinite future and that the relative stagnation of America is fated. But no issue preoccupies Chinese leaders more than the preservation of national unity. It permeates the frequently proclaimed goal of social harmony, which is difficult in a country where its coastal regions are on the level of the advanced societies but whose interior contains some of the world’s most backward areas.

The Chinese leadership has put forward to its people a catalogue of tasks to be accomplished. These include combating corruption, which President Hu Jintao has called an ‘unprecedently grim task’ and in the fight against which Hu has been involved at various stages of his career. They involve as well a ‘Western development campaign,’ designed to lift up poor inland provinces, among them the three in which Hu once lived. Key proclaimed tasks also include establishing additional ties between the leadership and the peasantry, including fostering village-level democratic elections, and enhanced transparency of the political process as China evolves into an urbanized society. In his December 2010 article, Dai Bingguo outlined the scope of China’s domestic challenge.
According to the United Nations’ living standard of $1 per day, China today still has 150 million people living below the poverty line. Even based on poverty standard of per capita income of 1,200 Yuan, China still has more than 40 million people living in poverty. At present, there are still 10 million people without access to electricity and the issue of jobs for 24 million people has to be resolved every year. China has a huge population and a weak foundation, the development between the cities and the countryside is uneven, the industrial structure is not rational, and the underdeveloped state of the forces of production has not been fundamentally changed.

The Chinese domestic challenge is, by the description of its leaders, far more complex than can be encompassed in the invocation of the phrase ‘China inexorable rise.’
Amazing as Deng’s reforms were, part of China’s spectacular growth over the initial debacles was attributable to its good fortune that there existed a fairly easy correspondence between China’s huge pool of young, then largely unskilled labour—which had been ‘unnaturally’ cut off from the world economy during the Mao years—and the Western economies, which were on the whole wealthy, optimistic, and highly leveraged on credit, with cash to buy Chinese-made goods. Now the China labour force is becoming older and more skilled (causing some basic manufacturing jobs to move to lower-wage countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh) and the West is entering a period of austerity, the picture is far more complicated.

Demography will compound that task. Propelled by increasing standards of living and longevity combined with the distortions of the one-child policy, China has one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. The country’s total working-age population is expected to peak in 2015. From this point on, a shrinking number of Chinese citizens aged fifteen to sixty-four need to support an increasingly large-elderly population. The demographic shifts will be stark by 2030, the number of rural workers between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine is estimated to be half its current level. By 2050, one-half of China’s population—roughly equivalent to the entire current population of the United States—sixty-five and older.

A country facing such large domestic tasks is not going to throw itself easily, much less automatically, into strategic confrontation or a quest for world domination. The existence of weapons of mass destruction and modern military technologies of unknowable ultimate consequences define a key distinction from the pre-World War I period. The leaders who started that war had no understanding of the consequences of the weapons at their disposal. Contemporary leaders can have no illusions about the destructive potential they are capable of unleashing.

The crucial competition between the United States and China is more likely to be economic and social than military. If present trends in the two countries’ economic growth, fiscal health, infrastructure spending, and educational infrastructure continue, a gap in development—and third party perceptions of relative influence—may take hold, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. But this is a prospect, it is in the capacity of the United States to arrest or perhaps reverse by its own efforts.
The United States bears the responsibility to retain its competitiveness and its world role. It should do this for its own traditional convictions, rather than as a contest with china. Building competitiveness is a largely American project, which we should not ask China to solve for us. China, fulfilling its own interpretation of its national destiny, will continue to develop its economy and pursue a broad range of interests in Asia and beyond. This is not a prospect that dictates the confrontation that led to the First World War. It suggests an evolution in many aspects of which China and the United States cooperate as much as they compete.

The issue of human rights will find its place in the total range of interaction. The United States cannot be true to itself without affirming its commitment to basic principles of human dignity and popular participation in government. Given the nature of modern technology, these principles will not be confined by national borders. But experience has shown that to seek to impose them by confrontation is likely to be self-defeating—especially in a country with such a historical vision of itself as china. A succession of American administrations, including the first two years of Obama’s has substantially balanced long-term moral convictions with case-to-case adaptations to requirements of national security. The basic approach remains valid; how to achieve the necessary balance is the challenge for each new generation of leaders on both sides.
The question ultimately comes down to what the United States and china can realistically ask of each other. An explicit American project to organize Asia on the basis of containing China or creating a bloc of democratic states for an ideological crusade is unlikely to succeed—in part because china is an indispensable trading partner for most of its neighbours. By the same token, a Chinese attempt to exclude America from Asian economic and security affairs will similarly meet serious resistance from almost all other Asian states, which fear the consequences of a region dominated by a single power.
The appropriate label for the Sino-American relationship is less partnership than co-evolution. It means that both countries pursue their domestic imperatives, cooperating where possible, and adjust their relations to minimize conflict. Neither side endorses all the aims of the other or presumes a total identity of interests, but both sides seek to identify and develop complimentary interests.

The United States and China owe it to their people and to global well-being to make the attempt. Each is too big to be dominated by the other. Therefore neither is capable of defining terms for victory in a war or in a Cold War type of conflict. They need to ask themselves the question apparently never formally posed at the time of the Crowe Memorandum: Where will a conflict take us? Was there a lack of vision on all sides, which turned the operation of the equilibrium into a mechanical process, without assessing where the world would be if the manoeuvring colossi missed a maneuver and collided? Which of the leaders who operated the international system that led to the First World War would not have recoiled had he known what the world would look like at its end.

On China by Henry Kissinger, published by Penguin Group, Toronto Canada 2011