Nixon Presidential Materials

September 16 1971

SUBJECT Situation in South Asia

Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)

Foreign Relations of the United States
Volume X1
South Asia Crisis, 1971

By Saunders & Hoskinson

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It is difficult to say exactly what this situation adds up to. Most observers doubt that the Indians are preparing to initiate a direct attack on either East or West Pakistan. Many of the moves taken could be viewed as defensive moves against the possibility of attack. It is possible, however, and there have been persistent rumors that the Indians are planning to increase significantly their support to Bengali insurgents, perhaps even involving the use of Indian “volunteers.” This could involve an attempt to capture some of the more isolated border areas in northwest East Pakistan and establish the Bangla Desh “government” there. Now would be about the right time to begin preparing for the likely Pakistani reaction by moving armour up to the Western Front if the operation in the East were to begin in early October. The rains in East Pakistan will be ending soon, and the area will by early October be more conducive to military operations.

At a minimum, it appears that the level of tension and the danger of war, at least by accident, has increased another notch in recent weeks. War may not yet be inevitable, but there is a certain grave sense of inevitability hovering over the subcontinent and influencing actions on both sides. Under these conditions and with tensions running so high, events can gain a momentum of their own and lead to a war that no one really wants but all are willing to fight out of fear of losing if they do not mobilize and go on the offensive.

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