“I don’t think you are supporting Pakistan. If you had taken a stronger line with (Pakistan military ruler) Yahya (Khan),you would have done more for Pakistan.”
This is what Indira Gandhi told US President Richard Nixon just days before India-Pakistan war when she met him in Washington in November 1971,according to a US diplomatic cable made public by Wikileaks.
The cable on October 19,1973 is based on a conversation between then US Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Gandhi.
During his meeting,Moynihan informed Gandhi that Nixon was concerned that developments on the Afghan border in 1973 should not lead to difficulties for Pakistan and that he hoped India would share this view.
It was at this time that Gandhi recalled her conversation with Nixon prior to the Bangladesh crisis.
A cable made public eight years ago by Wikileaks had said that Nixon called Gandhi an “old witch” when Henry Kissinger met him at White House hours after the talks with Gandhi.
The US had sided with Pakistan in the 1971 war and even threatened to move its Seventh Fleet to Indian Ocean. Gandhi had then declared India will not be intimidated by such moves.
In the 1973 cable,Moynihan said Gandhi assured that India indeed saw the independence and integrity of Pakistan as a cornerstone of Indian foreign policy but the policy that country following in Pushtunistan and Baluchistan “would not strengthen” that country but “rather would weaken it”.
“What Pakistan subsequently did was not best for Pakistan. As for the Baluchistan and Pushtunistan are internal affairs of Pakistan. India would not interfere. But it never has worked to try to destroy people… Finally Afghanistan has a large Pathan population. It must be concerned that this population not be aroused by events in Pakistan,” he wrote.
During his meeting,Moynihan informed Gandhi that Nixon was concerned that developments on the Afghan border should not lead to difficulties for Pakistan and that he hoped India would share this view.
The Ambassador told her that Washington felt that peace has indeed come to South Asia despite difficulties but Gandhi told him situation was “still uneasy”.
Referring to unease among business community,the Ambassador told Gandhi that businessmen regularly ask him whether it would be worth their while try to start up in India but that he could never give an answer. “I urge those who want to close down not to do so,” he said.
Moynihan said the Prime Minister told him that she “did not wish to see the relations petrify,but gave precious little indication that she would do anything to prevent it”.
On expanding economic cooperation,Moynihan said the US understood that the Prime Minister faced difficulties for establishing any new relationship with America. “Difficulties,as she put it,with the public mind,the party mind.
“I said that my personal judgement was this could be overcome in perhaps 20 years and that both countries would be there when the time came. This statement might seem blunt in a cable,I believe it was said courteously and received with sympathy and perhaps a touch of relief,” Moynihan said.
Gandhi’s Principal Secretary P N Dhar told Moynihan in a separate meeting that he should not think that the Prime Minister was indifferent to increasing economic relationship.
“She had said India will do its part,which coming from her meant a great deal more than the speeches from some others. I left it that he knew perfectly well that we had all the time in the world,” the cable said.