Former US president Richard Nixon opposed India in the 1972 war with Pakistan which led to the creation of Bangladesh because he believed India’s military action would set a “bad precedent” and endanger the future of any small country, according to the declassified documents of the era.
The latest declassified document disclosed that Nixon made those remarks at a lengthy conversation with the then Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato during their meeting at San Clements in California.
As per the documents, Nixon said the US faced a situation in South Asia in which India, a nation of 600 million people with a democratic government moved against Pakistan, a smaller nation with some 60 million people under a military junta.
“However big and democratic India might be, if it swallows its neighbour with USSR support, the future of any small country is endangered,” Nixon said, according to the recorded diplomatic conversation.
However, the Japanese Prime Minister noted that China and the USSR’s involvement differed in each case in Vietnam, Korea and India and Pakistan.
In particular, there is a glaring difference in approach between the two with respect to the Indo-Pakistan conflict, which he believed could be exploited.
He had expected a protracted conflict, but the Indo-Pakistan war ended quickly in a truce.
While Japan wished to cooperate in providing humanitarian aid for international relief for refugees, he felt time would be required before recognising Bangladesh, according to the declassified documents.
“The President said that we take a forthcoming view with respect to humanitarian aid, and the Congress is opposed to aid which can be converted to war-like purpose.
“He agreed that it would be premature to recognise Bangladesh because it had not yet established a government secure enough to give assurances of its survival. He said that the US would not recognise until the situation clarified,” it said.
Nixon then explained his position. “Important as he considers India’s survival as a non-Communist nation, we opposed its military action against a neighbour to resolve a political question, not because of any difference in philosophy of government, but because India’s actions set a bad precedent,” it said.
“Therefore, we opposed India and the USSR at the UN. Perhaps, he concluded, lady chiefs of state are dangerous, since both India and Israel have been led in war by women,” it said.
The prime minister felt it was better when India was completely neutral, but with Soviet support and access across a land frontier, India felt itself strengthened against Pakistan.
During the meeting, Nixon reviewed his attempt to work out a settlement on a political basis, including USD 500 million for refugee relief and getting former President of Pakistan Yahya Khan to agree to a unilateral troop withdrawal, but India moved in its own interest.
Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger reviewed a study which disclosed that the US provided India some USD 2 billion in economic aid since 1965.
During the same period, India purchased USD 800 million worth of arms from the USSR and produced an additional USD 175 million itself.
“In effect, he concluded, we financed India’s military build-up. During the same period, we provided USD 50 million in aid to Pakistan, which received an additional USD 100 million in military aid from the PRC. This 10–1 increase in military capability gave India an enormous advantage,” the declassified document says.
“The President said this rendered ridiculous any charge that Pakistan attacked India; it knew it would lose. It was India that attacked Pakistan, with Soviet assistance,” it said.