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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Nixon-Ford Administrations > Volume XI
Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971
Released by the Office of the Historian

Guide to Archival Materials and Sources for Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976
Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971
Volume, E-7 Documents on South Asia, 1969-1973

The files available for the study of United States policy toward South Asia during the first Nixon administration are abundant and varied. That is particularly true during the period of the crisis on the subcontinent in 1971 when the Nixon White House was fully engaged in the management of policy. President Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger became directly involved in the emerging crisis in 1970 and they remained involved following the crisis until the recognition of Bangladesh in 1972. The files that document the involvement of Nixon and Kissinger in South Asia policy during this period are concentrated in the Nixon Presidential materials at the National Archives. They include tapes that were made of Nixon's conversations in the White House, the Old Executive Office Building, and at Camp David, which are maintained by the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, and the transcripts made of Kissinger's telephone conversations, available at the National Archives. Collectively they offer a rare opportunity to examine the motivation behind policy decisions, and in some cases during the South Asian crisis provide the only evidence of key decisions taken in the White House. Both of these collections have either been declassified or are in the process of being declassified and are available to researchers at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Nixon and Kissinger managed the United States response to the 1971 crisis on the subcontinent almost exclusively out of the White House. They made the important decisions relating to the crisis, and they sought to limit the roles played by officials in the Departments of State and Defense, including Secretary of State William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. Nixon relied heavily on Kissinger for advice during the crisis and to a lesser extent he relied on Kissinger's deputy Alexander Haig. Kissinger and Haig used the staff of the National Security Council to pull together information relating to the crisis and to process and summarize recommendations from State and Defense and intelligence from the intelligence community. The White House's NSC files maintained by the Nixon Presidential Materials Project are, therefore, of primary importance to a study of the 1971 crisis. Within the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, the National Security Council Institutional Files (H-Files) are a fundamental source for the policy process and crisis management. These files contain the records of the NSC sub-groups, the Senior Review Group and the Washington Special Actions Group. After the crisis developed in March 1971, Kissinger chaired meetings of the Senior Review Group to consider developments on the subcontinent. As the crisis deepened, the Washington Special Actions Group met with increasing frequency to weigh the United States response to the crisis and to offer advice to the President. The Washington Special Actions Group was the NSC's crisis management team. It was also chaired by Kissinger and consisted of the Director of Central Intelligence or his deputy, the Under Secretaries of involved agencies, and other senior officials such as Joseph Sisco, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

Most of the other important records bearing on the Presidential management of South Asia policy during the first Nixon administration can be found in the National Security Council Files within the Nixon Presidential Materials Project. The country files for India, Pakistan, and South Asia in the NSC files are dense with documents that record the policy process. The country files are of primary importance for the period of the 1971 crisis. They are also the best source of documentation on the political crisis in Pakistan that began in 1969 when Ayub Khan's government was replaced by the martial law government of Yahya Khan. The country files track the increasing White House concern with developments in Pakistan through the cyclone that hit East Pakistan in 1970, the election in December 1970, and, following the crisis, the calculations that led to the recognition of Bangladesh. The India country file documents the steadily deteriorating relationship with the Gandhi government. For the period of the 1971 crisis, the country files should be read in conjunction with the Indo-Pak War files, a special collection created to report on the 1971 crisis between India and Pakistan and related aid relief efforts. The country files include copies of assessments and recommendations prepared for Kissinger by NSC staff members Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson. They include signed recommendations from Rogers and Laird to Nixon as well as the original memoranda sent by Kissinger with his recommendations to Nixon. The country files are where the researcher is most likely to find Nixon's handwritten comments in the margins of documents as well as his responses to recommendations. The files also contain numerous handwritten comments by Kissinger and Haig. They contain copies of the most important telegraphic traffic between Washington and the embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad. The significant outgoing cable traffic was sent to the White House for clearance and the copies of incoming traffic of consequence were routinely sent to the White House.

One telegraphic channel central to the management of the 1971 crisis did not pass through the Department of State. Kissinger used a special channel to communicate with Ambassador Joseph Farland in Pakistan and a number of important decisions were communicated by Kissinger to Farland without the knowledge of officials in the Department of State. Copies of these cables are in the Backchannel files in the NSC files. No such channel was established for contact with Ambassador Kenneth Keating in India, whose advice was generally discounted in the White House as unacceptably pro-Indian.

The NSC files also include a file of Presidential/HAK memoranda of conversation that bears on the 1971 crisis, as does the file of memoranda of conversation in the Kissinger Office Files of the NSC files. The Kissinger Office Files includes a box of documents that relates to India and Pakistan and another that deals specifically with Pakistani President Yahya Khan. The chronological files of Alexander Haig and Harold Saunders-both in the NSC files-are extensive and although they duplicate much of the documentation found in the country files, they contain enough unique information to make them worth searching. The file of transcripts of Haig's telephone conversations contains records of a number of important conversations during the crisis, and the file of memoranda of conversation that Haig did not complete converting to finished text is valuable for his handwritten notes on NSC meetings, although his handwriting is exceedingly difficult to decipher.

Intelligence assessments of the evolving 1971 crisis can be found in a number of files within the NSC files, including the country files. The Director of Central Intelligence or his deputy briefed the Senior Review Group and the Washington Special Actions Group on the crisis. Copies of the notes prepared in the CIA for those briefings are attached to the minutes of the meetings. The most important intelligence was that which went directly to the President, and during the crisis that was provided on a regular basis in memoranda prepared by Kissinger drawing upon information from the CIA and the Departments of State and Defense. Kissinger's memoranda can be found in the NSC files in the 48 boxes of the Presidential Daily Briefings. The Central Intelligence Agency's National Intelligence Council files contain National Intelligence Estimates and Special National Intelligence Estimates and related documentation. The various files of DCI Richard Helms, still in under control of the Central Intelligence Agency, are of some value for the period of the crisis. There was very little documentation of any significance in the operational files of the CIA, which were consulted for the entire period of 1969-1972.

The White House Special Files within the Nixon Presidential Materials Project are a much smaller collection of files than the National Security Council Files, but they are important, particularly for the period of the 1971 crisis. The Staff Member and Office Files of the White House Special Files contain the President's Office Files and the President's Personal Files, both of which contain memoranda written by or to Nixon and some memoranda of conversation. The Memoranda for the President file in the President's Office Files is a chronological file of memoranda of conversation or of meetings involving the President. The President's Office Files also include the President's Handwriting file of documents with Nixon's handwritten comments. The staff members collection of files includes files of Alexander Haig and H.R. Haldeman, including Haldeman's handwritten diary, which is very revealing at several points in the 1971 crisis. A selection of Haldeman's diary entries are in the published volume, H.R. Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the White House (New York: 1994) and a larger selection is in the Haldeman Diaries, Multimedia Edition, a CD version.

Another large collection of documentation bearing on the Presidential management of South Asia policy during the first Nixon administration is the Kissinger Papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The uniquely valuable collection within the Kissinger Papers is the file of transcripts of telephone conversations, which is of central importance for all foreign policy issues, including South Asia. The bulk of the telephone conversations are arranged chronologically. There is also a Dobrynin File and a Home File, both of which contain transcripts of telephone conversations of importance to the 1971 crisis. While not available at the Library of Congress, copies of this telephone transcripts prepared at the time of the actual telephone conversations by a third person listening to the conversation, are available at the National Archives as part of the Nixon Presidential Materials.

The Kissinger Papers are an extensive collection, but, in large part, they replicate materials found in other collections, particularly the files of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project and the Department of State. The Kissinger Papers do, however, contain documents that are unique to the collection and important to South Asian policy. There are, for example, a number of memoranda for the record written by Kissinger to record his meetings during the 1971 crisis with Indian ambassador Jha. Such documents as these are in the Chronological Files, and the country files for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh within the Geopolitical Files of the Kissinger Papers. The files of Memoranda for the President and Memoranda of Conversation are also valuable as a check against documents available at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project.

Elliot Richardson was Under Secretary of State until June 1970. His papers at the Library of Congress are of some value for South Asia policy for that period. He lunched on a weekly basis with Kissinger, and his records of those meetings have some relevance.

The files of the Department of State that deal with South Asian policy are more important for the periods before and following the 1971 crisis than for period of the crisis itself. The White House controlled policy decisions during the crisis and Department of State officials, who were viewed by Nixon and Kissinger as pro-Indian, were often uninformed or misinformed by the White House about developments on the subcontinent. It is still important, however, to research Department of State files on South Asia for the entire period of the first Nixon administration. During the crisis, telegrams to and from the subcontinent contained Departmental instructions on such issues as counseling Yahya Khan to exercise restraint in the military repression of the rebellion in East Pakistan, and dealing with Gandhi government about the refugees flooding from East Pakistan into West Bengal. Before the crisis, the telegraphic traffic in Department of State files is essential to gauge the United States assessment of and reaction to such developments as the resignation of President Ayub Khan, the devastating cyclone that hit East Pakistan, and the election of December 1970. Departmental cable traffic contains the instructions to and reports from the field on economic and military assistance agreements. The issue of military assistance became an increasingly important and sensitive issue in 1970. For the period following the crisis, Department of State files include such key documents as the cabled reports from John Connally on the fact-finding mission he undertook for President Nixon in South Asia shortly after he resigned as Secretary of the Treasury in 1972.

The files of the Department of State are in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland in Record Group 59. Telegraphic traffic can be found in the Department's central files, which are arranged according to a subject-numeric filing system. The central files also include a great deal of memoranda, generated in the Department and by other agencies, as well as intelligence material. The central files are divided into several broad categories, the most important of which for the study of South Asia policy are Economic, Political and Defense, and Science and Social. For economic assistance to the subcontinent, consult the AID files in the central files. The AID (US) files for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contain general policy material relating to US assistance. The AID (US) 15 files for India and Pakistan contain exchanges relating to Public Law 480, the Food for Peace Program. For the issue of military assistance, the most important documentation is in the DEF 12-5 files for India and Pakistan. For exchanges between the United States and India and Pakistan before and after the crisis, key files to consult are POL INDIA-US, POL PAK-US, POL 15 INDIA, POL 15 PAK, POL 15-1 INDIA, POL 15-1 PAK, and POL 15-1 US/NIXON. POL 7 US/KISSINGER contains reports on Kissinger's trip to India and Pakistan in July 1971. POL 7 INDIA has documentation on Indira Gandhi's visit to Washington in November 1971, and POL 7 US/CONNALY has the reports of Connally's trip to South Asia in 1972. POL 23-9 PAK includes reports and instructions bearing on the emerging crisis. POL 1 PAK-US contains the famous dissent channel telegram sent from the Consulate General in Dacca on April 6, 1971. Researchers should consult REF PAK, SOC 10 PAK, SOC 12-11 PAK, and SOC 14 PAK for documentation on the issue of the East Pakistani refugees. Most of the reporting on the fighting that took place in East Pakistan and later in West Pakistan is in POL 27 INDIA-PAK and POL 27-14 INDIA-PAK.

The lot files of the Department of State are decentralized collections of documents retired at the country desk and bureau leadership levels and are uneven in value. The lot files generated by the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs include the centrally important files of Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco. Sisco's files for 1971 are important not just because of his important role in the crisis but also because they are still intact as they were when they were initially retired. That is not true of the other lot files retired by NEA on South Asia. With the exception of the files maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department, most lot files which have been retired by the Department of State, including the NEA lot files dealing with South Asia during the first Nixon administration, have been screened once or twice by records managers and a high percentage of the files which were retired have been destroyed. The guiding principle was to preserve only signed originals and to destroy copies on the theory that the signed originals of memoranda, papers, letters, etc. would be in the Central Files. Thus many of the remaining lot files are very small. The remaining documentation in the files can be important, however.

Assistant Secretary Sisco's files for the period of the crisis are in NEA Files, Lot 73 D 69. These files include a chronological run of Sisco's memoranda to Nixon, Kissinger, and Rogers, as well as background material for Senior Review Group and Washington Special Actions Group meetings. Sisco's files for 1969-1970 are in NEA Files, Lot 72 D 39, another potentially valuable collection, but unlike Lot 73 D 69 these files have been screened and reduced in size. Of the other lot files retired by the India and Pakistan country desks-all of which have been screened and many of which have been combined at the National Archives-several contain valuable documentation. NEA/INS Files, Lot 74 D 428 is worth consulting on a variety of issues dealing with India for the period 1969-1970; NEA/INS Files, Lot 74 D 444 contains exchanges with India on PL 480 and other economic issues, and the India political and defense files in NEA/INS Files, Lot 76 D 30 are of use for the Department of State perspective on the emerging crisis. NEA/INC Files, Lot 77 D 51 is India Country Director David T. Schneider's files for 1969-1971, important in part for his correspondence, which often serves to illuminate policy decisions.

The files retired by the Pakistan country desk that cover the period of the first Nixon administration have been screened and reduced to such an extent that little of value remains in most of them. The Pakistan economic files for 1969 in NEA/PAB Files, Lot 72 D 138 are of some limited value, as are the Pakistan economic files for 1970 in NEA/PAB Files, Lot 74 D 214. The Pakistan defense files for 1967-1969, in NEA/PAB Files, Lot 75 D 87, contain some useful material pertaining to the military supply issue in 1969. But the Pakistan political and defense files for 1971, in NEA/PAB Files, Lot 77 D 91, and the East Pakistan/Bangladesh files for 1971, NEA/PAB Files, Lot 74 D 179, each of which initially contained documentation bearing on the crisis, have little left of value.

Department of Defense files are retired initially to the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. Once they are declassified they are transferred to Record Group 330 in the National Archives at College Park. Defense records are organized by originating office. Classified materials are separated into secret and top secret collections. The most important are those that were retired by the offices of the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary, and the Special Assistant to the Secretary. Also important are the files of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. This element of the Defense Department had responsibility for monitoring foreign affairs and in structure it mirrored the Department of State. The OSD and OASD/ISA files were retired in yearly increments. The files retired by the Office of the Secretary of Defense do not include the personal files of the Secretary. Copies of a selection of Secretary Laird's papers covering 1969-1972, collected just before his leaving his office, are in the Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The editor consulted 17 OSD and OASD/ISA collections but they were of limited use for South Asia policy. A list of these collections can be found in the list of sources in the electronic volume Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume E-7, Documents on South Asia, 1969-1972. Defense materials relating to military assistance can be found scattered throughout the OSD and OASD/ISA collections consulted. There is very little of value in these files, however, for the period of the crisis, owing in part to the fact that Nixon and Kissinger excluded the Defense Department from the policy making process in the same way that they excluded the Department of State. Defense Department input was of consequence during the crisis only during the meetings of the Senior Review Group and the Washington Special Actions Group, which were usually attended by Deputy Secretary David Packard. The Defense Department's perspective on South Asia can be gleaned in part from the minutes of Secretary Laird's weekly staff meetings, which are in the OSD Office Chronological Files, 1958-1973, retired as FRC 330 76 0028.

Afghanistan was not among the primary foreign policy concerns of the first Nixon administration. Soviet influence predominated in Afghanistan and the primary objective of United States policy was to limit Soviet influence and to encourage Afghan neutrality. The tool for United States influence in Afghanistan was economic assistance. The Department of State managed Afghan policy in conjunction with Ambassador Neumann and the embassy in Kabul. Except for Vice President Agnew's brief trip to Afghanistan in 1970, the White House had very little interest in the country. The country file on Afghanistan in the National Security Files of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project contains documentation on Agnew's trip but the presidential files on Afghanistan are thin. The central files of the Department of State contain most of the relevant documentation on Afghanistan for the period 1969-1972. POL AFG-US, POL 15 AFG and POL 15-1 AFG are the basic files for exchanges with the Afghan government. For economic issues the researcher should consult AID (US) 15-4 AFG for the Food for Peace program, AID (US) 15-8 for commodity sales to Afghanistan, and E 5 AFG for the economic development programs supported by the United States in Afghanistan. Documentation on United States assistance during the famine that afflicted Afghanistan can be found in AID (US) 15-9 AFG and SOC 10 AFG. Of the lot files retired by the Afghanistan country desk, NEA/PAB files, Lot 74 D 145 contains political and economic files for 1969 that are of some interest, particularly for the official-informal correspondence and NEA/PAB files, Lot 76 D 47, political and economic files for 1970, contains useful documentation on the Agnew visit, and NEA/PAB files, Lot 76 D 320, political and economic files for 1971, is of some value for the efforts made to blunt Soviet influence in Afghanistan.

Bangladesh grew out of the civil war in Pakistan and it remained the subject of White House interest and involvement until recognition was accorded. Recognition of Bangladesh was a sensitive issue that involved relations with Pakistan. Responding to the concerns of the Bhutto government, the United States was slow to recognize Bangladesh. Once recognition was accorded, the primary issue in relations with the new country was economic assistance. For the White House involvement in the timing of the recognition of Bangladesh, the country file in the National Security Files of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project is important. Other exchanges with the government of Bangladesh on the issue of recognition can be found in the Department of State central files in POL BANGALADESH, POL BANGLADESH-US, POL 15 BANGLADESH, and POL 15-1 BANGLADESH. Documentation on economic assistance can be found in AID (US) BANGLADESH, and AID (US) 4 BANGLADESH. The lot files retired by the Bangladesh country desk for the first year after the country was established have been heavily screened and reduced. The only one that remains of significant value is NEA/PAB files, Lot 77 D 16, economic files for 1972, which contains some useful material on emerging U.S. business interests in Bangladesh and the effort made to try to organize international economic support for the new government.

Ceylon was not a concern of the first Nixon administration and the editors made the decision to use available space to document the rest of South Asia in both the print and electronic volumes. There are two Ceylon folders at the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Middle East Country Files and no folder in the Geopolitical Files in the Kissinger papers at the Library of Congress for 1969-1972. The best documentation on U.S. relations with Ceylon is in the Department of State Central Files, including such files as POL CEYLON, POL CEYLON-US, and AID (US) CEYLON and the various numeric sub files of these headings. There is a Ceylon folder in Joseph Sisco's files, NEA Files, Lot 73 D 69, but there is little additional material of value on Ceylon in Department of State Lot Files.

In sum, this discussion of sources relating to South Asia policy is only a starting point and should be read in conjunction with the extensive lists of sources found in Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, and Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume E-7, Documents on South Asia, 1969-1972. Needless to say, researchers interested in Nixon's South Asia policy, 1969-1972, should read these two volumes as the obvious pre-requisite for conducting research of the Nixon foreign policy toward South Asia. This access guide is the result of years of research experience by one Foreign Relations editor in the foreign policy files of the Nixon administration. It is influenced heavily by the Foreign Relations series' requirement to cover major foreign policy decisions and actions and focuses on the formulation of presidential foreign policy. The two Foreign Relations volumes for South Asia, 1969-1972, while they cover all major foreign policy issues, represent only a small fraction of the material available on U.S. foreign policy and relations with South Asia for this period.

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