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Indian Military News
[url="http://www.kforcegov.com/Services/IS/NightWatch/NightWatch_11000163.aspx"]For the Night of 9 August 2011[/url]

Quote:NightWatch [url="http://www.kforcegov.com/Services/IS/NightWatch/NightWatch_11000163.aspx"]For the Night of 9 August 2011[/url]

Vietnam-India: Comment: In late June, Vietnamese and Indian naval senior officers met to discuss maritime security in the South China Sea. During the visit Vietnamese Vice Admiral Hien offered Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Verma, base rights to the port of Nha Trang. Verma accepted in principle.

The terms of the offer have not been reported in detail, but one news service reported the Indians counter-offered the new Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile to the Vietnamese navy; the Prithvi short-range ballistic missile which can also be used on ships; plus maintenance support to Vietnam's Soviet-supplied naval ships. India already is providing training to the Vietnamese navy.

[color="#800080"]Subsequently, the INS Airavat, an amphibious landing ship built in Calcutta, made a port call at Nha Trang between 20 and 30 July.[/color] In October 2010, Vietnam offered the Indians access to maintenance and repair facilities and invited more port calls. In 2011, Indian Navy ships have made calls at South Chinese Sea ports and Japan almost monthly since March.

For the record. Nha Trang was the base from which a Vietnamese Supreme Commander led a fleet that defeated a Chinese Yuan dynasty fleet in 1288.

Vietnam's offer appears tailored to appeal to the new Indian Naval mantra:

[color="#0000FF"]China rejects that the Indian Ocean is Indian. India rejects that the South China Sea is Chinese.[/color]

The Indian Chief of Naval Staff's acceptance of the Vietnamese offer sent Chinese national security pundits into spasms of dismissal. One expert wrote that India will never base ships at Nha Trang because it would be too expensive and India lacks the ability to extend naval power east. [color="#800080"] The Chinese national security expert accused India and Vietnam of bluffing.[/color]

India: Navy. The Calcutta Telegraph reported on 8 August that the government has asked all ports in the east coast, except Visakhapatnam, to give priority to the Indian Navy because a sharp rise in the number of warships is leading to congestion and slowing down operational turnaround. Visakhapatnam is the main base for the Eastern Naval Command.

Comment: According to the Telegraph report the government has decided to strengthen the Eastern Naval Command in reaction to Chinese meddling in the Indian Ocean, including port construction in Burma and in southern Sri Lanka.

As a result the Navy has raised the rank of senior positions in the east and increased its priority for new ship assignments. In the past 5 years the Command has received 14 ships, including five Rajput-class guided missile destroyers that had been assigned to the Western Naval Command at Mumbai. The new additions include the amphibious assault ship, INS Jalashwa, purchased from the US Navy, which is the second largest ship in the Indian Navy, after the aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

India's new indigenously constructed stealth frigates, under construction at Mumbai, will be assigned to the Eastern Naval command. The Navy is scouting at least three new locations for bases in India and seems to welcome the Vietnamese offer of port facilities.

The Indian Navy is unlikely to base ships in Vietnam, but access to a friendly port will increase the frequency of port calls to the South China Sea as well as to Japan and South Korea. India is determined to contain the Chinese in South Asian oceans and and is taking the challenge to East and Southeast Asian seas. Indian Navy ships will be frequent callers in Vietnamese ports.
[center][size="2"]Night[/size][color="#808080"]Watch[/color][/center][url="http://www.kforcegov.com/Services/IS/NightWatch/NightWatch_11000173.aspx"]For the Night of 23 August 2011[/url]

Quote:India: The Indian Army is planning to deploy a mountain strike corps with two new divisions of 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers headquartered in Zakama in Nagaland and Missamari in Assam, Press Trust of India reported on 23 August. Senior army sources said the army is in talks with the governments of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar states to build the mountain corps headquarters. The Army also is planning to deploy ultra-light howitzers and light tanks along the Line of Actual Control in Sikkum and Arunachal Pradesh.

Comment: This is the latest announcement in a series over the past two years that indicates the government continues the incremental, long term buildup of Indian forces
Happy Diwali!!!

Check the photo section at the end.

[url="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/india-targets-swiss-based-arms-131920092.html"]India targets Swiss-based arms firm in corruption probe[/url]
Quote:NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian businessman was charged on Saturday with attempting to bribe government officials in connection with allegations that Swiss-based Rheinmetall Air Defence AG paid him $530,000 to use his influence to stop the company from being blacklisted.

Abhishek Verma and his wife were arrested on Friday after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched raids on 10 properties in and around New Delhi, including the home of a former Rheinmetall representative in India. The CBI said in a statement that it was investigating both Verma and the company.

Verma and his wife, Anca Neacsu, were charged in a New Delhi court under the Prevention of Corruption Act and face up to five years in prison if convicted. The magistrate ordered the couple to remain in custody for seven days for further questioning.
[url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Naresh-Chandra-panel-recommends-military-preparedness-to-deal-with-assertive-China/articleshow/15133911.cms"]Naresh Chandra panel recommends military preparedness to deal with 'assertive’ China[/url]
Quote:NEW DELHI: India has to be prepared militarily to deal with an "assertive" China even as it seeks to build bridges of cooperation with Beijing, the Naresh Chandra Task Force on national security has recommended.

The committee's suggestions for the military — details of which have been accessed by TOI — also buries the proposal for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the single point military adviser to the government. Instead, it has recommended that a permanent Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee be appointed from among the three service chiefs, allowing India to have four four-star generals.

The panel has given a set of recommendations for reforming the national security architecture, covering both intelligence and military apparatus, as part of its mandate to review it.

It has recommended a re-look at the process of blacklisting truant defence firms, separating the post of DRDO chief and scientific advisor to the defence minister, appointing military officers upto the rank of joint secretary in the ministry of defence (MoD), creating new Special Forces Command etc.

Two-front war remote, but threat from China real

[url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toireporter/author-Rajat-Pandit.cms"]Rajat Pandit[/url], TNN [size="2"]|[/size] Oct 12, 2012, 02.53AM IST

[color="#757575"][size="2"][left] [/left][/size][/color]
Quote:NEW DELHI: India's worst-case scenario is a simultaneous two-front war. This nightmarish possibility is fuelled by the ever-deepening military nexus between China and Pakistan, ranging from continuing assistance in the nuclear and missile arenas to presence of Chinese soldiers in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan areas.

[color="#9932CC"]Much before defence minister [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/A.-K.-Antony"]A K Antony[/url] formally directed them to do so in 2009[/color], Indian armed forces were already "actively" factoring this two-front contingency into their plans and doctrines. But while planning for the worst is good strategy, many military experts say the likelihood of a two-front war seem remote.

China may have long used [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Pakistan"]Pakistan[/url] to peg India down in [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/South-Asia"]South Asia[/url] but has never directly intervened on Islamabad's behalf during any [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Indo-Pak-conflict"]Indo-Pak conflict[/url]. Moreover, even as it shadow boxes with the US in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere, China remains wary of doing anything that may force India to firmly join the American corner.

The threat of a single-front conflict or skirmish is "much more real". Pakistan has always been the more in-your-face threat for India, stoking militancies, launching incursions and rattling its nuclear sabre. "But Pakistan can be managed," says a senior military officer.

"China is the actual long-term threat. Its strategic intentions remain unclear. We have to constructively engage with [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Beijing"]Beijing[/url] but also keep our powder dry for all eventualities," he adds.

Both in terms of nuclear as well as conventional military power, China by far outstrips India. China's primary aim is to dissuade any US intervention in the Taiwan Strait or the larger South China Sea, but ground realities cannot be ignored.

China has systematically built military infrastructure all along the unresolved 4,056-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), with five airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in the [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Tibet"]Tibet[/url] Autonomous Region (TAR). Apart from deploying medium-range ballistic missiles and fighters on the Tibetan plateau, People's Liberation Army (PLA) has now also taken to holding a series of high-end air and ground combat exercises near the Indian borders.

Beijing also continues to systematically widen its arc of influence in the [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Indian-Ocean"]Indian Ocean[/url] Region (IOR) by forging extensive maritime linkages with eastern [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Africa"]Africa[/url], Seychelles, [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/The-Maldives"]the Maldives[/url], Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan, among others. "China may be doing all this to protect its sea lanes supplying energy but it also strategically encircles India," says a naval officer.

The PLA's increasingly "aggressive" behaviour along the LAC, with over 550 "transgressions" into Indian territory being recorded just since January, 2010, also points to a deliberate hardening of its stand in laying claim to disputed areas.

Indian armed forces, however, are no longer the pushovers they were. "I assure the nation as Army chief that 1962 will not be repeated...Nahi Hoga!" says General Bikram Singh.

Adds another officer, "In terms of equipment and training, we are far better off now. We learnt our lessons from 1962 and built them into our plans. China's armed forces may be more than double our size but they do not have the kind of force ratios that will overwhelm us."

IAF and Navy, too, have emerged as forces to reckon with. Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne asserts India could have even turned the tables on China during 1962 if it had used "offensive airpower", much like it did against Pakistan during the 1999 Kargil conflict. "It was airpower that concluded the (1999) war," he says.

Sukhoi-30MKI fighters taking off from Tezpur and Chabua, or Leh and Thoise for that matter, can strike high-value targets deep inside China with mid-air refuelling. Similarly, China may have last month commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the 65,000-tonne Liaoning, but Indian Navy is leagues ahead in blue-water experience. If required, Indian warships can effectively "interdict" Chinese sea lanes for its energy imports, as can fighters based in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

India has been slow to react to China's strategic moves, both on land borders as well as IOR. But after deploying Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, missile squadrons and spy drones in the north-east as well as raising two new divisions (over 15,000 soldiers each) in [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Nagaland"]Nagaland[/url] and [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Assam"]Assam[/url] over the last couple of years, planning is now underway to raise a new [url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Mountain"]mountain[/url] strike corps (over 35,000 combat troops) in the 2012-17 timeframe.

India cannot hope to ever compete with China in terms of military assets or manpower, but a repeat of the abject knockout in 1962 is no longer possible. "We can punch back now," says a Major-General.
This article by Rajat Pandit contains too many factual inaccuracies to be taken seriously!
The baleful roles of B. N. Mullick and Gen. D. K. Palit in the 1962 affair are gradually coming out into the limelight:


WRT to Mullick, his agenda is obvious as are the identities of his paymasters, or his “good friends” as he is quoted as referring to them in an article by AVM (retd.) A. K. Tiwary on the non-use of air power in 1962:


The degree of penetration of Mullick’s “good friends” into the current Indian power structure is not only significant, but disturbing. It is reasonable to assume that there is a critical mass of persons currently in place with a mandate to pursue Mullick’s agenda. Current events certainly point in that direction! Apart from the ones who have been recruited, there is another constituency comprising of deluded and mentally sold out clowns who carry out their activities in the hope that they will be recruited.

Now, wrt D. K. Palit, few are aware that he misused his considerable influence in Indian political circles by introducing banned apartheid diamonds into India in exchange for extravagant perks from De Beers. This has been highlighted on pages 55-57 in the book "Glitter & Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Empire", Janine P. Roberts, Disinformation Company, 2003. ISBN: 0971394296.
While in my previous post I have been rightfully critical of D. K. Palit, no analysis is complete or credible without objectivity. To the best of my knowledge, D. K. Palit produced the first treatise logically enunciating Indian nuclear weaponization, which has yet to be surpassed by anybody in the Indian power structure. That single work of his erases any of his activities during the 1962 debacle. If the powers-that-be in the Indian power structure comprised of competent persons instead of lackeys and "intellectual dung beetles", perhaps Palit's contacts with De Beers could have been used to open a backdoor for some sort of clandestine exchange of nuclear data between India, South Africa, and Israel (which at that point of time was closely collaborating with South Africa). India would have lost the 1962 war even without Palit. The Nehru-Menon-Kaul-Mullick-Thapar clique would have ensured the outcome without any additional help from anybody. However, India's continual refusal to see the writing on the wall first highlighted by Palit, and its deliberate delusions concerning the credibility of its nuclear arsenal will one day lead to events far greater than the tragedy of 1962.
qubit, for the rest of us can you point to DK Palit's enunciation of the need for nukes for India?
[size="5"]Playing at War[/size]

On December 7, Lieutenant General AAK Niazi, the commander of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, was haggard and exhausted. According to another general, he wept loudly in a meeting. After only a few days of combat, the Pakistan army was being routed in Bangladesh. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger became sincerely convinced that ripping Pakistan in half would not be enough for India. India could next redeploy its eastern forces for a crushing assault against West Pakistan.

What was India fighting for: the liberation of Bangladesh or something more? “The destruction of Pakistan, which seemed to be the ultimate war aim at the time,” answers Samuel Hoskinson, Kissinger’s aide, without hesitation. “Indeed, she was ready to do it. We had pretty good information that this was under serious consideration in the war cabinet.” Once Bangladesh was secured, the White House staffer says, “Her intention was to move troops across northern India and attack in the west, to finish off this problem.” He says, “I know that it was being discussed actively with her generals and her top people.” This was intolerable for the White House. “This would be a mighty strategic defeat for the US,” says Hoskinson. “She had taken on an ally and destroyed it. Nixon and Kissinger were always aware of national prestige. . . . This would be a total victory for the Soviets.”

Although the most sensitive wartime records are still secret, it is not clear that India was seriously trying to break apart West Pakistan. As Kissinger briefed Nixon, “the Indians still seem to be essentially on the defensive” in the west. Even if India could smartly finish up its eastern campaign, it would take more time to redeploy its troops westward than the Soviet Union, stalling a cease-fire at the United Nations, could accept: the CIA reckoned that it would take five or six days for India’s airborne division to move to the western front, and much longer for their infantry and armor fighting in the east. US intelligence analysts argued that in order to hack apart West Pakistan, India would have to not just defeat the Pakistan army, but completely wipe it out— something probably beyond India’s capacities, even if it wanted to do so.

Hoskinson’s verdict, echoing that of Nixon and Kissinger, depended heavily on raw intelligence from a CIA mole with access to Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. Based on this one source, the CIA reported that Gandhi meant to keep fighting until Bangladesh was liberated, India had seized a contested area of Kashmir currently controlled by Pakistan, and Pakistan’s armor and air force were “destroyed so that Pakistan will never again be in a position to plan another invasion of India.”

It is still not certain who the mole was, nor how reliable he was. Many intelligence analysts doubted the report. For a start, the real debates and decisions happened in the prime minister’s secretariat, sometimes widening to include a small political affairs committee of key ministers, but certainly not the whole unwieldy cabinet of blabbermouths. It is true that Indian diplomats were evasive when asked about that contested area of Kashmir, and Indian officials later admitted wanting to gain some other small, strategic bits of territory in Kashmir— but they emphasized that Gandhi had overruled her hawks and insisted on waging a basically defensive war in the west. Whether the informant was worth much, the US government relied overwhelmingly on this information.

Kissinger, whose emotions were already running high, was jolted. He did not question the intelligence, which confirmed his preconceived view of India. He did not ask how India would manage such a major campaign against West Pakistan, nor about how it could extricate itself afterward. Instead, he decided that the United States needed to get much tougher on India. On December 8, he told Nixon, “the Indian plan is now clear. They’re going to move their forces from East Pakistan to the west.” They would then “smash” Pakistan’s army and air force and annex some of Kashmir. This, he argued— going beyond the CIA intelligence— could well mean “the complete dismemberment” of West Pakistan , with secessionism in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province. “All of this would have been achieved by Soviet support, Soviet arms, and Indian military force.” So Soviet client states in the Middle East and elsewhere would feel free to attack with impunity, while China would think the Americans were “just too weak.” The crisis was, he told Nixon, “a big watershed.”

Nixon was hit hard too. Like Kissinger, he swiftly accepted the intelligence, without wondering whether this was bluster or if India would really be so reckless, or asking skeptical questions about India’s military difficulties besieging West Pakistan. Both Nixon and Kissinger might have seen this one source as revealing hostile but standard Indian war aims in the west: some gains in Kashmir, substantial damage to Pakistan’s war machine, all of it limited by West Pakistan’s own formidable resistance. Instead, they foresaw the imminent annihilation of West Pakistan.

Extrapolating beyond the CIA mole’s information, Nixon spoke of a US intelligence “report on Mrs. Gandhi’s Cabinet meeting where she said that, she said deliberately that they were going to try to conquer West Pakistan, they were going to move their forces from the East to the West.”


Yahya’s only hope was outside help from China and the United States. Pakistan’s General Niazi says that he was told to hold out for help from “Yellows from the North and Whites from the South”—the Chinese and the Americans. Kissinger urged Nixon to “scare them”— the Indians— “off an attack on West Pakistan as much as we possibly can. And therefore we’ve got to get another tough warning to the Russians.”

Kissinger now proposed three dangerous initiatives. The United States would illegally allow Iran and Jordan to send squadrons of US aircraft to Pakistan, secretly ask China to mass its troops on the Indian border, and deploy a US aircraft carrier group to the Bay of Bengal to threaten India. He urged Nixon to stun India with all three moves simultaneously.

Kissinger knew that the American public would be shocked by this gunboat diplomacy. “I’m sure all hell will break loose here,” he said. Still, Nixon quickly agreed to all three steps: “let’s do the carrier thing. Let’s get assurances to the Jordanians. Let’s send a message to the Chinese. Let’s send a message to the Russians. And I would tell the people in the State Department not a goddamn thing they don’t need to know.”

Nixon and Kissinger’s most perilous covert gambit was the overture to Mao’s China— already on poisonous terms with India. Kissinger believed that Zhou Enlai was somewhat unhinged when it came to India, and the deployment of Chinese soldiers could easily have sparked border clashes. Such a movement of Chinese troops would have made an effective threat precisely because of the danger of escalation out of control. At worst, this could have ignited a wider war. That, in turn, risked expanding into a nuclear superpower confrontation. If China was moving troops to help Pakistan, India would surely want the Soviet Union to do likewise. According to the CIA’s mole in Delhi, Indira Gandhi claimed that the Soviet Union had promised to counterbalance any Chinese military actions against India. Just two years before, China had set off hydrogen bombs in its western desert to threaten the Soviet Union. Would the Soviets dare to confront the Chinese? And if the Soviets got dragged in, how could the Americans stay out?

Back on November 23, Kissinger had enticingly suggested to a Chinese delegation in New York that India’s northern border might be vulnerable. Now, on December 6, Nixon told Kissinger that he “strongly” wanted to tell China that some troop movements toward India’s border could be very important. “[D]amnit, I am convinced that if the Chinese start moving the Indians will be petrified,” the president said. “They will be petrified.” He shrugged off the obvious problem of winter snows in the Himalayas, admiringly recalling China’s bravery in the Korean War: “The Chinese, you know, when they came across the Yalu, we thought they were a bunch of goddamn fools in the heart of the winter, but they did it.”

Kissinger had personally and repeatedly promised Indian leaders at the highest levels— including Haksar and Gandhi herself— that the United States would stand with India against threats of Chinese aggression. Now the Nixon administration was secretly doing the opposite.

Kissinger was heartened at US intelligence reports of truckloads of military supplies flowing from China into West Pakistan. But the CIA insisted that China was “keeping its head down,” neither prepared for nor capable of a full-scale war against India. In harsh mountainous terrain, it would be tremendously hard to move forces fast enough to matter. The CIA argued that it would take at least two months for China to get ready for a moderate amount of combat with India. Still, the CIA noted, with India’s “traumatic” memory of the last war with China, Chinese saber rattling and harassing attacks could cause real trouble for India, even without a war. India would have to divert large numbers of troops to guard its northern flank. As Kissinger wrote to Nixon, the CIA did think that China could launch smaller but still substantial military efforts, from “overt troop movements” to a “limited diversionary attack.”

Kissinger linked the China gambit to the United States secretly providing aircraft from Iran and Jordan to Pakistan. On December 8, in the private office that Nixon kept in the ornate Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, Kissinger told the president that “we could give a note to the Chinese and say, ‘If you are ever going to move this is the time.’ ” Nixon immediately agreed. Kissinger did not think it would be so simple to scare off the Soviet Union. He admitted that if the administration’s bluff was called, they would lose, but added that if they did not act now, they would definitely lose. Nixon was resolute, saying they had to “calmly and cold-bloodedly make the decision.”

The president argued that “we can’t do this without the Chinese helping us. As I look at this thing, the Chinese have got to move to that damn border. The Indians have got to get a little scared.” Kissinger agreed, proposing that they notify the Chinese about what Nixon was secretly doing, and tell them of the advantages of China moving some of its soldiers to India’s frontier. Nixon bluntly instructed Kissinger to go to New York, to the Chinese mission at the United Nations, with a message directly from him to Zhou Enlai. Kissinger, who wanted to impress the Chinese leadership by showing the administration’s toughness, guessed that China might start a small diversion— enough to prevent India from moving too many of its troops west.

Nixon was tantalized by the prospect that the Chinese would move if they thought that the White House would act too. Although Kissinger cautioned that China had “just had a semi-revolt in the military” and had “a million Russians on their border,” the president said, “Boy, I tell you, a movement of even some Chinese toward that border could scare those goddamn Indians to death.”


Kissinger told Nixon, “We are the ones who have been operating against our public opinion, against our bureaucracy, at the very edge of legality.” That understates it. In fact, to help Pakistan, Nixon and Kissinger knowingly broke US law— and did so with the full awareness of George H W Bush, H R Haldeman, Alexander Haig, and others.

Yahya desperately needed US military supplies, particularly aircraft. On the second day of the war, he begged for US help, adding, “for God’s sake don’t hinder or impede the delivery of equipment from friendly third countries.” That day, Kissinger told Nixon that they had received a desperate appeal from Yahya, saying that his military supplies had been cut off, leaving him acutely vulnerable. Could the Americans help him through Iran, one of Pakistan’s most reliable friends? Nixon and Kissinger swiftly agreed to this, without considering any legal issues. Kissinger was concerned only that the United States would have to replace whatever Iranian weaponry was lost in the fighting. Nixon agreed: “If it is leaking we can have it denied. Have it done one step away.” Kissinger told the president, “If war does continue, give aid via Iran.” Nixon was relieved: “Good, at least Pakistan will be kept from being paral[y]zed.”

They determinedly kept their actions in the shadows, circumventing normal State Department communications by using a back channel between Nixon and the shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. Nixon, reassured that the US ambassador in Tehran was oblivious, was delighted: “Good, well we’ll have some fun with this yet. God, you know what would really be poetic justice here is if some way the Paks could really give the Indians a bloody nose for a couple of days.” The next day, the shah agreed to a US request to send Iranian military equipment to Pakistan, with the United States replacing whatever Iran sent.

Jordan also got a request from Yahya, for eight to ten sophisticated US-made F-104 Starfighter fighter-interceptors. King Hussein seemed keen to move his squadrons, but, fearing congressional wrath, did not want to act without express approval. When he nervously asked the US embassy in Amman for advice, the diplomats balked. Kissinger noted with exasperation that these US officials were lecturing the king of Jordan that it would be immoral to get involved in a faraway war; these diplomats had not conceived of the last-ditch possibility of using Iran and Jordan to provide US weapons to the tottering Pakistani military.

This was illegal. That fact was driven home to Kissinger by lawyers at the State Department and Pentagon, as well as by the White House staff.

On December 6, in the war’s early days, Kissinger for the first time proposed the operation in a Situation Room meeting— not mentioning that the president had already made up his mind, and that the Iranians were already acting. But a State Department official immediately warned Kissinger that transferring Jordanian weapons to Pakistan “is prohibited on the basis of present legal authority.” Kissinger countered, “My instinct is that the President will want to do it”— his way of saying that Nixon had already decided. “He is not inclined to let the Paks be defeated if he can help it.” After this Situation Room meeting, Kissinger walked upstairs to the Oval Office, where Nixon was waiting for the press. Before the cameras arrived, Kissinger told the president that “this military aid to Iran that Iran might be giving to West Pakistan. The only way we can really do it— it’s not legal, strictly speaking, the only way we can do it is to tell the shah to go ahead through a back channel, to go ahead.” Nixon did not flinch at breaking the law. Kissinger continued, “He’d sent you a message saying that he’s eager to do it as long as we don’t— the damn press doesn’t know about it and we keep our mouths shut.” Nixon’s only concern was that the shah did not inform the US ambassador in Tehran: “I don’t want that son of a bitch to know.” “Oh no, no, no, no,” Kissinger assured him.

Nixon and Kissinger then plotted to conceal what they were doing. “We’ll have to say we didn’t know about it,” Kissinger said, “but we’ll cover it as soon as we can.” “Shit, how do we cover it?” Nixon asked. Kissinger explained, “By giving him”— the shah— “some extra aid next year.” “Do it,” said Nixon. He gave his official line: “I don’t know anything about it.” Then he laid out how they could publicly justify increasing military aid to compensate Iran, without mentioning the real reason. “Let’s put it this way: if I go to the Mideast, I think we need a stronger anchor in that area, and I determine, at this moment, that aid to Iran should substantially be increased next year.” Kissinger agreed.

The State Department, sensing the impending scandal, quickly drew up a legal memorandum to stop Kissinger. Pakistan was still formally under a US arms embargo. So, the State Department’s lawyers explained, the president could only consent to the transfer of US weapons to Pakistan from another country if the United States declared it would be willing to directly provide the stuff itself. Nixon and Kissinger knew that that kind of presidential declaration was politically impossible— an overt step that would never be tolerated by the infuriated Congress. Such a White House action would also, as the State Department noted, be in conflict with the ban on military assistance and arms sales to Pakistan in pending foreign aid legislation that had been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. After quoting from the relevant public law, the State Department emphatically warned, “Under the present US policy of suspending all arms transfers to Pakistan, the U[nited] S[tates] G[overnment] could not consent to such a transfer.”

The Pentagon’s lawyers agreed. They repeated all of the State Department’s legal analysis, chapter and verse, and helpfully sent along copies of each of the laws to the White House. As the Pentagon’s legal experts pointed out, the law “prohibits ‘third-country transfers’ to eligible recipients where simple direct transfers would not be permitted for policy reasons.” Leery of White House skullduggery, they warned that “if simple subterfuge is the only reason for preferring a ‘third-country transfer,’ then that is the type of ‘abuse’ which the Congress intended to prohibit.”

Harold Saunders, Kissinger’s staffer at the White House, echoed these legal alarms. He had actually floated the idea of looking away while Iran and Jordan snuck weapons into Pakistan, but soon after prominently highlighted the legal “serious problem” for Kissinger— leaving his adventurous boss in no doubt that any US weapons that found their way from Iran or Jordan to Pakistan would stand as a stark violation of US law.

Understanding clearly that what they were doing was illegal, Nixon and Kissinger did it anyway. In the Oval Office, Nixon explained to Haldeman that they had told “the Iranians we’re going to provide arms through third countries and so forth and so on.” He casually added, “We’re trying to do something where it’s a violation of law and all that.” The White House chief of staff did not object— or even comment— when the president said that he and Kissinger were planning to break US law.

On December 8, in a Situation Room meeting, Kissinger laced into State Department officials for trying to stop him. “I have reviewed the cables to Jordan which enthusiastically tell Hussein he can’t furnish planes to the Paks,” he said. “We shouldn’t decide this on such doctrinaire grounds”— that is, obeying US law. “The question is, when an American ally is being raped, whether or not the US should participate in enforcing a blockade of our ally, when the other side is getting Soviet aid.” After a Pentagon official reminded him about the law, Kissinger blew up at the group: “We have a country, supported and equipped by the Soviet Union, turning one half of another country into a satellite state and the other half into an impotent vassal. Leaving aside any American interest in the subcontinent, what conclusions will other countries draw from this in their dealings with the Soviets?”

Kissinger urged the president, “I would encourage the Jordanians to move their squadrons into West Pakistan and the Iranians to move their squadrons.” When Nixon asked what effect these squadrons would have, Kissinger replied, “Enough. Militarily in Pakistan we have only one hope now. To convince the Indians that the thing is going to escalate. And to convince the Russians that they’re going to pay an enormous price.” Nixon wanted to “immediately” tell the Jordanians to act. Kissinger said, “I’d let the Jordanians move another squadron to Pakistan simply to show them some exclamation and let the Iranians move their two squadrons to Jordan if they want to.” Nixon agreed. Kissinger pressed him: “right now we’re in the position where we are telling allies not to assist another ally that is in mortal danger.”

Nixon and Kissinger worried about getting caught. The president warned that if Kissinger raised these weapons transfers in a Situation Room meeting, “the whole damn thing will get out in the papers.” When Kissinger doubted that the Jordanians could move squadrons of planes without reporters finding out, Nixon said they would pretend that the Jordanians had acted on their own. Kissinger told Pakistan’s ambassador to “stop all cable traffic with respect to help on ammunition and so forth. We are doing what we can and we will send a coded message. It’s getting too dangerous for you to send it.” Kissinger cautioned him that “we are working very actively on getting military equipment to you— but for God’s sake don’t say anything to anybody!”

Even Kissinger’s own White House staffers, who suspected something was up, were kept in the dark. Samuel Hoskinson denies knowing about the operation. “This would have been in a channel outside of us,” he says. “Covert action was in a separate vein.” Later, Kissinger grew sufficiently nervous about this illegality that he had Alexander Haig, his deputy, gather evidence fixing the blame on Nixon. Haig wrote to Kissinger, “Here are three telcons [telephone conversations] all of which confirm the President’s knowledge of, approval for and, if you will, directive to provide aircraft to Iran and Jordan.”

Nixon and Kissinger made no appeal to theories of executive power, and drew up no legal briefs supporting their actions; they simply acted. For their crucial meeting on the Iranian and Jordanian arms transfers, on December 8, they were joined in the president’s hideaway office in the Executive Office Building by John Mitchell, the attorney general, who proved as unconcerned about violating the law as they were. (The crucial parts of this meeting are bleeped out on the White House tapes, but the State Department has released a declassified transcript.)

Kissinger candidly said, “it’s illegal for them to move them.” A little later, Nixon said, “You say it’s illegal for us to do, also for the Jordanians.” Kissinger explained that “the way we can make it legal is to resume arms sales through— if we, if you announce that Pakistan is now eligible for the purchase of arms.” That would be a massive policy shift, and Nixon balked: “That would be tough, Henry, to go that way.” Kissinger concurred: “you would do more if it were not for this goddamn Senate.”

Instead, Kissinger, unfazed by the presence of the attorney general, said, “the way you get the Jordanian planes in there is to tell the King we cannot give you legal permission. On the other hand, we’d have to figure out a message, which says, ‘We’ll just close our eyes. Get the god-damned planes in there.’ ” Similarly, Kissinger said, the shah of Iran did not dare to act without a “formal commitment from us.” To safeguard their secret, Nixon and Kissinger agreed to covertly send a “special emissary”— probably either the CIA director or an Israeli— bearing that message to King Hussein. “We’d have to do it that way,” said Kissinger. “We cannot authorize it.”

None of this elicited protest from the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Mitchell waited patiently through the meeting, occasionally jumping into the conversation to disparage “the goddamn Indians” and to slam Ted Kennedy as “stupid.” When Nixon wanted to keep the State Department in the dark, Mitchell immediately concurred. When Kissinger pointed out that the State Department had to know about the movement of the Jordanian planes, Mitchell proposed a cover-up: “Well, you’ve got to give them the party line on that or all a sudden the Secretary of State will say that’s illegal.” Kissinger insisted that the Jordanians had to be told that they would not be punished “if they move them against our law.” Nixon agreed.

The president said, “All right, that’s an order. You’re goddamn right.” In front of the attorney general, Nixon asked, “Is it really so much against our law?” Kissinger admitted that it was. Referring to the Iranians and the Jordanians, he explained again, “What’s against our law is not what they do, but our giving them permission.” Nixon said, “Henry, we give the permission privately.” “That’s right,” agreed Kissinger.

“Hell,” said the president, “we’ve done worse.”


This was a radical set of steps. They could ignite a border war between China and India, set up a confrontation with the Soviet Union, cause a domestic firestorm, and get the administration dragged through US courts. If Nixon stood his ground, the crisis could escalate out of control; if he did not, then the United States would lose credibility— always a big concern for Nixon’s team. Nixon momentarily got cold feet. “The partition of Pakistan is a fact,” he told Kissinger, who conceded as much. Nixon said, “You see those people welcoming the Indian troops when they come in. Now the point is, why is then, Henry, are we going through all this agony?” Kissinger stiffened the president’s resolve.

“We’re going through this agony to prevent the West Pakistan army from being destroyed,” he crisply replied, after a pause to consider the question. “Secondly, to maintain our Chinese arm. Thirdly, to prevent a complete collapse of the world’s psychological balance of power, which will be produced if a combination of the Soviet Union and the Soviet armed client state can tackle a not so insignificant country without anybody doing anything.”

Kissinger then went apocalyptic. “I would keep open the possibility that we’ll pour in arms into Pakistan,” he said angrily. “I don’t understand the psychology by which the Russians can pour arms into India but we cannot give arms to Pakistan. I don’t understand the theory of non-involvement. I don’t see where we will be as a country. I have to tell you honestly, I consider this our Rhineland.”

Kissinger direly warned that “the rape” of Pakistan, an ally of the United States, would have terrible consequences in Iran, Indonesia, and the Middle East. When this did not sway Nixon, he added that if the Soviet Union grew too confident after an Indian victory, there could be a Middle East war in the spring. Nixon nervously said, “We have to know what we’re jeopardizing and know that once we go balls out we never look back.” Kissinger agreed that the president was gambling his relationship with the Soviets, but hoped that the very willingness to bet such big stakes would scare them.

This doomsday argument persuaded Nixon. He went forward on all the interlocking parts of Kissinger’s plan: moving a US aircraft carrier and asking China to deploy its troops toward India’s border. And the president again approved the illegal movement of Jordanian warplanes. Kissinger said, “I’d let the Jordanians move some of their planes in,” and added, “And then we would tell State to shut up.” Nixon agreed to that. Kissinger continued, “we would have to tell him”— King Hussein— “it’s illegal, but if he does it we’ll keep things under control.” Once again, neither Nixon nor Kissinger flinched at breaking the law. Nixon said, “with regard to the Jordanians, no sweat.” Soon after, he ordered, “Get the planes over.”

Nixon and Kissinger laid their relationship with the Soviet Union on the line, deliberately risking the cancellation of an upcoming summit of the two superpowers. That afternoon, Nixon hauled the visiting Soviet agriculture minister into the Oval Office for a beating. The startled minister was said to be a close personal friend of Brezhnev, but he was beyond his brief and out of his depth. Nixon— sending a message to Brezhnev— warned that the war could “poison” his relationship with the Soviet Union and cause “a confrontation.”

Afterward, Nixon said, “I really stuck it to him.” “Well, but you did it so beautifully,” Kissinger replied. He predicted that the war would end now, with the United States coming out damaged but not as badly as it could have been, and with India thwarted from launching an onslaught against West Pakistan.

Kissinger told a Soviet diplomat that the United States was moving some of its military forces: as he explained to Nixon, “in effect it was giving him sort of a veiled ultimatum.” Nixon sternly wrote to Brezhnev, urging him to use his influence to restrain India, and telling him that he shared responsibility for India’s actions.

Soon after, Kissinger told the Soviets that they had until noon on December 12, or “we will proceed unilaterally.” With vague menace, he said that “we may take certain other steps.” Nixon privately said that the Soviet Union was abetting Indian aggression. Kissinger, who called the situation “heartbreaking,” agreed: “now that East Pakistan has practically fallen there can no longer be any doubt that we are dealing with naked aggression supported by Soviet power.”

Meanwhile, the illegal transfers of US weaponry to Pakistan went ahead. As Kissinger frankly told Nixon, “Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis, the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.”

Kissinger pressed a Situation Room meeting: “What if Jordan should send planes to Pakistan? Why would this be such a horrible event?” A senior State Department official again explained the legal problem. Kissinger’s insistence sparked suspicions. Harold Saunders, the White House staffer, warily wrote that Jordan might have already delivered F-104s.

The CIA spotted the covert operation, reporting that a squadron of Jordanian F-104s had gone to Pakistan, totaling twelve warplanes. En route the planes stopped in Saudi Arabia, with some of them flown by Jordanian pilots and others allegedly guarded by Pakistanis. The State Department, too, observed eleven of these Jordanian F-104s in Saudi Arabia, and surmised they were bound for Pakistan. While the US embassy in Amman was never notified, its staffers did notice a conspicuous absence of Jordanian fighter pilots at their favorite bars.38 Haig secretly told a Chinese delegation that Jordan had sent six fighter aircraft to Pakistan and would send eight more soon; Iran was replacing Jordan’s lost airplanes; and Turkey might be sending as many as twenty-two planes. Kissinger assured the Chinese, “Jordan has now sent fourteen aircraft to Pakistan and is considering sending three more.” Nixon later asked, “Did the Jordan[ian]s send planes[?]” Kissinger replied, “17.”

Now Kissinger could ask China to move its troops toward India’s border. Nixon, keen for the People’s Liberation Army to deploy its soldiers, was convinced India would back down: “these Indians are cowards.” About the Chinese, he said, “All they’ve got to do is move something. Move their, move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. We’re not doing a god-damn thing, Henry, you know that.”

So Kissinger raced up to New York on December 10, bringing with him Haig and Winston Lord, his special assistant and China aide. George H W Bush got a call from the White House, telling him to come to an Upper East Side address, which was a CIA safe house. Bush arrived first, then Kissinger and Haig, followed by China’s tough ambassador to the United Nations, Huang Hua. It was an extraordinarily secret gathering. Kissinger assured the Chinese, “George Bush is the only person outside the White House who knows I come here.” Although Kissinger cringed at the apartment’s mirrored walls and tacky paintings, the place was chosen because it had no doorman and few occupants, so that gossipy New Yorkers would not see Chinese officials in Mao suits entering a building, soon followed by someone looking a lot like Henry Kissinger.

With candor verging on gusto, Kissinger told the Chinese that the Americans were breaking US law: “We are barred by law from giving equipment to Pakistan in this situation. And we also are barred by law from permitting friendly countries which have American equipment to give their equipment to Pakistan.” Making a show of being untroubled by the illegality, he explained that they had told Jordan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia— and would tell Turkey too— that if they shipped US arms to Pakistan, the Americans would understand. The administration would only feign mild protest, and would make up the Jordanian and Iranian losses in the next year’s budget.

This operation, he said, was under way: “On this basis, four planes are leaving Jordan today and 22 over the weekend. Ammunition and other equipment is going from Iran.” And there would be “six planes from Turkey in the near future.” Kissinger reminded the Chinese how sensitive this information was.

While Kissinger spoke, Lord, Haig, and Bush— a future assistant secretary of state, a future secretary of state, and a future president of the United States— all kept quiet. George Bush was well aware of the illegal acts: after the meeting, he wrote, “Kissinger talked about the fact that we would be moving some ships into the area, talked about military supplies being sent from Jordan, Turkey and Iran”— prudently leaving out Kissinger’s admissions of lawbreaking. Winston Lord, who took the official notes, says, “How they were handling it, whether they were stretching or breaking limits, I don’t remember precisely. Clearly it was to help Pakistan and to impress the Chinese. In terms of the legality or morality of it, I can’t untangle that in my own memory.”

Next, as Bush noted, “Henry unfolded our whole policy on India-Pakistan, saying that we were very parallel with the Chinese.” Kissinger said that the Americans had cut off aid to India, including military supplies, pointedly mentioning that they had canceled all radar equipment for India’s northern defense— an invitation for China to strike one day. And he said that they were moving an aircraft carrier and several destroyers toward the Indian Ocean, in an armada that far outmatched the Soviet fleet there.

Kissinger then turned to his main goal: getting the Chinese to move troops against India. He said, “the President wants you to know” that “if the People’s Republic were to consider the situation on the Indian subcontinent a threat to its security, and if it took measures to protect its security, the US would oppose efforts of others to interfere with the People’s Republic.” In case all that diplomatic verbiage was unclear, he later bluntly said, “When I asked for this meeting, I did so to suggest Chinese military help, to be quite honest. That’s what I had in mind.”

Kissinger laid out all of the administration’s innermost secrets to the Chinese. One of the documents he showed them was, a Chinese translator pointed out, classified as “exclusively eyes only.” Kissinger joked, “There’s a better one that says ‘burn before reading.’ ” Turning to Bush, he said, “Don’t you discuss diplomacy this way.”

Huang denounced Indian aggression and the dismemberment of a sovereign Pakistan, harshly comparing India to Imperial Japan. Kissinger, trying to match the Chinese venom at India, said, “I may look weak to you, Mr Ambassador, but my colleagues in Washington think I’m a raving maniac.”

Returning to Washington, Kissinger hopefully noted that China was calling up reserve troops for its mountain divisions. He told Nixon that he was pretty sure that the Chinese would do something. Nixon was optimistically inclined to believe that if China moved troops, it would not “stiffen the Russians” to back up India. Kissinger was confident that China would move.

Bush— whom Kissinger mostly used for comic relief— was frightened by Kissinger’s behavior and startled by how much information he unveiled to the Chinese. After the meeting, Bush privately wrote that he was uncomfortable to be “in close cahoots with China,” and would have preferred to “keep a fairly low profile, let Red China do what they had do to counteract the Russian threat.” He distrusted Huang, who was “a one-way street. We are supplying him with a great deal of information, he is doing nothing.” About Kissinger, Bush noted, “I think he goes too far in some of these things,” especially when Kissinger said he would support any Chinese resolution at the United Nations: “That is going very far indeed, it’s going too far.” But Bush, a team player on his way up, kept his misgivings to himself.


With the Indian army closing in on Dacca, the crisis built to a crescendo. Nixon privately wrote off East Pakistan, and concentrated on safeguarding West Pakistan. Kissinger warned the president on December 10 that “the east is down the drain. The major problem now has to be to protect the west. . . . Their army is ground down. And 2 more weeks of war and they’re finished in the west as much as they are in the east.”

Nixon’s and Kissinger’s efforts to back Pakistan seemingly wound up encouraging its military rulers to fight on in the east. Although a quick surrender would have saved soldiers’ lives, the Pakistani junta still hoped for rescue by the great powers. Even though Yahya seemed to realize that he could not hold East Pakistan, he vowed that his troops there would fight “to the last Muslim” for Pakistan and Islam. On December 10, a senior Pakistani general desperately offered an eastern cease-fire through the United Nations— but Yahya quickly withdrew the proposals. These cease-fire terms were also scorned by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, appointed by Yahya as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in a new wartime civilian Pakistani government. In Delhi, Haksar was shocked at the military junta’s willingness to allow continued wasteful bloodshed.

On December 11, the Pakistan army’s chief of staff exaggeratedly wrote to General Niazi, the commander of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, that the United States’ Seventh Fleet would soon be in position and that China had activated a front. With India under strong Soviet and US pressure, the chief of staff instructed Niazi to hold out, following Yahya’s wishes.

With Niazi’s troops still battling on, Indian officials needed more time to win in the east. So a frenetic Haksar insisted that a cease-fire must address “the basic causes of the conflict”— an effective way of stalling. Indira Gandhi, despite the staggering rebuke from the United Nations General Assembly, told foreign governments that a cease-fire without firm commitments to get the Bengali refugees home would merely “cover up the annihilation of an entire nation.”

Still, Haksar briefed Indian officials that they had no territorial claims in either Bangladesh or West Pakistan. He urged them to avoid saying or doing anything that would help those who were trying to label India the aggressor. India was, he wrote, “fighting a purely defensive battle” against West Pakistan.

Trying to mollify the Nixon administration even as Indian soldiers fought on, Haksar instructed the embassy in Washington to explain that India wanted no West Pakistani soil, and that India’s recognition of Bangladesh was a “self-imposed restraint” proving it had absolutely no territorial ambitions there. By way of contrast, he reminded the US government that Pakistan was attacking in Kashmir and elsewhere on the western front. The Indians were clumsy about explaining their goals in one particular area of Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir, under Pakistan’s control but claimed by India; but even there, Haksar said that India would not wrest that land from Pakistani rule by force. Swaran Singh, India’s foreign minister, told George Bush that India had “no major ambitions” there, leaving open the possibility of what Bush called “minor rectifications.” The Indians assured Bush they did not want to prolong the war. Haksar soothingly wrote that “we have no desire to aggravate the situation and shall exercise self-restraint consistent with the needs of self-defence.”

The State Department’s analysts confirmed that— at least for the moment— India’s troops matched Haksar’s words.

Kissinger told Nixon that Indian troops were still in a holding posture on the western front, despite Indian airstrikes at military sites across West Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan was on the offensive in Punjab and especially in Kashmir; as the CIA reported, Pakistan’s troops had driven the Indians out of Chhamb and were still advancing. India and Pakistan were, the CIA reckoned, roughly equally matched in Kashmir and the northwest. But the CIA had some signals intelligence to suggest that India might be preparing to shift some troops from the eastern front to the western.

Fearing the worst from China, India shored up its Soviet support. Gandhi’s government sent DP Dhar racing back to Moscow on December 11, carrying a personal message for the Soviet premier. The Soviet leadership stood by India, but cautiously; they were not willing to recognize Bangladesh yet. Still, the Soviet ambassador in Delhi secretly pledged that if China intervened against India, the Soviet Union would open its own border diversionary action against China. Indira Gandhi warned a long list of world leaders that the intervention of outside powers would “lead to a wider conflagration with incalculable consequences”— a reminder of Soviet backing for India.

On the morning of December 12, in the Oval Office, Nixon and Kissinger reached a peak of Cold War brinksmanship. They had warned the Soviet Union to restrain India by noon that day, or face unilateral US retaliatory measures. Believing that China was about to move its troops toward the Indian border, they braced themselves to stand behind China in deadly confrontations against both India and the Soviet Union— with the terrible potential of superpower conflict and, at worst, even nuclear war. Kissinger seemed ready to order bombing in support of China. As he later put it, he and Nixon made their “first decision to risk war in the triangular Soviet- Chinese- American relationship.”

Despite the reassuring signals coming from Indian diplomats, Kissinger wanted China to move some troops. Until the Chinese had acted, he did not want to hear any more of their bombast against India. The opening to China rested on US toughness now, he argued: “If the Chinese feel we are nice people, well-meaning, but totally irrelevant to their part of the world, they lose whatever slight, whatever incentives they have for that opening to us.”

Nixon wanted to “hit in there hard and tough,” publicly accusing India of Soviet-supported “naked aggression.” Calling Gandhi “that bitch,” Kissinger said they needed “to impress the Russians, to scare the Indians, to take a position with the Chinese.” The president resolved to press the Soviet Union. “It’s a typical Nixon plan,” Kissinger told him. “I mean it’s bold. You’re putting your chips into the pot again.” Without acting, he said, they faced certain disaster; with brinksmanship, they confronted a high possibility of disaster, “but at least we’re coming off like men. And that helps us with the Chinese.”

Urging the president on, Kissinger blasted critics who said they were alienating the Indians: “We are to blame for driving 500 million people. Why are we to blame? Because we’re not letting 500 million people rape 100 million people.” Nixon compared India to Nazi Germany: “Everybody worried about Danzig and Czechoslovakia and all those other places.”

Then Alexander Haig strode into the Oval Office with a message from China. “The Chinese want to meet on an urgent basis,” Kissinger said. “That’s totally unprecedented,” he said. “They’re going to move. No question, they’re going to move.” Nixon asked if the Chinese were really going to send their troops. “No question,” replied Kissinger.

Kissinger now fully expected a standoff between Chinese and Indian soldiers, with obvious potential for skirmishing or worse. Although Kissinger often bragged around Washington that he was the only thing standing between a madman president and atomic annihilation (“If the President had his way, we’d have a nuclear war every week”), here he played the instigator. In this nerve-racking session, he repeatedly pressed the president to escalate the crisis to maximum danger. Now that the United States had seemingly unleashed China against India, India would have to beg the Soviet Union for help. If that caused a confrontation between the Soviet Union and China, Kissinger insisted that Nixon had to back China: “If the Soviets move against them, and then we don’t do anything, we’ll be finished.”

Nixon balked. “So what do we do if the Soviets move against them?” he grilled Kissinger. “Start lobbing nuclear weapons in, is that what you mean?” But Kissinger, rather than backing off at that dire prospect, held fast: “Well, if the Soviets move against them in these conditions and succeed, that will be the final showdown. We have to— and if they succeed, we’ll be finished. We’ll be through.”

Nixon was not swayed. “Then we better call them off,” said Kissinger, about the Chinese. Then he realized, “I think we can’t call them off, frankly.” Haig said that the Chinese could only be dissuaded now at a terrible price. Kissinger said that “if we call them off, I think our China initiative is pretty well down the drain.” Nixon saw the logic there: “our China initiative is down the drain. And also our stroke with the Russians is very, very seriously jeopardized.”

Kissinger goaded Nixon to confront the Soviet Union, despite the peril: “If the Russians get away with facing down the Chinese, and if the Indians get away with licking the Pakistanis, what we are now having is the final, we may be looking right down the gun barrel.” Bucking Nixon up, he said, “I think the Soviets will back off if we face them.” But he did not give any suggestions about what to do if they did not.

Nixon yielded to Kissinger’s pressure, hoping that the Soviet Union would be satisfied with its gains from India’s battlefield victories and in no mood for further confrontation. Kissinger said that “we’ve got to trigger this quickly.”

The president rounded on Kissinger: “The way you put it, Henry, the way you put it is very different as I understand. You said, look, we’re doing all these things, why don’t you threaten them. Remember I said, threaten, move a couple of people. . . . Look, we have to scare these bastards.” In a frightening analogy, Kissinger compared this moment to China’s entry into the Korean War: “They are acting for the same reason they jumped us when we approached the Chinese border in Korea.”

Kissinger demanded that Nixon stand firm. He ratcheted up the geopolitical stakes: “if the outcome of this is that Pakistan is swallowed by India, China is destroyed, defeated, humiliated by the Soviet Union, it will be a change in the world balance of power of such magnitude” that the United States’ security would be damaged for decades and maybe forever.

This induced in Nixon a doomsday vision of a solitary United States isolated against a Soviet-dominated world. “Now, we can really get into the numbers game,” he said darkly. “You’ve got the Soviet Union with 800 million Chinese, 600 million Indians, the balance of Southeast Asia terrorized, the Japanese immobile, the Europeans, of course, will suck after them, and the United States the only one, we have maybe parts of Latin America and who knows.” Kissinger replied, “This is why, Mr President, you’ll be alone.” “That’s fine,” said Nixon, standing tough against his own phantasm.

“We’ve been alone before.”

After that, Nixon tried to take a step back from the brink: “I’d put [it] in more Armageddon terms than reserves when I say that the Chinese move and the Soviets threaten and then we start lobbing nuclear weapons. That isn’t what happens. That isn’t what happens.” Instead, he said, they would use the hotline to the Soviets and talk to them.

“We don’t have to lob nuclear weapons,” agreed Kissinger. “We have to go on alert.” But now he wanted to get the United States to join the war. “We have to put forces in,” he said bluntly. “We may have to give them bombing assistance.”

Nixon added, “we clean up Vietnam at about that point.” Kissinger agreed: “at that point, we give an ultimatum to Hanoi. Blockade Haiphong.” (He would make good on this in May 1972 with the mining of Haiphong harbor.)

Trying again to cool off, the president said, “we’re talking about a lot of ifs. Russia and China aren’t going to go to war.” But Kissinger disagreed: “I wouldn’t bet on that, Mr. President.” The Soviets “are not rational on China,” he said, and if they could “wipe out China,” then Nixon’s upcoming visit there would be pointless. Despite believing that a war— possibly a nuclear war— was possible between the Soviet Union and China, Kissinger still insisted on backing China in a spiraling crisis.

Haig— who would become Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state— concurred, suggesting that the United States might tacitly support a Chinese invasion of India: “they feel they know that if the United States moves on the Soviets that will provide the cover they need to invade India. And we’ve got to neutralize the Soviet Union.” The president asked, “suppose the Chinese move and the Soviets threaten, then what do we do?” They planned to tell the Soviet Union that war would be “unacceptable” once China began moving troops.

They all agreed. The White House was ready to escalate.

Nixon and Kissinger, having set infernal machinery in motion, were rewarded by the more fearful judgments of the Soviet Union and China. A few minutes after that supercharged Oval Office session, the Soviets, having checked with Indira Gandhi, soothingly reassured Kissinger that India’s government “has no intention to take any military actions against West Pakistan.”

Kissinger rushed into the Oval Office to tell Nixon that the Soviets, making the noon deadline he had set, had extracted an assurance from Gandhi that she would not attack West Pakistan. That was what they had been looking for. Kissinger did not disguise his relief: “goddamn it, we made it and we didn’t deserve it.” But he was proud of their brinksmanship earlier that day: “What you did this morning, Mr President, was a heroic act.” “I had to do it,” said Nixon. “Yes,” Kissinger replied. “But I know no other man in the country, no other man who would have done what you did.”

Nixon reveled in his victory. Taking a historical turn, he said that in World War II and the Korean War, the right path was toughness. Kissinger concurred, saying that the Soviets had backed down because they “knew they were looking down the gun barrel.”

The two men congratulated themselves. “Mr. President, your behavior in the last 2 weeks has been heroic in this,” Kissinger said. “You were shooting— your whole goddamn political future for next year. . . . Against your bureaucracy. . . . [A]gainst the Congress, against public opinion. All alone, like everything else. Without flinching, and I must say, I may yell and scream but this hour this morning is worth 4 years here.” Nixon gamely accepted the praise: “It wasn’t easy. . . . [T]he reason the hour this morning was that I had a chance to reflect a little and to see where it was going. The world is just going down the goddamn drain.”

China was not actually going to move its troops. The Chinese leadership knew that picking a fight with the Soviet Union’s friend meant exposing themselves to a million Soviet soldiers on their border. After that dramatic Oval Office meeting, Alexander Haig and Winston Lord bolted up to New York for another secret session with the Chinese delegation. But Huang Hua said nothing to them about deploying Chinese troops to confront India.

General Sam Manekshaw would later say that despite noticeable Chinese military activity along India’s northern border, China avoided any significant provocations. Although China hurled mephitic revolutionary propaganda against India, the Indian embassy noticed that the People’s Daily refrained from promising any direct action. Indian spies in the R&AW did think that China was stirring up insurgencies among India’s restless Nagas and Mizos, and cracked down in response— but this was harassment, not the start of a border clash. India was confident enough that China would stand by that it moved most of its Himalayan mountain divisions from the Chinese frontier to face Pakistan instead.

In the end, China would only act immediately after the news that Dacca had fallen. It would not be until December 16, as India was securing a cease-fire, that China issued a protest note accusing seven Indian troops of violating China’s border at Sikkim, a small Indian state nestled in the Himalayas— a place where the winter weather would not be such an impediment to Chinese intervention. India would flatly deny the charges. Although Kissinger hopefully told Nixon that this “could be the prelude to limited Chinese military actions along the border with India,” it would all come too late to matter. The note was, the Indian embassy in Beijing concluded, “a grudging acceptance of the fait accompli in the East accompanied by fears that the existence of West Pakistan could be in jeopardy.” When Zhou Enlai delivered a furious banquet speech against India, India’s diplomats in Beijing smugly dismissed it as “impotent rage.”

Years later, at a summit in Beijing, Kissinger would tell Deng Xiaoping, “President Nixon and I had made the decision— for your information— that if you had moved and the Soviet Union had brought pressure on you, we would have given military support” to China. He added, “We understand why you didn’t, but you should know our position, our seriousness of purpose.”


On December 12, after that agitated session in the Oval Office, a top Soviet diplomat in Washington assured Kissinger that they would soon get results from the Indians, and that there was no need for “a fist fight in the Security Council because we are in agreement now.” Kissinger soothingly said that the United States would be cooperative. Although a US aircraft carrier group was on its way, he downplayed that, saying that the Americans had to stand by their allies, but had now gone through that exercise.

There was a fistfight anyway. The same day, in New York, the United Nations Security Council reconvened. After the last debacle, Haksar had sent Swaran Singh, India’s foreign minister, to confront George Bush and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was now leading the Pakistani delegation. Haksar told Gandhi that “the art of diplomacy lies not merely in advocating one’s cause, but in reducing one’s opponents.” That Singh did skillfully. “Is Mr. Bhutto still harbouring dreams of conquering India and coming to Delhi as a visitor?” he caustically asked. When Bush, on Nixon’s and Kissinger’s instructions, inquired about India’s ultimate intentions in the war, Singh asked about US intentions in Vietnam. He denounced Pakistan: “It is not India which has set a record in political persecution, the genocide of a people and the suppressi

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