120. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the Indian Ambassador to the United States (Jha)1 2

Nixon: I’ve never been to Kashmir, you came and told me it’s beautiful. Mr. Nehru, you know, he had this great feeling in his heart for Kashmir, and, of course, he was from there. But I wanted to say to you as you go that we—that I, as Henry has probably told you, I normally can’t see—I usually see ambassadors when they come, I don’t get to see them very often when they leave. I would like to see every one, but I wanted to see you and welcome the opportunity for reasons that are obvious. One, because the country you represent and what it means to the world; and it’s a major country, a very major country; the number of people; the place that it is geographically; the role it can play. Second, also because I think you personally have worked so hard under very difficult circumstances for a good relationship between the U.S. and India. We’ve had some rocky times, the war thing, and now this last little blip about cleaning up that Pakistan aid thing and so forth and so on. I must say, incidentally, that I have appreciated the restraint that has been shown on that. It’s a hard decision for us. It was, as you know, not one that was in any way designed to create any threat to India. And it does not. The important thing now though is that the suspicions and this constant confrontation and so forth, which seems to get into the public press, between India and the U.., that we try to dampen down, because for better or worse, let’s face it, we are the two biggest democracies in the world, yours and ours. Each of us has much to give to the other. Each of us has an enormous interest in maintaining our freedom and in working towards a more peaceful world. And for us to be in a position that we are with India, I mean in the minds of many people, many people in the world, that India and the U.S. are always opposed is not healthy, not a good thing for you. It isn’t good for us. Now, what we do about it? It isn’t just a state visit, the tipping of glasses, the nice, little speeches which we’ve had, but it’s hard, day-to-day work on some of these things. But, I want you to convey to the Prime Minister that I sent Moynihan there because he’s a very close, personal associate. He deeply wanted to go. He loves America, but he loves also your country, and he—And I sent him there because I wanted to have a positive, a more positive development in the relations between our countries. The, uh—We must not allow, now with Pakistan divided, I mean with sincerity, we must not allow differences about that, or differences about other things, to blind us to the overall interest that we have in a continuing, healthy, constructive relationship. Now, let me say this: not so much in this country, although there are some, but in your country, as you well know, as there are in most countries in the world it’s—there’s a considerable number, a body of opinion, some in the press, some in the Parliament, and the rest who sort of make a profession out of being anti-U.S. I understand that. It’s true in Latin America. It’s true in Europe and so forth and so on, and the Soviet [Union]. I have no—And I understand it, but the point is that I simply want to say without any sentimentality—although some sentiment might be involved in this—but, basically, not based on that, but based on the interests we share, the interests of the world for people, the interests in the maintenance of the great, free nations requires that India and the United States have a better relationship. And you, you had to take it over a rocky period, and we hope your successor will come here and, perhaps, work cooperatively toward that end because if it goes the other way then each of us will have to look another way, in other directions. And you don’t want that, and we don’t want it either. That’s the way I would like to—So, I’ve tried to speak quite frankly about it and I think. Another thing that I did is to say, finally, is this that you get the impression that—which I—from some reports, some speeches that have been made, that—and I realize a lot of this throughout the war in Vietnam, which fortunately is now over and the rest, but none of this—but you get it, and a lot of it throughout India, it reminds us of the India-Pakistan flare up, that President Nixon is anti-Indian and anti-Mrs. Gandhi sort of thing. That’s baloney. That is not true. I have never been and never will be, because I want good relations. So, and the impression that whoever is president of the United States is basically against the biggest democracy in the world is not a healthy one to have. It’s just [unclear]It’s not healthy for the other—for the superpowers to think that, it isn’t healthy for your neighbors to think that, it isn’t healthy, certainly, for people in this country to think that. And finally, apart from its not being healthy, it’s just not true. So, these are some of the things that I hope you take with you, and I hope you take some pleasant memories, too.

Jha: I can take very happy memories, sir, and I must say throughout a very difficult period one of the things that sustained me. [Unclear] communication I’ve had with Henry who has known your mind and thinking.

Nixon: That’s right. I know he’s talked to you many times.

Jha: While I can’t go and tell the Prime Minister…

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Jha: …when I was leaving she told me that my mission is to make Indo-American relations as good as Indo-Soviet relations. [Unclear], but I do feel that we are now set on a course which can lead to far better relations than even we had known in the [unclear]. And I do know that I have just the same view on the matter, it’s not good for us or the world…

Nixon: Um-hmmm.

Jha: …for there to be a feeling that India and this country [unclear].

Nixon: That’s right. [Unclear]And we can find—Let me say you can tell her I will do my part. I’ll go more than half way and I have great respect for her not because she is a woman, but because she’s a great leader. I have great respect for her because she’s a skillful politician.

Kissinger: What—

Nixon: She won by more than I did.

Jha: [laughs]

Kissinger: What we have set up is, Mr. President, on your instructions, is some more or less regular meetings between Moynihan and senior Indian officials…

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger:… on economic and similar issues. And then [unclear] successor here, and I will start political discussions to see what can be done to bring about a…

Nixon: Well, speaking very candidly, I’m sorry he is leaving. I know his

Kissinger: I am, too.

Nixon:—I know his successor and I know he’s a very bright fellow but we—Without saying anything about it, I’m sorry you’re leaving.


Kissinger: We agree to that. I feel that way.

Nixon: We won’t say it any more.


Kissinger: And we know he isn’t going to report that.


Nixon: No. You’re right, right, right. Yeah. No, we get along with his successor but the main thing is that whoever represents, it’s pleasant to have somebody that we have as such confidence and respect for. Whoever represents a great country like India we’ll get along with them.

Kissinger: I must say one other thing, Mr. President, that L.K.—he was more skillful in handling the press than any other ambassador here. I could see his fine hand in a lot of columnists when it was, when necessity required it.

Nixon: Look, the Indians are among the most skillful people in the world at handling the press as you know.


Nixon: You’re the best in the world. [laughter]


Jha: Thank you

Nixon: Well, it was good to see you. We’ll, uh—As a memento all we’ll have you have is a copy of that picture and I also—have one of my ashtrays, I want you to have. Have a few of these that we give to—It’s a small thing, but it’s the presidential ashtray.

Jha: Oh, thank you very much, sir.

Nixon: Sure. Put it on your desk and have people who smoke then put your glasses in it. And, uh—It brings all of our appreciation for your work and good wishes for the future.

[Conversation Ends]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 890–17. No classification marking. The meeting took place in the Oval Office of the White House. The transcript is part of a longer conversation that took place between 11:39 and 11:56 a.m.
  2. Nixon and Kissinger met with Jha before his departure from Washington to discuss the state of United States-Indian relations.