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SEPTEMBER 29, 2015


TOM PUTNAM: Good afternoon, and welcome everyone. I'm Tom Putnam, Director
of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It's an honor to have Bruce
Riedel here to speak on his new book, JFK's Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA, and the
Sino-Indian War. We were just exchanging stories. And it's always good to start with an
anecdote, if you can.

So Bruce was telling me a story about bringing some visitors into President George W.
Bush's office, which reminded me of the famous story of Dave Powers, who had the role
– as you know, he was President Kennedy's right-hand man – and had the role sometimes
of greeting guests before they went into the Oval Office.

And one day, the Shah of Iran came in, and Dave Powers was making pleasantries with
him, and shook his hand and said, "I just want you to know, from everything I've heard
about you, you're my kind of shah." [laughter]

So Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project. And
he joined the Brookings after 30 years working for the CIA, including serving as a senior
advisor and a member of the National Security Council staff to Presidents Obama,
George W. Bush, Clinton and President George H.W. Bush. So we are honored to have
you here.

And I wholeheartedly endorse the book, which is on sale in our bookstore. And we'll only
be able to touch just briefly, really, on the fascinating story that's told therein. And Mr.
Riedel will be happy to sign your copies. The book just was published last week.

BRUCE RIEDEL: That's right. Thank you very much for having me. It's particularly
nice, because this library played a crucial part in the research behind this book, including
the declassification of several critical letters that are very, very important to the story.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

TOM PUTNAM: And I should recognize that Mr. Riedel's wife and his son, a newly
minted PhD from Boston College, are also here with us today. [applause]

So I'm going to follow somewhat the script of the book, and I thought I'd bring a few
photos from our archives. And so, the first one – it's how Mr. Riedel opens the book – is
this very famous dinner that was held at Mount Vernon; I think the only state dinner ever
held at Mount Vernon.

BRUCE RIEDEL: That's right.

TOM PUTNAM: And maybe you can set the context and explain why the dinner was
there, and who was the guest of honor.

BRUCE RIEDEL: It's July 1961. The Kennedy administration is off to a rocky start.
You've had the Bay of Pigs fiasco. You've had a disastrous summit meeting between
President Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. And the
administration really needs to show some competence and some class.

Mrs. Kennedy came up with the idea of having a state dinner at Mount Vernon. She had
been very impressed, when they went to Europe, by Versailles and the Schönbrunn
Palace. Of course, we don't have any palaces in America, but we do have the first
president's home on the Potomac.

So she arranged to have the dinner there for the dictator and president of Pakistan, Ayub
Khan. Ayub Khan is in the picture here. It's a white-tie dinner on a July evening. They
arrived by coming down the Potomac on the Presidential and Secretary of Navy yacht.
And then had a fine dinner.
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The substance of the conversation, though, was about a secret CIA project. The CIA was
providing support to rebels in Tibet fighting communist China at the time. And it was
doing that from an air base inside of Pakistan. Well, President Ayub Khan had been very
irritated that President Kennedy had increased economic aid to India significantly in his
first six months, and he cut off this secret program.

So the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, persuaded the president to, during the course of the
dinner, take a walk in the gardens of Mount Vernon with Ayub Khan, and ask him to turn
the CIA operation back on. And in fact, he did.

And it's very important to the thrust of the story, because that CIA operation will be one
of the things that probably triggered the Chinese invasion of India in 1962.

TOM PUTNAM: So you mentioned, and I've put a picture here of Allen Dulles, that he
was in many ways one of the most important people at that dinner. I know it's hard to
cover so much history, but perhaps just a brief description of Allen Dulles as leader of the
CIA, and this question of the CIA as an intelligence-gathering institution, or one that
oversees covert operations, often overthrowing governments.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Well, Allen Dulles was a legendary figure. He'd started spying right
out of college. He was a major spy for the United States during the Second World War;
actually quite good at it. And he early on joined the CIA.

But what he liked to do was covert action. He didn't want to do the kind of dull business
of analysis and fact-finding. He left that to others. What he was really interested in was
getting things done.

An interesting example of that is Mrs. Kennedy, Jackie, a few years before they became
president, had given Allen Dulles a copy of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, From
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Russia With Love. And he loved it, as the president did. They all wanted a CIA that could
do that 007 kind of stuff.

Of course, a lot of those 007 kind of things turn out to be disastrous, the Bay of Pigs
being a very good example of that. Put the president on the back foot in the first two
months of his administration.

TOM PUTNAM: And his brother was John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under–
and you probably know, but there's a funny clip, that someone referred to them as Dull,
Duller and Dulles. [laughter]

BRUCE RIEDEL: Yes, that's right. John Foster Dulles was a very strict man, had very
fundamentalist views about life. Allen Dulles was much more, I won't say liberal, but
much more cosmopolitan, much more of a ladies' man. Really in many ways a larger-
than-life figure.

And he was kept on as director of Central Intelligence when Kennedy came in, because
Kennedy had won by a very, very small margin, as you know, and he wanted to
demonstrate that he was going to have a bipartisan administration. So one of his first
announcements was that Allen Dulles as head of the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover as head of
the FBI, would be kept on. Both of which were probably in retrospect not the wisest of

TOM PUTNAM: So we'll try to set the geographic stage. You've somewhat done it, but
maybe just another word or two about kind of the history of Pakistan and where it was at
this moment.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Here on the map, you can see China obviously to the north; India to
the south. You can see the disputed regions between them. Back in 1962, Pakistan was
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two wings. It was West Pakistan, what is Pakistan today; and East Pakistan, what is today
Bangladesh. The CIA operation in Tibet was being flown out of East Pakistan, from an
airbase just outside of Dhaka.

One of the great nightmares of the Kennedy administration during the crisis, in the fall of
1962, is that the Pakistanis would open a second front. And that not only would they be
faced with the Chinese invasion of India, but simultaneously a Pakistani invasion of

Pakistan, by this point, was our most allied ally. We had signed more treaties pledging to
the defense of Pakistan than any other country in the world. And yet, we had a very
conflicted relationship with the Pakistanis, because the Pakistanis understood that the
Kennedy administration saw as the real strategic prize in South Asia India, a country
much, much larger, with a much more vibrant economy, and a democracy, like the United
States, a country that was naturally ours to support.

In 1959, in one of this speeches leading up to the campaign, Kennedy said that the race
between red communist China and democratic India was the most important event going
on in the world in 1959. Because it was a question whether communism or democracy
was going to prevail. It was really quite an extraordinary speech. In 1959, I don't think
very much people would have said China and India's race is the most important event in
the world. But he did say it, and it was indicative of how much he thought India was
going to be a great future power, and he wanted the United States aligned with that great
future power.

TOM PUTNAM: Just to not assume too much historical knowledge of our audience,
just give a quick background on China and where China and its leader was at this time.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

BRUCE RIEDEL: In 1962, communist China was only 15 years old. It had emerged
from a century of civil war and foreign invasions, including World War II. The Chinese
governments, which in centuries before had regarded themselves as the center of the
universe, literally the center of the universe, had fallen into becoming marginal powers in
the world, didn't control most of their territory. And, for example, didn't control Tibet.
Tibet, which they had nominal sovereignty over, had become a more or less autonomous

The Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, in 1950, invaded Tibet. He did it almost at
the same moment as he sent troops into Korea to fight in the Korean War, and brought
Tibet back inside the Chinese orbit in a quite brutal way in the end.

India, of course, had a great interest in what was going on in its northern neighbor. It was
sympathetic to the Tibetan people. But it didn't have any military means to resist Chinese
invasion. And Nehru actually wanted to try to make a bond with Mao. And the two of
them in his mind would have a non-aligned, a third way in the world.

The short of it, I think, is to say that Mao played Nehru pretty cleverly for most of the
1950s, and more or less ate his lunch. He got to keep Tibet, got to keep playing to these
border disputes, and Nehru actually introduced him as a nice guy to the rest of the world.

By 1962, this was all falling apart though, because there was a rebellion going on in
Tibet. The communists naturally did not blame their own invasion for the rebellion;
nobody ever blames their own invasion for the rebellion. They blamed outside forces.
They knew that the CIA was providing support to the Tibetans, and they assumed that the
Indians must be involved in all of that.

Now, the Indians probably were witting of what we were doing, but they weren't actually
supporting it. The actual support, as I said, was coming from Pakistan. But Nehru found
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himself being dragged into a conflict with the Chinese. And then, as most elected
politicians do in democratic countries, he stuck out his jaw and said, "Knock me over,"
and said, "We're going to defend every inch of the disputed land. It's ours. It's always
been ours." That really wasn't true at all. He took a very aggressive approach with the

And in October of 1962, the Chinese responded with an invasion.

TOM PUTNAM: Let's talk about Ken Galbraith for a moment, JFK's ambassador to

BRUCE RIEDEL: Kennedy has surrounded himself with very smart men, most of them
with Harvard connections. And one of the smartest was John Kenneth Galbraith, a man
who was very smart, knew it, and thought very highly of himself. Very tall, he was a
commanding presence in any room. He wanted to be American ambassador to India, and
he became the American ambassador to India. Harvard gave him a two-year approval; if
he didn't come back in two years, he would lose his tenure. And he went out there.

And because, as we will see in a minute, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Sino-Indian
Crisis overlap completely, Washington was focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis,
understandably. The apocalypse was at stake.

So John Kenneth Galbraith, for the first two or three weeks of the Chinese invasion of
India was basically running American policy on his own. He sent letters back to
Kennedy, delivered through the CIA to the White House. Got answers back. The rest of
the bureaucracy was completely cut out, didn't know what was going on. And Galbraith
became the critical player in a very close partnership with the president.
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TOM PUTNAM: I hope you don't mind me throwing a clip in there. One is your book,
which is when Galbraith was named ambassador, the New York Times wrote an article
about him, and he was in speaking to President Kennedy, and said, "Well, it was a good
article, but they called me arrogant." To which President Kennedy said, "Well, I don't
know why you're surprised at that. That's what we all call you." [laughter]

And then, the second funny Galbraith story, which is a little off color, I hope you don't
mind, is, he often was able to communicate directly with President Kennedy. And this
was much to the dismay of the State Department – because the ambassadors are supposed
to communicate through the State Department – because Galbraith had a relationship
with JFK. And Galbraith said that, no, he wanted to talk directly to the president because,
he said, "trying to speak to the president through the State Department is like trying to
fornicate through a mattress." [laughter]

Let's go back. There's a difference of opinion between Galbraith and Dulles or Richard
Bissell about this covert operation. Maybe just talk a little bit more about this, this is
before the war, whether the US should be supporting this covert operation in Tibet.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Galbraith thought that the CIA operation supporting the Tibetans
was extremely dangerous, that it could provoke the Chinese. In the end, he proved to be
right. He also thought it was impossible. The Tibetans were not going to overthrow the
communist Chinese government; there was no possible way Tibetan guerillas could
defeat the People's Liberation Army of China.

And in his very colorful Galbraith way, he also found that the rebels were lacking in
hygiene, and things like that. He would write these scathing memos back to Kennedy.

But Kennedy wanted to put pressure on the communist world. And the only place we
could really put any pressure on communist China was Tibet.
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One other thing to bear in mind about all of this: the Tibetans were going to fight the
Chinese whether the United States helped them or not. And I think Kennedy and Allen
Dulles and Richard Bissell, the director of operations, felt that if the Tibetans were going
to fight anyway, what harm was it in us trying to help them and try to– we could never
even the odds, but at least give them some assistance.

Galbraith's protest against this went nowhere. In the end, after the Chinese invasion of
India is over, we then start supporting the Tibetans with the help of the Indians. And
Galbraith becomes an enthusiastic supporter of it at that point, because now India's in the
loop with it, which is an indication that aides' views on things can change a lot,
depending upon where they sit and where they stand in the political process.

TOM PUTNAM: I just have a couple other photos of the players at the time. So here's
the Dalai Lama, who you've somewhat described – was in Tibet and led Tibet, then went
back into Tibet, and then decided to leave again.

BRUCE RIEDEL: He comes out with the assistance of the CIA. It was a significant
coup for Allen Dulles. He was able to sell then-President Eisenhower, "We got the Dalai
Lama out of communist China."

TOM PUTNAM: Then I just have a photo here of Mao. But I thought maybe it might
be helpful, again, to take a quick step back. So the 1960 election, there was really quite a
difference between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and their view of this part of the
world and the whole non-alignment movement. I thought maybe you could talk about

BRUCE RIEDEL: Absolutely. Nixon was the ultimate John Foster Dulles acolyte. He
believed there was good and evil, and that we should support the white knights, and that
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Pakistan fell into that category because they were 100% supportive of us against the
Soviet Union and China. Of course, Pakistan wasn't really 100% supportive of us, but it
was happy to take our arms and economic aid to build itself up against India, while
always preaching anti-communism. Nixon saw India as a fellow traveler of the Soviet
Union, at worst; and at best, naive.

But Kennedy had a very different view. He saw the new, emerging, non-aligned countries
who had just become independent – like India, like Pakistan, like what was soon to sweep
across Africa – as a real battlefield in the Cold War, in which we had to be more flexible.
We had to show that we weren't just strictly anti-communist, that we recognized that the
world wasn't black and white, that there were shades of gray. And he thought India was
probably the single-most important place where that was; that Nehru was not a fellow
traveler, he was not naive. He was a great leader who he wanted to have as much as
possible on our side.

TOM PUTNAM: So JFK gets elected. We already showed the state dinner at Mount
Vernon with the president of Pakistan. But then JFK's looking forward to this meeting
with Nehru, and there's an official trip for Nehru to come, but it doesn't quite work out
the way maybe either JFK or Nehru wants.

BRUCE RIEDEL: You couldn't use Mount Vernon again. Once, you can get away
with, but you can't go there twice. So he took Nehru to Newport, to see the city where
John F. Kennedy had gotten married in, and stayed at Hammersmith Farm, which was
Mrs. Kennedy's family home. There's a great moment in this trip, where they're driving
through Newport, past all the mansions, on their way to Hammersmith Farm, and
Kennedy points out to the prime minister of India, "This is how the average American
lives." [laughter] And Nehru says, "Yes, I've read about your affluent society." Which is
of course, Galbraith's most famous book.
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But that was about as outspoken as Nehru was. At this point, Nehru was quite old, he was
quite ill, and he just didn't have much in him. And for most of the trip, he responded in
monosyllabic– he didn't engage.

And a couple other things didn't go well. When they actually got back to the White House
for the state dinner, someone forgot to open the flue in the East Room, so when they lit
the fire, the East Room filled with smoke. Not a particularly pleasant occasion.

Nehru also brought his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who went on to become prime minister
in her own right, a very famous, a very strong woman. Jackie and Indira did not hit it off.
Jackie wrote later that Indira was one of the most sour people she'd ever met in her life,
that every minute she looked like she was eating a lemon while she was talking to you.

But Nehru and Jackie hit it off big time. And I think it's safe to say that Nehru had a crush
on the First Lady.

TOM PUTNAM: We have a picture of them. This is actually in Newport.

BRUCE RIEDEL: This is on the presidential yacht, sailing in Newport Harbor, with
Galbraith and Kennedy and Nehru.

TOM PUTNAM: Again, suffice it to say, the trip was not a huge success. But Galbraith
is still trying to find a way to strengthen ties between the United States and India. And
they come up with this notion of having Jacqueline Kennedy take her first solo trip.
Maybe you can talk about what went into the thinking about that trip, and what the hopes

BRUCE RIEDEL: They wanted to establish a bond, not just between leaders, but
between people. And the First Lady had yet to go on a foreign travel by herself. In fact,
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first ladies had not really traveled very much by themselves. Eleanor Roosevelt did a
little bit in the war, but neither Mrs. Truman nor Mrs. Eisenhower did.

And this would also be the first visit abroad by an American first lady in the age of
television, where of course the audience at home could watch and see what was going on.
And Mrs. Kennedy was very nervous about this. She postponed the trip several times.
She said, "How can I possibly go alone?" Of course, she wasn't going alone; her sister
was going with her. There was Secret Service. There were 500 journalists or so.

She pulled it off magnificently. Her charm, her wit, her class made her instantly a huge
success, first in India where she spent, I think, nine days; and then in Pakistan, where she
spent an additional four.

The crowds came out for Mrs. Kennedy in 1962, in the spring of 1962, a lot like the
crowds came out for the Beatles later in the 1960s. She was immensely popular.

And it did a lot for the Kennedy administration, not only in South Asia, but worldwide,
by showing we really had something to contribute. And that the First Lady had something
to contribute. And that the United States was not this kind of dull Eisenhower-Dulles-
Cold War country. It was really a smashing, new, exciting country, with a very exciting
and very young– she was only 32 years old when she goes to India in 1962.

TOM PUTNAM: So a brief aside: we had a showing of a new PBS documentary on

Walt Disney. And in my introduction, I mentioned that when Nehru came to the United
States, he went to Disneyland or Disney World, whichever one's in California. And I
joked that when Jacqueline Kennedy went to India, she visited the Taj Mahal. When
Nehru came here, he went to the Magic Kingdom. [laughter]
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But we have a few photos, just because they're so stunning, of Mrs. Kennedy. There's
John Kenneth Galbraith in the back, who was a wonderful host. And you talked about the
flue. There's a funny story about when she arrives, they can't meet her in the car that they
want to meet her in, because–

BRUCE RIEDEL: His youngest son, the ambassador's youngest son had locked the
keys of the car of the ambassador's limousine inside the car. So instead of going in the
stretch limo, they ended up going in a kind of beaten-up, old Indian car. But they got over

TOM PUTNAM: Again, she gets along famously with Nehru. Here she is, and that's her
sister behind her. And that's [unintelligible] But then, as you said, they go to Pakistan for
four days and famously ride this camel. You had a quip that she said something after
riding the camel.

BRUCE RIEDEL: She said later, after that, "I'm never getting on camel again in my
life." [laughter] They obviously weren't dressed for the occasion.

TOM PUTNAM: And then Ayub Khan surprises her with this gift.

BRUCE RIEDEL: To pay her back, in essence, for the Mount Vernon event, Ayub
Khan gave her a horse. I think it was a ten-year old gelding named Sardar. And there you
can see Sardar. And by every account, including her own, Mrs. Kennedy immediately fell
in love with this horse. She was a horseperson to start with, and this horse just became,
for her, the best she'd ever had. She writes that night back to President Kennedy saying,
"You're president of the United States, I'm sure you can find some way that this horse can
be flown back to the United States without having to go through customs and all those
kind of changes and inspections, and everything like that." And of course, as the
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president, he then had no choice but to find a way to get Sardar back to the United States
as quickly as possible. And Sardar will then spend years on the Kennedys' homes.

TOM PUTNAM: This is actually in Pakistan, she rides him in Pakistan. A similar
story— her Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, was here and he said that was the biggest
challenge of the trip, is what do you do with a horse? [laughter] And then actually, this is
her riding Sardar back in their home in Middleburg, Virginia. And a sad coda of Sardar—
was in the funeral procession. Not Black Jack, the more famous horse, but Sardar was

BRUCE RIEDEL: Right, Sardar will be the horse that's riderless behind the caisson at
the end of– when the president is assassinated.

TOM PUTNAM: So that was the spring of 1962. And then it's in the summer that
things begin to heat up. And maybe you can talk about Nehru's maybe mistake, but this
forward policy and what that was.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Nehru realized, belatedly, by the summer of 1962, that Mao Zedong
was not his friend. He also increasingly realized that something was going on between
Ayub Khan and Mao Zedong, that a new axis was being formed.

But he made a critical decision, a bad decision, what he called the forward policy, which
was that India would not only adhere to its maximum territorial claim, but it would put
forces as forward as possible on the border. Which really put the Indian military in an
impossible position.

This is a very difficult border. We're talking about fighting in the Himalayas. The
Chinese had a much larger army, much better equipped. They had just fought in the
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Korean War against the United States and the United Nations. They were very well led.
The Indians were basically fighting with equipment left over from World War I.

And in October of 1962, the Indians are surprised and the Chinese overwhelm them very,
very quickly.

TOM PUTNAM: What do you conjecture prompted Mao to counterattack?

BRUCE RIEDEL: Well, of course, there is no Mao Zedong presidential library and
museum in Beijing. Or, if there is one, it doesn't specialize in declassifying the
documents of his chairmanship. He was a very extraordinarily secretive person. He
believed the whole world was against him. He lived in a secret enclave most of the time.
So we don't know. The honest answer is, the Chinese part of this puzzle, we don't know.
We don't have any insights into it.

But I think we can conjecture from what the Chinese said officially at the time that Mao
Zedong saw a conspiracy against China. And he saw that conspiracy being led by the
United States, operationalized by the CIA, and that Prime Minister Nehru was part of this
conspiracy. And the intent was to try to take Tibet away from China.

The forward policy gave Mao the perfect pretext for an invasion. He could say, "The
Indians are infiltrating our territory. We're going to defend our territory. We're going to
make sure that we control this territory, that we reunify traditional China."

The war takes place in two parts. One is in the extreme far northeast. That part up there is
basically a desert; nobody lives there. But there's a major highway that links Xinjiang
province to Tibet, that runs through there, that the Chinese very much wanted to control.
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And then the second part is over here in the northeast, which is very heavily forested.
This, of course, is famous for tea plantations and things like that. And here, the Indians
were very determined to keep the border as far north as possible, because you can see this
little part of India is like a chicken head that's stuck off from the set of the body, and
very, very vulnerable, particularly in the area around what was then the semi-independent
state of Sikkim, which is now fully part of India. But you could cross there and basically
cut off this whole eastern part of India.

TOM PUTNAM: So you call it JFK's forgotten crisis because it's happening almost
simultaneously with the Cuban Missile Crisis. And again, as you say, we don't know
Mao's intentions. But do you have a sense that he would have done it anyway? Or did he
see an opportunity with JFK so preoccupied with what was going on?

BRUCE RIEDEL: There's no evidence that I found of collusion between Khrushchev

and Mao. In fact, if anything, Mao is operating independently now. The Sino split has
taken place, although the outside world doesn't really know that.

So what Kennedy is confronted with in October of 1962, is the two great communist
powers, each, making a very bold and aggressive step. And it kind of all comes together
on the 16th of October, 1962. The president's national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy,
goes into his office that morning and he gets his overnight take of top secret material, and
there's two memos:

One memo is from the State Department and says, "We think China's about ready to
invade India. We think China will quickly defeat India. And we think India will therefore
ask you for assistance."
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And the second memo is from the Central Intelligence Agency, reporting that the U2
flight over Cuba has revealed that the Soviet Union has put intermediate range ballistic
missiles in Cuba, with nuclear weapons.

You can imagine what that must have been like for both Bundy and the administration.
Here, they've got these two enormous crises. In fact, in retrospect, we know that the CIA
estimates of what the Soviets were up to minimized it. The CIA thought there were 8,000
Soviet combat troops in Cuba. There were 50,000 Soviet combat troops in Cuba. We
thought they only had intermediate range nuclear ballistic missiles. They had tactical
nuclear missiles, which were all aimed at Guantanamo Bay. So that if we had invaded
Cuba, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to annihilate Guantanamo Bay
with a nuclear exchange, without even going back to Moscow.

Now, understandably, historians and moviemakers and TV-makers have focused on the
1962 Cuban crisis, because it really was a question of Armageddon. But from Kennedy's
perspective, and he said it at the time to his aides, he wondered which crisis would in the
long run have more impact on the world. Would the crisis in Cuba, which could probably
be contained and sealed off, he hoped, be as important as the conflict between the two
largest countries in the world, China and India?

And at the critical moment in the war between China and India, in November of 1962, on
the 19th of November, the Chinese are pouring in. They've overtaken all of that territory.
They threatened to take that entire part of India east of Bangladesh, and even perhaps
come down to the Bay of Bengal and take the city of Calcutta.

And Nehru writes a letter to Kennedy, which the John F. Kennedy Library was the first to
have declassified a couple of years ago. And he says in the letter, "We face catastrophe.
Eastern India is at risk of being lost to China. And the Pakistanis look like they're getting
ready to attack as well." And he asks Kennedy for 250 American combat aircraft,
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aircrews and radar teams to be immediately deployed to India to protect Indian air space,
while the Indian air force starts to bomb inside communist China.

Nehru's request is amazing. He is asking the United States of America – and he was also
asking the British, by the way – to not only send him supplies, which we were already
doing, but to actually become involved in an air war with communist China in 1962.

TOM PUTNAM: In many ways, Nehru is doubly humiliated. He's humiliated on the
ground, and Mao is lethal. But then he has to— Mr. Non-Aligned, the leader of the non-
aligned movement— basically go to the United States and plead for support. And it's a
terrible moment in India history.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Exactly. He's humiliated. He's defeated. He's at the risk of losing a
substantial part of his country. He's worried that Pakistan is going to stab the knife in his
back. And he comes, I wouldn't say begging, but he comes desperately to Kennedy and
asks for American help.

Even worse, probably, even more humiliating, he asks the British prime minister, Harold
Macmillan for help as well. You can imagine, he was the man who led India's struggle
for independence against the British Empire. And here, just a decade-and-a-half later, he's
asking the British for help.

But what he's really looking to is the United States for help. Kennedy immediately, at the
advisement of John Kenneth Galbraith, orders an American aircraft carrier battle group to
sail into the Bay of Bengal as a sign of American support for India. He triples the size of
the air flow. At this point in the war, the United States Air Force is flying hundreds of
tons of equipment into India in order to support the Indian army. He triples that
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And he decides, in response to these letters, to send Averell Harriman, one of the icons of
American diplomatic history. This is the man who FDR sent to London in 1940 during
the Battle of Britain, and to Moscow in 1941 during the German invasion. You cannot be
bigger than Averell Harriman in American diplomacy in 1962. And he immediately
dispatches him on the night of 19 November, from Andrews Air Force Base, in an
airplane, to go to India in order to assess and find out what he Indians need.

At that point, that critical moment, Mao stops, on the 21st of November. A unilateral

Now, at the time, of course, nobody knew whether this unilateral ceasefire was going to
last a night, a fortnight, or, as it has turned out, for the next 52 years. At the time, that was

Harriman's mission, even when the Chinese announced they were halting, was to find out
what the United States would need to do to help India if the Chinese resumed their

One of the great what-ifs of history – what if the Chinese hadn't stopped? Or, what if they
had stopped for a couple of days and then resumed their advance? What would Kennedy
have done?

Of course, we don't know the answer to that question. What we do know is that a year
later, in 1963, on the advice of Harriman and Galbraith, the United States carried out,
with the assistance of the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the
Royal Australian Air Force, an air exercise in India, which was exactly what Nehru had
requested in that letter in November. In other words, Kennedy decided to at least practice
coming to the defense of India in the event of a future Chinese invasion.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

I draw the conclusion from that, that if China had not stopped on the 21st of November,
the United States probably would have entered this war, and subsequent history of the
world would have been dramatically different than what it was.

TOM PUTNAM: So we'll come to your questions in a moment, but maybe to round up
this part, we haven't talked too much about Pakistan and Ayub Khan and the relationship
between the Pakistan and the United States as this war's unfolding and JFK rushes to
India's defense, and what that does to our relationship with Pakistan.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Well, right away, Ayub Khan begins to say, "I've been betrayed. The
president has promised me, first at Mount Vernon and then when his wife came, that I
was the favorite of the Americans. After all, I've always signed treaties. I have all these
CIA operations going on. I should be his best friend. Why is he coming to the defense of
India?" And then Khan begins writing letters to the president and saying publicly, "I
should be compensated. If you're going to help India, I should get something in return."

And of course, what does Pakistan want? It wants the rest of Kashmir, Jammu and
Kashmir, which had been divided in 1947 and 1948, during the Indian partition. It was
Pakistan's raison d'etre, and particularly Ayub Khan's, as a military dictator, raison d'etre
to recover control of Kashmir. Galbraith and Kennedy saw this as extremely dangerous.
Not only would they potentially have a war with China, they could have a two-front war.

So Kennedy now writes to Ayub Khan and says, "No. All of our treaty obligations are
with you in the event of war with communism. Not war with India. And if you invade
India at this moment, we will see that as a hostile act." And it's through this pressure that
I think Pakistan is kept neutral at this very critical moment.

TOM PUTNAM: And you do come to a fairly strong conclusion, that – again, we can't
know 100% because of Mao's secretive nature – that it really was President Kennedy's
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

response, that likely, in your estimation, is what caused Mao to call for the ceasefire and
almost withdraw his troops. And in some ways, that mimics JFK's kind of strong
response in the Cuban Missile Crisis that has Khrushchev pull back. If you want to

BRUCE RIEDEL: I think that's right. I think the Chinese saw that the United States
was coming to the defense of India, in practical terms. United States Air Force jets were
landing in Calcutta, offloading equipment, putting it on C-130s, which were flying into
the front line. He probably didn't know about the letter from Nehru, but he could see
where this was going.

The United States was saying publicly things like "we regard this as significant an act of
aggression as the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950," which of course led to
the Korean War. So I think that firmness very much sent the message to the Chinese
"stop while you're ahead." And that's what essentially they did; they stopped while they
were ahead. And they kept the part of territory in the far northwest, and they retreated
from most of the territory in the northeast.

Now, of course, the conflict didn't end then. And in fact, this is the longest border dispute
in the world. China and India dispute a longer physical border than any two other
countries in the world dispute. They've held dozens of meetings since 1962 to try to find
an agreement, but there is no agreement. This is still a disputed border. And from time to
time, there are incidents, usually nonviolent, but not always. And of course, Pakistan has
moved from being kind of a suitor of China in 1962, to being a full-scale ally of China
today. China and Pakistan just agreed on a $46 billion aid agreement for China to build
infrastructure in Pakistan.

So I think in a very important way, the contours of modern Asian geopolitics were set
back in 1962. In an oversimplified way, it's a China/Pakistan axis and a United
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

States/India axis. Now, between '62 and 2015, we've had a lot of fluctuations, but we've
essentially ended up in that place.

And one last thing to say about its contemporary relevance, this war started an arms race
between China and India, which quickly in 1964 became a nuclear arms race when China
tested its first nuclear weapons. And then became a three-way nuclear arms race when
Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. And this is the fastest-growing arms race in the world
today. And if you want to understand its origins, it's really back in 1962.

And I think if you look at this crisis, and if you're like me and you admire John F.
Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I think was his finest hour, and
faced with awesome decisions about the survival not just the United States, but probably
the human race, he very calmly, very deliberately found a way to end the conflict without

He was at the same time multitasking on a global level. He was dealing with one crisis in
the Caribbean and another in the Himalayas. And when you realize that, this was his
finest hour as I don't think anyone has ever portrayed it as comprehensively before. It was
really a tour de force of presidential leadership.

TOM PUTNAM: So before we go to your questions, please join me in thanking Bruce

Riedel. [applause]

So if you have questions, I'll call on you. And if people can't hear the questions, I'll repeat

Q: We didn't bring up Tibet again. What happens to Tibet at the end of this crisis?
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

TOM PUTNAM: Let me just say the question is, what happened to Tibet at the end of
the crisis?

BRUCE RIEDEL: At the end of the crisis, Harriman sets up a bunch of subcommittees.
One deals with the question of military aid to India. Another deals with the question of
Pakistan. A third deals with the covert operation. And now, Pakistan fades out of the CIA
program, and India comes into it, much more robustly. And the Indians start supporting
the Tibetan resistance.

But with a lot of care. They don't want to provoke another Chinese invasion. So they
build up a Tibetan defense force that basically defends the Indian side of the
Chinese/Indian border. And they don't do very much to support the Tibetans inside. And
by the mid-1960s, the Tibetan rebellion has fallen apart, collapsed. And the whole
operation, basically the US and India say, "Too hard. What we'll do is cooperate on other
things." For example, U2 missions are now flying out of Indian air bases secretly over
communist China.

And the Tibetan operation is all but dead, and finally finished off by Richard Nixon, who
of course, despite being the most hardliner, anti-communist in American history,
famously goes to China. And as part of that very significant change in American foreign
policy, he shuts down all of these CIA operations trying to cause trouble with the
communist Chinese.

Q: What about Tibet today?

BRUCE RIEDEL: And Tibet today is, in the eyes of many Tibetans, especially the
Dalai Lama, an occupied country. The Chinese claim, of course, it's always been theirs.
You could, and many people have, written very long books arguing about who has
sovereignty there. I think it's safe to say that the Tibetan people are subjugated, second-
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

class citizens in their own country. And what the Chinese are doing, which the Dalai
Lama expected back in the 1950s, is encouraging the mass migration of Han Chinese into
Tibet, and also into Xinjiang, so that today the Tibetan population, the ethnic Tibetan
population is a minority in their own country.

Q: You said that the CIA operations in Tibet were a contributing factor to Chinese
aggression. Would you say that's a consensus view, or is that new with your book? And
also, the declassified documents that you refer to, when were they declassified?

TOM PUTNAM: Because we're recording this and people can't hear on the
microphone, the first question had to do with the covert operation and whether that's the
consensus view. And the second is a question about how these documents get

BRUCE RIEDEL: I think it is pretty much a consensus view. Covert operations are, by
definition, covert. They're supposed to be clandestine, secret affairs. But like most covert
operations, this one in time became the subject of several books, including, of course, by
the CIA officers who were engaged in the operations. It's not a 2015 phenomenon; ex-
spies writing about what they did goes back, I think, probably to Biblical times.

Scholars who I think have studied this most closely come to the conclusion that Chinese
motives were multiple, and that this was one of the factors in them. Because we don't
have access to any Chinese archives, we can't say this was number one, and the Dalai
Lama being in India was number two. But I think from Mao Zedong's perspective, he
knew that the CIA was up to what he regarded as no good in Tibet. And he believed that
this was all a product of American collusion with the Indians.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

And of course, there's the great irony, that the war actually produces the outcome that
Mao Zedong was allegedly worried about upfront, the collusion that I mentioned, that
comes afterwards.

The critical documents, the most critical documents, the two letters Nehru sent on the 19th
of November, were only declassified, I think, three or four years ago. Historians had
known that these letters existed. The State Department, in its annual release of documents
15 years after they'd been written, noted that there were two letters, but didn't actually
include the letters in the documents.

On the Indian side, of course, as you alluded to, this is very humiliating. And the
existence of these letters was denied. Nehru's immediate successor, when asked about
this, said, "We thoroughly checked the Indian archives. We've looked everywhere, and
there are no copies of these letters. So these letters don't exist." But of course they do

Galbraith, who wrote an absolutely magnificent diary of his time in New Delhi, which is
just riveting to read, because it's very politically incorrect in many places, he alludes in
his diary to the two letters, in some detail.

But it wasn't until the Library here declassified them that the full extent of them was
made available. And you can really see, particularly in the second letter, Nehru is a man
at the end of his rope. He thinks his country is going under, and if he doesn't get
American support and get it immediately, and that means American airplanes, American
crews being willing to fight Chinese communists in the air, his country's going under.

TOM PUTNAM: Maybe ask just a general question about CIA as someone who's spent
their career there and allow you to answer the critics who would say, shouldn't the CIA
be limited to intelligence-gathering, rather than covert operations? Really kind of a
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

dastardly history. I joked early on about the Shah of Iran, but we put the Shah of Iran in,
overthrew a legitimate government in Guatemala. What's your response to those critics?

BRUCE RIEDEL: My response to that would be very simple. These operations are all
approved, and in many cases instigated by presidents. I said earlier, John F. Kennedy
loved the 007 thing. He's not alone. Presidents get into office– I use the Shah of Iran as a
good example. Eisenhower comes into office, and he has a very messy problem in Iran.
The Iranian nationalist government, led by Mohammad Mossadegh, is trying to regain
control of Iran's natural resources and actually get money out of the sale of oil from Iran.
A very revolutionary idea; it was a revolutionary idea at the time.

This was seen in the Cold War paradigm as flirting with the Soviet Union, flirting with
fighting the global oil companies. Eisenhower turned to the CIA and said, "What can you
do about it?" And Allen Dulles came up with a plot to overthrow Mossadegh and restore
the Shah.

Eisenhower, after the fact, when Allen Dulles had pulled it off, was astounded. He said,
"This is amazing. I fought Nazi Germany at D-Day and we lost thousands of Americans.
You restored the Shah of Iran without a single American being killed, not even one being
wounded. And at the cost of half-a-million dollars."

There's a natural propensity, then, for presidents to say, "Hey, give me the quick, fast,
cost-free CIA operation that gets me out of Dodge tonight," versus the really hard, let's
change our policy, or let's invade, or something like that.

That's not to say that the CIA isn't capable of coming up with looney-tune operations.
When you create an environment in which the White House is saying, "Solve the world's
problems for us with some clandestine operation," you're going to come up with people
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

who say, "Well, let's put poison in Castro's beard," or, "Let's see if we can arm the
Tibetan rebels to defeat the communist Chinese."

That's where presidents become very important. And presidential leadership, not only in
terms of saying yes or no to an operation, but also in picking the right guy to be the
director of Central Intelligence. I think Kennedy's big mistake, I alluded to at the
beginning, was letting Allen Dulles stay on. Allen Dulles and his director of operations,
Richard Bissell, had spent eight years being cowboys in the Eisenhower administration,
and they thought they could continue being cowboys. He needed someone who was a
little bit more restrained.

Ironically, he picked another Republican, John McCone, who was very hardliner Cold
War era, but much, much more skeptical about covert operations. And he replaced Bissell
with Richard Helms, a career CIA officer, who believed that covert operations by
definition were stupid. Because they never stayed covert. They always became public.
And as Richard Helms told me at one point in his life, he said, "They always become
public at exactly the most awkward moment for you."

TOM PUTNAM: Let me push once more. The action in Guatemala. Using your
reasoning, just because we can do it, and we did that one very effectively, one could
argue that Guatemala still suffers from not having a democracy because we overthrew a
legitimate government because we were able to do something.

BRUCE RIEDEL: And the results of our overthrowing a nationalist, semi-democratic

government in Iran in 1953 haunts us to today.

TOM PUTNAM: Yes, sir?

SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

Q: During the Korean War, you mentioned the Korean War, and then you also
mentioned the Dulles boys. I was in the service during the onset of the Korean War, and
we were briefed at the beginning about how the Dulles boys, the indirect or direct action
that they took unilaterally to sort of provoke the Korean War, something about the
boundary in North and South Korea. Could you shed any light on that?

BRUCE RIEDEL: Sure. The argument is usually about the Truman administration,
which was still in office in 1950. Truman's Secretary of State, I think two months before
the Korean War, drew a defensive line in the Pacific. And he said the United States will
defend Japan, the Philippines, Australia, et cetera. He left out South Korea. And probably
deliberately, because to be fair, at that point, the United States hadn't made a decision it
was going to come to South Korea's defense. But I think a lot of historians, and I would
agree with this, believe that that error sent a signal to Stalin, Mao and the North Korean
dictator, that invading South Korea would be cheap and easy. And they did. And then the
United States–

Q: Who drew the parallel?

BRUCE RIEDEL: The parallel was drawn in 1945 when the Japanese surrendered, and
you had to decide what part of Korea would the Americans occupy and what part would
the Russians.

Q: Who drew the parallel?

BRUCE RIEDEL: The parallel was drawn by American and Russian negotiators.

Q: Yeah, but wasn't there a Dulles boy involved?

SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

BRUCE RIEDEL: Yes, John Foster Dulles was very much involved in the post-war
1945 diplomacy. He was kind of a rising star.

Q: The parallel, sir?

BRUCE RIEDEL: I honestly don't know whether he drew the parallel or not.

Q: I'm pretty sure he was directly involved with it at the time.

TOM PUTNAM: I had a question here.

Q: Thank you very much.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Sure thing.

Q: I had a few questions about the timeline of the November 19th letter from India for
help and the arrival of the naval task force in the Bay of Bengal and the Air Force
operations, test operations training, versus the time that Mao decided to stop his invasion.
Who coordinated that? And did the invasion stop before the arrival of the task force and
the Air Force?

BRUCE RIEDEL: The air lift of supplies by the United States starts in late October.
That's under way as the Chinese are advancing, and intensifies as time goes on. On 19
November, Nehru writes this letter asking for American combat aircraft to come.
Kennedy immediately dispatches an aircraft carrier battle group. Because the Chinese
stopped 48 hours later, the aircraft battle group never arrives in the Bay of Bengal. The
Navy says, "The crisis is over, let's withdraw."
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

There's some confusion in other books about this. Some books say the carrier battle group
did arrive. Navy records are pretty clear – the carrier was dispatched by Kennedy on the
evening of the 19th, but because it's a long sail from South China Sea, where the carrier
was deployed, to the Bay of Bengal, it never got there and never showed up.

The exercise I talk about takes place in the summer of 1963. So more than six months
after the Chinese have stopped. And it's an air exercise; it's what the US military and
other militaries do routinely in a lot of places around the world. But what was unusual
about this is we'd never exercised in India before. And we'd never exercised in India in
this manner, which was basically what Nehru had been asking for in that letter on the 19th
of November.

So six, eight months after the letter, we actually carry out an exercise, which is in
response to the spirit of that letter, but in a different atmosphere, when the war is not
going on.

And the other thing that's I think quite interesting is, we don't do it alone. Most of the
aircraft, most of the crews in that exercise in 1963 are American. But there's a substantial
number of Brits, Canadians and Australians. So what Kennedy had done was ensure that
if there was another war, and the United States came to track to India's defense, we
weren't going to be there alone; we were going to be there with our allies.

TOM PUTNAM: So let me ask the final question, which is: there are really two heroes
to your book. And you've talked primarily about the first, President Kennedy. But the
other is Ambassador Galbraith. And again, just your thoughts. He was an academic from
Harvard. A brilliant writer. And yet, in his moment, he served the role as diplomat and
peacekeeper in an amazing manner. Your final comment about John Kenneth Galbraith.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

BRUCE RIEDEL: I think Galbraith is, as you say, he's the second hero of this book.
With very little oversight from Washington, which he undoubtedly welcomed, but very
little oversight from Washington, he not only served as ambassador to Nehru, he became
Nehru's advisor during this conflict. And became the man who Nehru looked on for
strength. Of course, he had Kennedy behind him, so it was real strength. But he did more
than just serve as a conduit for messages.

His memoirs, as I say, are a delightful book. And despite the fact that he didn't like to be
called arrogant, he was arrogant. And he also knew it. A lot of self-deprecating humor in
the book, including him basically saying, "There's nothing so much fun as a crisis like
this when you're on your own. It's kind of like engaging in a night of drinking and fooling
around with women with no responsibilities the next morning."

These are not the kinds of things that politicians in 2015 would put in one of their books.
But that's why I highly recommend–

He did other things. He published a series of short stories while he was ambassador,
using a pseudonym, which ridiculed the State– I don't mean ridiculed, devastated the
State Department and its kind of mindless bureaucracy. And he got away with it. Because
he was the president's friend and, after two years, he was going back to Harvard. And
that's what he ended up doing.

Q: How tall a man was Galbraith?

BRUCE RIEDEL: I think he was six-foot-five.

Q: Six-eight.

TOM PUTNAM: The book is on sale, and we'll just do the book signing here. So if you
SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

want to go into the bookstore and then bring your books back here, Mr. Riedel would be
happy to sign them.

So we thank you again.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Thank you very much, thank you.