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Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
Washington, March 4, 1971.
Situation in Pakistan
Overnight reports from Pakistan indicate that the situation in East Pakistan is deteriorating. The following are the new developments:
—Mujibur Rahman seems to have virtually slammed the door on the possibility of East-West accommodation by categorically rejecting President Yahya's plan to hold a conference of the major political leaders on March 10.
-Mujib has admitted to several foreign correspondents "off the record" that he will announce the equivalent to independence for East Pakistan on Sunday. He did, however, go on to say that the East and West wings should write their respective constitutions and thereafter discussions over the form of linkage could take place. [This leaves the door open to some sort of confederal relationship and is the reason we advocate-via your talking points3-not jumping too soon to recognition of East Pakistani independence.]*
-At least one Pakistani air force C-130 has been seen flying into Dacca and there are recurrent reports of forces being flown into Dacca via the Pakistani commercial airline and of the movement of troops from the West via ship. These reports can not be confirmed but it is known that there is pressure from some elements in the military to make a quick repressive strike against the East Pakistani leaders in hopes of cowing them and the rest of the province. [The contingency
1 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71-15 May 71. Secret. Sent for information.
2 March 7.
3 Reference is to talking points developed for Kissinger in a March 6 memorandum from Saunders, Hoskinson, and Richard Kennedy to prepare Kissinger for a meeting of the Senior Review Group that day. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-052, SRG Meeting, Pakistan, 3/6/71)
4 All brackets in the source text.
paper says intervention is "very unlikely". This seems less and less true. CIA working level judges that the East would respond with further violence rather than surrender.]
-The East Pakistanis in the embassy here have approached State concerning their relations with the Department following a “declaration of independence." They expect to be expelled from the chancery and the current DCM, who is an East Pakistani, would then become the Chargé of a new embassy.
These developments just heighten my concern—which I know you fully share of postponement of discussion of this issue. Regrettably, State just has not given this issue the attention it deserves. That is why we wrote the NSSM three weeks ago. Only because of our prodding is there a contingency paper today. As for the notion that this is not a policy issue, I can not believe that the repartition of South Asia after twenty-three years is not a policy issue of major proportions. State has not objected to dealing with this in the NSC framework so far.
5 Reference is to the response to NSSM 118 prepared by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia. The contingency study on Pakistan was sent to Kissinger on March 2 by Joseph Sisco as chairman of the interdepartmental group. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 1 PAK-US) It was circulated to members of the Senior Review Group on March 3 (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-052, SRG Meeting, 3/6/71) Regarding NSSM 118, see footnote 5, Document 2.
Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1
Washington, March 6, 1971, 11:40 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Chairman-Henry A. Kissinger
1 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. A briefer record of the meeting, prepared by Brigadier General Devol Brett of OSD, is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 74, Pakistan 092 (Jan-Jul) 1971.
-discuss the situation with the British to see if they would take the lead in an approach to West Pakistan to discourage the use of force, if it should become necessary;
-advise our missions at Dacca and Islamabad of our thinking and instruct Dacca, if they receive an approach from Mujib on recognition of a separate East Pakistan regime, to say nothing and refer it to Washington;
-consult by telephone on Sunday, March 7 following word on Mujib's speech.
Mr. Kissinger: I thought we might have a brief discussion of what may be ahead and what our basic choices may be. I assume we will know something tomorrow.
Mr. Johnson: We have a good interagency contingency paper.
Mr. Johnson: We're already on page 7 of that paper* so far as events go. I would like to make two points. First, this is not an East-West, or a US-Soviet, or a US-Indian confrontation. The US, USSR and India all have an interest in the continued unity of Pakistan and have nothing to gain from a break-up. Second, we have no control over the events which will determine the outcome, and very little influence. We will
2 Reference is to a speech Mujibur Rahman was scheduled to deliver in Dacca on
3 See footnote 5, Document 5.
* Page 7 of the contingency study introduced the question of what the U.S. posture would be if the secession of East Pakistan appeared to be imminent.
know better what the issues are tomorrow after Mujibur Rahman's speech. Yahya's speech today was described by our Embassy as a mixture of sugar and bile. If the issue is postponed for a few days, we don't face any immediate problem. If Mujib should come to us and tell us he plans to make a unilateral declaration of independence and ask what our attitude would be, we would then face the issue of what to say. If Yahya carries out his declaration on the use of force against East Pakistan, we would have to decide what attitude to adopt. The judgement of all of us is that with the number of troops available to Yahya (a total of 20,000, with 12,000 combat troops) and a hostile East Pakistan population of 75 million, the result would be a blood-bath with no hope of West Pakistan reestablishing control over East Pakistan. In this event, we would be interested in bringing about a cessation of hostilities, but the question of whether we or others should take the lead remains to be seen. We are talking with the British this afternoon about the situation. Mujib has unparalleled political control, capturing 160 of the 162 seats up for grabs in the last election. And he is friendly toward the US. In West Pakistan, Bhutto is almost unparalleledly unfriendly to the US. While we have maintained a posture of hoping the country can be brought together and its unity preserved, the chances of doing so now are extremely slight. It is only a question of time and circumstances as to how they will split, and to what degree the split is complete or may be papered over in some vague confederal scheme. I plan to send something out today to give our people in Dacca and Islamabad the flavor of our thinking in terms of the pros and cons, and to instruct Dacca, if they are approached by Mujib, to stall and refer to Washington. We can then make a decision on our reply in the light of the circumstances at the time. In general, we would like to see unity preserved. If it cannot be, we would like to see the split take place with the least possible bloodshed or disorder. If Mujib approaches us, we will have to walk a tightrope between making him think we are giving him the cold shoulder and not encouraging him to move toward a split if any hope remains for a compromise.
Mr. Van Hollen: There are three possibilities for Mujib tomorrow: a unilateral declaration of independence; something just short of that— possibly a suggestion for two separate constitutions; or acceptance of Yahya's proposal that the National Assembly meet on March 25.
5 In a radio address on March 6, Yahya announced that he had decided to convene the National Assembly on March 25. He concluded the speech by warning that as long as he was in charge of the armed forces he would defend the integrity of Pakistan. (Telegram 1957 from Islamabad, March 6; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL PAK) The Embassy's comments on the speech were reported in telegram 1963 from Islamabad, March 6. (Ibid.)
6 Telegram 38122 to Islamabad and Dacca, March 6. (Ibid.)
Mr. Kissinger: But doesn't Mujib control the Assembly?
Mr. Kissinger: Why wouldn't the convening of the National Assembly on March 25 be acceptable to East Pakistan? They control the Assembly and nothing can pass without them.
Mr. Van Hollen: They may interpret it as another stalling tactic by Yahya.
Mr. Kissinger: If they accept the proposal for an Assembly meeting, we have no foreign policy problem.
Mr. Johnson: I agree; the temperature drops.
Mr. Kissinger: What would be the motive for a declaration of independence?
Mr. Van Hollen: There has been movement in East Pakistan in that direction which was intensified by Yahya's postponement of the National Assembly meeting that was scheduled for last Wednesday. Also, they have interpreted Yahya's speech yesterday as being particularly hardline, blaming Mujib for the situation and threatening the use of force.
Mr. Kissinger: I agree that force won't work.
Mr. Van Hollen: Yes, but they might try.
Mr. Helms: To coin a phrase, Yahya's attitude is that he did not become President of Pakistan to preside over the dissolution of the Pakistan state.
Mr. Kissinger: What force do they have?
Mr. Helms: 20,000 troops.
Mr. Kissinger: Would East Pakistan resist? What is their population?
Mr. Johnson: 75 million, and they would resist. Also, West Pakistan would not be allowed to overfly India.
Mr. Kissinger: It would be impossible. They would have to reinforce by ship.
Mr. Johnson: They have some C-130's which could fly around India by refueling in Ceylon.
Mr. Kissinger: Ceylon wouldn't let them, would they?
Mr. Van Hollen: They do it now, but they might not if circumstances should change.
Mr. Noyes: India would put pressure on Ceylon to refuse.