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long conversation which ensued, I discussed with Yahya, among other subjects which are reported by septels, the urgent matter of East Pakistan refugees in India.
2. This subject was introduced by my comments to the effect that the continuing influx of refugees from East Pakistan into India currently appeared to be the single most likely cause of escalation of Indo-Pak tensions. I pointed out that GOI's current estimates indicated that there were now over two and a half million East Pakistani refugees in India and that the total was being swelled by approximately one hundred thousand additional refugees per day. I noted that, while these figures might well be subject to further scrutiny, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative, having recently completed survey of the refugee situation, had termed the refugee problem as he saw it to be "monumental" and one which required a major international relief effort.
3. After further general discussion of the subject, I pointed out to Yahya that the USG is very much concerned by the continuation of the refugee flow from East Pakistan into India for two reasons: (a) the broad humanitarian aspects of the matter; and (b) the threat to regional stability which the refugee presence and current daily increase thereto poses. I made note that the possibility of communal disorders in the refugee camp areas is a very real and pressing danger. The conversation continued with my observation that without the creation of normal conditions in the East, a renewed sense of physical security among the Hindu community, and a patent movement with substance behind it toward a peaceful political accommodation, it could be reasonably expected that the refugee problem will continue. I added that we have been urging restraint on the Indians, emphasizing the need to depoliticize the refugee question. It is our impression that the Indians want the people to return to their homes and are deeply concerned about the potentially harmful impact of the refugee influx, especially on West Bengal.
"Farland also took up with Yahya on May 22 the "sensitive issue" of the reported mistreatment of Hindus in East Pakistan by the Pakistani Army. Farland warned that if such reports were accurate, publication in the United States of accounts of the persecution of Hindus in East Pakistan would make it difficult for the Nixon administration to continue to support Pakistan. A greater danger, Farland said, was the reaction of India to the grievances Hindu refugees were undoubtedly airing in West Bengal. Farland warned that the mistreatment of Hindus in East Pakistan would strengthen the hands of those in India who favored military action against Pakistan. Yahya responded that Farland had apparently been listening to some "overly provocative comments" broadcast by the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting System. Farland said that his information came from the Consulate in Dacca which had received the reports from "authenticated sources.” Yahya assured Farland that if Hindus were being mistreated “it was not taking place under government policy or government sanction" and he would rectify the matter. (Telegram 1187 from Karachi, May 22; ibid., POL 23–9 PAK)
4. With this as background I strongly urged that the President take the constructive step of personally issuing a statement to the effect that GOP was seized with the matter of international humanitarian relief assistance; was actively involved in improving food distribution in East Pakistan; was attempting to effect political reconciliation through the East wing; and would seriously welcome the early return of refugees, a welcome enforced by the grant of general amnesty to those free of capital crime who had fled to India. I stated that coupled with measures toward peaceful accommodation with Bengalis and the return to more normal conditions in East Pakistan such a statement, emanating from President himself, could serve as an important element in encouraging refugees, including Hindus, to return to their homes in the East. It would also testify to the GOP's good intentions with regard to finding a resolution to the refugee problem. Also I made note of the fact that by putting the above courses of action in one general statement he would have real impact thus helping GOP world-wide position much more dramatically than dribbling out various actions on piecemeal basis. Yahya was left well aware that this suggestion was made with idea in mind of helping him improve his and his government's whole public posture throughout the world.
5. Having said this, I indicated that the USG would be interested in any views that the GOP might have on how the refugee flow could be checked.
6. President Yahya said that he tended to disagree with GOI's current estimate that there were now over two and one-half million East Pakistani refugees in India, but that the GOP was aware of the fact that a substantial number of people had crossed the border and that the problem was both real and substantial. He went on to argue however that over the past three or four years there had been an influx of "refugees" into East Pakistan in a number approximating a half a million people and that this movement had neither been admitted by India nor bemoaned by the world press.
7. President Yahya stated that he appreciated fully the USG's concern in the refugee flow for the reasons which I had stated. He was defensive, however, concerning my observed possibility of communal disorders in the refugee camp areas, saying that GOI made so little of communal disorders that it had found it convenient not even to answer his government's notes of protests. Also, while discussing this subject, President Yahya reiterated the GOP's version of India's involvement in the secessionist movement and in armed infiltration into East Pakistan.
8. I again told President Yahya that I was aware of his government's position but that irrespective of the causes, the problem existed and the refugee flow must be checked. He agreed that ramifications
which could ensue from this situation were patently of great seriousness, and he indicated that he recognized the validity of my observations. He alluded to his comments made earlier in the conversation (reported septel-President Yahya's observations on Pakistan political situation) and said that an earnest effort at peaceful political accommodation would be undertaken; this, he observed, should have an ameliorating effect on the problem. He added that he hoped the United States would continue to urge restraint on India since the arms and ammunition supplied to infiltrators, both Indian and Bengalis, and the training being given in guerrilla warfare in camps along and just inside the Indian border, all combined to prevent a return to normalcy.
9. Regarding the issuance of a statement as suggested (see para 4), President Yahya first asked what I thought of his comments issued in the morning press. I told him that, in my opinion, they lacked substance regarding the approach to the principal question, and that the thrust appeared to be directed primarily towards an attack on India. I then reiterated the key points of my suggestion and again urged it upon him. President Yahya indicated that I had [made] my point and that he would think seriously upon it.
7 Document 53.
* A statement issued by Yahya on May 21 encouraged refugees to return to their homes in East Pakistan where, he assured them, law and order had been restored. Yahya accused India of exploiting the refugee problem in order to justify interference in Pakistan's internal affairs. (Telegram 5044 from Islamabad, May 22; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, REF PAK)
Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President
May 23, 1971, 2:30 p.m.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]
K: Yesterday, Mr. President, I didn't have a chance to talk to you about it, because we were both in transit. We have reports that the Indians are massing troops at the Pakistan border
P: Which one, East or West?
K: East. And I asked Alex [Johnson] let Keating tell the Indians that whatever the problem is and while we were keeping our hands off and while we were willing to help humanitarian efforts, we were strongly opposed to military action.
P: We certainly will; if they go in there with military action, by God we will cut off economic aid.
K: And that is the last thing we can afford now to have the Pakistan government overthrown, given the other things we are doing.
P: And also they have got to know that if [sic] what is in jeopardy here is economic aid. That is what is in jeopardy.
K: And there is absolutely no justification for it—they don't have a right to invade Pakistan no matter what Pakistan does in its territory. Besides the killing has stopped.
P: It has quieted down.
K: Oh yes. It may not be a tenable situation in the long term, but again that is not for India to decide.
[Omitted here is the remainder of the discussion, which is unrelated to South Asia.]
1 Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 396, Telephone Conversations, Home File, May-Nov 1971. No classification marking. President Nixon was in Key Biscayne, Florida; Kissinger called from his home in the Georgetown section of Washington.
Letter From Pakistani President Yahya to President Nixon1
Rawalpindi, May 24, 1971.
Dear Mr. President,
I appreciate greatly the constructive and friendly contents of your letter2 of May 7, 1971. I am also grateful to you for receiving Mr. M.M. Ahmad and listening to him on my behalf. He has informed me of the courtesy and the understanding shown to him by you personally and by your colleagues, particularly Secretary Rogers and Dr. Kissinger.
2. I greatly value and welcome the sentiments of friendship and assurance of your personal support for the renewal of our national development effort and the resumption of normal economic activity throughout Pakistan. This is characteristic of your Government's readiness to come to our assistance whenever needed.
3. It is also a matter of great satisfaction for us to know of your sympathetic comprehension of our manifold problems and difficulties. In particular, it is gratifying to learn that you share our view that it is to no one's advantage to permit the situation in East Pakistan to be internationalised and that any foreign intervention in this situation could create new problems and compound the difficulty of securing an ultimate settlement.
4. I take this opportunity, Mr. President, to reaffirm my resolve to transfer power to a civilian government at the earliest possible [time]. For this purpose, I have initiated, once again, consultations with political leaders and elected representatives of the people and I hope to announce at an early date the outlines of my further plans. I have no doubt in my mind that with the support of the responsible leadership in the country, we would be able to resolve the present constitutional impasse.
5. Mr. President, our plans for national reconstruction cannot materialise so long as India follows a policy of open and constant interference in our internal affairs. It was not a matter of mere coincidence that the present crisis in Indo-Pakistan relations started when Pakistan was at the threshold of ushering in a democratically elected government. By arranging a hijacking incident, India sought justification for its decision to ban overflights of our aircraft. Thus, a situation was
1 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 759, Presidential Correspondence File, Pakistan (1971). No classification marking. Sent under cover of a letter from Ambassador Hilaly to Saunders on May 27. (Ibid.)
2 Document 41.