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166. Telegram From the Consulate General in Karachi to the
Department of State
Karachi, October 11, 1971, 1344Z.
2029. From Chargé. Subject: Pres. Yahya on Mujib and on Talks With BD Leadership. Ref: Karachi 2028.?
1. After introducing subject of Mujib in connection with proposed GOP direct discussions with BD leadership (reftel), I recalled to Pres Yahya during conversation Oct 11 his recent talks with Amb Farland regarding Mujib. I referred specifically to possibility of Mujib's serving as “trump card" and asked whether he might tell me anything further in that regard. Yahya noted that Mujib's trial was still going on. If he were convicted, court would sentence him to punishment which would conceivably be death. Matter would then come before Yahya who had presidential power to modify court's judgement. As he had already told us, he did not intend to permit any death sentence to be carried out. With early formation of civilian government, that government (which would presumably have East Pak majority) would then have task of dealing with Mujib's future.
2. I said there were obvious problems but asked whether there was possibility of Yahya's revealing anything of his thinking along above lines to larger audience before too long. Mujib's role seemed to be a crucial issue, for example, with regard initiation any direct talks between GOP and BD leadership. I recalled that Yahya had told us he is prepared have GOP participate in such talks. We have recent indications that various pressures on BD leadership in Calcutta have inhibited any progress toward initiating talks, and one of their primary concerns seems to be that Mujib should have role.
3. Yahya responded that there were limits on his freedom of action. He pointed to predominant West Pak public opinion damning Mujib, and opined that not a single West Pak political leader would welcome an act to free Mujib and negotiate with him. Even the East Pak political chiefs with whom he has been talking in recent months, including respected elder leader Nurul Amin, had raised specter of return to pre-March situation which they said would result in terrible violence among East Pakistanis. As for himself, Yahya went on, if he now indicated that Mujib should be pardoned, people will ask why there had had to be so much sorrow and trouble and would raise question
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA-PAK. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
2 Document 165.
why Yahya should remain in office. Personally he did not hanker for power, but he had duty to deal with critical problems which his country faced. Yahya added he is not a ruthless person but a normal human being. He has no personal rancor against Mujib but he cannot disregard facts of recent history.
4. This portion of our conversation was conducted with no indication of any annoyance on Yahya's part that he was being pressed on what is perhaps most highly sensitive issue facing him in eyes of world opinion. On contrary he responded calmly in stating pressures weighing on him and his rationale for current stance. He appeared to wish leave impression he was man with rather little choice but to do what he is doing.
167. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of
New Delhi, October 12, 1971, 1859Z.
15988. Subject: Risks of War in Indo-Pak Confrontation. Ref: State 185010.2
1. Summary: Prime Minister Gandhi being immediately unavailable, I met October 12 with Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and Foreign Secretary Kaul to make presentation per reftel. Foreign Minister (a) claimed East Pakistan insurgency profoundly rooted in Bengali alienation and has own dynamic, not dependent upon India; (b) argued insurgency exists deep within East Pakistan and significance of cross-border activities easily exaggerated and any event GOI cannot shoot down East Bengalis entering or departing India; (c) noted how long insurgency will be prolonged and whether it leads to Pak attack upon India depends upon GOP; (d) stressed insurgency is caused basically by Pak military repression to which Mukti Bahini (MB) is reac
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA-PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad, London, Moscow, Tehran, Bonn, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, USUN, Calcutta, Dacca, Bombay, and Madras. This telegram was summarized on October 13 by the National Security Council staff in a memorandum for Kissinger to use in briefing the President on October 14. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 570, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, October 1–24, 1971)
tion. Foreign Minister (a) expressed strong resentment at any suggestion East Pakistan insurgency being maintained by India; (b) took exception to any implication that MB successes could justify Pak attack upon
India and in such event that Indo-American relations need be adversely affected; (c) noted impression US continues to fail to appreciate psychological factors in present crisis despite GOI efforts to explain in New York, Washington and New Delhi; (d) charged US support to GOP strengthens Yahya regime determination to maintain military repression policy; and (e) concluded US has heavy responsibility to exercise its "great influence" with GOP. Foreign Minister confirmed our impressions (a) GOI probably does not currently anticipate MB crossborder operations on scale suggested reftel; and (b) GOI most probably does not presently plan to use Indian army for diversionary strategy noted reftel which Swaran Singh termed “pin pricks." Foreign Minister asserted in event GOP agreed to withdraw military forces from Indo-Pak borders, GOI could reconsider situation in light circumstances at that time. End summary.
2. I opened with expression my gratification at being received by busy Foreign Minister on short notice and my disappointment that Prime Minister Gandhi had been too busy to see me. Swaran Singh said if I must see Mrs. Gandhi she would be back in two or three days, but I noted my prior scheduled departure for the US. I noted that for first time in my experience I had been explicitly instructed by Washington to express to Prime Minister, as her appointments secretary was informed, USG concern over increasing risks of war in South Asia as consequence of East Bengal events. With end of monsoon, there are movements of Indian and Pak armor in East and West and reports of possible mass cross-border operations by MB. I noted GOI and GOP protestations they do not want war and would not be first to initiate hostilities. My personal conviction is this true as regards India, and I have so advised Washington. Nonetheless, reports point to critical situation where conflict could break out.
3. I told Foreign Minister in addition we have specific report MB plans inject 40,000 armed men across border by October 15 with 20,000 more by end October. According to this report this would be accomplished with support of Indian army diversionary actions to keep Pak forces off balance while the infiltration took place. MB effort of this dimension could not be accomplished without GOI support. US concerned Pak forces would respond militarily against India to any such operation. Thus, situation as reported has large potential for major confrontation which we must continue assume India does not want and does not see serving its larger interests.
4. I pointed out India as sovereign nation must of course make decision in own best interest but US strongly urges GOI act immediately to reduce these risks by efforts with the MB to restrict cross-border operations. We recognize major responsibility for Indo-Pak peace rests with GOP. No one could claim India started this mess. However, we feel GOI also has major responsibility to try to keep situation from deteriorating into war evolving from cross-border operations with serious effect on Indo-US relations.
5. Foreign Minister interrupted to ask whether he understood correctly if armed conflict takes place as a result of Pak incursions against India in retaliation successful guerrilla activity in East Pakistan, IndoUS relations would be adversely affected and whether it also would be injurious to US-Pak relations. I replied, large cross-border activities supported by Indian army which resulted in military conflict with Pakistan would be injurious to Indo-US relations. This I said differed somewhat from formulation in Foreign Minister's question. My instructions assumed if India were aggressor against Pakistan under the formulation I had stated there would be serious effects upon Indian-American relations just as if Pakistan were to attack India, I was convinced USPak relations similarly would be seriously affected.
6. I continued if dangers of immediate conflict are to be reduced meaningfully, we believe there must be reduction in level of military confrontation by (a) curbing all parties involved in cross-border operations on eastern and western Indo-Pak borders and (b) pulling back Indian and Pakistani military forces some distance from respective borders. I added hope Foreign Minister would not charge me with equating India and Pakistan if I advised him US had made same suggestion to GOP at highest level. US fully recognizes major responsibilities in current crisis rest with GOP. We informing Islamabad in strongest terms it should avoid actions that could lead to war and particularly any form of military action against India. We also urging GOP move rapidly in political settlement which all recognize essential if crisis to be dealt with at roots. In our view, this will require dialogue between GOP and Bangla Desh leadership which we have strongly recommended to GOP and continue to believe GOI can help facilitate.
7. Foreign Minister said since I departing soon for US he wished take opportunity to clarify perspective. He said it can be very misleading to break into chain of events at any one point in attempt to understand what has led Pakistan and India to present predicament. Basic realities are (a) Pak military repression unleashed six months ago continues; (b) refugee influx continues with September average 33,000 daily and recently up to 42,000, and current total in India of 9.5 million; (c) hard core of MB insurgency is formed by trained former Bengali military and police personnel totaling approximately 45,000, and highly motivated embittered East Bengali youth participating in insurgency in large numbers. If from 9.5 million refugees only one percent or 95,000 are highly motivated activists, these plus former Bengali police and military would total around 150,000 insurgents, which reasonable figure and one used by Pak Ambassador Hilaly on TV in Washington. Moreover, Swaran Singh said, insurgents are reasonably well equipped with weapons taken upon defection or otherwise liberated from Pak army, as well as with weaponry purchased in Europe by fairly large number of well-to-do Bengalis living abroad. Singh stated GOI cannot stop these activities; it has tried to explain basic realities and greatly resents natural process of growing Bengali resistance being interpreted by US as bolstered from India. He said, “We have uneasy feeling US is saying if Mukti Bahini succeeds in inflicting serious blow upon Pak army, GOP will be justified in striking back against India.”
, I interjected that I did not mean to convey that impression. I pointed out that I laid stress on diversionary activities by Indian army in support of MB operations. Furthermore US is pointing to danger of what might happen, not suggesting justification any such eventuality. Singh expressed gratification for clarification. He maintained most daily operations take place deep within East Pakistan and are not cross-border in character, for example, recent actions against ocean shipping and strikes in Dacca and in Chittagong. He said, “Trans-border operations are not whole picture. We cannot stop refugee influx into India nor return of some for whatever purpose into East Pakistan. We cannot shoot people down coming or going. With your vast intelligence resources you must be familiar with conditions in East Pakistan where there no effective border guards. India cannot prevent movement of such people and does not have heart to attempt to do so. It not quite correct to describe situation in which MB gaining strength as cross-border. If 40,000 Mukti Bahini are in India as alleged then still 100,000 are within East Pakistan."
8. Swaran Singh urged US consider profound, alienated attitudes of Bengalis demonstrated by defections of well-placed Pak diplomats, including most recently Pak Ambassador in Buenos Aires. History knows no parallel and situation demonstrates even hard-eyed diplomats taking decision. GOI impression is such psychological factors are not appreciated in US which is blinded by charisma of military regime in Pakistan. History will demonstrate US has greatest responsibility in present situation since support for GOP has contributed to hardening and continuation of Pak military policy of repression. Even at this late date, GOI appears to us to exercise all influence which it surely has to bring GOP to sensible view even in its own interest. Meanwhile East Bengali alienation is deepening.
9. Foreign Minister reiterated it contrary to reality to argue MB action could justify Pak reaction against India. In truth MB is itself a reaction to continuing root cause, i.e., Pak military repression. If MB succeeds it will be easy to say India responsible, but GOI strongly resents implication and is greatly disturbed that realities of situation are not