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Minister (State 56327).10 Nonetheless, I believe that, in the present circumstances, we should be somewhat more willing than we have been heretofore to express our thoughts with controlled candor to the main parties concerned. The human and political problems that are likely to ensue from prolonged violence in East Pakistan and/or from Indian intervention argue cogently for less reluctance on our part about using our influence with India and Pakistan toward preventing further deterioration of political and economic conditions in South Asia.
Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State
Islamabad, April 8, 1971, 1105Z. 3228. Subj: Assessment of Pak Situation. Ref: State 591062 (Notal).
1. Summary: Following is Embassy's current assessment. Since struggle on ground remains inconclusive, appraisal tentative and subject revision in light changing developments in East Pakistan.
2. Two weeks after Yahya sent army into action, Pak military has control major cities in east, but Bengalis still hold major areas, especially in countryside. If resistance continues into June when monsoon begins,
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Dacca, Kabul, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New Delhi, Rangoon, USUN, Colombo, and Tehran. A copy of this telegram was sent by Saunders and Hoskinson to Kissinger on April 8 as "useful to read" prior to the Senior Review Group meeting scheduled for that afternoon. The meeting took place on April 9. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-053, SRG Meeting, Pakistan, 4/9/71)
2 Telegram 59106 to Islamabad, April 8, reported on a conversation on April 7 between Assistant Secretary Sisco and Ambassador Hilaly. Hilaly offered a hopeful prognosis for political developments in East Pakistan. He anticipated that the Martial Law Administration would be willing to concede on the Awami League's six-point agenda, with minor adjustments. He also noted that Yahya had reiterated his intention to transfer power to a provincial government in East Pakistan, and he speculated that the change would take place within the next few months. Hilaly did not feel that the arrest of Mujibur Rahman or the outlawing of the Awami League would significantly effect the political outcome in East Pakistan. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK) Pak army will face major logistical and operational difficulties. However, if resistance crumbles in next two months, military should be able assert control of province, at least for short and possibly medium term.
3. Over long run, Embassy continues believe West Paks will be unable to maintain their hold over East Pakistan. In time, renewed resistance likely emerge. Breach between wings now too deep to permit reconciliation although we expect MLA will make try, possibly along lines Hilaly suggests. In short, we believe Hilaly prognosis, as would be expected, is overly optimistic, reflecting official GOP line rather than current unclear situation on ground. End summary.
4. Two weeks after President Yahya Khan ordered Pak army into action in Dacca and elsewhere in East Pakistan, it is now clear that operation has not been breeze which Pak military leadership had expected. From info available here, army controls Dacca and Chittagong and number of towns, but even though Sheikh Mujib is reportedly in prison at Attock Fort in West Pakistan, his supporters still hold major parts of East Pak countryside.
5. First question is whether army will be able succeed in spreading control outside of major urban centers and in breaking back of organized Bengali resistance. For moment, Awami Leaguers appear to have rallied Bengali Nationalists in western half of East Pakistan (i.e., area west of Ganges River) and in northeast Bengal areas close to India border. Disaffected elements of East Bengal regiment, East Pakistan rifles and police providing Nationalists with limited military capability. Total EBR and EPR strength before March 26 only 15,000 and presumably much lower now after casualties suffered in Dacca and Chittagong fighting and desertions. Bengalis reportedly sabotaged road and rail links and also destroyed some ferries. Net effect has been to restrict mobility West Pak forces and to isolate outlying garrisons like troops at Jessore which reportedly cut off except for air re-supply.
6. If army fails to destroy Bengali insurgency capability before monsoon breaks in June, West Paks will shortly face major problems. Once monsoon begins, much of East Pakistan will be under water. Land communication will become increasingly difficult. Long and virtually wide-open border with India will offer insurgents both source for supplies and safehaven. Indians already providing covert help and flow of supplies can be expected to increase once Indians build up pipeline. At same time, West Paks will have major logistical difficulties not only in moving around East Pakistan but in maintaining flow of supplies from West. Loss of air landing rights in Ceylon or Indian interference with sea traffic could rupture supply lines and render military position for extended operation untenable.
7. If army does succeed in crushing organized resistance, it should be able establish semblance control over East for short and possibly medium term. MLA can be expected try to rally “loyalist" East Paks using alleged "Indian interference" as means to evoke support. West Paks also likely try to cut ground out from under Awami League by launching major effort to alleviate Bengali economic grievances. Mission contacts among GOP economists in Islamabad have already suggested that this likely to be GOP strategy. Ten-man team has just departed for East to assess economic situation.
8. We, however, extremely doubtful about chances that GOP can regain loyalty of East Paks and believe Hilaly wrong on this fundamental point. Indian bogey likely to be seen by most East Paks for what it largely is—attempt to divert attention from West Paks' own deeds. West Paks in no financial position to defray costs for economic program of size needed. More important, events of past two weeks have left such severe emotional scars that it hard to conceive that anything West Paks can now do will make most Bengalis willing citizens of Pakistan. Bengali grievances now etched in blood.
9. Even if West Paks win short-term victory, Bengali resistance movement likely in time revive. In early stages, such activity might consist of random acts of terror and harassment of West Pak troops and/or "quislings." However, movement likely gain momentum. For present, Awami Leaguers leading resistance forces. If AL movement crumbles before it able consolidate position on ground, resistance movement likely to pass to more radical and left extremist groups such as Naxalites.
10. Our prognosis regarding West Pakistan's prospects for holding East remains unchanged from views expressed previously. Even if army able crush current resistance, we continue believe military cannot maintain control over long term. Regardless of short-term developments, in time West Pak military likely become bogged down in hopeless morass. Yahya's military intervention March 26, hower justified from his standpoint, probably ensures very thing which move designed to prevent-disintergration of Pakistan.
11. Meanwhile, Yahya faces decision of how and when to replace current MLA set-up which clearly not satisfactory long-term governmental arrangement. In East, it hard to see what he can do until situation on ground clarifies. If army gains sufficient control, it may wish appoint some civilian “advisers" although it probably more likely that martial law administration will continue for extended period.
12. In West, there is pressure from peoples' party for establishment some form civilian government. Bhutto has told ConGen Karachi (Karachi 673) that he hopes for provincial governments in West which might be held out as example for which East Pakistan could strive. However, army leadership may be uneasy about idea of leftist peoples' party ruling the Punjab and Sind. In addition, army may worry about traditionally troublesome Baluchistan where National Awami Party (Wali group) largest party. NAP had close links with Awami League and wants broad provincial autonomy.
3 Dated March 31. (Ibid.)
13. On balance, we think Yahya will take some steps to set up semblance of civilian government, both to defuse potentially troublesome situation in West and as may try undercut foreign criticism of his action against Awami League. However, any arrangement likely be much less democratic then prospect Yahya offered people of Pakistan during
14. In addition possibilities of provincial ministries mentioned above, Yahya may, as Hilaly has speculated, form new central cabinet with number tame Bengali ministers, including possible Prime Minister, such as Nurul Amin whom MLA sources told us last summer would make “good” PM. Emphasis such approach would be on return to normalcy and effort to spur reconciliation between East and West.
15. Role of Z.A. Bhutto and his PPP in such set-up is important. Bhutto is eager for power and he may be prepared make deal with military to play key, if not leading role, in new central government. Given conservative orientation of military leadership, such governmenteven with Bhutto in cabinet-would probably amount to Ayubism without Ayub. At same time, we think Bhutto would insist that regime implement some of his campaign platform reforms as means of reducing potential for economic and social discontent in West Pakistan.
16. It also possible that Yahya may concede much of six points in eventual constitutional arrangement although we highly skeptical Bengalis will gain substance of genuine economic autonomy which has heart of six points. Under any constitutional arrangement which MLA likely grant, central government will retain control on all aspects of foreign affairs, including aid and trade, and will have ability to provide adequate financing for defense forces. West Pak establishment is now not about to give up voluntarily what it has engaged to protect by the bayonet.
Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting
Washington, April 9, 1971, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
[Omitted here are conclusions relating to Ceylon.]
It was agreed:
(1) to prepare a memorandum for the President on the implications of the provision of emergency food to West Pakistan;
(2) that the IG would continue with preparation of a paper outlining the dilemma, which would be considered by the SRG and by the NSC;
(3) that a draft reply to Yahya's letter to the President should be prepared and held in readiness if the President should ask for it;
(4) to have another SRG meeting next Wednesday or Thursday (April 14–15) to consider the IG paper.
[Omitted here is discussion relating to Ceylon.]
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. No drafting information is provided on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. According to Kissinger's appointment book, the meeting took place from 11:12 a.m. to 12:24 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)
See Document 16.