1. Editorial Note

According to Henry Kissinger, “When the Nixon administration took office, our policy objective on the subcontinent was, quite simply, to avoid adding another complication to our agenda.” (Kissinger, White House Years, page 848) As events developed in South Asia, that proved to be an increasingly difficult objective to achieve. A political crisis developed in Pakistan out of Bengali demands for autonomy for East Pakistan, demands which were highlighted by the results of a general election in December 1970. The subsequent crisis, which roiled the subcontinent in conflict from March to December 1971, led to warfare between India and Pakistan, and eventuated in the transition of the east wing of Pakistan into the new nation of Bangladesh. The United States, which was using Pakistan at the time as a conduit in conducting secret negotiations with China, intervened in the crisis to try to prevent fighting between India and Pakistan. When fighting developed, the Nixon administration “tilted” toward Pakistan.

The background to the crisis in Pakistan, and the developing tensions between the United States and India are documented in a companion Internet publication, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972. This publication also documents such bilateral issues as economic and military assistance as well as the aftermath of the crisis. In 1972 the Nixon administration had to weigh the timing of recognition of the new government in Dacca, a decision that bore on relations with Pakistan, and reestablish a working relationship with India, as the dominant power on the subcontinent. Separate internet publications document relations with Afghanistan and with Bangladesh.