100. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Talk with President Yahya

In Your Absence

Following the postponement of your departure Saturday,2 there was an increase in general skepticism in Islamabad about your illness. Prior to the news of postponement, Saturday morningʼs papers had focused in low-key front-page box on your indisposition and in larger story on my talks with Sufi and Ahmad. Sunday morning Pakistani papers simply print another box saying that you will be going on to Paris today.

The papers have carried the following on your appointments in Nathiagali: Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan has been with you the whole time. General Hamid flew up for lunch with you (Deputy Chief of Martial Law Administration and Chief of Staff who was also at dinner Thursday evening) Friday. Saturday, Defense Minister Ghiasuddin Ahmad is reported to have flown up for lunch. In Islamabad, I was reported to have called on Mr. Sufi,3 who explained the food situation in the East (he is Presidential adviser on food and agriculture), and on M.M. Ahmad,4 who explained plans for rehabilitation and development in East Pakistan.

The main speculation among the skeptics on your change of plans is that you have been playing some sort of mediation role between India and Pakistan.

What Yahya Will Say This Afternoon

The result of your first dayʼs talks was an apparent Pakistani decision to produce a comprehensive package on the refugee question. [Page 247] Hilaly told me yesterday afternoon that Yahya was holding a meeting this morning to put together a package for you to take back to President Nixon. Presumably that will be given to you at your meeting this afternoon5 with a request for US diplomatic support, both in the consortium capitals and in New Delhi.

The package, I surmise, will collect things that the Pakistanis were already considering doing:

  • Yahya plans to announce appointment of a senior civil servant (sounds like a Bengali elder statesman) to oversee all elements of the refugee program. According to Ahmad, he would have to be responsible directly to the President and would have authority to order the military to desist from excesses. (Whether this is possible remains a question mark.)
  • —They may draw together and repeat all past statements on nondiscrimination for Hindus, amnesty, property restitution and security.
  • —They might show some recognition of the food problem. Since they have asked us now to begin moving our PL 480 stocks again, they could look to that to dramatize that food is again moving through the ports. (They have been disappointed in the response of the international community to their appeal for help in transportation.)
  • —They could include the essence of Ahmadʼs interim development plan which would focus on East Pakistan development, mobilization of resources via taxation and exchange reform. (These are three of the four points emphasized by AID, the other being decreased emphasis on military spending which Ahmad seems to feel he cannot do right now.)
  • —They may call for Indian cooperation in all this.

Although I do not know exactly how they will formulate this package, what Hilaly and Ahmad were talking about yesterday seems okay as far as it goes. It is an effort to be responsive to your suggestion for a package to separate the refugee issue from the question of political settlement and hopefully to buy time.

Points for You to Stress

However, there are two points to be made when Yahya gives this to you:

First is the need for energetic follow-up. There has to be a sense of real movement not just the appearance of movement. This may require a hard prod at U Thant since the UN man in East Pakistan is moving much too slowly.
The real point will be much more difficult to make. You have suggested this package as a means of trying to separate the refugee issue from the question of final political arrangements in East Pakistan. However, Sultan Khan is right when he questions whether the Indians will let the Paks (or the US) get away with separating the two issues.

Recalling your talk with Foreign Minister Singh, you may wish to tell Yahya that the Indian leadership is not posing specific conditions for a political settlement and would accept any that is “non-military and non-communal.” (Presumably this means civil administration— the Indians would like establishment of elected government—and clear absence of bias against Hindus.)

Talking Points

You might make the above points this way:

You are glad to see the Pakistanis pulling their steps together in a package that can be presented as a comprehensive approach toward a refugee solution. It is important that this be followed up energetically.
You will recommend to the President that the U.S. support each of these steps diplomatically. One element in the U.S. response might be to resume food shipments.
It is also important that special attention be given to following up with a good presentation to the Consortium. You will do what you can with McNamara, but it will be tough going with him and with our Congress and public.
The key issue obviously is the terms of political accommodation. You have not presumed to get into this. In fact, you have suggested preparation of a package of steps on the refugee problem in order to try to separate that from the issue of political arrangements in East Pakistan. But the fact remains that this is of great importance.
You would like, therefore, to give President Yahya your impression that the Indians would accept any solution that is “non-communal and non-military.” Mrs. Gandhi said she is not wedded to any particular solution. You hasten to add that you do not think India should determine how Pakistan should arrange the political structure of East Pakistan. Nevertheless, the fact is that political progress will be an important part of the package.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. V, 16 May–31 Jul 71. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. July 10.
  3. Saundersʼ conversation on July 10 with M.H. Sufi, Presidential Adviser on Food, Agriculture and Kashmir Affairs, was reported to the Department in telegram 6984 from Islamabad, July 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 10 PAK)
  4. Saundersʼ conversation with Ahmad on July 10 was reported to the Department in telegram 6985 from Islamabad, July 10. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. V, 16 May–31 Jul 71)
  5. No record of Kissingerʼs conversation with President Yahya on July 11 has been found.