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


  • Instruction on Contacts with Bangla Desh Representatives in India—Cable for Clearance

As you know, Bangla Desh representatives in India have recently sought out and made contact with middle ranking U.S. officials in New Delhi and Calcutta concerning a settlement with the West Pakistanis. It is not at all clear, however, what they are really fishing for. The approach in Calcutta,2 allegedly reflecting the Bangla Desh “Foreign Ministerʼs” wishes, was along the lines of a settlement on the basis of something less than full independence, while the approach by the “Foreign Secretary” in New Delhi was based on the opposite outcome of total independence.3 Another contact is scheduled for tomorrow in Calcutta.

[Page 330]

In the attached cable4 for your clearance State wishes to send the following instructions to New Delhi and Calcutta:

  • —No commitments, contingent or otherwise, should be made for future meetings with Bangla Desh representatives, unless or until these have first been checked with the Department.
  • —The already scheduled meeting tomorrow should be limited largely to another low-key listening exercise. A probe on the question of Awami League willingness to negotiate for less than independence is, however, authorized.5
  • —We must not get into a position where our contact with Bangla Desh representatives will be misunderstood or misread by them or Islamabad.6

This approach to the problem seems to make sense for today. There is some value in at least keeping our option open of informally talking with the Bangla Desh types, but we need control and we will need to square ourselves with Yahya before this goes further.

As the cable indicates, Stateʼs next move will be to consider informing Yahya of the contacts to date and passing along whatever seems worthwhile.

Recommendation: That you approve the attached cable. Just to make sure there are no slipups, you may wish to tell Sisco orally that you expect to clear any outgoing cables on this subject.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 597, Country Files, Middle East, India, Vol. IV, 1 Jul–30 Nov 71. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 115.
  3. On August 8 the Political Counselor of the Embassy in New Delhi met with M. Alam, “Foreign Secretary” of the Bangladesh movement. Alam requested a meeting with Ambassador Keating but accepted an informal meeting with the Political Counselor when informed that Keatingʼs official position precluded him meeting with a Bangladesh representative. The thrust of Alamʼs remarks was that the goal of total independence for Bangladesh was firmly established, and he urged the United States to support that goal. (Telegram 12698 from New Delhi, August 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK)
  4. Attached but not printed. Sent to New Delhi and Calcutta on August 14 as telegram 149322. (Ibid.)
  5. An officer from the Consulate General in Calcutta met with Bangladesh representative Qaiyum on August 14. Qaiyum reaffirmed that he was acting under instructions from his Foreign Minister who was prepared to accept a negotiated settlement that provided for less than complete independence. Qaiyum emphasized that only Mujibur Rahman could negotiate on behalf of the people of East Bengal, and only he could get them to accept a political settlement. (Telegram 2321 from Calcutta, August 14; ibid.)
  6. The Embassy in Islamabad warned on August 12 that the Government of Pakistan was very sensitive about contacts between U.S. officials and Bangladesh representatives. The Embassy counseled that such contacts be kept as low level and unofficial as possible. (Telegram 8235 from Islamabad; ibid.)
  7. Haig initialed the approve option for Kissinger.