133. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1

8631. For Asst. Secretary Sisco. Subj: Contacts With Bangla Desh Reps—Pres. Yahyaʼs Reaction. Ref: State 154078.2

Summary. Pres. Yahya indicated his approval quiet USG contacts with individuals formerly associated with Awami League and indicated appreciation for receipt present and future info obtained through said contacts. Looked with favor upon an unpublicized meeting between GOP and Bangla Desh group for purpose seeking political rapprochement. Embassy disinclined to issue visa to “Foreign Minister.” End summary.
Immediately following Aug. 24 call by Ambassador David Popper3 and me upon Pres. Yahya to discuss narcotic drug problems and purposes of Popperʼs mission as related thereto, I requested a private conversation with Yahya in order to discuss matters suggested reftel.
In accordance reftel I stated that the U.S. Consulate General in Calcutta had been picking up “signals” from various Bangla Desh sympathizers, particularly Khan Abdul Qaiyum Khan,4 a former attorney in Comilla. These signals seemed to indicate that a substantial number of MPAʼs and MNAʼs presently in Calcutta and elsewhere were seriously amenable to the acceptance of an agreement which would maintain the integrity and unity of Pakistan, within the general concept of the so-called “six points,” if such an agreement could be somehow [Page 366] reached between Mujibur and Yahya, given the circumstances of Mujiburʼs ongoing trial. I told Yahya that in making mention of this I wanted him fully to understand that USG had taken no initiative whatsoever in gathering this information nor was the USG seeking to play a mediatory role between the GOP and the outlawed Awami League. Conversely, I stated that USG had consistently maintained a diplomatic stance of non-involvement and had in no way sought out or solicited contacts with “Bangla Desh Govt” reps. However, I noted Yahyaʼs many conversations with me during which he emphasized his hope for a return to normalcy and his additional hope that with such a climate he could turn power back to the people. Since USG was now privy to this information, I thought that in the interests of the much sought for peace I should bring it to his attention.
Yahyaʼs reaction was favorable and positive. He said that he was most happy that I had provided him with this type of intelligence and he felt that the U.S. had been correct in its political and diplomatic posture, adding that he hoped our officials “with their customary care and exercise of discretion” would maintain appropriate contacts. Yahya noted that his overriding desire was to bring harmony back into the body politic of Pakistan with such adjustments therein as would be for the greatest possible good of both wings. That included, he said, widespread economic and political adjustments in the east wing which he stood prepared to make. He opined, however, that he could not understand why those MPAʼs and MNAʼs who had been fully cleared did not come forward and take over the organization of a GOEP so that he could transfer power soonest.
Following the general discussion on the aforesaid aspect, I asked Yahya if he saw any major obstacle to a select group of GOP members, unpublicized and on neutral ground in a foreign country, meeting with a few of the key people for whom Qaiyum indicated he spoke. I said the purpose of such a hypothetical meeting could be to ascertain jointly whether or not there existed areas in which political rapprochement could be effected. This would serve its own purpose, and in addition the related matters of refugees, food distribution and rehabilitation could get under way meaningfully and with full purpose. Yahya replied he would favor such a development wholeheartedly, asking that in case such a contingency developed, I keep closely in touch with him on this matter generally.
It would seem that several forces are at play in this present situation. (A) At least some of the Bangla Deshers are realizing that their independence would be sorely limited by the interests of India; as such independence may be an illusion. And (B) Yahya may be coming to the conclusion that his appetite wasnʼt commensurate with the bite he took. In any event the foregoing represents a glimmer of light amidst the [Page 367] encircling gloom, and a hoped for vindication of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Pakistan.
Re paragraph 4 of reftel,5 it is the Embassyʼs strongly held belief that we should avoid problems involved in issuing visa to Bangla Desh “Foreign Minister.” To do so would almost inevitably raise concerns here about our good faith in not encouraging separatist movement. These concerns would be enhanced by inevitable U.S. and world press/television coverage which “Foreign Minister” visit would receive in U.S. rather than have Bangla Desh “FonMin” in U.S., Embassy believes it highly preferable that he take his story to interested GOP representatives in London, where reportedly he will soon be going. He would be less visible in London than in New York or Washington, and it should be easier there to make covert contacts with GOP representatives.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, London, and New Delhi.
  2. Telegram 154078 to Islamabad, August 22, which was cleared by Sisco, Irwin, and Kissinger, authorized the Embassy to inform Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan about the contacts with Qaiyum in Calcutta “on off chance that Qaiyum proposals might provide glimmer of hope for negotiated political settlement between GOP and Awami League.” The Embassy was instructed to stress that U.S. officials had listened to Qaiyum but had formed no judgment on the value of his proposals. The United States was not seeking to play a role as a mediator but was willing to help “as a friend.” (Ibid.)
  3. Ambassador to Cyprus David H. Popper visited India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in August and September 1971 to press for measures to limit the illicit production of opium in the area and to encourage planning to control the production and distribution of a wide range of narcotics. Popperʼs mission was coordinated by Nelson G. Gross, Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for International Narcotics Matters. Documentation on Popperʼs mission is ibid., SOC 11–5 INDIA, SOC 11–5 PAK, and SOC 11–5 AFG.
  4. The Consulate General in Calcutta pointed out on August 25 that this reference to Qaiyum was in error. The contact in Calcutta was with Qazi Zahirul Qaiyum, an industrialist rather than an attorney. (Telegram 2389 from Calcutta; ibid., POL 23–9 PAK)
  5. In paragraph 4 of telegram 154078, the Department asked for an opinion from the Embassy on the suggestion put forward through Qaiyum that designated Foreign Minister Mustaq Ahmad be granted a visa to visit the United States and meet with U.S. officials.