136. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan 1

159587. Subject: Contacts with Bangla Desh Reps. Ref: Islamabad 8631;2 Calcutta 2204.3

We agree that President Yahyaʼs reaction to Ambassador Farlandʼs presentation of Bangla Desh repʼs negotiation feeler is a “glimmer” of hope. We do not, however, believe that the time has come for U.S. to play any mediatory role. On the other hand, there may be some merit in carrying our present honest broker role one step further, i.e., by helping two sides communicate with each other on arrangements for meeting on neutral territory for exploratory session on possibility of serious negotiation.
The first order of business should be for Ambassador Farland, if he has no big problems, to inform President Yahya of our ideas (outlined paras 3 and 4 below) and without being an advocate, ask for his reaction. This approach should be couched in terms of our willingness as a friend to help. It should be stressed that we will not go any further in our contacts with Bangla Desh reps than Yahya desires.
Our thinking is that it may be useful to further test temperature of water by attempt at verification of Qaiyumʼs bona fides. We see no better way to accomplish this quickly than to contact the Bangla Desh “Foreign Minister” Mushtaq Ahmed directly in Calcutta. If he in effect verifies content of approaches previously made by Qaiyum, we would then want to inform him that substance of talks with Qaiyum has been passed to President Yahya.
We would also inform Mushtaq Ahmed that Yahya showed interest in a meeting of GOP reps and BD reps and volunteer to pass back to President Yahya any response Mushtaq may have. Should reactions from both sides to meeting prove favorable, we could then examine question whether further US role in providing communication link between them would be necessary or desirable.
Caveats—We are confident posts share Departmentʼs awareness need for utmost caution and discretion in carrying out these next steps. Publicity concerning possibility of direct contacts between GOP and BD reps; exposure of our role; or knowledge of our contacts with Mushtaq Ahmed could cause sudden termination of this exercise. Furthermore, we should all keep in mind at every step that what may appear sincere desire to negotiate on one or both sides might in fact prove to be little more than tactical maneuver in complex process of pursuing greater influence over US policy. We will also need to bear in mind those who would want to see negotiations fail. We presume such elements would exist in Pakistan, India, and in BD movement.
For Calcutta: If Ambassador Farland receives Yahyaʼs approval, you should at earliest opportunity contact BD Foreign Minister Mushtaq Ahmed with object accomplishing purposes outlined in paras 3 and 4 above, at same time reiterating that we are passing messages but not acting as mediator. If subject of visa for Mushtaq Ahmed surfaces, you should follow guidance State 154078,4 i.e., request has been referred to Washington and he should be given no encouragement. You may also suggest Ahmedʼs visit might better be deferred while present effort to arrange BD and GOP contacts under way. If Mushtaq Ahmed out of India, report info on whereabouts soonest.
For all addressees: We will welcome continuing analysis and comments on: (a) possibilities for negotiation between BD reps and GOP; (b) dynamics of possibly troublesome divisions within BD movement (including Mukti Bahini) over “independence vs. accommodation”; (c) GOI attitudes toward negotiated settlement in lieu of independent Bangla Desh; (d) kind of settlement Yahya could sell in West Pakistan to military and politicians; and (e) ways in which apparent BD insistence on central role for Mujib (Calcutta 2204) might be reconciled with Yahyaʼs apparent need for “secessionist scapegoat.” Any other observations or contributions would of course also be welcome.5
Messages this subject should be transmitted Nodis.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Constable (NEA/PAF) on August 25 and revised in the White House on August 30; cleared by Laingen, Schneider, and Atherton; and approved for transmission by Eliot. Also sent to Calcutta and repeated to New Delhi, London, and Dacca.
  2. Document 133.
  3. Not found.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 133.
  5. Ambassador Farland endorsed the Departmentʼs scenario and indicated that he would put it forward during his meeting with Yahya scheduled for September 4. He stated that he would stress that U.S. contacts with Bangladesh representatives would be conditioned by what Yahya considered appropriate. (Telegram 8909 from Islamabad, August 31; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 626, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VI, 1 Aug 71–31 Aug 71) Yahya gave his approval on September 4 to discreet U.S. contacts with Bangladesh representatives and the Department instructed the Consulate General in Calcutta to proceed along the lines of paragraphs 3 and 4 of telegram 159587. (Telegram 163594 to Calcutta, September 4; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK)