164. Telegram From the Department of State to the Consulate General in Calcutta 1

186323. Subject: Bangla Desh Contacts. Ref: Calcutta 2575,2 Islamabad 99603 and 10002.4

Commend Calcuttaʼs able and discreet handling of first contact with Bangla Desh “Foreign Minister” Mushtaq Ahmed. We also appreciate detailed report ConGen has provided of Mushtaqʼs views. While much of substance of what Mushtaq had to say, particularly with reference to expectations of what U.S. could or should do in present crisis, was fatuous or naive, we nevertheless believe it worthwhile to give him response, with intent of developing some momentum in moving BD reps toward talks.
You should, therefore, seek appointment with Mushtaq to report back views of USG. You should tell him that USG has no desire place itself between GOP and BD reps or to enter into merits of positions of either side. USG therefore has no substantive comment to make on points raised by Mushtaq. We would urge, rather, that the BD reps seek earliest opportunity to present views directly to GOP reps, in effort explore possibility of negotiated settlement. We would hope that [Page 457] both sides could come to such meeting prepared to discuss whole range of issues that divide two sides, but without any preconditions. We have already discussed possibility of such meeting with President Yahya and he had indicated his interest. USG willing assist in passing messages back and forth that might lead to meeting, but we are not interested in playing transmission belt for “demands” or “positions” of one side or other.
To Mushtaqʼs probable reiteration of BD “desires,” you should suggest to him that BD reps present these directly to GOP in talks and not to us. Only by engaging in talks can two sides hope to find ways toward early end of violence, killings, and other hardships that now afflict people of East Pakistan. Alternative what we see is escalation violence, and possibly war, with further tragic consequences for entire Subcontinent. In our view, those who refuse to participate in unconditional talks may have to assume responsibility for continued loss of life and for loss of “opportunity” to achieve constructive outcome.
We wish to keep our options open for contacts with other elements of BD leadership, although this will continue to be controlled from Washington. Hence while we assume that Mushtaq may remain principal channel for future communications, we do not wish to give him impression that he will necessarily be only channel. For example we obviously might be in touch with BD delegation in New York which presumably sent to this country for purpose of contacting foreign officials, including U.S. Therefore you may inform Mushtaq at your discretion that we intend to maintain some contact with other BD reps if occasion arises. We are confident this will not cause serious problems for BD, since we are not “negotiating” with any of reps and assume they will keep each other informed of contacts with USG reps.5
For Islamabad: Believe you need not go any further than you already have (Islamabad 9960) in informing Yahya of state of play on BD contacts. Your next step with Yahya, if you believe it might be productive, should be to suggest that GOP simultaneously look for ways establish its own direct contact with BD reps in N.Y., London or elsewhere. [Page 458] Such contact could provide opportunity for GOP signal to BD type of settlement it may be willing to negotiate. Such signals at this stage could help pave way for substantive negotiations. You might also probe with Yahya whether Soviets have played any role to date in seeking to advance GOPBD negotiations.6
Foregoing drafted prior receipt Calcutta 2605.7 However, believe latest meeting with Qaiyum does not indicate alteration these instructions.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Constable on October 5; cleared by Laingen, Schneider, Van Hollen, Johnson (J), and Saunders in the White House; and approved by Davies. Also sent to Islamabad and repeated to New Delhi, and USUN for Sisco.
  2. Telegram 2575 from Calcutta, September 29, reported on a meeting on September 28 between a political officer from the Consulate General and Bangladesh “Foreign Minister” Mushtaq Ahmed. Mushtaq blamed the United States for the crisis in East Pakistan because of its continued support for Yahya Khanʼs government, but said that his government still hoped to win the friendship of the United States. Mushtaq asked Washington to intervene to arrange for the peaceful independence of Bangladesh, and he warned that time was running out to do so before a leftist takeover of the Bangladesh movement. Mushtaq outlined a list of objectives to be met in negotiating independence for Bangladesh, which included full independence and the release of Sheikh Mujib, but said that he had no desire to speak directly to Pakistani officials. He requested U.S. officials to speak on behalf of his government. (Ibid.)
  3. During a meeting on September 30, Chargé Sober told President Yahya that he did not have anything new or positive to report on U.S. contacts with Bangladesh representatives in Calcutta. Yahya reiterated his continuing interest and asked to be kept informed. (Telegram 9960 from Islamabad, October 1; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 626, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VII, Sep–Oct 1971)
  4. Telegram 10002 from Islamabad, October 1, commented on telegram 2575 from Calcutta. The Embassy continued to support a role for the United States in promoting contact between Bangladesh representatives and the Government of Pakistan. But the Embassy argued that “it would be mistake for USG to undertake to act as broker for either party.” The Embassy was not inclined to pass on to Yahya the objectives put forward by Mushtaq. (Ibid.)
  5. In the absence from Calcutta of Mushtaq Ahmed, the political officer met on October 12 with Bangladesh “High Commissioner” Hossain Ali and gave him the substance of the instructions contained in telegram 186323. Ali said he would report the U.S. response to “Acting President” Nazrul Islam and, if Islam deemed it necessary, would make a trip to report to Mushtaq. (Telegram 2648 from Calcutta, October 14; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK) Four days later, the political officer met with Qaiyum who told him that Islam was in control of the Bangladesh Government but Islam insisted that only Sheikh Mujib could negotiate on behalf of Bangladesh. Qaiyum said that the Bangladesh representatives needed permission from India to negotiate with Pakistan and any claim to the contrary by India was a “lie.” (Telegram 2662 from Calcutta, October 18; ibid.)
  6. From the tenor of comments by Yahya Khan on October 11, Sober concluded that the Soviet Union had not attempted to promote negotiations between Pakistani and Bangladesh representatives. (Telegram 10294 from Islamabad, October 12; ibid.)
  7. On October 3 Qaiyum met with the political officer to pass a message from Islam asking for a rapid response from the United States to Mushtaq Ahmedʼs September 28 démarche. In the same meeting, Qaiyum said that the Mukti Bahini planned to infiltrate 40–60 thousand men into East Pakistan before the end of October. (Telegram 2605 from Calcutta, October 5; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 597, Country Files, Middle East, India, Vol. IV, 1 Jul–30 Nov 1971)