171. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1
- Indo-Pakistan Situation
The potential for an outbreak of hostilities between India and Pakistan remains high; but we have no information that either side intends to take the initiative at this time. A possible indicator of the level of tensions will be whether Mrs. Gandhi begins her three-week international tour on October 24.
We have urged maximum restraint on both India and Pakistan. Specifically we have suggested to both that they pull their troops back from the border. President Yahya has reacted positively in private. The Indians have said they would consider withdrawals only if Pakistan withdrew first. They indicated that India would have to withdraw much farther than Pakistan. Both President Yahya and Mrs. Gandhi have publicly discussed the circumstances under which they might withdraw in contexts which are probably mutually unacceptable at this point. We are now planning, if Ambassador Farland concurs, to suggest that President Yahya consider a unilateral and limited withdrawal as a signal to the Indians of his desire to de-escalate and reduce tensions. We believe he might be willing to do this without jeopardizing [Page 477] his military position, in order to put the onus on the Indians to take reciprocal action.
Recognizing that the lack of a viable political settlement in East Pakistan continues to fuel the tensions between India and Pakistan, we are also suggesting that Ambassador Farland, if he agrees, discuss ways in which Yahya might move more rapidly toward such a settlement. We are particularly focusing on ways in which Yahya might begin a dialogue with the previously elected representatives of East Pakistan. Because President Yahya has already indicated willingness to establish contact with Bangla Desh leaders, we are asking Ambassador Farland to suggest that they be included in any such dialogue. To date, however, the Bangla Desh representatives have refused, insisting that nothing can be negotiated except independence and only Mujib can speak for the Bangla Desh group. Given the apparent importance of the arrested Awami League President Sheikh Mujib to a negotiated settlement, we are asking Ambassador Farland to raise again with President Yahya whether he believes there are possibilities for Mujib to play a part in a settlement.
On October 19 Secretary General U Thant offered his good offices to President Yahya and Mrs. Gandhi.2 We support this initiative. For the moment, however, we hope to keep the Indo-Pakistan dispute from surfacing in open debate in the Security Council. Between now and the time of Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit on November 4 and 5, we prefer to work privately with both the Indians and the Pakistanis. During Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit, we hope you will be able to dispel some of the suspicions which have entered our relationship with the Indians. At the same time, we will want again to urge maximum restraint on Mrs. Gandhi, get her to support direct negotiations between Bangla Desh leaders and President Yahya, and seek her cooperation in trying to stabilize the situation in East Pakistan. We believe that India must bear a share of the responsibility for bringing stability back to East Pakistan, in part by exercising greater control over India-based guerrilla activity.[Page 478]
Following Mrs. Gandhiʼs visit, if it is necessary at that time, we may want to see the Indo-Pakistan situation aired in the Security Council and publicly in other ways in order to increase international pressure on both sides for restraint and de-escalation.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Constable and cleared by Laingen, Schneider, and Van Hollen.↩
- UN Secretary-General U Thant held separate meetings on October 19 with the Indian and Pakistani permanent representatives to the United Nations and gave them identical letters for Prime Minister Gandhi and President Yahya. In his letters, the Secretary General expressed concern about the deteriorating situation along the borders between the two countries and offered his good offices to seek a peaceful solution. (Telegram 3705 from USUN, October 21; ibid., POL INDIA–PAK) The text of the letters, as conveyed to members of the Security Council on October 21, was transmitted to the Department in telegram 3766 from USUN, October 22. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 570, Indo-Pak War, South Asia, Oct 25–Nov 22 1971)↩
- Under Secretary Irwin signed for Rogers.↩