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

198660. Subject: Indo-Pak Confrontation. For Ambassador Farland. Deliver 8 a.m. October 30.

You should seek earliest possible appointment with Yahya to deliver Presidentʼs letter2 (septel) and to elicit response from Yahya to presentation below to be available here if at all possible before Mrs. Gandhiʼs arrival November 4. Overall objective of your talk is elicit maximum Pakistani package which can be used during talks with Mrs. Gandhi here in urging Indian restraint and reciprocal de-escalation.
You should emphasize at the outset that you are speaking as a concerned friend in a desire to be helpful and make most of the Gandhi visit in the context of common desire to preserve peace and to follow through with orderly political process. We need a Pakistani position that is as forthcoming and defensible as possible.
Presentation outlined below covers two subjects: (a) military pullback and (b) next steps in Yahyaʼs political process. Question for Yahya is how he mixes variety of political and military moves open to him. US not the party to make that judgment. Approach described below designed strictly to help Yahya canvass options open to him.
On military pullback, we now have response from both GOP and GOI to our proposal for mutual withdrawal of forces. Despite largely negative and now public nature of Indian response and some disadvantages in Yahyaʼs going public with a proposal to which he has added his own conditions, we have achieved reaffirmation by both of their intention not to initiate hostilities and each has expressed a willingness to consider withdrawal in context some action by the other.
We believe our next step should be to advise Yahya directly of what we have heard from Indians and probe whether he prepared consider action unilaterally that might serve as means of triggering some response from Indians and thus be start of self-generating series of steps. We should also note Yahyaʼs positive response to U Thant (Islamabad 10700)3 and particularly reference to pullback to “mutually agreed safe distance.” Promise of such a step would be useful here in talking with Mrs. Gandhi. At a minimum, a unilateral beginning of this kind could put pressure and onus on India to take a reciprocal step.
While we recognize difficulty for GOP of unilateral actions in present crisis (para. 5 Islamabad 10479),4 it seems to us that Pakistan has most to gain from any reduction present military confrontation and that some risk, therefore, may be worth taking. Is such a pullback possible without diminishing significantly precautionary moves already made by GOP? In this connection, it is our understanding (on basis DIA information) that GOP was first to undertake major movement of forces when in mid-Sept. it deployed Sixth and Seventeenth divisions from Kharian cantonment to Sialkot border area. Indian reaction occurred in early October with movement of several divisions opposite Pakistan forces at Sialkot.
In this context, you should broach with Yahya whether some initiative by Pakistan along western border involving visible pullback of some specified force would be feasible and could be signaled by local commander to his opposite number by means that may be open to him. We leave it to you with DATT advice what specific examples you might cite, but pullback of elements Sixth and Seventeenth divisions noted above would be one possibility, particularly in light Yahyaʼs comments to Chargé Sober in Karachi 20285 suggesting forces from Kharian and other cantonments as types that might move back from border if there were reciprocal move on Indian side. Alternatively, you should raise with Yahya possibility more limited withdrawal of forces (of kind spoken of in his letter to U Thant) in specified sectors of distances [Page 487] 3–5 miles but still of dimensions visible to Indians and of variety that could be used to achieve similar withdrawal by Indian forces. Yahya could also ask for UN verification that Pak units have pulled back. Such step, whether or not UN actually provided verification, would nevertheless increase incentive for India to take reciprocal step.
If Yahya prepared make this kind of beginning, we would like to be able to mention during Gandhi visit, pointing to this as indicative of Yahyaʼs bona fides in desiring initiate process of gradually reducing force confrontation, in West to begin with, possibly in East later. We would press GOI immediately to respond with equivalent withdrawal of its own. Would seem desirable to proceed without publicity.
On political side, we continue to believe that long-term resolution of current crisis can only be found through progress toward political solution in East Pakistan, whatever comes of pullback proposal. So far, Yahyaʼs responses to us in this area have been essentially to restate to us serious problems he feels would be involved in going beyond political timetable he has spelled out publicly. We fully appreciate these problems. However, we note that in your last talk with Yahya on Mujib, he did not exclude concept using Mujib as “trump card” at some point in the political process (Islamabad 9599).6 We believe we should take up with him his request to you at that time for suggestions on dealing with political problem in a way that will focus on our concerns and reflect his that this is crux of matter.
If you agree with above, suggest you speak frankly and in some detail with Yahya about political timetable he has now outlined, specifically possibilities that might present themselves within this timetable to get privately across to BD clear signals that Yahya both recognizes strong autonomous sentiments of East Pakistan and does not exclude major realignment East-West Pakistan relationship within constitutional process. In this connection you should say that we attach significance to Swaran Singh October 8 statement Simla that GOI will accept any political solution “acceptable to people of Bangla Desh or their elected representatives”, including one within framework of Pakistan. (FYI: We note also Chibʼs comment in New Delhiʼs 162467 to effect that negotiations feasible with people Mujib might designate “speak for him”. End FYI.)
Yahya knows we understand complexity his political problems and that we have no desire further complicate them by moralistic pronouncements or public advice. You should say frankly, however, that [Page 488] our judgment is that success of political-constitutional scenario he has worked out now depends heavily on his readiness himself to signal, through us or otherwise, his willingness engage in substantive dialogue with BD as a means of markedly broadening support for that process. The longer this dialogue is delayed the greater the depth of alienation of BD (not to mention MB) and the less reason to hope for any kind of political settlement. FYI: When we speak of negotiated settlement, we have in mind process of winning East Pakistani support for new constitution and involvement sufficient numbers key Bengalis to make its implementation a realistic possibility. End FYI.
What we have outlined below is illustrative of what might be conceivable and is not intended as any American blueprint. You will have other ideas to use yourself with Yahya to get our concern across that time may be rapidly working against political process Yahya envisions for implementing his constitution for united Pakistan.
With respect Mujib himself, we understand sensitivities and only note that, right or wrong, he seems to have become major symbol so at minimum it would seem necessary to success any political process to avoid any step such as publishing full transcript Mujib trial which would inflame Bengali opinion and might, as Yahya had already noted, produce “explosive” reaction in West Pakistan. Whether Yahya can use Mujib as “trump card” as he put it at some point we must leave entirely to his judgment. Short of that, we assume Yahya fully aware possibilities such as simple statement from Defense Attorney Brohi that trial was fair or use of any appeals procedure available which would both soften international criticism and provide further time to see whether some way open for negotiated settlement.
Re broader issues, you might sound out Yahya as to degree of autonomy for East Pakistan contemplated in constitution he intends to promulgate and how new constitution will handle provision for eventual constitutional review that would allow for evolutionary political development. While we have no formula on this point, it seems to us as sympathetic observers of Pakistan dilemma that, over long run, constitutional arrangements which are flexible and workable enough to provide for future re-examination of relationship between two wings might go a long way towards satisfaction Bengali needs. Such review provisions could provide basis for dissident elements within East Pakistan come forward and join in political process. Such measures might also provide useful signal to BD reps Calcutta that positive basis for negotiation with GOP exists.
In terms of present situation, and recognizing all problems involved, you might say that we wonder whether it would be feasible to convey in some way to BD Calcutta that new constitution would not exclude re-entry at some point of Awami League into political life in East Pakistan, with an amnesty extending to all Awami Leaguers. In [Page 489] this connection, are there steps Yahya could take now that would encourage in some way Awami League sympathizers to enter and contest scheduled by-elections as independents? If these thoughts create major problems, what about indicating that under new constitution there would be possibility fresh elections within two years so that those now frozen out of process (by charges against them or by own choice) would see opportunity for their own eventual reintegration into political life of East Pakistan.
If you find Yahya in receptive mood on any of these “thoughts,” you should use opportunity to probe more deeply Yahyaʼs ideas on mechanics getting dialogue with BD started, reminding him that we have urged Indians and Soviets to get behind idea of open-ended political dialogue. You should emphasize, nevertheless, our basic view that this is not likely to get off the ground except through Yahya himself finding ways through suggestions indicated above or otherwise to signal BD directly that possibilities of dialogue exist (Calcutta 2713).8
In sum, remind you that main purpose this talk is to provide understanding here of maximum Yahya can offer as background for judicious use with Mrs. Gandhi.
For Dacca: You may wish to provide Embassy with your thoughts on these suggestions or with additional ideas including that suggested by Nurul Islam (Dacca 4497)9 that might be discussed with President Yahya.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Laingen and Constable on October 29; cleared by Schneider, Van Hollen, Sisco, and Saunders; and approved by Irwin. Repeated to London, Moscow, New Delhi, Paris, Tehran, USUN, Calcutta, and Dacca. A note for the record, attached by Saunders on October 29 to a draft of the telegram, indicates that Kissinger revised and cleared it. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 626, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VII, Sep–Oct 1971)
  2. Document 175.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 175.
  4. Dated October 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK)
  5. Document 165.
  6. See footnote 7, Document 159.
  7. Telegram 16246 from New Delhi, October 16, reported on an October 15 conversation between an unidentified officer of the Embassy and Ashok Chib, the Indian Chargé in Islamabad. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 32–1 INDIA–PAK)
  8. In telegram 2713 from Calcutta, October 28, the Consulate General noted that a number of factors limited the maneuverability of the Bangladesh leadership, including increased activity by the Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan, growing tension between India and Pakistan, and leftist pressure within the Bangladesh movement. The Consulate General felt that the range of maneuver open to the Bangladesh leadership was further reduced by news stories published in London that revealed the role of the Consulate General in attempting to promote contact between the leadership and Yahya Khanʼs government. The conclusion drawn was that that effort had reached a “dead end” and it was time for Yahya to take the initiative and respond to the Bangladesh insistence that he make the first move in establishing direct contact with them. (Ibid., POL 27 INDIA–PAK)
  9. Consul General Spivack commented on October 27 on a proposal put forward by Nural Islam for indirect negotiations between Mujibur Rahman and the Martial Law Administration. The essence of Islamʼs proposal was that he and other members of his Bangladesh leadership group were sufficiently acceptable to Mujib and Yahya to act as a credible bridge between them. In Spivackʼs judgment there was no point in pursuing the proposal unless Yahya was in principle open to the idea of negotiating with Mujib. (Telegram 4497 from Dacca; ibid.)