188. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Maury Williamsʼ Views on Pakistan

As you know, Maury Williams has just returned from a trip to Pakistan. It was from Dacca that he reported his conclusion that we had succeeded in averting a nation-wide famine in East Pakistan. Since his return, he has written the attached memorandum2 containing his views on the broader situation there. They are disturbing and I think you should see them.

His main points in brief are that President Yahya has only decreasing control over his governmentʼs policy in East Pakistan because the Pakistan Army there is “nearly autonomous.” The armyʼs policy is such that the running battle with guerrillas is likely to continue with little attention to changing practices in a way that could restore genuine civilian government.

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Williamsʼ reasoning follows:

  • —Two key advisers to President Yahya told Williams that Yahya is increasingly isolated from events in East Pakistan.
  • —The Pakistan army in East Pakistan is operating in many respects independent of the policies and direction of President Yahya. The recently appointed civilian government is really run by a major general who is the military adviser to the governor.
  • —Only foreign affairs is firmly in the hands of Islamabad. What this means is that all official American suggestions are taken seriously in Islamabad and lead to major policy statements by President Yahya. Their implementation is in the hands of army commanders in the East who are not subject to foreign influence.
  • —The reality in East Pakistan is that army policies and operations—behind the facade of a civilian governor—are “progressively and seriously alienating the Bengali population.” Despite orders from Islamabad that the army not engage in terrorist operations against the civilian population—and repeated assurances to US officials to this effect—Pakistan army commanders continue to carry out terror raids against the population and villages. With villagers caught between the army and local vigilantes on the one hand and the guerrillas on the other, law and order is breaking down rapidly in rural East Pakistan. The rural population is moving either to the cities or to India.
  • —The military has picked the candidates for the by-elections to fill vacant assembly seats. [More than 70% of the candidates have already been declared “uncontested and elected.”]3
  • —Reprisal operations continue to focus against Hindus.

These observations suggest that it may be time to add a new chapter in our strategy toward Pakistan. The strategy laid out in August for trying to reduce the flow of refugees by humanitarian assistance has worked to the extent that we have helped stave off a major famine and therefore a major new flood of refugees. That strategy has revealed, however, that the current level of refugees stems not from hunger but from a continuing deterioration of local order as the rural population is caught between the guerrillas and the army along with its local allies.

If President Yahyaʼs own electoral process and the practices of his army will not win wide enough support to defuse the guerrilla campaign, the question then arises what other political steps he might take to establish a viable political alternative to the guerrillaʼs demand for independence. Unless he can devise such steps, he may face the [Page 522] prospect of losing East Pakistan in a war which could have repercussions for the integrity of West Pakistan as well.

The WSAG met Friday4 to discuss not only further steps that might be taken to defuse the military confrontation, but also what more may be possible in helping President Yahya develop a political alternative.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. VIII, Nov–Dec 71. Secret. Sent for information. Drafted by Saunders and sent to Kissinger under a November 12 covering memorandum. A stamp on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. The attached 4-page report from Williams to Secretary Rogers on his trip to Pakistan, November 5, which indicates the President saw it, is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 152.
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. November 12.
  5. President Nixon highlighted the final paragraph, underlined the last four words, and added a marginal handwritten note that reads: “K—This is now imperative give me a recommendation.”