254. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Information Items
India-Pakistan Situation: Indian forces in East Pakistan are now making steady progress on several fronts and are at one point 22 miles from Dacca. The most immediate threat is from the east, but the Indians must now make a major river crossing if their thrust is to continue. The main port of Chittagong to the southeast has been cut off from Dacca, and there is a report that to the southwest the only other major water [Page 710] terminal has also been cut off. There are also significant advances in the northern and northeastern salients of the province.
How long Pakistani resistance will continue will depend on whether the Pakistani forces give up or are captured as their posts are taken or are able to fall back in relatively good order to a few urban centers like Dacca for a last-ditch defense. President Yahya in a conversation with Ambassador Farland yesterday seemed resigned that he could not do anything more to help his troops in the east, but he said that they will fight “to the last Muslim.” There have been some reports of desertions by members of army and police units, but there have been no indications yet that discipline is collapsing or that large numbers are surrendering. Meanwhile, the Defense Secretary in New Delhi yesterday put forth a “personal suggestion” that India could be more effective in protecting the minorities in East Pakistan, including West Pakistani soldiers, if the Pakistani Government were prepared to arrange an orderly Bangla Desh takeover.
In the West, the military situation remains about the same. The Indians, with the exception of an extending penetration toward Karachi in the south, are still in a holding posture on the ground while conducting repeated air attacks against military targets throughout West Pakistan. The Paks are taking some initiative in the Punjab plain and especially along the Kashmir cease-fire line, and there are reports of an increased offensive in the next day or two. However, they are still to launch the major offensive that many have expected. It is possible that they are hoping that the Indians will be ready to stop or at least more subject to international pressure once East Pakistan falls and do not want to provoke unnecessarily a major Indian counter-offensive in the West. On the other hand, if the Indians do shift to an all-out offensive in the West, the Paks will still have most of their forces intact to defend their heartland.
At the UN, yesterdayʼs activity was highlighted by a strong appeal from U Thant for a Dacca area cease-fire to permit the evacuation of international community personnel there. Thant asked both the Indians and Paks to agree to a 24-hour stand-down to permit repair of runways for evacuation of foreigners. So far there has been no positive response from the Indians who are chafing under charges that they have failed to live up to the terms of two earlier evacuation cease-fire agreements that broke down. Meanwhile, UN and International Red Cross people in Dacca are also making arrangements for two “neutral areas” in the event that Dacca falls before an evacuation can be mounted. This neutral area would also accommodate our consulate staff who will lose diplomatic rights and privileges when the Bangla Desh Government takes over and could be in a hostile atmosphere when the guerrillas arrive. The WSAG today will be discussing what, if any, transitional role the consulate should play.[Page 711]
Both India and Pakistan are preparing for another round of debate at the UN. Indian Foreign Minister Singh is on his way to New York as is Bhutto, the new Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. On the political front, Yahya has confirmed to Ambassador Farland that he has speeded up and intends to carry out his “blueprint” for transferring power to a civilian government, although it has been announced that Yahya will remain President. Apparently Nuril Amin, the Bengali who has been appointed Prime Minister, is at least officially in office, although Yahya said that Bhutto was not sworn in because of his rapid departure for the UN. It is possible that Yahya may be hoping to pin the blame for a settlement on this new government and especially Bhutto. Yahya also welcomed the UN General Assembly resolution saying that he had been agreeable to this concept for months.
The Tuesday2 afternoon backgrounder has spurred a counter back-grounder in New Delhi. The Indians appear to have homed in on my remarks about our peace efforts and are saying that they cooperated subject to certain minimum conditions, but that the efforts failed because of bad faith on the part of Yahya. There were also some testy remarks about “baseless” allegations and questioning of the propriety of dealing with such issues out of diplomatic channels.
[Omitted here are summary reports on foreign policy issues unrelated to South Asia.]