261. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1

221830. Ref: New Delhi 18944.2 Subj: East Pakistan: Minorities, Pak Army, Third Country Nationals.

We were interested in your conversation with DefSec K.B. Lall as we have been increasingly concerned about possibility of major bloodletting directed at non-Bengali minorities and remnants of Pak forces. We also have major concern in regard security third country nationals in Dacca.
We welcome Lallʼs statement that India considers it is responsible for safeguarding lives of Biharis and Punjabis. We hope GOI will [Page 733] take whatever action is possible to fulfill this responsibility, including impressing on authorities under its control need to begin process of public reassurance.
In regard to Pak army, see septel3 regarding Lallʼs “personal suggestion” to end conflict in East Pakistan. We note GOI appeals for surrender to Indian forces and welcome Indian assurances that prisoners will be given protection of Geneva Convention.
We are greatly concerned over security of third country nationals. In view of difficulties we are facing in regard to evacuation, we recognize possibility some such nationals will remain in Dacca throughout conflict and will require careful protection.
For New Delhi: You should seek urgent appointment with FonSec Kaul to discuss these matters. During your conversation you should repeat statements made by K.B. Lall in regard to Indian responsibility for safeguarding lives of Biharis and Punjabis. You should indicate our great concern that retaliation against Biharis be prevented, concern which General Assembly resolution indicates is shared by world community as a whole. You should press for categoric and explicit affirmation by Kaul of GOI responsibility already accepted by Lall.
You should also raise subject of protection of military prisoners indicating that we have noted GOI statements that prisoners will be given protection of Geneva Convention. You should note that attention of world community will similarly be focused on this issue; that we presume GOI will make maximum effort prevent Bangla Desh retaliation against remnants of Pak forces.
In regard third country nationals, you should say that we are in close touch with UN in continuing to try air evacuation, but military situation and condition of Dacca runways may prevent this. In the event that air evacuation possible, UN may make urgent short-notice request of GOI for ceasefire and guarantee of safety for airlift. In the event air evacuation is not feasible we will ask GOI to ensure that Indian forces and Mukti Bahini are notified that special efforts should be made to protect third country nationals who will probably be collected in identified areas.GOI will recognize protection of these nationals will be of great importance to international community and UN.
For Islamabad: If you believe it is possible, we believe it would be also highly desirable if you could convey to GOP our humanitarian concerns with respect to minorities and our hope that Pakistan Army [Page 734] and administration will avoid actions which could intensify already inflamed communal animosities. We recognize this is extremely sensitive subject and leave it to your discretion how and at what level such points might be got across.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Schneider on December 8; cleared by Laingen, Chief of the Evacuation and Relocation Staff James P. McDonnell (A/OPR/WLG), Under Secretary Johnson, and in the White House by Saunders and Henry Kissinger; and approved by Sisco. Also sent to Islamabad and repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, London, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 18944 from New Delhi, December 8, reported on a conversation between Ambassador Keating and Defense Secretary Lall in which Lall said that humanitarian considerations dictated that the conflict in East Pakistan should be brought to an end as soon as possible. India wished to avoid further casualties. Lall said that if there was an orderly takeover, India would assume responsibility for safeguarding the lives of the Biharis and Punjabis. (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to telegram 18944; see footnote 2 above.