35. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan1

70700. Subject: Review East Pakistan Situation and USG Position.

Prior Asst Secy Siscoʼs departure for Middle East and as balancing action to Sisco conversation with Indian Amb Jha April 22,2 Sisco called in Pak Amb Hilaly April 23. Dep Asst Secy Van Hollen and Fuller, NEA/PAF, participated.
Sisco first summarized points made previous recent conversations with Hilaly, as follows:
We have said both publicly and privately we regard East Pak situation as internal matter.
Nonetheless, as friend of Pakistan, we have expressed concern re extensive loss of life, suffering and damage.
We have also conveyed concern about use American arms.
We have suggested GOP should consider availing itself of international offers of humanitarian assistance. We prepared to participate in such international effort if GOP desires.
We have also expressed hope every effort can be made to improve situation in ports East Pak and to restore normal food distribution channels.
Sisco then said we consider that East Pakistan situation has entered new phase, in light following developments:
Military have consolidated their position and extended control in many cases to Indian borders.
There have been increasing reports of incidents between Indian and Pak military forces—both regular and irregular.
Large number refugees have moved into adjacent areas of India.
Problems have arisen re status Pak Deputy High Commission Calcutta and evacuation members Indian Deputy High Commission Dacca.
Heated rhetoric and charges and counter-charges continue between India and Pakistan.
In light above, Sisco asked Hilaly convey to GOP following supplemental points:
Recent developments have increase international tension in area and prospects for Indo-Pak confrontation.
In view of these circumstances, as friend, we hope GOP will exercise maximum restraint despite what it might consider provocations from other side.
We want make clear we have forcefully conveyed to GOI our belief it too should act with restraint. Sisco said he had told Amb Jha India was now strong and stable as result election and consequently could be expected to act responsibly.
Number of refugees has risen sharply during past week and we have noted GOI appeal for international assistance.3 At US initiative, Sisco had discussed matter with Jha, told him of US humanitarian concern, and indicated we considering what contribution we might make if some international program was mounted.4 Sisco emphasized we recognized and were anxious not to get involved in sensitive political aspects refugee question. On other hand Hilaly should understand that if USG seems to stand still in any human crisis like that of East Pak refugees, it immediately is criticized by Congress and US people. USG does have humanitarian concern, as expressed in our previous offer of help to any international effort accepted by GOP in East Pakistan.
Sisco asked for report on situation East Pak and any moves toward political accommodation, noting we attach importance to such moves.
Otherwise, there is prospect that continued tension in East Pakistan could lead directly to expansion of internal problem into an international issue involving the danger of Indo-Pakistan conflict and wider implications.
Commenting on foregoing, Hilaly complained GOI says one thing and does something quite different. Cited Indian involvement in [Page 93] ceremony just across border in East Pakistan announcing establishment Provisional Government Bangla Desh and special consideration given officials thereof through accommodation State Guest House, Calcutta. Condemned Indian handling of Pak Deputy High Commission problem in Calcutta.
Hilaly gave assurance on other hand GOP wishes avoid providing any pretext that GOI might use as causus belli. Indicated Pak army staying away from Indian border.
On situation East Pakistan, Hilaly said military “mopping up” and will complete job in about five days. Dismissed threat of monsoon rains as inhibition to military operation and also dismissed threat of terrorist assassinations pro-GOP Bengalis; GOP will not be scared. Referred to appeal by Tikka Khan5 to politicians, Awami League members and even rebel military to associate with government or rejoin Army. Asserted they wonʼt be shot. In fact foreign press would be invited back to bear witness return of East Pak to normalcy. Said restoration port operations Chittagong and Chalna being given top priority.
On question East Pak refugees in India, Hilaly forecast Indians will push up their inflated estimate of total by 60,000 a day until it reaches one million. Noted report that majority Pak refugees staying with “friends and relatives” in India and claimed actual refugees from East Pak could not be so absorbed.
In somewhat heated reference to possible international assistance, strongly criticized ICRC intervention through sending plane from Geneva without permission GOP. Asserted ICRC Vice President had opposed move but “Indian influence” had prevailed. Hilaly went on to accuse foreigners in East Pakistan of strong partisanship and total acceptance Bengali charges against GOP. “Americans in Dacca are anti-West Pakistani”, Hilaly said.
Despite these feelings about foreign offers of relief aid, Hilaly expressed personal view GOP would ultimately accept such aid. Referred to assessment of situation now under way in East Pak by senior officials from Islamabad. Said Paks would handle distribution of outside relief.GOP doesnʼt want foreigners coming in; instead plans organize local people. Warned against third countries associating selves with India in relief effort: “That simply wonʼt work.” Hilaly said Indiaʼs objective to internationalize East Pak situation to extent possible and in process involve other countries in its efforts.
In conclusion Hilaly indicated West Pakistanis and others in Pakistan deeply concerned by “humiliating” situation that has arisen. [Page 94] Do not want to be difficult re outside assistance, indeed need such assistance in liquidity crisis. However people of West Pak can be expected to be sensitive to forms international aid, particularly relief aid.
For Islamabad: Ambassador or DCM should follow up with MFA making same points conveyed by Sisco to Hilaly.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Alexander S.C. Fuller (NEA/PAF) and approved by Van Hollen. Repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, US Mission Geneva, Karachi, Lahore, New Delhi, USUN, and London.
  2. Siscoʼs conversation with Jha was reported to New Delhi on April 23 in telegram 69364. Sisco used the conversation to urge India to exercise restraint in the delicate situation developing on the subcontinent. (Ibid.)
  3. During a meeting with Under Secretary Irwin on April 19, Ambassador Jha asked for U.S. support for relief assistance for East Pakistan, possibly through the Red Cross. He also asked for help in dealing with the growing refugee problem in India. (Telegram 67591 to New Delhi, April 21; ibid., POL INDIA–US)
  4. Secretary Rogers sent a memorandum to President Nixon on April 23 in which he pointed to a dramatic increase in the flow of refugees from East Pakistan into India. He noted that the refugee total in India had reached 258,000. Rogers asked Nixonʼs approval for a program of relief assistance to help meet the needs of the refugees over a three month period. The program would include PL–480 food supplies plus limited dollar or local currency assistance. The projected cost of the program would be approximately $2.4 million. (Ibid., SOC 10 PAK)
  5. Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, Martial Law Administrator and Governor of East Pakistan.