39. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State1

6741. Subj: Alleged Indian Support to Freedom Fighters and Other Observations.

During my meeting with Foreign Minister Swaran Singh May 3 on refugees reported septel,2 I told him that a number of my colleagues in the diplomatic corps had come to me with what they claimed to be first-hand information regarding the training and equipping of freedom fighters on Indian territory.3 I told him that I, of course, recognized the sensitivity of this matter. On a personal basis I asked him to give me the justification for Indian activities in support of the Bangla Desh forces.
The Foreign Minister replied that the information to which I referred was “absolutely incorrect.” Foreign Secretary Kaul referred me to the reports of Frank Moraes in the Indian Express as well as to those of British and American journalists regarding the organization and training of the liberation forces inside East Pakistan. Kaul said the refugees were in no state to fight. They were hungry, sick and at times almost naked.
Foreign Secretary Kaul insisted that the GOI had prevented the organizing of volunteers to fight in East Pakistan. They had not retaliated against fighting that had occurred on Indian territory or the more recent strafing of Agartala Airport by Pakistan air force planes.
Foreign Minister Swaran Singh said he had a very uncomfortable feeling that without making a careful assessment of what had actually transpired in East Pakistan an attempt was now being made by people who were close to Pakistan to allege that Indiaʼs actions were politically motivated against Pakistan. The Foreign Minister said, “I stoutly refute these allegations.” He went on, as he put it, to “make a special request to you” that the U.S. Government should be the last to put India on the defensive in a situation like this. He expressed concern if this was the type of international recognition that India would get for all the restraint that they had shown. Foreign Secretary Kaul commented that we were politicizing our relief.
The Foreign Minister said he felt extremely unhappy that there should be any such feeling. He said in a very basic way, the sense of justice of the international community would be shaken. Whether India received help or not was a relatively minor matter. If the international community was prepared to come to Indiaʼs assistance they would be most welcome.
At this point the Foreign Minister referred to J.P. Narayan,4 who has historically been the principal exponent of Indo-Pak reconciliation and who has now publicly condemned developments in East Pakistan. He said these were factors which should not be lightly ignored.
I told the Foreign Minister that I thought he was misstating some of my remarks. I was conscious of the situation which he faced and that I would prefer to leave the matter at that.
Later on in the conversation, Foreign Secretary Kaul asserted that the GOI did not wish to provoke war with Pakistan. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, were now deliberately killing Hindus in East Pakistan in order to provoke India. The GOI had suppressed this news.
In closing, I told the Foreign Minister that I was pleased with the increased consultation that had been going on between the Ministry [Page 103] of External Affairs and the Embassy on a wide range of issues of mutual interest. I told him I would like to see this continued in even greater depth. The Foreign Minister said he was happy to hear this from me. He said he had already had a report from Ambassador Jha following his conveying the suggested dates for our next round of bilateral talks.5 The Foreign Minister said it had been his desire that relations with my country should be as close or closer than those with any other country in the world. That, he said, was the policy of his government. It was their desire that a close exchange of views take place. The GOI was anxious that our relations be one of mutual confidence and understanding.
The Foreign Minister said that the GOI was “not keen for leadership in the area” but they were prepared to face their responsibilities and they appreciated the increased understanding of the USG in this regard.
The Foreign Minister then referred to my pre-election article in which I stated that Americaʼs candidate was not any one political party but rather the Republic of India and he said that my candidate had won and that he wanted to congratulate me on that.
Referring to the suggested dates of our bilateral talks the Foreign Minister explained that by September 1 parliament would no longer be in session. The United Nations General Assembly was scheduled to resume about September 17 or 18. He said he wanted a clear ten days before that time to prepare himself. It was these factors that had influenced him. He said he also understood that the USG was in the process of making a reassessment of its policy in this area and he realized we would want to have our reassessment completed before undertaking bilateral talks.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Ambassador Keating told the Foreign Minister that the United States would support the refugee relief efforts the UN High Commissioner for Refugees planned to undertake in India. He also indicated that he had authorized the release to various U.S. volunteer agencies in India of sufficient food to feed 175,000 refugees for a period of up to 3 months. (Telegram 6720 from New Delhi, May 3; ibid., REF PAK)
  3. In telegram 75390 to New Delhi, April 30, the Department referred to press stories speculating that India intended to train refugees for guerrilla operations in East Pakistan. The Department felt that such training would call into question humanitarian support for the refugees. (Ibid.)
  4. Jayaprakash Narayan, senior member of the Congress Party.
  5. The annual bilateral talks to review relations between the United States and India had initially been scheduled for January 27–28. The talks were postponed several times, most recently in a meeting on April 19 between Ambassador Jha and Under Secretary Irwin. (Telegrams 209080 and 66318 to New Delhi, December 17, 1970, and April 20, 1971, respectively; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 7 U and POL INDIA–US)