45. Editorial Note

On May 13, 1971, the Indian Government requested that the United States make available four C–130 transport aircraft and the crews to fly them to help ferry refugees from East Pakistan from the over-burdened state of Tripura to Assam. (Telegram 7325 from New Delhi, May 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK) The Department of State responded on the same day that the Indian request was receiving urgent consideration, and the Embassy was instructed to ask to what extent India was planning to use its own transport aircraft to participate in the airlift. (Telegram 83736 to New Delhi; ibid.)

On May 14 Assistant Secretary Sisco sent a memorandum to Under Secretary Johnson outlining the Indian request. He noted that the Department of Defense had reservations about providing the C–130s in that they were in short supply and needed in Southeast Asia. Sisco recommended a positive response to the request and attached a draft memorandum to the Secretary in which he argued that the request offered an opportunity to improve relations with India without necessitating a change in policy toward Pakistan. (Ibid.) The Embassy in Islamabad warned on May 14 that Pakistan would react unfavorably to a United States decision to participate in an airlift of East Pakistani refugees. (Telegram 4656 from Islamabad; ibid.) With that warning in mind, the Department explored whether the Indian request could be channeled through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. [Page 117] (Telegram 84775 to New Delhi, May 14; ibid.) After the UN High Commissioner had agreed to take responsibility for the airlift, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Warren Nutter recommended on May 18 that Defense approve a request for four C–130 transports for a period of up to 30 days. Secretary Laird approved the recommendation. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330 76 0197, Box 65, India 1971)

The Department of State announced on June 12 that the United States would participate in the airlift. (Department of State Bulletin, June 28, 1971, page 823) The airlift exercise, which was code-named Bonny Jack, was terminated on July 14. (Telegram 127295 to New Delhi, July 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK)