47. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State 1

4655. Subj: Flow of Hindu Refugees to India. Ref: State 83656.2

We share Departmentʼs concern that continued massive outflow of East Pak refugees may have serious consequences, both in terms of [Page 120] human suffering and increased danger of Indo/Pak conflict. Action of sort mentioned by FonSec Kaul para 5 New Delhi 70223 for example would almost certainly lead to war. As practical matter, only way to “force” GOP to put aside area for Hindus would be for Indian army to seize territory. Kaulʼs approach to US can only be read as a “threat” despite his denial.
As to GOP intentions re Hindus in East Pakistan, we think Kaul overstates position. We doubt that GOP has specific plan of action to drive out Hindu minority from East Pakistan. Nonetheless, thinking of West Paks, especially Punjab is colored by an emotional anti-Hindu bias. This has been buttressed in recent weeks by thrust of GOP propaganda line about East Pak situation which has stressed alleged role of Hindus (and Indians) in creating crisis. One aspect propaganda has been to play up supposedly important behind-scenes role of Hindus in Awami League.
While we do not think army policy as such is to expel Hindus, army has clearly been singling out Hindus for especially harsh treatment.4 Coupled with official anti-Hindu propaganda, army brutality has effect of spurring Hindu exodus. Faced with choice of uncertain and possibly physically unsafe future in East Pakistan, flight to India surely must be seen as lesser evil by many Hindus.
Even though GOP may not be officially encouraging mass exodus, we doubt it sorry Hindus are leaving. Pak military probably view Hindu departure as blessing which reduces element [garble—they?] regard as untrustworthy and subversive. In this regard we would not be surprised if GOP developed future policy that removed those Hindus remaining in sensitive jobs such as teaching profession. It frequently charged that Hindu teachers have actively propagandized Bengali nationalism as way undermine belief of young in Pakistan. Another aspect of such policy might be re-institution of separate Hindu–Muslim electorates as means reducing importance of Hindu vote in any future balloting.
We think M.M. Ahmad visit provides useful opportunity voice USG anxiety about implications continued Hindu exodus and would welcome Department discussing problem with him. We have already expressed our concern regarding the refugee situation in general terms here and believe Department could underscore line we have taken, i.e.: that it essential GOP stop the shooting and begin the rebuilding in East. While public statement by GOP could have beneficial effect, principal determinant of whether refugee flow is stemmed will be actions of Pak army, not GOPʼs words.
One aspect of problem, which not suitable for discussion with M.M. Ahmad but could usefully be raised with GOI, is Indiaʼs role in situation. Continued Indian support to East Pakistan resistance threatens itself to escalate Indo-Pak tensions and, together with Pak military action, tends encourage further population migration as people seek leave areas where fighting continues.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, London, New Delhi, USUN, and to the US Mission Geneva.
  2. In telegram 83656 to Islamabad, May 13, the Department expressed concern that a continuation of the massive flow of Hindu refugees into India could generate pressure on India to cut off the flow. The upshot would be a serious escalation of the crisis. The Embassy was instructed to assess whether the Government of Pakistan was encouraging the Hindu migration and what its intentions were with regard to the Hindus in East Pakistan. (Ibid., REF PAK)
  3. Foreign Secretary Kaul called in Chargé Stone on May 7 to discuss Indiaʼs mounting concern over the refugee problem and to ask for U.S. support when India raised the issue of East Pakistan in the United Nations. Kaul said that at least 1.8 million refugees had entered India, and India feared that the number could mount as high as 8–10 million. In paragraph 5 of the telegram reporting on the conversation, Stone stated that Kaul said that if Pakistan did not create conditions to encourage the return of the refugees, it should be forced to set aside a portion of East Pakistan where refugees could be resettled. Kaul assured Stone that India was not threatening to take territory for the refugees by force, but he stressed that Pakistan had to do something soon to fulfill its “duty and obligation” to the refugees. (Telegram 7022 from New Delhi, May 8; ibid.)
  4. The Consulate General in Dacca reported on May 14 that it had received numerous reports that the Pakistani army was systematically searching out Hindus and killing them. (Telegram 1722 from Dacca; ibid., POL 23–9 PAK)