56. Letter From Pakistani President Yahya to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr. President,

I appreciate greatly the constructive and friendly contents of your letter2 of May 7, 1971. I am also grateful to you for receiving Mr. M.M. Ahmad and listening to him on my behalf. He has informed me of the courtesy and the understanding shown to him by you personally and by your colleagues, particularly Secretary Rogers and Dr. Kissinger.

I greatly value and welcome the sentiments of friendship and assurance of your personal support for the renewal of our national development effort and the resumption of normal economic activity throughout Pakistan. This is characteristic of your Governmentʼs readiness to come to our assistance whenever needed.
It is also a matter of great satisfaction for us to know of your sympathetic comprehension of our manifold problems and difficulties. In particular, it is gratifying to learn that you share our view that it is to no oneʼs advantage to permit the situation in East Pakistan to be internationalised and that any foreign intervention in this situation could create new problems and compound the difficulty of securing an ultimate settlement.
I take this opportunity, Mr. President, to reaffirm my resolve to transfer power to a civilian government at the earliest possible [time]. For this purpose, I have initiated, once again, consultations with political leaders and elected representatives of the people and I hope to announce at an early date the outlines of my further plans. I have no doubt in my mind that with the support of the responsible leadership in the country, we would be able to resolve the present constitutional impasse.
Mr. President, our plans for national reconstruction cannot materialise so long as India follows a policy of open and constant interference in our internal affairs. It was not a matter of mere coincidence that the present crisis in Indo-Pakistan relations started when Pakistan was at the threshold of ushering in a democratically elected government. By arranging a hijacking incident, India sought justification for its decision to ban overflights of our aircraft. Thus, a situation was [Page 142] created which not only imposed a heavy financial burden on Pakistan but also made the task of a political settlement between the two wings of our country more difficult. Thereafter, India has persistently attacked the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. The secessionist elements in East Pakistan were encouraged and assisted by India. The Indian Parliament, in an unprecedented move, officially extended sympathy and support to these elements. The question of “recognising” the rebellious movement has also been under consideration of the Indian Government. Infiltrators and saboteurs from across the border have violated our territory and indulged in activities to dislocate and destroy East Pakistanʼs economic and industrial life, including the vital communications system.
It is most unfortunate that due to disturbed conditions and for other reasons, a large number of people left their homes in East Pakistan and crossed into India. Their migration has created a human problem which should be treated as such. There is no justification whatsoever for exploiting human misery for political gains. I have, therefore, in a public statement urged the law abiding citizens of East Pakistan who were compelled to migrate, to return to their homes and resume their normal duties. They would not only be welcome but would be afforded necessary protection and assistance by my Government.
I am afraid, however, that I cannot extend a welcome to those persons who committed murders, indulged in rape and arson, destroyed private and public properties and looted Government treasuries and food stores. No Government can condone such crimes against the people and the State.
Mr. President, it hardly needs reiteration that the problem of our relations with India is a major factor in the processes leading to the early resumption of normal life and economic reconstruction in East Pakistan. It is not only in regard to the refugee problem but also in respect of the banning of overflights, encouragement to infiltrators and anti-state elements, and other such matters, that India must exercise restraint and adopt a constructive approach. If Mrs. Indira Gandhi could be persuaded to show a more helpful attitude, there is no reason why the political climate of the sub-continent should not register an immediate and welcome improvement. Such a development is most desirable from our view point as this would enable us to devote all our attention and energies to tackling various problems including the question of refugees which demand immediate solution.
As I have stated above, the refugees pose a human problem which has to be settled on that basis. At the same time I feel that it is not an isolated development and stems from other issues which I have mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Any initiative, Mr. President, [Page 143] that you might find possible to take in solving the refugee problem and the related issues would be an act of historical significance.

With warm personal regards,

Yours sincerely,

A.M. Yahya Khan
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 759, Presidential Correspondence File, Pakistan (1971). No classification marking. Sent under cover of a letter from Ambassador Hilaly to Saunders on May 27. (Ibid.)
  2. Document 41.