70. Telegram From the Embassy in India to the Department of State 1

9162. Pass White House and Ambassador Keating.

You will have seen from our refugee sitreps that number of refugees is now 5.4 million and that rate of flow is increasing. This should be evidence enough that no matter what noises President Yahya may make about restoration of normalcy, he has not yet done anything to effectively impede reign of terror and brutality of Pakistan army, the root cause of the refugee exodus.
I believe the United States, whether we like it or not, bears very heavy responsibility for the continuing deterioration of the situation. Unless forceful and effective action is promptly undertaken to stem the refugee flow, the GOI will be forced into an act of desperation to halt a situation that is clearly not of Indiaʼs making.
Our responsibility to act in this situation is the concomitant of our role as the principal contributor and acknowledged leader of the Pakistan consortium. We are the key factor in all of Yahyaʼs calculations for the immediate future. Despite his apparent lack of realism in recognizing the facts of life in East Pakistan, it is difficult for me to believe he does not perceive that the mainstay for the survival of his government is the continued flow of support and resources from the USG. To hold this card in our hand without playing it seems to me to be indefensible in the present situation.
There may be those who think the Soviets have a similar responsibility to our own. I believe the Soviets see their long-term interest of expansion of communism in both countries as being served by a continued deterioration of the situation, at least so long as it can be confined to its present dimensions (i.e., China does not become involved). The Sovietsʼ role appears to be one of making sounds that will be receptive to Indian ears but effectively doing nothing to bring pressure on Pakistan. Their basic motivation in providing an airlift for refugees in India is in order not to permit the U.S. to make major capital at their expense by our responsiveness to the Indian request. As the fabric of society in both countries continues to be assaulted by the manifold political, economic and social pressures borne by this crisis, the present situation would appear tailor-made to lead to an expansion of communism in the subcontinent. Presumably, Soviets will be [Page 177] concerned when they get clear signals that India has reached end of her rope but by then it will probably be too late.
But of more immediate concern is the specter of a major outbreak of communal disturbances in India. There is increasing reason to conclude that in certain areas of eastern India where the impact of the refugee presence is most severely felt, the flash point for protracted violence may be close at hand. Should this occur, it will be extremely difficult for the GOI to prevent a Hindu–Moslem confrontation from spreading throughout the country. More than any other aspect of present situation, I believe it is this factor which weighs most heavily in the Indian Governmentʼs efforts to find a solution to the refugee problem.
I most strongly recommend that the time is overdue for us to utilize all leverage available to pressure the GOP into halting without further delay the terror and repression by the army in the east wing. Under present conditions, for us to call on India to show restraint amounts to putting the shoe on the wrong foot.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.