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

107733. Subject: India–Pakistan; Indian Foreign Ministerʼs Meeting with Secretary. Following is Noforn, FYI only, uncleared and subject to revision on review.

Summary: During meeting between Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and Secretary on June 16, there emerged substantial consensus on estimate of situation in East Pakistan and in regard to objectives which should be sought in order to resolve problem of East Pakistan refugees. There were some differences, however, in regard to specific actions which might be taken in pursuit of these objectives, particularly in regard use of economic assistance.

Meeting between Secretary and FonMin Swaran Singh was attended by Indian Ambassador Jha, Minister Rasgotra, and External Publicity Director, S.K. Singh, on Indian side; and Ambassador Keating, Assistant Secretary Sisco, Van Hollen and Schneider on U.S. side. Secretary led off substantive discussion, stating with emphasis how much USG appreciates and in fact congratulates GOI for manner in which it is currently dealing with an immensely difficult problem. Said India was doing well, was acting with restraint. U.S. will do whatever it can to cooperate with India. We were doing our best to keep India informed in complete confidence regarding everything we were doing because we wished to help India at a difficult time.
Swaran Singh replied that India wishes to cooperate with U.S. on exactly this basis of confidence. Said U.S. has as much information about situation in East Pakistan as GOI, therefore no need for lengthy presentation on his part. Secretary interrupted Swaran Singh saying, to the contrary, he would appreciate FonMinʼs own account of situation.
Thereafter Swaran Singh presented reasoned and restrained analysis of situation and presentation of GOI view. Started with description of Yahyaʼs deliberate decision to hold elections as part of process forming constitution. Mujib was elected within context of his six-point proposal for East Pakistan autonomy. Thus, Awami League activities were entirely within context of constitutional process started by Yahya himself. Swaran Singh observed many foreign governments [Page 186] seemed to be bothered by “secessionist” aspect of East Pakistan situation. He observed that it was only after Pakistan military became engaged that new situation, outside of context legitimate constitution formation process, was created.
Briefly and unemotionally Swaran Singh described “disaster” which had resulted from military action. Explained death totals were in six figures. Refugee flow was now touching six million. Said this easy to write on paper but must be seen to be believed.
FonMin stated Pak army had considered it could clean up situation in East Pakistan in 72 hours, but in fact East Pakistan has not yet returned to normal. Although Yahya made statement 22 May that refugees could come back, in three weeks since an additional two million have crossed into India. GOI therefore questions sincerity Yahyaʼs statement.
Presenting Indian assessment of situation, Swaran Singh said it clear military action cannot resolve East Pakistan problem. It will simply harden attitudes. Therefore, first requirement is that military action come to end. Next requirement is that movement of refugees to India must stop. Even Pak military have capability of stopping flow. Next, all of refugees in India must return to Pakistan. If this is to take place, there must be restoration of peace and confidence in East Pakistan. India feels Pakistan military must be instructed it their responsibility to see that citizens do not leave East Pakistan. Thereafter more basic problem of restoration of peaceful conditions remains. Bland statement as refugees welcomed back is not enough. Something more must be done on the ground.
Swaran Singh explained that India believes a political approach to East Pakistan problem is required if confidence is to be restored. This approach should involve establishment of system which reflects will of people. Civilian regime which derived its authority from Pak military would not suffice, nor would one consisting of break-away elements of Awami League not representative of Mujib. GOI considered it important to influence GOP to see that it is in its own interest create such government which reflects aspirations of people. GOI believes there is some prospect that if GOP selects proper course, unity of Pakistan can be maintained.2 Does not believe six points are inconsistent [Page 187] with unity.GOI does not advocate any particular political solution which might be autonomy under 6 points, federation, confederation or independence. This up to Pakistan to decide upon, but India does wish to end conflict which both weakens Pakistan and causes refugee burden for India.
Swaran Singh described at some length Indian desire concentrate on social objectives following Mrs. Gandhiʼs sweeping victory. Refugee influx was major setback and inflicted social and political strains in addition to economic drain. FonMin emphasized new, unsettled, unstable element in area which already beset with political problems. Indicated fear that instability in East Pakistan and Eastern India could contribute to general problems of Southeast Asia, possibly creating situation similar to Viet Nam. If international community does not join with India and heed warning now, trouble may be much greater in future.
Concluding his presentation, Swaran Singh asked how long India could go on waiting helplessly while events in East Pakistan continued to unfold and refugees poured into India. Said he had heard from Indian Embassy that U.S. was already engaged in diplomatic efforts to help. He wondered how far U.S. had succeeded. Can India contribute its views regarding recent events? Does U.S. believe there is some hope for future? U.S., because of world position, has special responsibility. In a sense Washington was only important visit on his tour.3 Other stops had merely been on the way.FonMin had not come with any fixed ideas. Wanted U.S. advice on how to proceed.
Responding to Swaran Singhʼs presentation, Secretary said we view East Pakistan question in large measure as Swaran Singh had described. Problems such as this one, however, were frequently beyond any powerʼs ability to bring about solution at one point in time. We are prepared to play responsible helpful role but we have no simple, easy solution. Perhaps best course would be to discuss what we could do to improve situation as we have already been doing with India, UN, UK and GOP.
Secretary said we had already had many discussions with Pakistan in regard to the need for political solution and we had become increasingly insistent. Like India, we have no formula to offer. We agree there should be less repression in East Pakistan and we will try to get GOP to create peaceful conditions in which refugees can return.
Sisco referred to efforts by UNHCR Sadruddin to make possible reversal of flow of refugees. Wondered what short-run measures such as those being examined by Sadruddin might be helpful to deal with refugee flow. Would it be possible to seal border? Swaran Singh replied GOI quite prepared cooperate with Pakistan on such measures but it doubted GOP genuinely interested in stopping flow. Described deliberate steps being taken by Pak army to expel Hindus.
Saying GOI prepared cooperate with any effort designed to bring about return of refugees, Swaran Singh cited as one possibility UN administered refugee camps inside Pakistan. Sisco commented what little we know about Sadruddinʼs thinking is in this general direction, i.e., UN presence in reception centers. This seems to us to be promising idea. Swaran Singh remarked that if such camps were in existence, at least refugees en route to India could be supported there. Secretary commented this was good suggestion. We prepared to do what we can to assist in this general area. Jha pointed out fear was only one factor deterring refugee return. It important they be able to get back their homes and property. Sisco said this was point we would make to Sadruddin and GOP at appropriate time.
Sisco noted Indian emphasis on political accommodation. Asked how “Bangla Desh” leadersʼ insistence upon independence as only solution relates to this. Swaran Singh replied GOI has carefully avoided committing itself to any particular solution. It has not recognized Bangla Desh nor decided that Bangla Desh must be separate entity, but one cannot expect East Bengalis to abandon idea of independence until they see real possibility of an acceptable alternative. Welcoming this view, Secretary stated we can urge Yahya to try to work out political solution but we cannot urge him to accept separatism. We can only advocate solution which has some prospect for success and point out to Yahya difficulties which he would face if he did not seek accommodation.
Secretary raised subject of economic assistance and indicated our experience had shown us it could not and should not be used for political leverage. Swaran Singh argued that in case of Pakistan our giving aid constitutes interference in that it strengthens military regime. He urged U.S. to “postpone” aid until GOP takes corrective political action. Secretary replied U.S. could not withhold aid for political reasons. U.S., however, will not give aid unless it actually reaches intended recipients. We will not permit it to be used by the military, nor do we intend to increase aid to Pakistan, but we do not accept view that if a country takes political actions with which we disagree, we should cut off our assistance. To do so would be inconsistent with traditional noninterference policy India has favored. Furthermore, our aid gives us influence and withdrawal of aid would deprive us of that influence. [Page 189] Swaran Singh replied that account should be taken of Pakistan economic plans and how current situation affects them, applying aid criteria. In regard humanitarian aid, India is not opposed, but would hope there could be assurance such aid would not strengthen military. The Secretary agreed with latter point. Secretary said we had made no military shipments and want keep this under careful review.
Later, at working lunch, Sisco made clear U.S. has not rushed in with aid for Pakistan. It has been very careful. There has been substantial holding operation in regard aid and in other areas as well. U.S. is being very careful about aid and will continue to be infuture.
Also, at lunch, Swaran Singh made only allusion to possible alternate course by GOI. Said India was pursuing international diplomatic route but he was fearful situation might be created in which GOI would have to use some means other than persuasion. He wanted GOP to be clearly aware of risks involved.
Summing up situation Swaran Singh said time may be running out but GOI believes there is a chance for political accommodation within unified Pakistan. India has long wished to get away from atmosphere of confrontation with Pakistan. Although this effort has been set back, this is still Indian objective, and achievement does not depend upon emergence of independent East Pakistan.
Also summing up during working lunch, Sisco remarked USG view very close to that of GOI as we have demonstrated by word and deed. We will do everything we can to help India deal with refugee burden. We recognize this assistance is only a palliative, an interim step. The answer is political accommodation. Neither U.S. nor India has a blueprint for solution. Whatever differences there may be in our analyses, we both agree Pakistanis must work out own settlement. Secretary remarked there no substantial difference of view between U.S. and India.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Schneider on June 16, cleared by Deputy Executive Secretary Robert C. Brewster, and approved by Van Hollen. Repeated to Islamabad, USUN, Dacca, Calcutta, Kathmandu, Colombo, US Mission Geneva for Kellogg, London, and Paris OECD for MacDonald.
  2. On June 21 David Schneider, Country Director for India, sent a letter to Galen Stone, the Chargé in New Delhi, in which he assessed the impact of Foreign Minister Singhʼs visit to Washington. Overall, he felt the Foreign Minister had made a positive impression, and that people in the Department of State were surprised by Singhʼs moderate approach to the crisis in East Pakistan. “What particularly impressed the Secretary, Joe Sisco and others was that, according to Swaran Singh, the Government of India had not hit on any one exclusive solution for solving the East Pakistan problem. It admitted of the possibility of a political accommodation within a united Pakistan. We welcomed this here because it meant that the U.S. and India could operate within the same basic strategy.” (Ibid., NEA/INC Files: Lot 77 D 51, 1971 New Delhi Correspondence)
  3. Washington was Singhʼs final stop on a 10-day tour of major capitals, including Moscow, London, Paris, Bonn, and Ottawa, undertaken to reinforce the seriousness with which India viewed the situation in East Pakistan. (Memorandum from Rogers to Nixon, June 15; ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 INDIA)