76. Letter From Pakistani President Yahya to President Nixon1

Your Excellency:

I am addressing you to invite your attention to the rapidly mounting threat to peace and security in the sub-continent. In the last few days belligerent statements have been made by the Indian Prime Minister and her Cabinet Ministers which amount to a threat of war. The latest of these is a statement in the Indian Parliament by the Indian Prime Minister on 15th June, relevant extracts of which are attached.2 It makes it obvious that the speaker is determined to exploit the presence of displaced persons in India to aggravate a tense situation and justify military intervention in East Pakistan. Should Indian leaders be allowed to continue on this course, consequences would be disastrous not only for the sub-continent but for the entire region.

Notwithstanding the fact, that since independence Pakistan has received millions of refugees from India, a large number of whom still remain unsettled, the Indian Government has spared no effort at this juncture to exploit the presence of Pakistani displaced persons for a political end. These persons should be enabled to return to their homes, and my Government has taken adequate steps to ensure this. We have as you must have learnt, associated the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to advise and assist us in implementation of this objective. The U.N. High Commissioner, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, has personally visited some of the reception centers we have established to welcome returning displaced persons, and satisfied himself that adequate facilities exist to receive them. Relief and rehabilitation arrangements within the province of East Pakistan are also to be provided by the U.N. and a representative of the Secretary-General has already reached Dacca to co-ordinate activities in this field with the provincial government. There is welcome news that thousands have already returned and more would be doing so, if only India would stop discouraging and hindering their return movement. It is most unfortunate that this humanitarian question should be cynically turned into political propaganda by India, and that the Indian Government should [Page 192] use the problem of the displaced persons, as an instrument of pressure on Pakistan to impose a political government of Indian choice in East Pakistan. No government could yield to such blackmail.

As I have repeatedly stressed, war would solve nothing and we do not want a conflict with India. It remains our earnest hope that India will not resort to a conflict. The danger is that through constant repetition of threats, Indian leaders may succeed in creating an atmosphere and mood in their country which could inevitably lead to a conflict. In recent days the Indian army has indulged in numerous aggressive activities from across the border and there are confirmed reports of increasing concentration of Indian forces. There have also been reports by neutral observers of establishment of camps in India to train saboteurs to infiltrate into East Pakistan.

Your Excellency, it is in this serious situation and in the interest of preserving peace, that I would request you to use your influence with India to persuade her to desist from actions, which could lead not only to a breach of peace but as a result of that, to unforeseen consequences which could affect the world community.

Your personal interest in the maintenance of peace in the subcontinent and in the security and progress of Pakistan is a very important factor to which I attach great importance. Now, when considerable progress has been made on our side for receiving back displaced persons, I find that Mrs. Gandhi is unfortunately not willing to permit them to return to Pakistan, except in circumstances of her own choosing. I am confident that your advice to her, not to compound our difficulties, will make a profound difference to the prevailing situation. I have also made a commitment to announce my political plans for the country on 28th June. But unless India is restrained, my efforts would be seriously affected.3

With my 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. Although undated, a note on the letter indicates that the text was sent by telegram from Islamabad to the Pakistani Embassy on June 18. A copy was sent to Kissinger on June 19 under cover of a letter from Hilaly, who indicated that he was also sending a copy to the Secretary of State. (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Henry Kissinger summarized this letter in a July 2 memorandum to President Nixon. He felt that the letter was intended to make certain that Pakistanʼs “side of the story” was being heard in Washington in the wake of Foreign Minister Singhʼs visit. He concluded of the letter that: “Like the Indian presentation, it is a brief for a position, and the truth probably lies somewhere between the two.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 759, Presidential Correspondence File, Pakistan, (1971))