81. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1

6487. Subj: East Pakistan Refugees: Kellogg Discussion with Pres. Yahya.

Summary: In discussion with Special Assistant Kellogg2 June 28, Pres. Yahya voiced sharp concern over GOI general intentions and specifically whether it would allow refugees to return to East Pakistan. Expressed earnest desire that refugees return, offering full cooperation with UN. Yahya defensive about current situation in East Pakistan. He was skeptical about bona fides of streams of apparent refugees whom Kellogg had seen moving inland on Indian side of border. Yahya urged that Kellogg go to East Pakistan to see for himself, and Kellogg agreed to do so. End summary.
Special Assistant Kellogg, accompanied by Ambassador and DCM, had 45-minute meeting with Pres. Yahya June 28 on refugee problem. Kellogg noted he had just visited several refugee camps and also had seen streams of refugees, who had apparently just come out of East Pakistan, on the Jessore–Calcutta road. Yahya expressed doubt, stating that some persons seem to move back and forth; visitors were given wrong information about actual closeness of border; and Yahya thought that large numbers of people could not now still be coming from Pakistan to India. Kellogg commented that he had spoken to [Page 205] number of individual refugees, selected by him at random, albeit through interpreters. They were very largely unsophisticated agriculturist types and they could not merely have been repeating a story they had been told to relate. Moreover most stated they had been trekking up to 10 days.
Yahya launched into bitter attack on PriMin Gandhi and her government. He referred to statements in which Mrs. Gandhi reported to have said that refugees canʼt go back. “Indian Government says they wonʼt let them go back.” Some of the few refugees who have trickled back, he said, show wounds and say they were beaten up on main roads in India leading back to Pakistan. Kellogg interjected that none of Indian officials with whom he had spoken had indicated anything other than that India wanted refugees to return to East Pakistan as soon as possible. Kellogg noted enormous economic, religious, political and social pressures on India resulting from refugee influx, and GOI estimated that $400 million would be required to care for refugees over six-month period. Yahya reverted to statements “she” had made. She does not want refugees to return to territory controlled by Pak Government. She wants political settlement of her choosing, and then she would turn refugees loose. Kellogg repeated that, from FonSec on down, none of Indian officials with whom he had spoken had said they wanted refugees to remain; nor had any referred to desire to see independent East Pakistan; “Bangla Desh” was never once mentioned to him. Meanwhile, if persons were continuing to leave East Pakistan and not returning in any appreciable numbers, Kellogg said, it would appear that they continued to be motivated by fear which caused them to flee in first place.
Yahya said he had been told by reliable Bengalis that the outflow had been halted. Kellogg should go and see for himself. There is no slaughter going on. Some armed opposition to the government was continuing, and it was meeting with armed response. How did those “thousands of arms” come into East Pakistan, Yahya asked. Pak forces had captured many weapons from Indian infiltrators. Some regular Indian army men (whom he acknowledged numbered only five) had been captured on Pak territory. Latter did not include large number of other infiltrators who came in to fight, blow up bridges, mine areas and then rush back to India when they see Pak military approaching. Shelling and firing continue from Indian side of border. Pak army has to fight back. When Awami Leaguers flew Bangla Desh flag over East Pakistan, it reflected direct collusion by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with GOI. Now Indian support was taking different form, Yahya said. “You have seen the refugee camps; you didnʼt see their training camps” (i.e., for East Pak resistance). Kellogg acknowledged that he had seen countless persons in refugee camps under squalid conditions, but he had not seen any training camps in India.
Kellogg said he had sense of urgency. Indian FonSec had also used that term, adding that “If refugees canʼt move back, something must be done.” That set Yahya off on another outburst against Indians. Referring to the refugees, he said “I want them to come back.” He asked whether GOI would do anything to help, such as pulling its army back from borders. Urging Kellogg again to go see for himself, Yahya said that it would be credible if he personally saw “many thousands” streaming out from East Pak side. Noting that Bengalis may look alike, Yahya said it would be easy to be misled by persons claiming to be refugees but who might actually be destitutes who had previously been living in India. Mrs. Gandhi, Yahya said, had instigated the current problems through clandestine plotting with Mujib. Her people plotted against Pakistan. They had armed the opposition. They had imposed a ban on overflights. Now India might be hopeful of getting large amounts of additional foreign aid, on pretext of refugee need, to help it cope with own existing problems.
Kellogg, attempting to get discussion back to urgent need to deal with refugee situation, stated that American people were deeply concerned over the suffering and that we were anxious to do what we could to help. Yahya retorted that it would be most helpful if India would stop giving support to armed resistance and would help get refugees started back. He said that impression might have been gained from foreign press that East Pakistan was burning. That is not so; it is not an inferno. East Pakistan is now open territory, Yahya said. Vast majority of area is quiet, although border areas remain unstable. Yahya referred to presence and action of Indian border security force and Indian army in border regions. Main support to resistance thus far had come from BSF. But if Indian army moved against East Pakistan, Yahya said matter-of-factly, “of course, fighting canʼt be limited to East Pakistan.” He said Indians were maintaining 30–35 training camps and arming East Pak civilians in them. Responding to Kelloggʼs comment that Indian FonSec had said it was not in Indiaʼs interest to have independent East Pakistan, Yahya said vehemently “Kaul is a damned liar. His actions donʼt tally with what he says.” Yahya added that it is important to see what is actually happening. Pakistanʼs borders are being kept boiling. He said Kellogg should go to the border areas and see which way the firing was coming from. Then he could ask Kaul how the thousands of captured arms came to East Pakistan.
Yahya said he would like to get UN in to help bring back refugees. Referring to rhubarb in India over Sadruddinʼs statements there, Yahya said UNHCR had actually said that conditions are not normal but that they are returning to normal although it would take time. Yahya claimed that Sadruddin was criticized in India because he was Mussulman.
Ambassador referred to suggestion he had made to Yahya on June 24 that President appoint full-time high-level refugee coordinator. Yahya referred to appointment of H.R. Malik3 who would be working with “Kittaniʼs4 people.” He said another man would be working with UNHCR rep, but did not give any details and did not seem in mood to concentrate on that aspect.
Referring to fighting in border areas, Kellogg asked whether some persons were fleeing into interior of East Pakistan. Yahya said some had, and referred vaguely to number of Beharis whom government was looking after.
Ambassador used occasion to inform Yahya that USG had just authorized additional $1 million for coasters that could help meet urgent transport needs not only in cyclone areas but elsewhere in East Pakistan. Also informed Yahya of authorization for $4.7 million for variety of relief and reconstruction activities in cyclone area, to cover such needs as housing, shelters, and embankments. Ambassador pointed out that agreements would have to be concluded within two days, i.e. by end of fiscal year. Yahya expressed appreciation, although his mind was obviously focused primarily on problems with India which he recounted.
Reverting for at least third time near end of conversation of value of Kelloggʼs seeing situation for himself in East Pakistan, Yahya asked that we inform FonSec Sultan Khan and have him arrange trip. Kellogg said he accepted Yahyaʼs suggestion, and Ambassador undertook inform FonSec soonest. (Ambassador did so in meeting FonSec about one hour later. FonSec assured that arrangements will be laid on. Kellogg and DCM are planning depart Islamabad June 29 and arrive Dacca morning June 30.)
Comment: Yahya was obviously in disturbed mood, and wished to focus only on urgency of what India rather than Pakistan must do to ease refugee problem. (In that regard he seemed reflect some of same concerns which Prince Sadruddin voiced in discussion with Secretary and Sisco June 24—ref State 115314.)5 In brief tete-à-tete following Yahyaʼs discussion with Kellogg, Ambassador found Yahya disturbed over report from Ambassador Hilaly concerning former Consul General Bloodʼs testimony before SFRC last week. Yahya was also disturbed over [Page 208] latest report of statement by FonSec Douglas-Home on need for political settlement prior to aid. This is day on which Yahyaʼs most awaited speech is being made to nation on his plans for political accommodation and “transfer of power.” We found him a very harried man.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, New Delhi, Geneva, USUN, and London.
  2. Frank L. Kellogg, the Secretary of Stateʼs Special Assistant for Refugee and Migration Affairs.
  3. H.R. Malik, chairman of the East Pakistan Agriculture Development Corporation, charged with responsibility for administering the distribution of food.
  4. Ismat Kittani, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Inter-Agency Affairs, appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General to establish guidelines for United Nations assistance for East Pakistan in May 1971.
  5. Document 79.