Bangladesh, December 1971-December 1972

Introductory Note

During the course of the crisis on the subcontinent in 1971, United States officials in Calcutta and New Delhi met periodically with representatives of the provisional government of Bangladesh. The aspiring government sought de facto recognition from the United States and looked to the United States to facilitate negotiations with the Pakistani Government on issues such as the release of Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Documentation on these contacts is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971.


373. Telegram 5592 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, December 11, 1971, 1125Z

Consul General Spivack recommended that the U.S. contact representatives of Bangladesh to "prevent them from assuming that we are inalterably opposed to idea of independent Bangla Desh or that we would take inordinately long to recognize a BDG substantially established in East Bengal.”

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Islamabad, New Delhi, Calcutta, and London.


374. Telegram 12575 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State, December 15, 1971, 1034Z

The Embassy recommended that the U.S. continue and expand contacts with representatives of Bangladesh and time recognition of the new government to follow actions by other major western powers.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL BANGLA DESH-US. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated priority to Dacca and New Delhi. Repeated to Calcutta, Karachi, Lahore, London, Moscow, Kabul, and USUN.


375. Intelligence Note RNAN-34 Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, December 17, 1971

Intelligence assessment of the leadership and orientation of the prospective Government of Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 15 BANGLA DESH. Confidential. Drafted in the Office of Research and Analysis for Near East and South Asia by David C. McGaffey and cleared by Office Director Curtis F. Jones


376. Paper Prepared in the Department of State, undated

This paper analyzed the U.S. relationship with Bangladesh and argued, in part, for "relatively early recognition.”

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL BANGLA DESH-US. Secret. The paper is undated but it was sent on December 22, 1971, by Executive Secretary Eliot to Kissinger under a covering memorandum that indicated it had been prepared in response to a December 16 instruction from the WSAG to prepare a paper on the subject of the U.S. relationship with Bangladesh. The covering memorandum indicates the paper was drafted by Constable and cleared by Laingen, Schneider, VAN HOLLEN, Sisco, and Irwin. Presumably the same information applies to the attached study. For a record of the December 16 WSAG meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Document 318. A January 17 memorandum from Davis to the Departments of State and Defense, the JCS, and the CIA indicates that the paper was circulated again for consideration of the Senior Review Group at its meeting on January 19. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 642, Country Files, Middle East, South Asia, Vol. IV (1972)) For the minutes of the January 19 SRG meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, vol. XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Document 210. The reference in the paper to the Hallstein doctrine is to the policy of West Germany to break diplomatic relations with any country that established relations with the German Democratic Republic.


377. Telegram 5866 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, December 30, 1971, 1115Z

In light of what he and his staff viewed as the "inevitable recognition of Bangladesh,” Consul General Spivack urged that he be authorized to enter into informal contacts with Bangladesh officials for discussion of matters relating to the functioning of the Consulate General. He also urged U.S. officials elsewhere to convey to Bangladesh representatives that the United States was not committed to the concept of a united Pakistan and was flexible on the matter of recognition.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL BANGLA DESH-US. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Islamabad, Calcutta, London, Manila, Moscow, and USUN.


378. Telegram 10 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, January 3, 1972, 0651Z

In part one of his report on his January 1 meeting with Foreign Minister SAMAD, Consul General Spivack reported that SAMAD had solicited U.S. assistance in securing the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from imprisonment in Pakistan. SAMAD assured Spivack that the Consulate General would be allowed to function for the time being and would receive "honorable treatment" while the U.S. considered the question of recognition.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Jan-31 Aug 72. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad, Calcutta, and New Delhi.


379. Telegram 11 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, January 3, 1972, 0650Z

Consul General Spivack reported that part two of his January 1 conversation with Foreign Minister SAMAD involved a discussion of the question of recognition. SAMAD asked about the factors being considered by the U.S. in weighing recognition of Bangladesh, and Spivack indicated that he was not authorized to discuss the question in other than broad, hypothetical terms.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Jan-31 Aug 72. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad, Calcutta, and New Delhi.


380. Telegram 12 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, January 3, 1972, 0713Z

Consul General Spivack noted that at the conclusion of their conversation on January 1 Foreign Minister SAMAD raised the question of whether the U.S. intended to continue funding partially-completed projects begun by USAID. They then discussed how best to describe their meeting to the press. In his concluding comment, Spivack observed that press and television coverage of the meeting was extensive.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Jan-31 Aug 72. Confidential; Immediate, Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad, Calcutta, and New Delhi.


381. Telegram 79 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State, January 4, 1972, 1255Z

Foreign Secretary SULTAN KHAN told Deputy Chief of Mission Sober that his Government continued to view "premature" recognition of Bangladesh as a hostile act. Pakistani President Bhutto felt that there was still the possibility that a political link could be maintained between what his Government continued to refer to as the two wings of Pakistan.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Confidential. Repeated to Dacca, Karachi, Lahore, London, Moscow, and New Delhi.


382. Telegram 1047 From the Department of State to the Consulate General in Dacca, January 4, 1972, 2232Z

Secretary of State Rogers instructed Consul General Spivack to avoid further contact with Bangladesh representatives.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Jan-31 Aug 72. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Sisco, cleared by Eliot, and approved by Rogers. Repeated to Calcutta, Islamabad, and New Delhi.


383. Telegram 239 From the Embassy in India to the Department of State, January 6, 1972, 1509Z

The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh appealed to the United States for recognition.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Limited Official Use. Repeated to Bombay, Calcutta, Dacca, Islamabad, and Madras. The attachments cited in the telegram were not found.


385. Telegram 125 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, January 12, 1972, 0745Z

Consul General Spivack reported that he had just been invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony for President Mujibur Rahman to take place that day. He cabled urgently for instructions.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 15-1 BANGLA DESH. Limited Official Use; Flash. Repeated to Islamabad and New Delhi. The Department returned a Flash response within 2 hours instructing Spivack that no U.S representative should attend the ceremony. The cable was drafted by VAN HOLLEN and cleared by Irwin and Kissinger. (Telegram 5773 to Dacca, January 12; ibid.) On January 13 Spivack cabled the Department that the United States was the only government with de facto representation in Dacca not represented at the swearing-in ceremony. (Telegram 136 from Dacca; ibid.)


386. Letter From the Minister of the British Embassy (Tebbit) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, January 13, 1972

The British Embassy forwarded a message from Prime Minister HEATH to President Nixon. In the message, HEATH discussed a meeting he had just had in London with Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman. MUJIBUR told HEATH that there could be no question of a formal link between Bangladesh and West Pakistan. Under the circumstances, HEATH felt it was important for Western powers to move fairly quickly toward recognition, and he asked Nixon to try to persuade Pakistani President Bhutto of the inevitability of recognizing Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-062, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 1/19/72. Secret. On January 14 the Foreign Office told the Embassy in London that British recognition of Bangladesh would come within 2 weeks. (Telegram 412 from London, January 14; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH)


387. Letter From the Australian Ambassador (Plimsoll) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, January 13, 1972

Plimsoll forwarded a message from Australian Prime Minister McMahon to President Nixon. McMahon pointed up his concern about Soviet influence in South Asia and argued the importance of repairing relations with India and providing economic assistance to the new nation of Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-062, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 1/19/72. Top Secret


388. Telegram 158 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, January 14, 1972, 0620Z

The Consulate General made the case for early recognition of Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Confidential; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad and New Delhi.


389. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, January 26, 1972

The Department of State and AID responded to an instruction from the Senior Review Group to prepare recommendations for humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and India.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-061, SRG Meeting, South Asia, 2/1/72. Confidential. Signed in S/S for Eliot by Robert T. Curran. This memorandum was considered by the SRG at its meeting on February 1. The minutes of the January 19 and February 1 SRG meetings are Documents 210 and 220. Issues relating to South Asia were discussed in both meetings, but the latter was devoted largely to a discussion of humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh.


390. Letter From President Nixon to British Prime Minister Heath, Washington, February 2, 1972

Nixon wrote to HEATH to explain that the United States intended to defer a decision on recognition of Bangladesh "until we have a clearer picture of how it will relate to the broader situation in South Asia.”

Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 210, Geopolitical File, South Asia, Chronological File, Jan-June 1972. No classification marking. The text of the letter was transmitted to London on February 3 in telegram 19242 for delivery to HEATH. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH) The United Kingdom was among eight countries that recognized Bangladesh on February 4. (Telegram 429 from Dacca, February 5; ibid.)


391. Telegram 1113 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State, February 3, 1972, 1725Z

Pakistani President Bhutto suggested that the U.S. extend recognition to Bangladesh as early as February 20.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.


392. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, February 4, 1972, 10:34 p.m.

Nixon and Kissinger discussed recognition of Bangladesh and decided to delay it until after Nixon had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Chinese Premier CHOU EN-LAI.

Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.


393. Letter From the Ambassador of Pakistan (Raza) to Secretary of State Rogers, Washington, February 7, 1972

Raza conveyed to Rogers a message from Pakistani President Bhutto to President Nixon in which Bhutto asked Nixon to intervene with the Indian Government and "the elected leaders in East Pakistan" on behalf of "hundreds of thousands of non-Bengalis including women and children whose very existence in East Pakistan is threatened as a result of planned retaliation and reprisals by armed personnel.”

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL BANGLA DESH. Immediate; no further classification marking. Forwarded under a covering memorandum by Eliot to Kissinger on February 8. (Ibid.) On February 10 the Department instructed Sober to acknowledge receipt of the message and to inform Bhutto that the United States shared his concern and was watching the situation closely. Sober responded on February 11 that he had done so. (Telegrams 23379 to Islamabad and 1364 from Islamabad, respectively; ibid., SOC 14 BANGLA DESH)


394. Telegram 1374 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State, February 11, 1972, 1200Z

Pakistani President Bhutto told Chargé Sober that he would prefer that U.S. recognition of Bangladesh be deferred until March, possibly to follow after Nixon’s trip to China.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 627, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Jan-31 Aug 72. Secret; Priority; Nodis.


395. Telegram 26863 From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations, February 15, 1972, 2356Z

The Department provided policy guidance for the Mission for a meeting called by the Secretary-General on relief for Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, SOC 10 BANGLA DESH. Limited Official Use; Immediate. Drafted by Francis H. Thomas (NEA/PAF); cleared in NEA by Laingen, and Schneider, M. Kathleen Bell (IO/UNP), Frank Wiesner (S/R); and approved by VAN HOLLEN. Repeated to Islamabad, Dacca, and New Delhi. The policy guidance conditioned USUN’s response to Waldheim’s appeal. (Telegram 617 from USUN, February 18; ibid.)


396. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, February 16, 1972

Kissinger recommended that the United States recognize Bangladesh "about the third week in March,” and Nixon approved the recommendation.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 591, Country Files, Middle East, Bangladesh. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendation.


397. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, February 16, 1972

Nixon approved recommendations authorizing humanitarian assistance for Bangladesh.

Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box CL 210, South Asia, Chronological File, Jan-June 1972. Confidential. Sent for action. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Nixon initialed his approval of all of the recommendations. On February 17 Kissinger sent a memorandum to Rogers that conveyed the decisions approved by the President. (Ibid.) The SRG discussion Kissinger referred to took place on February 1. For a record of the discussion, see Document 220.


398. Memorandum For the Record by the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Miller), Washington, February 22, 1972

General Haig called the Department with the instruction that nothing be done concerning recognition of Bangladesh until President Nixon returned from China. Contacts with Bangladesh officials were to be kept to a minimum.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLADESH. Top Secret; Nodis.


399. Telegram 1675 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State, February 22, 1972, 1110Z

Pakistani President Bhutto suggested that the United States delay recognition of Bangladesh until March 17 at the earliest.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Secret; Priority; Nodis.


400. Telegram TOHAK 111 from the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, February 23, 1972, 2313Z

Haig forwarded to Kissinger Consul General Spivack’s request (telegram 642 from Dacca, February 23) for "permission to engage in a broad-ranging exchange of views" with Mujibur Rahman. Haig stated that he had taken steps to ensure that such an exchange did not take place. He reported to Kissinger on developments relating to U.S. humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 591, Country Files, Middle East, Bangladesh. Secret; Exdis. Sent to Howe for Kissinger. Also numbered WH 20460. Telegram 642 from Dacca is also ibid., Central Files 1970-73, POL 7 BANGLA DESH.


401. Telegram HAKTO 11 From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig), Peking, February 24, 1972, 0305Z

Kissinger stated that agreement had been reached with the Chinese on "our general game plan" and it was essential to do nothing concerning recognition of Bangladesh until the Indian troops were withdrawn from Bangladesh.

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 497, President’s Trip Files, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 2. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Also numbered WHP 77.


402. Telegram 32170 From the Department of State to the Consulate General in Dacca, February 25, 1972, 0234Z

Consul General Spivack was instructed to take no action with regard to recognition of Bangladesh. He was also instructed to inform Bangladesh officials at a level below Mujibur Rahman of U.S. plans to participate in humanitarian relief, but he was not authorized to meet with Mujib before his trip to Moscow. The Embassy in Pakistan was instructed to inform the government of U.S plans concerning humanitarian relief, and that the question of recognition would be reviewed after President Nixon returned from China.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 16 BANGLA DESH. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Also sent to Islamabad and to Rogers in Peking as Tosec 102. Repeated to New Delhi and to the White House communication center. Drafted by Laingen, VAN HOLLEN, and Sisco; cleared by Schneider, Williams, and in substance with Haig; and approved by Acting Secretary Johnson.