Dacca, February 28, 1971, 0824Z
- Conversation With Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
- At 0900 this morning, February 28, I called upon Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his Dacca residence. The Sheikh met me at my car and escorted me into his home. It was obvious that he was particularly pleased to see me and welcomed me with great cordiality. At same time he seemed somewhat nervous and slightly apprehensive as to what the conversation might generate. After a few preliminary social comments which included his reflection that “our meeting comes at a most critical juncture in Pakistan history,” he precipitously barged into substantive discussions by asking me “what did I think about the situation?” I told him, as an interested observer, I was concerned about the political impasse between East and West Pakistan which all segments of the press had been reporting and suggested that since he, as Chairman of Awami League, was in a better position than I to interpret current developments, it was more appropriate for me to request his [Page 2] observations.
- The Sheikh said that in his opinion the political impasse which was facing Pakistan was not due solely to the machinations of Mr. Bhutto, but represented a situation which had been brought about by “those very people who had supported Ayub.” He said that Bhutto could not possibly have acted on his own since he had less than an organized political party. Without the help and leadership of certain West Pakistani military officers, Bhutto’s position would be untenable. It was precisely because of this situation that Bhutto favors excessive expenditures on military preparedness.
- In reply to my question as to whether or not he thought Bhutto would attend the National Assembly, he said he thought that, because Awami League had “now boxed him in,” Bhutto’s appearance could be expected. However, he said he anticipated that Bhutto, whom he characterized as a “callous cow, would subsequently corral his mnas and take off for the west wing. At this moment the life struggle of Bangla Desh would begin.
- I then asked him to tell me just how far apart were the positions taken by PPP and the AL. He said that positions were so far apart that he anticipated little or no chance of securing a consensus. More specifically, he said that Awami League and he as its “chosen leader” could not and would not compromise on six point program which “he had made a part of life of East Pakistan for a period of now some ten years.” He said that it was Bhutto’s objective to become the Foreign Minister and be given the right to select Pakistan’s president. The Sheikh commented on Bhutto’s foreign policies which he said are abhorrent to him, citing Bhutto’s love for communist China and his intransigent position vis-à-vis India. The Sheikh reflected at length upon his anti-communist position and the dangers that China portended to the area. As to India, it was imperative that Bangla Desh re-establish good relations and reopen the historic. [Page 3] trade routes in the area. He opined that differences between what Bhutto wanted and what the people of Bangla Desh demanded appeared to be insurmountable.
- With the concept as point of departure, Sheikh indulged in a 10-minute speech which could have been a part of his political oratory, saying that the people of “his country,” were behind him to a man, that he had the small hard core of communists very much on the run as was evidenced by Bhashani’s present political disarray. He said that the communists had killed three of his leaders and that he in turn had promised the communists that for every Awami League killed, he would kill three of theirs and that “this we have done.” After noting the time he had spent in prison at hands of West Pakistani leadership, he said that he had no fear whatsoever of “facing the bullet” if unity could not be maintained. He dramatically pointed out that he was unafraid of being jailed or “hacked to pieces,” and that he would not deviate from the mandate which had been the will of his people. He culminated this monologue by saying that he did not want separation but rather he wanted a form of confederation in which the people of Bangla Desh would get their just and rightful share of foreign aid, and not a mere “20 percent as heretofore. With 60 percent of foreign exchange coming from my country, how can Islamabad justify the crumbs which they have thrown us?” the Sheikh rhetorically asked.
- Moving to the subject of foreign aid, the Sheikh said that currently Pakistan was in a dangerous financial condition with its foreign exchange reserves virtually exhausted. He said that in a sense this was a blessing in disguise for Bangla Desh since West Pakistan did not have the financial power, to subjugate his party. He said, however, that presently West Pakistan was begging Japan for substantial financial support and that if this was received, “then they will bang us.” It was then that the Sheikh pointedly asked me if the U.S. and the consortium would support the re-building of Bangla Desh. I told him that as a political leader he should recognize the fact that U.S. had been and continues to be interested in the economic well being of the sub-continent. I pointed out, however, that there were two limitations to our economic assistance program as well as to the program of the consortium: (1) the amount of funds available for economic assistance was today much more limited than in the past: (2) aid receiving projects of necessity had to [Page 5] be more carefully evaluated and developed: this required more indigenous technicians and public servants knowledgeable not only in the projects themselves but skilled in the utilization of funds and project administration. I noted my concern that there had been less than full utilization of resources made currently available in East Pakistan for rural, development and the paucity of trained people.
- The Sheikh then described at length what he considered to be East Pakistan’s chances of becoming a viable area, pointing out the great reserves of gas available not only for local consumption by a petrochemical industry but also for export to India. He said that under his leadership Bangla Desh would be self-sufficient in food within two years, the boro crop being one of his primary interests. When I pointed out to him the almost unbelievable birthrate in East Pakistan, the Sheikh said that birth control would be one of his main objectives saying that he could lead the people in their effort to decrease the size of individual families whereas they could not be pushed as was the effort today.
- Speaking in a thoroughly serious mood, the Sheikh said that though he hesitated to do so. He felt he should point out that the U.S. had a reputation for deserting their friends when disagreeable problems arose he said that in his opinion disagreeable problems were going to arise in this part of world which again would put the United States to test. I suggested to the Sheikh that I felt that his opinion was entirely too pat and I would be happy to discuss the American role in support of its friends at another time. I added that I felt some credence should be given to the fact that the U.S. financially assisted Pakistan to the tune of something in excess of four and a half billion dollars. The Sheikh’s retort was that “if the U.S. would give me one billion dollars, I would make a prosperous Bangla Desh a bulwark for democracy.”
- All these comments were but background to the key question which the Sheikh wished to ask, i.e., what is [Page 6] the policy of the U.S. toward Pakistan? With the utmost care I delineated the U.S. policy, precisely in accordance with the policy guidance position set forth in State 35534, and I in no way conveyed a sense of concern re Pakistan’s future in such a manner as to suggest unalterable U.S. opposition to Bengali aspirations. I did, however point, out as aforesaid that foreign aid was no longer a cornucopia from which flowed an unending stream of financial support for use in solving the ills of the world. Without putting it in a form of a question the Sheikh then said that it behooved all the friends of Bangla Desh to exert maximum influence on “those who would use the force of arms to keep my people in a colonial status.” He said that he had been a student of world affairs long enough to know the United States and other aid-contributing countries could exert this type of influence if they desired to do so. Since no question was posed, the necessity for an answer was obviated, but it may require an answer sooner than we expect, and hence should be given some serious thought. I had anticipated the possibility that the Sheikh would raise the matter of recognition since he had evidenced interest in this subject as heretofore reported. However, he did not do so.
- I expressed the hope that I would have an opportunity of talking to him again after the next few weeks had passed, since many of the current variables or unknown quantities would then be known and clarified. He said that he had pleasantly anticipated this meeting today and would look forward with the greatest of pleasure to meeting with me at any time. Further, he wished to assure me not only of his own personal friendship, but that of the people of Bangla Desh for the people of the United States.
- The conversation which extended for a period of little over one hour was concluded on this most amicable vein and the Sheikh escorted me to by automobile through a line of his ardent supporters.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL PAK–US. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore.↩
- Ambassador Farland reported on his meeting with Awami leader Mujibur Rahman in Dacca. Mujib expressed his personal friendship for the U.S. as well as that of the “people of Bangla Desh.” Farland found that Mujib favored a form of confederation rather than the separation of East Pakistan, but he insisted that “his people” be accorded their rights and not be kept in a “colonial status.”↩