145. Telegram 9833 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1 2


  • U.S. Leverage in Current East Pakistan Crisis U.S. Policy Ref Islamabad 9113
For some time I have been concerned, as I know you are, about the problem of explaining USG policy toward Pakistan. It is a real problem which Dave Abshire and I talked over at some length during his visit here earlier this month. This cable is, to a marked extent, an outgrowth of that conversation.
The central element of our strategy in Pakistan, as noted in reftel, has been the maintenance of sufficient leverage with the GOP to encourage actions on its part designed to lessen the danger of an Indo-Pak war, hasten the return of displaced persons and enhance prospects for the restoration of normality and stability in East Pakistan. These have been the major purposes of the generally sympathetic, non-reprehending attitude we have maintained toward Pakistan. This we have expressed in such ways as refusing to join in the worldwide chorus of public [Page 2] condemnation of GOP actions in East Pak, citing economic rather than political factors when suspending new development aid commitments, and tempering our cut-off of military sales by permitting already-licensed shipments to go forward.
In judging how successful this strategy has been, the yard stick is not the application of leverage as such but rather the effectiveness in using it to bring about desired changes in GOP policy and practices. Measured by this standard, I believe US strategy has been reasonably successful. As more so than generally realized within the USG, and most certainly immeasurably more than understood by the press. We have used our position to urge a number of specific suggestions on the GOP and the GOP has adopted a surprisingly large proportion of them. We are under no illusion that their adoption has brought the East Pak crisis to the verge of solution: there is no question that the situation there remains tense and perilous for all concerned and the coda thereon is yet to be written. The weight of evidence suggests, however, that measures taken at our prodding have had a beneficial effect on developments and have forestalled what otherwise would have been an even more grim situation. In short, a convincing case can be made that our strategy has “worked” in that we have probably accomplished as much as any outside entity could reasonably expect to achieve in this complex, altogether tragic situation once the GOP committed itself to the course of military action begun on March 25–26.
The problem in presenting this case lies in the fact that an essential aspect of US strategy is its confidential nature. Our advice has been acceptable to GOP leaders largely because it has been given in a manner designed not to humilitate them, i.e., informally in private meetings with President Yahya and his top advisers. (For example I have met with Yahya for private substantive conversations 11 times in the past four months.) The need to preserve this confidence makes the defense of our strategy before congressional and other critics an especially difficult question, for which there is probably no fully satisfactory answer.
It occurs to me, however, that it might be helpful to you and to those others charged with explaining our Pakistan policy if you and they had for background use a brief compilation of [Page 3] specific examples of how leverage has been used to help defuse or ameliorate the crisis. Some examples are mentioned in the text of reftel. The following list is intended as a supplement to reftel. It is by no means a comprehensive list of our activities in this regard, since we have been working with (and on) the GOP at multiple levels, but it does provide eleven specific examples of the applications of our leverage to bring about desired results:
Civilian governor for East Pak: I first suggested the need for return to civilian rule in East Pak during my May 22 meeting with Yahya. In a later meeting on July 15 I broadened this suggestion into a specific proposal that he consider naming a Bengali civilian as governor of EP, and noted Dr. A.M. Malik as a likely candidate. When I called on him with Maury Williams on Aug 19, Yahya told me he had decided to follow our advice and appoint Dr. Malik as East Pak governor. The appointment was announced Sept. 1.
Transfer Tikka Khan. From East Pak: In conjunction with my suggestion to appoint an EP civilian governor, on several occasions I conveyed the thought that it would be advisable to transfer General Tikka Khan (who had become a symbol of army repression) out of East Pakistan. When Yahya acted on the Malik appointment, he announced simultaneously Tikka Khan’s transfer to West Pak. This was done over the objection of army field commanders and, according to Yahya, was predicated on my demarche.
Appeal for return of refugees: At our May 22 meeting I first raised with Yahya our concern over the continuing refugee flow into India, suggesting he issue a public statement assuring the refugees that the GOP would welecome their return home. Yahya agreed to consider the suggestion and as a result, he issued a public statement on May 24 inviting the refugees to return home without fear.
Assurances for Hindu refugees: At our June 5 meeting, I conveyed to Yahya USG satisfaction over his May 24 statement on refugees but suggested he issue a further statement specifically assuring Hindu refugees that their return would be welcome. Yahya agreed to do so and included such an assurance in his June 28 nationwide radio broadcast.
Treatment of Hindus in East Pak: Starting with our May 22 meeting I have regularly raised with Yahya the question of repressive army treatment of the Hindu populace in East Pak. He has been especially sensitive to criticism in this field and has reacted rather briskly on occasion, but has several times agreed to do what he could to insure equitable treatment. While the actual situation on the ground in east remains far from satisfactory [Page 5] in this regard and reports of incidents continue to be received, we have information to confirm that troops in EP have been given a series of increasingly firm orders instructing them to refrain from repressive and discriminatory acts.
General amnesty: In the course of my talks with Yahya on the question of refugees, on several occassions I broached the subject of a general amnesty to help create conditions conducive to their return. Yahya expressed interest in this topic. On Sept 5 he ordered a general amnesty covering all persons in east Pak not already charged with specific criminal acts.
GOP acceptance UNHCR presence in East Pak: At the time of our May 22 meeting, I stressed the importance of involving the UN in a humanitarian relief effort and urged Yahya to submit a formal request to the UN for assistance in coordinating the aid effort through the UNHCR. Yahya replied that a written request to the UN was being issued that same day.
GOP acceptance UN-staffed field relief operations in EP: During various meetings with GOP leaders in June and July, other EmbOffs and I pressed strongly for an adequate UN field staff in East Pak to assist the relief effort. The initial GOP reaction was decidedly hesitant, but Yahya “bought” the idea and, in so doing, overrode his advisers. At my most recent meeting with Yahya on Sept 21, he once again offered full cooperation in UN staffing.
Improvements in GOP administration of relief effort: One major subject in my talks with Yahya since June has been the inadequate performance of the Pak civil administration in carryng out and coordinating the East Pak relief effort. I have urged specific measures to improve GOP and GOEP performance and other EmbOffs have done the same at other levels. A number of them have been adopted. As examples in our June meeting I expressed concern over poor coordination in food relief and suggested the need for a “food czar” to act as coordinator. Yahya responded several days later by appointing an over-all “food czar”. At a later meeting in August, AID Deputy Administrator Williams and I cited the need for a single GOP officer to coordinate transport and other aspects of the relief effort. On [Page 6] the spot Yahya agreed to give the East Pak Chief Secretary this assignment.
Better utilization of, and foreign crews for, coasters: A key problem in mounting the East Pak relief effort has been the need for small coastal vessels to move food up country from deepwater ports. As early as our June 5 meeting I prodded Yahya on the GOP failure to mobilize coasters already on hand for food transport, gaining his agreement to do so, the major effort on coasters came later, however, when we succeeded in persuading Yahya to accept foreign crews on coasters supplied by foreign countries in order reassure donors against their misuse.
Trial and sentencing of Mujib: This issue offers an example of both use and limitations of our leverage, and the final story has not yet been written. I have raised the question of Mujib with Yahya at almost every meeting since May, and it is also one of the few issues in which we have also exerted public presure on the GOP. The results have been as much as could have been hoped for realistically. Mujib has been brought to trial on charges that could lead to the death penalty. On the other hand the trial is not being conducted in a summary manner: Mujib has been allowed an outstanding defense lawyer: and we have received personal assurances that he will not be executed.

6. In conclusion, in any attempt to evaluate our current strategy towards the GOP with particular reference to its application in East Pakistan, U Thant’s precept voiced on September 20 should not be overlooked. Said U Thant: “In tragic circumstances such as these, it is all too easy to make moral judgements. It is far more difficult to face up to the political and human fralities of the situation and to help the people find a way out of their difficulties. It is the latter course which in my view, the United Nations must follow.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 PAKUS. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Karachi, Dacca, and Lahore. Sent with a request to repeat to other posts as desired.
  2. Ambassador Farland made the case that the U.S. policy of seeking to maintain leverage with the Government of Pakistan had helped to “defuse or ameliorate the crisis.”