18. Telegram 4169 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1 2


  • US Policy Options in Pakistan


  • Rawalpindi 3204

A. Summary: We believe principal reasons for imposition martial law in Pakistan March 25 were to maintain intact strong central government, to prevent East Pakistan in power structure in West Pakistan and to prevent East Pakistan from obtaining national political power proportionate to population. Although we assume Yahya administration will seek to eliminate many causes for complaint against previous regime (and in fact this process already begun) its [Page 2] longer range political objectives, particularly with regard to East Pakistan and, its probable success in attaining these, are obscure. (Probably some degree of flexibility exists among all parties.) US dilemma is how closely to support government which may or may not win support of populace and may or may not become repressive force striving preserve present social and interwing inequalities our conclusion is that we should support Yahya but should seek to expand leverage of our assistance to increase chances of satisfactory political solution. In economic field we should expand our particular attention to East Pakistan (witnessed by recent East Pak strategy paper bearing in mind political as well as economic impact of our inputs. In military assistance we should reach policy decision to supply directly certain types of lethal equipment. We should inform GOP of these decisions, but should make clear US cannot continue support in sense indicated regime which becomes alienated from populace and that we see possibility of such situation developing, particularly in East Pakistan. End summary

B. Background and policy problems:

Our general line of interpretation of reasons for March 25 resignation of President Ayub and imposition martial law remains essentially as described reftel, i.e., that while number of factors contributed (including physical problem of law and order) major objectives probably were to maintain intact strong central government, to protect existing power structure in West Pakistan and to prevent East Pakistan from obtaining national political power proportionate to population. All of these were under severe threat in last days Ayub administration and regime had no assurance it could control assembly session where they would in large measure be decided intent of Mujibur Rahman to submit competing bill which was seen as serious threat to all three objectives may well have brought Ayub and military finally to martial law decision.
This conclusion does not rpt not mean that MLA does not intend and will not rpt not seek to remove or reduce injustices under Ayub administration, to hasten [Page 3] progress toward better income distribution (within as well as between wings), and to seek power distribution between wings which will preserve nation in present form. Energy imagination and efficiency with which MLA will address each of these areas and likely public reaction are major unknowns for future. Problems facing MLA in economic and social fields are immense and intractable and even with best of will, talent and fortune are susceptible to little more than imperceptible improvement in short time frame. Equally cloudy is timing and path by which MLA eventually will pass power to political parties, and indeed, we cannot be assured that MLA in fact will find or create political party structure in foreseeable time frame which it will consider satisfactory for this purpose. (We do not rpt not doubt, however, that efforts will be made in this direction, and in fact Yahya has already begun discussions with political leaders, but outcome of these cannot be judged for some time.)
We assume, however, that MLA itself and particularly Yahya could not rpt not enunciate very precisely at this time its ultimate political and economic goals and how it intends to grope with these and particularly could not rpt not outline future interwing relations acceptable to it which would at once preserve nation, satisfy public and permit political system to operate freely. We assume this is equally true of political forces in both wings i.e., that pre-martial law demands and positions are not rpt not inflexible and that position on both sides will be subject to readjustments as time passes. Thus goal of MLA probably will be to create conditions conducive to such readjustments and if this can be achieved, thereafter to replace itself with political government which would not rpt not fundamentally endanger basic objectives.
At this time, we do not rpt not know priority of MLA’s ultimate goals and most important, priority attached (either by MLA or by public in both wings) to maintaining nation in present form. Would present power structure see separation of two wings before it would accept political supremacy of east? How much prospective political power would Bengalis forego rather than choose separate path? What options for both wings does weaker center and increased [Page 5] autonomy provide? How will economic improvement (or lack of same) particularly in east, affect situation?
One factor which may redound to our favor is that new MLA heads personally probably are more Pro-US than previous leadership. We should not rpt not over-emphasize significance of this fact (if true), however, because we consider one basic constant of GOP foreign policy—its balancing act between US, USSR and China—will remain subject largely to same external imperatives as before and therefore is unlikely to change greatly. Moreover, Pakistan, so long as its antagonism with India continues, finds a natural ally in China, rather than in the US or USSR.
Present situation presents us with serious danger and perhaps with some opportunity. If MLA fails to seek satisfactory way out of present dilemmas, or is unsuccessful in such effort and becomes repressive force striving preserve present social and interwing inequalities, US support and close association would succeed only in alienating US from populace in both wings. If, on other hand, MLA seeks to satisfy some measure of basic demands for reduction of inequalities (in West Pakistan but particularly in eastern wing) and within time span permitting particularly Bengalis to become aware their demands are being met before irrevocable adverse reaction develops, our association with and assistance to new administration is clearly in our best interests. [Portion of cable missing in the source text.] tion of course is not rpt not solely of MLA’s intentions or choice of course to be followed. Implementation of most favorable intentions will be difficult indeed and full success can not rpt not be assured. Furthermore, US can hardly remove itself from scene and wait idly until nature, intent and success of MLA is clear and indisputable. US has been and remains closely involved in many sensitive areas and our actions and attitudes, though they will not be determining in the largest issues, will significantly affect future development here.
In preparing this message we assume that continuation of unitary Pakistan of two wings joined as definitely more to US interest than separation. Latter possibility presents to us image of weak, chaotic leftist state in east, easily subject to influence from West Bengal and from China, which could even develop into battleground for predominant influence between pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese communist elements. Largely autonomous arrangement with weak center but with direction in some areas and perhaps some continuing administrative and personnel input from west to east presents problems but appears as much more to our interests than complete breakup.

C. Early indications MLA policy directions

We would define MLA moves and signals thus far as satisfactory on many peripheral and some significant problems, questionable on a few, but as not rpt not having reached as yet into most sensitive areas. Such actions as reduction wheat support price, conditional maintenance of recently granted wage increases (which may bring difficulties later for GOP), reactivation of study group to review means of tapping agricultural income and resumption of schools and elimination of fees for period schools were closed, all show commendable intent to increase proportion of benefits from economic progress reaching lower income groups. Other moves also show efforts to humanize and make more efficient GOP bureaucracy. MLA Deputy Nur Khan has shown marked interest and sympathy for student and labor problems. Statements on corruption, control of government employees assets etc. are commendable enough but we are skeptical that Pakistani mores can be changed overnight.
None of these, however, have touched on questions of east wing autonomy, increased allocation of resources to east, power of central government versus provinces, provincial representation in National Assembly, etc., etc. As stated above, probably no one today in MLA could speak authoritatively on these points. Based on statements made at and shortly after martial law declaration, however, we assume that present leadership will seek even at great cost [Page 7] to (a) maintain strong center, (b) protect existing power structure (including one unit) in West Pakistan while providing increased benefits to urban labor and to rural low-income sectors and (c) to prevent “excessive” (and thus far undefined) transfer of political power to east wing.
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D. US policy options

In these circumstances, what are policy options open to US, on assumption that future developments in Pakistan will unfold rather slowly, and in fact may depend in part upon way in which we play our role? Apparent choices might seem to be (a) to continue [Page 9] present policies largely unchanged, i.e., transferring our support from Ayub to Yahya: (b) to withdraw or to limit economic and military assistance and certainly new commitments until MLA’s intentions toward establishment political framework become clear: and (c) expanded leverage, by using what influence we can to frame assistance efforts to persuade and assist MLA in directions we favor.
Continuity option. This choice, if made purposefully, assumes a judgment that MLA (despite its disadvantages) is most likely assure immediate stabilization and equally unlikely be replaced by regime more favorable to US. It either overlooks east wing reaction or assumes that MLA can find satisfactory political solution for its own replacement. Under it, we would continue both military supply and economic assistance programs as before, using them as we have been for limited leverage (i.e., principally in field of economic policy). We would of course observe MLA’s policies and progress as they develop, but we would seek no major impact on interwing relations. Major problem in this choice is that for East Pakistan we are clearly and openly supporting “colonial” power with no assurance that it will become more acceptable in east wing.
Withdrawal or limiting option. This choice implies judgment that conciliation between two wings is unlikely of itself and that we can bring MLA to modify its policies by negative pressure, pressure which would be stinging and public. It suggests also that MLA’s intentions toward reestablishment political frame work may become clear with reasonable promptness. None of these appears as likely prospects. Certainly a withdrawal of assistance already offered and even withholding new but implied commitments (i.e. to cancel Turkish tank deal or to refuse attend consortium meeting) would damage our position in West Pakistan significantly, would not rpt not achieve objectives.
Expanded leverage option. This course we see as complex, difficult and uncertain, but offering best possibility of eventual achievement of US objectives. In summary, under it we would (a) offer ourselves as certain supply source for limited but negotiable quantities of certain types of military (lethal) equipment (b) continue economic assistance within limits of overall appropriations but with increased attention to East Pakistan, [Page 10] and (c) accompany (a) and (b) by subtle but explicit relating of assistance to certain objectives which we would spell out in general terms. In economic field, East Pak strategy paper now under study in Washington is beginning in this direction. We would in effect through this and other proposals (such as locating certain Pak financial institutions in Dacca) make stepped up effort to increase center’s attention to east wing. In political field, Reuss Amendment on military sales to military dictators gives us excuses, and prospect of increased military supply gives us opportunity, to maintain pressure, discreetly and carefully but explicitly for movement toward political viability.

E. Recommendations

We recommend that US make conscious choice of using means available to us to press for movement by martial law administration toward objectives we believe imperative. This choice would be for undefined time period not rpt not to be unlimited. Our views should be made known clearly but discreetly to GOP, and a review of GOP developments continued. Specifically:
At early opportunity and acting under instructions (and paralleling similar approach in Washington to ambassador Hilaly), Ambassador should request from Yahya MLA’s intentions concerning restoration political rule and particularly toward East Pakistan. He should tell Yahya that US has decided to continue its economic assistance program and has decided to liberalize military supply program but that US is gravely concerned lest in event of greater alienation between two wings US finds itself effectively supporting one wing against the other. Therefore we feel required to relate both economic assistance and military supply to future developments in Pakistan. Ambassador would outline for Yahya problems of political restoration as we see them, as well as our overall intentions re economic and military assistance, to be drawn from paras (B) and (C) below. He should inform Yahya that in event US should come to visualize itself as supporting one wing to detriment of other our policies toward GOP would have to be reviewed. We should not rpt not set ourselves up as arbiter of what is acceptable in terms of political progress: this must be determined by Pakistani people themselves (however, Ambassador probably should provide [omission in source text]
In economic assistance, we should continue and expand our particular attention to East Pakistan, results so far of which are found in East Pakistan paper. Consortium meeting provides logical opportunity for GOP to provide thinking and plans for selected modifications in economic development program to help meet major problems of East Pakistan. (In any event we plan suggest to GOP that it do this.) Our own thinking should particularly take into account not only political as well as economic [Page 12] impact of current inputs, but also popular knowledge and acceptance of own activities. Does East Pak strategy paper go far enough? We recognize that GOP policy and inputs outweigh ours by far, and that our effort is to induce a change on its part but nevertheless our own political position in East Pakistan results in part from our economic programs there. We also recognize that there may be strong economic arguments which have prevailed in the past against certain revisions of policy. (e.g. consistently more attractive development opportunities in West Pakistan.) These arguments remain and have to be met. However the political pressures to overcome them we see as now much stronger than in the past.
In military assistance, we should reach policy decision to supply certain type of equipment, subject to negotiation and should so inform GOP. We should emphasize this is not wide-open door and that we will need to work out carefully with GOP best method of assessing needs, as well as how we can handle restrictions under Conte and Symington Amendments. We should make clear our policy is subcontinental one and we consider Indian and Pak military spending levels as related to entire question under discussion.
Most important element of our position, however, would be to emphasize that above policies could be maintained only so long as progress toward political settlement continued. If this changed, and particularly if relations between wings deteriorated, US policy would have to be reviewed. It should be made very clear to GOP that US cannot support in sense outlined above administration which becomes alienated from populace, and that we can see possibility of such situation developing, particularly in East Pakistan.

F. Indian reaction to US policy in Pakistan

Seems to us that events in Pakistan since last November have increasingly demonstrated compatibility of basic US and Indian interests in preservation of a united Pakistan in which East Bengalis resonably satisfied, governed by an administration adequately responsive to the revolution of rising expectations in both wings. Given this fundamental congruence of interests, thoughtful [Page 13] GOI leaders might well be persuaded that policy option recommended above is also in India’s best interests.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 1 PAK–US. Secret. Repeated to CINCSTRIKE, DIA, Ankara, Dacca, Karachi, Lahore, London, New Delhi, Moscow, Peshawar, Tehran, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Kabul, and Kathmandu.
  2. The Embassy outlined U.S. policy options in Pakistan and recommended increased economic and military assistance as leverage to encourage progress toward the reestablishment of civilian government and an equitable settlement of the grievances of the eastern wing of the country.