- Pakistan’s Options and US Policy
Summary: Collapse of Pak Army in East Pakistan appears imminent. GOP will soon be faced with decision whether to cut its losses and concede East Pakistan to Bangla Desh or to pursue fighting against increasing odds along western frontiers. We believe Paks would opt former course of action if peace with honor can be obtained. With UN action ineffective at present we believe uncommitted UK and France can play useful role with Indians seeking limitation of fighting in West. We foresee eventual retirement of Yahya and rise to real power of Bhutto in aftermath of present conflict. Bhutto may lend himself to constructive role when peace comes. Soviets will probably have very limited role in future West Pak while we [Page 2] anticipate Chinese will retain position of major ally in eyes of West Paks. End summary
- GOP is preparing West Pakistan populace for loss of East Pakistan and approximately one fourth of Pakistan’s armed forces. December 12 and 13 communiques describes situation in east as “grim” although GOP still refuses to concede publicly loss of any sizable East Pakistan town. With the likelihood that East Pakistan will for all practical purposes be beyond control of GOP in very near future, next stage in present conflict will shift to west.
- With this in mind, Embassy sets forth below some preliminary thinking regarding future prospects. Given very fluid situation with fighting continuing, these thoughts must be speculative. Septel contains Embassy’s further recommendations re Bangladesh.
Yahya, in our view, after
loss of east, will have two options:
- To continue fighting in west, utilizing all Pakistan’s capabilities in hope of achieving significant gains in Kashmir, enabling Pakistan to enter into negotiations with India. Having something to bargain with and at same time helping to salve wounds of defeat in East Pakistan. Pakistan’s national and army honor favor such course of action. Major drawback is fact Paks will be heavily outnumbered in west as India brings additional forces (air, etc,) to bear after termination of hostilities in east. This strategy runs grave risk of having Pak armed forces badly mauled in west with implications for future stability in west including army’s ability to hold principal leadership position there, collapse of Pak army could conceivably lead to what Pak establishment fear most—confrontation of have-nots versus haves in West Pakistan and rise of Baluch, Pushtoon and even Sindhi separatist movements.
- To accept loss of East Pakistan and to seek way to halt further fighting in west, such strategy [Page 3] would be difficult to swallow, but would preserve Pak Army qte to fight another day unqte and would enable Pak Army to retain to some extent its privileged position. Control of media and propensity of Paks to accept their own propaganda might ease pain of ignominious defeat in east without compensating gains in west. Pak propaganda of last few days suggesting that Indian successes only possible because of Soviet assistance might be line Paks could use domestically to preserve their honor.
- Although there are probably strong emotional and real pressures on Yahya to opt to continue fighting, we are inclined to believe that Paks would prefer to cut their losses if some honor can be retained in extrication process. We are less sure of Indian intentions, having in mind talk of strategic rectifications along lower Kashmlr cease-fire line. We strongly believe in USG’s interest that fighting on West Pak front be limited and that fighting end without territorial gains by either party—gains which would sow seeds of Indo/Pak clash in future.
- Although immediate recourse to UN again not likely to be effective, we believe that outsiders, specifically UK and France, still have opportunity to undertake diplomatic initiatives. Both have remained uncommitted in present conflict as matter of policy, thereby enabling them to play mediation effort. We should urge both to weigh in at approprtate time to make following points to Indians: Pak Army, if destroyed as effective entity in current fighting, will be reformed at later date. New army likely would be more radical both in domestic and external policy than present one grounded in Indian colonial tradition. Collapse of Pak Army, one of institutional mainstays in West Pakistan, could lead to chaos in West Pakistan which conceivably could spill over into other sectors of subcontinent. And finally, destruction of army would probably guarantee that revanchisme becomes major policy objective of future Pak leaders. Indians know their neighbor much better than we. But in flush of victory, Indians might well mortgage future chances of live-and-let-live relationship with Paks [Page 4] for short-term objectives
- We will be telling Paks, who have stumbled from miscalculation in March to misadventure in December, that tossing good money after bad in taking on India in west is short-sighted folly. Perhaps Chinese, Iran and friendly Arab states could be brought into this exercise.
- Whether we and others can intervene effectively on either side is debatable given high emotional content both parties. But when opportunity arises, we believe we should attempt to do so.
- In aftermath of limited fighting, with army exhausted but intact as institution, we foresee period of bitter recriminations within establishment and among general public in West Pakistan. We consider it probable that Yahya will be gently eased out of retirement. Military will again choose new leader probably skipping over Yahya’s intimate friend and Deputy General Hamid to another general. However, with public confidence in army probably shaken and faced with loss of self-confidence, in its own ability to govern, army may lean on Bhutto to shoulder major responsibility. He likely to do so on his own terms—that he is given share of real power rather than trappings only. We believe he is likely be given large measure of power by army.
- USG enjoys exceptional access to GOP during present situation. We would anticipate that such access to GOP leaders including Bhutto will continue for foreseeable future as result of USG posture during UN debates and general USG position in recent months. However, we should not confuse access with leverage with regard to what West Pakistan sees as its national interests. Nonetheless, in bewilderment likely to follow defeat in east, USG may have opportunity to play key role in preventing West Pakistan from embarking on course of extremes, either to left or right politically.
- Optimum for USG is to focus Paks on overdue internal social and economic reforms. This will not end hostility towards India nor desire for revenge, but might over time lessen confrontation policy which has characterized Pak approach to subcontinent since partition with such disastrous consequences. Bhutto might lend himself to this direction.
- Re other powers, Soviet Union has burned its bridges in West Pakistan. While there is healthy respect for USSR, Soviet role and influence in West Pakistan will probably be very limited for next few years. It probable that Soviets will push pro-Soviet Bengalis towards positions of authority within Bangla Desh (such leaders as Mufazzar Ahmed). This will conflict directly with middle-class [Page 7] Awami League leaders. Whatever Mujib’s fate, it impossible to predict how expected power struggle in Bangla Desh will end. We assume that Soviets (and Indians) will be as concerned that pro-Chinese Bengalis such as Mohammad Toaha are contained as in seeking to install pro-Soviet Bengalis in BDG.
- West Pakistan will continue to regard China as a major ally although there may be some recriminations directed at Chinese for probable failure to intervene militarily. We believe Chinese will seek to exploit probable chaos in Bangla Desh during early stages to lay groundwork for future pro-Chinese political/guerrilla movement, to limit Soviet influence, and to embarrass Indians.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA–PAK. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated priority to Calcutta, Colombo, Dacca, Kabul, Kathmandu, Karachi, Lahore, London, Moscow, New Delhi, Paris, Tehran, and USUN.↩
- In light of the impending collapse of the Pakistani army in East Pakistan, the Embassy assessed Pakistan’s options. It concluded that Pakistan would concede East Pakistan to Bangladesh if peace “with honor” could be negotiated.↩