193. Telegram 227784 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan 1 2


  • Secretary’s Conversation with Bhutto
Following is uncleared Memcon, FYI, and subject to revision upon review.
Pak Deputy PM-designate, Z.A. Bhutto, called on Secretary December 18 prior to call on President. Bhutto accompanied by Ambassador Raza. Sisco and Laingen sat in. Bhutto expressed deep appreciation that US had stood by Pakistan in defense QUOTE basic principles international law and civilized society UNQUOTE, indicated strong concern over Soviet policies in achieving QUOTE reversal of Cubas [Page 2] at Pakistan’s cost UNQUOTE, and pledged determination seek reconciliation with India. Essential, however, that Indian forces leave East Pakistan promptly; said he thought it still possible preserve Pak unity on basis very loose confederation. In any event effort must be made and he was returning to Pakistan forthwith not to rock boat but to do what he could in context transfer of political power which now vital and urgent. Secretary stressed strong USG support for Pakistan, understanding for severe problems ahead, and intention continue be as helpful as possible. Assured Bhutto we would consult closely before any action re Bangla Desh but noted likelihood we would need and wish to support international humanitarian relief that area. (Continued next page)
Secretary gave Bhutto warm welcome, emphasizing our understanding that this was sad time in history Pakistan and that we very pleased to get Bhutto’s views directly regarding future and what we can do together to be helpful. Noted we have tried to do what we could to help in current crisis and that president particularly was understanding and sympathetic on basis certain basic principles and was looking forward to meeting Bhutto later in day.
Bhutto said he wanted to make clear at outset that although sometimes referred to as “Yankee-baiting Former Foreign Minister,” he was determined to open new chapter in history Pakistan-US relations. Pakistan deeply grateful to USG for standing by basic principles of international law and civilized society as these had emerged after World War II. US actions and statements in current crisis were important in demonstrating that World War II had not been fought in vain.
Bhutto said he wished to make two fundamental points: First, that the whole picture of international law had been disrupted by Soviet behavior in the South Asian crisis and second, that he, Bhutto, was prepared for reconciliation with India. On first point, Bhutto noted that Soviets had reportedly gone even to point of providing Soviet personnel on Indian warships and that they had otherwise equiped Indian vessels and aircraft with latest missiles and technology. He did not know if this true or not but what was true Paks had fought India before but never the Soviet Union. Later was that “Soviets had defeated us.” had now reversed their defeat in Cuba at Pakistan’s cost. Their objective was to show China that not they but rather the Soviets were the leaders of the Third World.
Second fundamental point was that he and Pakistani people were. prepared for reconciliation with India. India now has glorious opportunity either to seek reconciliation with Pakistan or become enemy of Pakistan, [Page 5] for all time on scale like Carthage and Rome. If India missed present opportunity, there would be hatred for all time, utter chaos and terrible massacre. He shuddered to think what this could mean for Muslims in Bengal. Moreover, this hatred would spread to whole subcontinent: India must act with magnanimity. Honorable adjustments between two countries could be made but these could not be made in vacuum and would require time.
To that end, Bhutto said he was being called home by Yahya and understood special plane was meeting him tomorrow in Rome. He was anxious to get back “to see how land lies.” He would tell President that either there would now be immediate transfer of political power so that he could grapple with enormous problems facing Pakistan or he would go back to his “small ranch in Sind.” He was not going back to rock the boat or to challenge authority. He had done that before in Ayub period but [Page 6] country was in too much of mess now to do this. (In some contradiction to this line, he made point elsewhere during conversation he hoped people of Pakistan would not have to fight another war to achieve political transfer of power in West Pakistan.)
Bhutto said that much of tragedy since March could have been avoided had there not been inordinate delay in transfer of power. Military action on 25 March was inevitable but what happened thereafter was not justified and could have been avoided by transfer of power. If government could not carry the people with it, then everyone in government would be pygmies and Pakistan would go from one difficulty to another.
However, Indians and others must understand that he, Bhutto, would need a month or more to prepare public opinion for what has taken place. He understood there were already reports of demonstrations and other trouble in West Pakistan over cease-fire agreement. India must [Page 7] act in humility; if it had demands on Pakistan, it should make them through diplomatic channels. Unhappily Indians lack vision and he could not be confident of Indian response.
Bhutto said he must ask USG kindly not to act in haste in recognition of so-called Bangla Desh. He was convinced that sentiment still overwhelmingly pro Pakistan in both wings. This clearly demonstrated by fact India had to use military forces to achieve its ends in East Pakistan. Recognition could wait; there were certain preconditions normal to such action in any event in international law which must be met, and Pakistan would hope USG would keep in close touch with Pakistan before acting.
Secretary took note of Bhutto’s hope India would act with magnanimity but noted that despite capacity of Indians often to appear magnanimous publicly and on the record, they could be very sanctimonious and self-righteous [Page 8] and act quite differently privately. Bhutto concurred and said it most Important for this reason that USG not lose current political initiative. US should make clear to India that it had treaty relationship with Pakistan and that it was not going to fold up its carpets and leave.” India should also be made to understand from US that latter giving serious consideration to massive economic assistance and considering military assistance in order to restore strategic balance in South Asia. Indians must understand from US that it has major global interests that have been adversely affected by recent Soviet action South Asia and that it would take these into account in seeking long-term permanent settlement. Indians should also hear from US that they could not do one thing in East Pakistan and something else in Kashmir. Indians had used force in East Pakistan but what of Kashmir?
These were things that USG should now be telling. [Page 9] India. Whether USG could in fact provide military and economic aid now was not so important. (He aware of public opinion trends in US.) USG and GOP could talk about such things later; important thing was that India should have clear understanding that we considering such action. Secretary commented that India should also understand that accomplishing secession of a neighboring state by force was dangerous principle with widespread consequences. Bhutto agreed,saying this was dangerous Pandora’s box.
Secretary observed that he hoped that Bhutto understood that USG would be under strong pressure public opinion to continue involve itself actively in humanitarian relief actions in Bangla Desh. Bhutto said he understood this but hoped it would be done in way that would not imply recognition and would not complicate GOP’s negotiating stance on future of East Pakistan.
In response questions by Secretary and Sisco re future evolution East-West Pakistan relations, Bhutto [Page 10] said Pakistan ready and willing negotiate new arrangement. It was important, however, that this be done by people of Pakistan and that there must be withdrawal Indian forces. Mujib was important element but public opinion must first be prepared for his reinvolvement in picture and he did not in any event believe Mujib would remain influential political figure beyond three months’ time. Mujib was good speaker but “very blank in the head.” He could have had all he wanted in March. Only history would be able to say, however, who the real culprit was in March, i.e., “Mujib, Yahya, or me.” In response, questions,’Bhutto declined name others in AL leadership who might assume leading role. Said there were others but they were not men of vision. Unfortunately, East Pakistan had suffered politically during 13 years of military, regime and only Suhrawardy had ever achieved prominence. Bhutto observed that Soviets undoubtedly now actively pushing their own kind of people to the fore [Page 11] in Bangla Desh leadership.
Secretary asked what basic stance Bhutto thought USG should take toward East Pakistan. Bhutto’s response was that US could not be unfriendly to 70 million people These people would be heavily dependent on USG since India could obviously do little to help them and only US could promise “hope.” In response specific query from Secretary, Bhutto said he convinced that confederation on “very loose basis” would have been possible in past between East and West Pakistan; he could not say with certainty whether this now possible but it was important that people of Pakistan be allowed to make an effort to accomplish, this. Tragically, what had now happened had set back development in East Pakistan by fifty years. India could do nothing to help in this respect.
Bhutto said Mrs. Gandhi now faced dangerous situation. She had laid basis for “Bangla Deshes all over Subcontinent.” (At separate point, referred to “bug of secession” that could spread very fast in West Pakistan if previous balance between East and West not present.) Said Mrs. Gandhi would rue the day she had “gone to bed with Soviet bear.” Soviets had no humanitarian instincts at all.
In concluding exchange, Bhutto emphasized again his intention to seek as close a relationship as possible with US. Stressed however that he was “slave of geography” and therefore convinced Pakistan must have balance in its foreign policy. He convinced, for example, that experiences of recent past had demonstrated that this balance important for-US as well. If there had not been that balance, with China playing important role, USG would have faced “terrible liability” in terms need provide military equipment for Pakistan. Secretary concluded by saying that we fully appreciative of very tough job facing Pakistani leadership; [Page 13] USG would be watching and helping as much as it could and in every way possible in ways that would not complicate Pakistan’s difficulties or suggest that we second-guessing their decisions in any way. We would, of course, be under strong compulsion act in humanitarian relief Bangla Desh but again, he wanted Bhutto to know we would do this only in ways that would not complicate Pakistan’s problems.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Laingen and approved by Van Hollen. Laingen initialed for Van Hollen. Repeated to New Delhi, USUN, London, Moscow, Tehran, Paris, Dacca, and Calcutta. Sent with an instruction to deliver at the opening of business on December 19.
  2. Secretary Rogers met with Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister-designate Bhutto, who expressed appreciation for U.S. support for Pakistan during the crisis. He said he was returning to Pakistan in anticipation of assuming the reins of political power. He was prepared to seek reconciliation with India and asked the U.S. not to act hastily in recognizing Bangladesh.