269. Telegram 5434 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1 2


  • Bhutto Looks to the Summit
Summary: Bhutto seems cautiously hopeful on prospects for his meeting next week with PriMin Gandhi. He believes ground exists for reaching some qte tentative understanding unqte which would be short of what Gandhi might like on various specific issues but would pave way for continuing improvement in Indo-Pak relations. He hopes he can meet Mujib about mid-July and then submit question of Bangladesh recognition for approval by Pak National Assembly in mid-August, Bhutto noted various constraints working on him within Pakistan that limit his freedom of action at forthcoming summit. End summary
I had 70-minute meeting with Pres Bhutto evening June 21 at his official residence in Murree Hill Station north of Islamabad. Bhutto had spent past ten days in Murree since returning from Middle East-African tour, mainly preparing for his meeting with PriMin Gandhi next week. He looked fit. Only the two of us were present for initial part of conversation which reported this tel. Bhutto called in FonSec Iftikhar Ali for rest of our meeting which reported septels.
I congratulated Bhutto on his effort to instill sense of realism among various elements of population on issues to be faced at his meeting with PriMin Gandhi beginning June 28 (ref Islamabad 5408). He said he thought his series of meetings with leadership elements had gone pretty well. He then quickly added that he was disturbed by signs of resurgent qte chauvinism unqte in various circles. He referred to recent statement by number of opposition political and religious figures in Lahore opposing recognition of Bangladesh and urging hard line on India. He thought political leaders in question were acting mainly on domestic partisan considerations so as to embarrass him.
I noted some concern in GOI as reported by our Embassy in Delhi, over what it considered undertone of rigidity in communiques and statements issued during course of Bhutto’s recent Middle East-African trip. I said I had myself noted increasing use of term qte self-determination unqte by Bhutto and GOP spokesman in referring to Kashmir issue. I said I thought qte self-determination unqte had become a term of art in subcontinent (just like qte no war pact unqte) and that its use would be widely interpreted as indicating no change and particularly no softening in GOP policy on Kashmir. Referring to communiques during his recent trip Bhutto said he had not spent time drafting them although he had approved them. In any event, GOP had to show certain firmness in approaching the summit with India so as to avoid impression it was completely defenseless. He accepted my implied chiding on use of qte self-determination unqte without remonstration, but reaffirmed view he has expressed to me on several previous occasions that he is looking for way to defuse Kashmir issue.
Bhutto said he still had problems to contend with in his relations with Pak military. He had recently visited army officers mess in Murree and had been dismayed to find officers telling him that Paks had not really absorbed military defeat by India and that they could give very good account of themselves if they really had to fight Bhutto said he had taken [Page 3] the occasion to give them a good lecture aimed at cooling the hotheads. He also told me that military had recently declined his request to make two helicopters available to him (intended use unspecified but presumably to provide logistical support for his stay in Murree). Military had cited qte military requirements unqte as reason helicopters could not be released for President’s use. Army Chief of Staff Tikka Khan had come to see Bhutto and had made point that of course Army meant nothing personal against Bhutto. Bhutto implied that he was not altogether comfortable in his relationship with military leadership. He recalled having gotten rid of Air Marshal Rahim and General Hasan (former Air Force and Army Chiefs) but said that potential for trouble remained. He stated he simply could not afford at this stage to ignore the military. When I asked whether there was possibility of Pak military’s provoking serious trouble on Kashmir ceasefire lines he replied he did not anticipate that. He did not want to leave impression with me, he said, that he had any hesitation in acting to control Pak military on any such major issue.
I asked him how he viewed prospects for his meeting with PriMin Gandhi. Bhutto said he hoped she would come to conclusion that he wanted peace and a just settlement and that they could both therefore begin to turn over new page in Indo-Pak relations. He said I knew his own views pretty well. He was ready to make a beginning on major changes that would, at least, contain current issues between the two countries and pave the way for peaceful long-term relationship. He was not, however, a free agent and he had to bring Pak people along with him. He could not agree, for example, to changing Kashmir ceasefire line into international boundary. He did not exclude such development at some undefined future date, but that would depend on time and the course of events. At least both countries could now agree not to fight over the issue. He thought there was now, in any event, sufficient basis for qte tentative understanding unqte between him and PriMin Gandhi on the future course of relations between the two countries. He noted that such qte tentative understanding unqte between governments tends to turn into qte understanding. Unqte
I asked him what role he saw for Mujib and the Bangladesh recognition. Bhutto said it seemed [Page 5] that Mujib would not be on hand during the Simla meeting. It was Bhutto’s hope that he could meet Mujib around the middle of July qte if the Indians succeed in getting him to lift the condition on our meeting unqte. (The qte condition unqte refers to Mujib’s demand that GOP recognize BD formally before he agrees to any meeting with Bhutto.) If he can have such a meeting with Mujib, Bhutto said, he would then put the recognition question before the Pak National Assembly when it meets in mid-August, in confident anticipation that Assembly would agree to recognition. Bhutto could justify his taking this question to assembly on grounds that final status of East Wing had to be resolved before new Pak permanent constitution could be formulated. In response my query, he said he had no special reason to believe that GOI would try or could succeed with Mujib on matter of prior recognition, but he thought Delhi might appreciate Bhutto’s problems on this matter.
Bhutto said his planning on meeting Mujib and putting recognition issue before National Assembly was predicated on Mujib’s holding off on war-crimes trials. If there was one issue which could upset apple cart, it was this. Recalling his earlier comments on the still sensitive relationship between himself and Pak military, Bhutto predicted there could be qte explosion unqte within army if captured Pak military were handed over by India to BDG and put on trial.
This part of conversation concluded with my wishing Bhutto success in his mission to India and expressing our most sincere hopes for fruitful outcome of talks between him and PriMin Gandhi.
Comment: Bhutto seemed to me to be cautiously hopeful on prospects for his meeting with PriMin Gandhi next week. He believes he is taking reasonable position on various issues in light of political climate and his own strength in Paktstan. He knows Mrs. Gandhi is likely to want to go further and faster than he is prepared to go or feels he can go on certain questions. His underlying hope, it seems to me, is that Mrs. Gandhi [Page 6] will agree to less than she would like on grounds that it is worth testing Bhutto’s bona fides on continued movement toward Indo-Pak reconciliation. He is anxious to show at least some progress.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL INDIA-PAK. Confidential; Exdis. Repeated to Dacca, New Delhi, London, Karachi, and Lahore.
  2. Pakistani President Bhutto indicated that he was prepared to be as flexible as possible during his forthcoming summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi. He added that if Awami League President Mujibur Rahman was prepared to meet without requiring prior recognition of his government and dropped the threat to try Pakistani prisoners as war criminals, he anticipated that he could propose recognition of Bangaladesh following a meeting with Mujib in July.