29. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rogers 1 2

[Page 1]

Attacks on USIS Centers in Bangladesh

Our USIS Library in Dacca remains in the control of radical student demonstrators who occupied it following police withdrawal on January 2. The Library has been “renamed” in memory of two students killed in an earlier attack and the flags of North Vietnam and the VC fly overhead.

To our knowledge Bangladesh authorities are doing nothing to restore the situation and the Government appears frozen by fear of confrontation with the students. Foreign Office officials have indicated their fear that nothing can be done prior to parliamentary elections in March.

This is intolerable. Clearly there is going to be no prompt action unless Mujib himself acts. We have therefore prepared the attached message from you to the Prime Minister emphasizing our concern and indicating our expectation that prompt steps will be taken peacefully to restore the Library to us.

You should also know that the Ambassador-designate from Bangladesh plans to depart Dacca shortly for arrival here. We question whether you or the President would want to receive him with circumstances unchanged in Dacca. If no action has been taken as a result of your message by early next week, we think we should consider informing Dacca that his arrival at present would be inappropriate.


That you approve the attached cable.

[Page 2]


Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Bangladesh

For Charge

You should seek earliest possible appointment with Foreign Minister to transmit following message from Secretary to Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman.
Quote. Dear Mr. Prime Minister: It is with regret that I find it necessary at this time to convey to you on behalf of my government our continuing concern over attacks on U.S. Government offices in Bangladesh and the continued occupation of one of these offices by demonstrators. We are gratified to have your government’s expression of regret over these incidents and the offer of compensation for damages. However we are dismayed over the withdrawal of police protection from our information service library in Dacca on January 2 in the face of an obvious threat from hostile students, which permitted these students to take over the building.
Quote. We are saddened by the fact that during one of the attacks on the library in Dacca two lives were lost and others injured. I want you to know that we appreciate the difficulties such student demonstrations pose for your government and your desire to avoid any further violent confrontation of this kind. Nonetheless I am sure you appreciate that my government finds it difficult to understand why our personnel are denied access to offices and facilities which form a part of our mission [Page 3] in Dacca. It is for this reason that I take this step of writing directly to you with an expression of hope and expectation that your government will find ways peacefully to restore this property to us and assure the safety of our personnel in accordance with normal diplomatic practice.
Quote. With warm personal regards. Sincerely yours, William P. Rogers End quote.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970—73, CUL 11 Bangladesh. Confidential. It was drafted by Laingen and cleared by Meyer. The Embassy delivered the letter attached in telegram 3179 to Dhaka on January 6. On January 2 police protecting the USIS center in Dhaka abandoned the building to student protesters. In telegram 218, January 11, the Embassy reported that with protection from Bangladeshi police, U.S. officials had reoccupied the USIS building in Dhaka. (Ibid., 23—8 BDG—US)
  2. Sisco presented Secretary Rogers with a draft cable for the Dhaka Embassy instructing it to insist on an explanation of the police “fade out” and on procedures for recovering U.S. property.