37. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Embassy in Bangladesh1

Secto 11015. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

Summary: Vance-Huq meeting touched on possible visit to US by President Zia;2 BD competition with Japan for seat on Security Council, [Page 106] and desire for US support;3 Belbagco expropriation case,4 where Huq promised early satisfactory resolution; and problem of US Chancery in Dacca,5 where Huq proposed land exchange.

1. Secretary Vance met with Foreign Minister Huq for twenty minutes morning September 29. Also in attendance, on Bangladesh side, were UN Ambassador Kaiser, appointed Ambassador to US Husain, and Associate Foreign Secretary Chowdhury. Under Secretary Newsom also attended with Bangladesh Desk Officer Fuller.

2. Following exchange of views on Secretary’s trip to Middle East6 and peace framework process, Huq expressed the appreciation of President Zia for the letter received from President Carter7 and described progress in Bangladesh in the areas of economic development and movement toward representative government.

3. Huq quoted statement in President Carter’s letter to the effect that he was looking forward to a meeting with Zia and recommended that a mutually agreeable time be set. Under Secretary Newsom reminded the Bangladeshis of President Carter’s regret in not being able to receive Zia this fall, and Secretary remarked that we “ought to find a date” for a meeting in the future.

4. Huq spoke generally of Bangladesh’s geo-political position as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia, pointing out that while there was a centrist government in New Delhi, the two neighboring Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura were Communist-ruled. Huq acknowledged that Bangladesh had had a problem with Burma over the refugees from Arakan but agreement had been reached and repatriation was under way.8

5. Huq then came to main thrust of his talk with Secretary, reminding him that when they last met—on October 6, 1977—he had asked for US support for Bangladesh candidacy to Asian seat on Security [Page 107] Council.9 Secretary reiterated what President Carter had told Zia in his letter—that the US, as is customary, will defer to the regional consensus, and asked when one might emerge. Huq replied that none would emerge. Indian Chairman of Asian Group had reported that there was an overwhelming majority in favor of Bangladesh candidacy over Japan and that a conciliatory group had suggested that Japan withdraw and instead run next year. Kaiser pointed out that Bangladesh candidacy had been endorsed by non-aligned powers, Islamic Foreign Ministers, Arab League and majority of the African states. Outer Mongolia, another candidate, had withdrawn and pledged its support for Bangladesh. Even some Japanese had reservations against their country’s continued pursuit of Security Council seat—against a friendly state like Bangladesh, which had never served on the Council, when Japan did not have a good chance of winning.

6. Huq stated that unless Bangladesh is “let down by some of our friends” it will gain a clear two-thirds majority in the voting. Secretary noted that when he met with the Japanese Foreign Minister, the latter did not raise Japan’s candidacy with him, and said US “will consider” the Bangladesh candidacy.

7. Huq expressed thanks for US economic assistance, particularly food aid, and indicated with US help the outlook in agriculture was good this coming year.

8. Vance affirmed that relations between US and Bangladesh were “strong and positive”. US Government was pleased with directions taken by Bangladesh and appreciated BD position taken on Puerto Rico resolution in non-aligned conference.10

9. Secretary, however, observed there was one irritant in BD/US relations—the Belbagco expropriation case. Foregoing discussion of matter, Huq promised an early resolution of the issue “to the Secretary’s satisfaction”.

10. Then, on his own initiative, Huq raised the problem faced by US Embassy in Dacca in establishing an appropriate Chancery. Land that Embassy owned, Huq pointed out, was in “educational-cultural [Page 108] zone”. As BDG had done with the British who had land that had been earmarked by BDG for a hospital, the BDG would be happy to arrange for an exchange of land with the US on a no-cost basis so that US could build its Chancery in an appropriate area. Secretary said we would “take a look” at this idea. Huq assured him that whole matter would be “taken care of”. (Huq did not raise the zoning problem faced by Bangladesh Embassy with respect to its Chancery on a residential plot on Massachusetts Avenue).

11. Meeting closed with an invitation by Huq to Secretary to visit Bangladesh. Latter expressed hope he would be able to do so sometime in future.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780399–0027. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to the Department of State. Vance was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
  2. See footnote 11, Document 33.
  3. See Document 35.
  4. See footnote 7, Document 33.
  5. See footnote 8, Document 33.
  6. Vance visited Jordan September 20–21, Saudi Arabia September 21–24, and Syria September 24.
  7. See Document 36.
  8. By mid-November, in excess of 5,000 refugees had left Bangladeshi refugee camps and returned to Burma. (“U.N. Says 5,000 Burma Moslems Have Left Bangladesh for Home,” New York Times, November 16, 1978, p. A2)
  9. Telegram 245536 to Dacca, October 13, 1977, reported Vance’s October 6 meeting with Huq in New York. Besides requesting U.S. support for Bangladesh’s bid for the Asian seat on the UN Security Council, Huq expressed at the meeting “the hope for an early meeting between Presidents Carter and Zia; indicated distress over reports of recent statements by Deputy Secretary and Ambassador Goheen on Indian leadership in the subcontinent and noted Bangladesh efforts to establish good relations with its neighbors, most notably by the recent initialing of a Farakka agreement. Huq also asked for an additional 250,000 tons of food grains in FY 78 and reiterated the BDG request for some excess military equipment through FMS.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770372–0995)
  10. See footnote 6, Document 131.