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The Rediff Special/Suman Guha Mozumder
December 31, 2002 18:22 IST
Part 1: 'Selective Genocide'
The United States Consul General in Dacca, Archer Blood, was in fact circumspect in his wordings, when contrasted with a message that went out from the American Embassy in New Delhi a day later.
Signed by Ambassador Keating himself, the telegram -- again, addressed to the Secretary of State -- is a devastating indictment of US Administration policy. To quote, in part: "Am deeply shocked at massacre by Pakistani military in East Pakistan, appalled at possibility these atrocities are being committed with American equipment [emphasis ours], and greatly concerned at United States vulnerability to damaging allegations of association with reign of military terror.
"I believe USG [US Government] should
(a) promptly, publicly and prominently deplore this brutality;
(b) should privately lay it on the line with GOP [Government of Pakistan] and so advise GOI [Government of India]; and,
(c) should announce unilateral abrogation of one time exception military supply agreement, and suspension of all military deliveries under the 1967 restrictive policy.
"It is most important these actions be taken now, prior to inevitable and imminent emergence of horrible truths and prior to Communist initiatives to exploit situation. This is time when principles make best politics."
Signed, as mentioned above, by Ambassador Keating himself -- and interestingly, unlike Consul General Blood in Dacca, the Ambassador in New Delhi does not even refrain from signing the telegram while endorsing the views contained therein.
Thus, the top diplomatic officials in both Dacca and New Delhi warn the Nixon Administration that a calculated, cold-blooded pogrom has been unleashed by Pakistan on its own citizens; that there is a possibility it is being done with equipment supplied by the US; that America needs to take a strong public posture against the genocidal Pakistani regime and finally, that all supplies of equipment should be halted forthwith, as provided by official US policy itself.
A month later -- on April 28, 1971 -- National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger put before President Nixon a top-secret paper, evaluating the situation and putting forward various options to deal with it.
The evaluation, which precedes the recommendations, contains Kissinger's own assessment of the major external players. As under:
-- India will be the most important (of the outside players). By training and equipping a relatively small Bengali resistance force, India can help keep active resistance alive and increase the chances of prolonged guerilla war. From all indications, the Indians intend to follow such a course. They could also make it difficult for Yahya to negotiate a political transition in East Pakistan by recognizing a Bengali government. They seem more cautious on this.
-- The US will be an important factor from outside the area: (1) We still have influence in West Pakistan and remain important to India. (b) US economic support -- multiplied by US leadership in the World Bank consortium of aid donors -- remains crucial to West Pakistan. Neither Moscow nor Peking can duplicate this assistance. (c) Our military supply, while relatively small and unlikely to affect the outcome of the fighting, is an important symbolic element in our posture.
--The USSR is concerned that instability will work to China's advantage, and has shown perhaps more inclination in recent years than the US towards trying to settle disputes in the subcontinent. In the short run, the Soviet interests seem to parallel our own, although they would certainly like to use this situation to undercut our position in India.
-- Communist China could (a) be West Pakistan's main ally in threatening India with diversionary military moves and (b) eventually enter the contest with India for control of the East Pakistani resistance movement. For the moment, the Chinese seem to have cast their lot with the West Pakistanis.
Significantly, Kissinger tells Nixon that the US has the economic muscle to force Pakistan to toe the line; and that China is actively engaged on the side of Pakistan.
The National Security Advisor then sets out the options:
"Option 1 would be essentially a posture of supporting whatever political and military program President Yahya chooses to pursue in the East...
"Option 2 would be to try and maintain a posture of genuine neutrality...
"Option 3 would be to make a serious effort to help Yahya end the war and establish an arrangement that could be transitional to East Pakistan autonomy."
Kissinger spells out what steps would need to be taken in the case of each of the options, suggests that his own recommendation is that the US government go with Option 3. Supporting this recommendation, Kissinger tells his boss: "Option 3 would have the advantage of making the most of the relationship with Yahya while engaging in a serious effort to move the situation towards conditions less damaging to US and Pakistani interests. Its disadvantage is that it might lead to a situation in which progress toward a political settlement has broken down, the US had alienated itself from the 600 million people in India and East Pakistan, and the US was unable to influence the West Pakistan government to make the concessions necessary for a political settlement."
President Richard Nixon's response to Kissinger's comprehensive six-page briefing is a hand-written, signed note, attached to the briefing itself. Marked "To All Hands", the US president sums up official policy towards the situation in the subcontinent in six simple words: "Don't squeeze Yahya at this time."
President Nixon underlines the word 'Don't' thrice, just in case anyone fails to get the message.
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