March 28, 1971: Memorandum from NSC staff to Kissinger

Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff
to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger).

Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)/1/


Washington, March 28, 1971.


/1/ Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71-15 May 1971. Secret. Sent for action.


Situation in Pakistan


As you will have noted from the cables/2/ and situation reports, the situation in East Pakistan appears to have taken another turn for the worse. Having beaten down the initial surge of resistance, the army now appears to have embarked on a reign of terror aimed at eliminating the core of future resistance. At least this seems to be the situation in Dacca. We have virtually no reliable information on the situation in the other major cities or what is going on in the countryside where most of the population resides.
These latest developments would seem to raise new policy issues for us. The most immediate questions which come to mind are:


/2/ On March 28 Consul General Blood reported from Dacca as follows: “Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have a list of Awami League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down.” He recommended that the United States express shock to the Pakistani authorities “at this wave of terror directed against their own countrymen by Pak military.” (Telegram 959 from Dacca) On March 29 the Consulate General reported that the army was setting houses on fire and shooting people as they emerged from the burning houses. (Telegram 978 from Dacca) On March 30 the Consulate General reported that the army had killed a large number of apparently unarmed students at Dacca University. (Telegram 986 from Dacca) The Embassy in Islamabad concurred in expressing its sense of horror and indignation at the “brutal, ruthless and excessive use of force by the Pak military,” but went on to state: “In this Embassy’s view, deplorable as current events in East Pakistan may be, it is undesirable that they be raised to level of contentious international political issue.” (Telegram 2954 from Islamabad, March 31) All cables cited here are published in Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume E-7, Documents on South Asia, 1969-1972, Documents 125-128. When President Nixon discussed the reports of atrocities in East Pakistan briefly with Kissinger in a telephone conversation on March 28, he agreed with the position taken by the Embassy: “I wouldn’t put out a statement praising it, but we’re not going to condemn it either.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 367, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)


-Is the present U.S. posture of simply ignoring the atrocities in East Pakistan still advisable or should we now be expressing our shock at least privately to the West Pakistanis? Our Consul General in Dacca thinks that the time has now come to approach the West Pakistanis. We do not yet, but should before long, have a recommendation from Ambassador Farland. [Comment: The Government has deported all foreign press correspondents but the story is still getting considerable play here. The full horror of what is going on will come to light sooner or later. After our major effort to provide natural disaster relief last fall, the Administration could be vulnerable to charges of a callous political calculation over a man-made disaster.]/3/


/3/Brackets in the source text.


-The Indians are clearly nervous about the situation. They do not seem disposed to intervene but there is considerable pressure on Mrs. Gandhi and we know that they are dusting off their own contingency plans. At a time when tensions are high in the subcontinent, there is always a chance that another irrational move could ignite a larger and even more serious conflict. Is now the time, as our contingency plans would seem to suggest, to begin closer consultations with New Delhi?


-There are a whole range of AID issues that will be coming up because of prior commitments and things already in the pipeline. Our actions on those could add up, in some peoples’ eyes, to approval or disapproval of the West Pakistani actions. At a minimum, they imply U.S. involvement given the situation in Pakistan.


Recommendation: It is hard to predict what the next several days will bring, but, based on the current situation, you might wish to consider adding Pakistan to the agenda for Wednesday./4/


/4/ Kissinger did not indicate whether he approved or disapproved the recommendation, but there was only passing discussion of the issue when the Senior Review Group considered developments in East Pakistan on Wednesday, March 31; see Document 17.



Source: Document 13, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.