March 29, 1971: Memorandum for Sisco

Memorandum from Schneider through Van Hollen to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)   on Indian reaction to Pakistan events.

Department of State

Washington, D.C. 20520






March 29, 1971


THRU                       NEA – Mr. Van Hollen

FROM                      NEA/INC – David T. Schneider

SUBJECT                 Indian Reaction to Pakistan Events




Embassy Delhi reports that Mrs. Gandhi has agreed to discuss with opposition leaders a resolution to be presented in the Parliament March 30, offering support to the “freedom struggle” of the people of East Pakistan.


Swaran Singh made a statement before the Parliament on March 27 that the GOI was “gravely concerned” at events in East Pakistan. He said India was prepared with other nations and international organizations to provide humanitarian relief to the victims of the conflict.


Mrs. Gandhi, on the same day, spoke of the “deep agony” of the Parliament, and said that the GOI had looked forward to the peaceful transfer of power in Pakistan to the people’s democratically elected representatives in anticipation of improved India­Pakistan relations. She said, however, that in the current situation the GOI had to observe certain international norms and, therefore, the less the government said, the better.


Ambassador Keating was called in to see Foreign Secretary Kaul March 27. Kaul said an unusually large influx of refugees was expected and asked for our ideas about coping with refugee problem. He expressed the hope there would not be outside intervention in East Pakistan and mentioned rumors of possible Chinese assistance to the GOP. He asked if we would exchange information we may have on the situation in East Pakistan with the GOI.





Initially, the Indians are likely to confine their actions to expressions of sympathy for and perhaps support to East Bengalis. They will watch closely for signs as to the strength and prospects for success on the part of East Bengal dissidents.



If the evidence indicates to the Indians that the East Bengal independence movement has reasonably good prospects for success, the GOI may do any of several things:


  1. a. Tolerate privately provided cross-border assistance to the East Bengalis ; This assistance could range from propaganda support to weapons and explosives.
  2. Permit East Bengal dissidents to use India as a refuge and to conduct cross­border activities from within India.


  1. Covertly provide supplies, including weapons, and perhaps some training, to East Bengal dissidents.


The GOI is likely to be cautious about recognition but is likely to recognize when and if it believes the East Bengalis control a substantial part of East Bengal and will be successful in achieving control of all of it. After recognition Indian assistance efforts would be more likely and more extensive.


India seems unlikely to intervene in East Bengal with its own military forces. However, if it pursues the course indicated above, clashes between Indian and Pakistani military along the India-Pakistan border are a distinct possibility. These would take place when Pakistani forces attempt to prevent cross-border activities in support of East Bengal dissidents.


Whether or not the Indians take any of the above steps will depend upon their estimate of how strong the East Bengal movement is.


The above estimate is based upon our view that the GOI is changing its opinion regarding Indian interest in continued Pakistan unity. So long as there was a good prospect for a democratic Pakistan in which East Bengal was the predominant force, India strongly favored a unified Pakistan. However, we doubt the GOI would favor a unified Pakistan in which the West was predominant and the army and Bhutto dominated the West. The army and Bhutto are blamed for Pakistan’s confrontation policy and the 1965 war.


NEA/INC : DTSchneider: ges