For the first time since the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, the United States has conceded that it was pro-Pakistan during the war that led to the emergence of Bangladesh. “The United States was loath to intervene in Pakistan’s internal affairs especially since Pakistan was President Nixon’s secret conduit for a diplomatic opening to the People’s Republic of China”, the State Department said in an official document.
The report, part of the ongoing official record of U.S. foreign policy, presents key documentation on the Nixon Administration’s policy immediately prior to and during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Included in this volume is full coverage of the “tilt” toward Pakistan by President Richard Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger. Under the title “Foreign Relations Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971 discloses “Nixon himself decided to ‘tilt’ toward Pakistan. This pro-Pakistan policy included support of Pakistan in the United Nations and pressure on the Soviets to discourage India, with accompanying hints that U.S.-Soviet détente would be in jeopardy if Moscow did not comply”.
Another disclosure: Pakistani army’s campaign against Bengali dissidents eventually led the U.S. Consulate in Dacca to send a “dissent channel” message to Washington, which called for the United States to condemn the “indiscriminate killing.” However, the Nixon Administration was not prepared to involve itself in a civil war on the Indian subcontinent. Nor did the Nixon Administration pay much attention to Indian concerns about “the carnage in East Pakistan” and the problems of refugees in West Bengal.
Observing that India’s concerns and sensitivities were ‘accorded scant sympathy in the White House’, the report claims “With U.S. encouragement, Pakistan accepted an Indian cease-fire offer that would dramatically alter the Indian sub continent”.
The report states at one stage US feared that China could intervene in the India-Pakistan conflict and use its nuclear arsenal even.
“At the President’s instruction, Kissinger met with People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the United Nations Huang Hua to brief him on the crisis and U.S. actions, and to suggest that China make coordinated military moves in support of Pakistan.
The implication conveyed by Kissinger was that if the Soviet Union responded militarily, the United States would support China in any confrontation with the Soviet Union. When the Chinese asked to meet with Kissinger in New York 2 days later, the White House assumed the worst and concluded that China had already decided to take military action against India.
There was serious contemplation in the White House that the crisis might lead to nuclear war, but the general conclusion was that a regional conventional war in South Asia pitting India and the Soviet Union against China, the United States, and Pakistan was more likely. When the meeting took place, the Nixon White House learned that China’s message had nothing to do with military moves in support of Pakistan. For his part, President Nixon correctly realized that “Russia and China aren’t going to war.”
Noting that Nixon has ordered: “To all hands. Don’t squeeze Yahya at this time, the State Department publication answers the question why was Nixon so concerned not to squeeze Yahya thus: “On May 7, Kissinger entertained Ambassador Joseph Farland on Nixon’s instructions in Palm Springs, California, Only Farland was to know about the cover Pakistan was providing for this initiative, or that President Yahya had facilitated it with the Chinese leaders. Whatever disclaimers Nixon and Kissinger later published with regard to the motives that drove their policy during the South Asian crisis, the desire to protect their channel to China clearly ranked near the top”.
“India had emerged from the crisis confirmed as the pre-eminent power on the subcontinent, and Soviet support for India during the crisis.