Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)/1/
/1/ Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71-15 May 71. Secret. Sent for information.
Situation in Pakistan
President Yahya Khan has announced the postponement until “a later date” of the National Assembly, which was to have begun drafting a new constitution in
/2/ March 3.
The future course of events now depends largely on the decision of Mujibur Rahman and the other leaders of the dominant Awami League party in
In terms of substantive issues, the differences between Rahman and Bhutto seem to have largely narrowed to those of foreign trade and aid. Bhutto in a speech February 28 said he felt the central government would have to retain control in these fields if its control of foreign affairs was to be realistic.
The constellation of political forces and interests in
–Yahya’s base of support is the army and economic elite. They do not want to compromise with Bhutto because they fear his platform of “equitable distribution of the wealth.” They figure that the weak central government the East wants would loosen their grip on
-Bhutto’s base is the masses. He does not want to compromise with the East because he wants to control a strong central government.
The two men have different ideological outlooks-Yahya a fairly conservative approach and Bhutto a leftist and populist approach. So while they both oppose Rahman, they are also commited to not seeing each other gain a predominant position in any ensuing government.
Rahman is almost solely concerned about
President Yahya is well aware that he is risking a strong East Pakistani reaction, but presumably decided that the alternative to postponement would be even worse. He may have seen two principal alternatives: (1) postpone the session and-although he left some room for maneuver-risk an immediate confrontation with East Pakistan; or (2) hold the session, risk an immediate confrontation with his army, the West Pakistani political/economic establishment, or both, and, because he would in the end have to reject an East Pakistan autonomy constitution, a confrontation with the East Pakistanis in a few months.
Thus, Yahya is unable to compromise with Rahman or move closer to Bhutto without jeopardizing his own base of power and risking his ouster by hardline military elements who would end the move toward representative government and most likely precipitate widespread and perhaps uncontrollable disorders in
In short, Yahya appears to have decided to risk a confrontation with East Pakistan now in the slight hope that, if he pushed all the parties to the brink, a compromise might evolve from their coming to grips with the consequences of a split-up of Pakistan. Given the sentiment within the West Pakistani political-military establishment, he may have seen no other realistic choice.
As you know, we have so far attempted to remain neutral and uninvolved. Our line has been that we favor the unity of
Beyond that, we have these questions:
-If there is secession, how active should the
The contingency plan ordered in NSSM 118/5/ should be finished in the next twenty-four hours. I will send that to you as soon as it arrives with a recommendation on handling. We are after all witnessing the possible birth of a new nation of over 70 million people in an unstable area of
/5/ National Security Study Memorandum 118, directed by Kissinger on February 16 to the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, called for a contingency study to be prepared outlining the possible range of
Source: Document 2, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.