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October 1971

October 2: Discussion Between US Secretary Rogers and India FonMin Swaran Singh (India)-Bangla Desh-GOP Negotiations:

Secretary urged GOI initiate dialogue without insisting upon Mujib’s participation to see what could be accomplished. Swaran Singh replied that US has contacts with Bangla Desh people. It has greater influence, it should try bring about dialogue.

October 3: Telegram from Amconsul Calcutta to Secretary State Washington DC:

“Qaiyum met Political Officer October 3 to pass mes­sage from BD “Acting President” Islam requesting speedy USG re­sponse to BDG demarche presented to Poloff by “Fonmin” Mushtaq Ahmed September 28.

Qaiyum reported Mukti Bahini plans to inject 40 to 60 thou­sand armed men into East Pakistan by end of October in effort to wreck GOP administration.

He quoted Islam as saying only Mujib can negotiate anything less than independence for BD and that in Mujib’s absence BDG has no choice but to demand complete independence.

Later, Qaiyum said only he, Islam, Mushtaq and “two other members of Cabinet” were aware of substance and fact of Mushtaq’s meeting with Poloff.”

October 5: Statement by Shri G.S. Kahlon, Rehabilitation Secretary, Government of India In the 22nd session of the executive committee of UNHCR held in Geneva:

“Beginning from end of March, within a couple of months total influx of refugees into India had gone up to nearly four million, and today it has crossed 9 million already, without any signs of them returning to East Pakistan at all. Average inflow per day still continues to be between 30,000 to 50,000 persons, and if this rate continues at this scale we may well have not less than 12 million refugees on our hands by end of this year. “

October 7: Analytical Summary Prepared by the National Security Council Staff:

“The State Department paper judges that the political steps taken so far by President Yahya, which exclude the Awami League, do not provide the basis of a settlement acceptable to the Bangla Desh leadership in Calcutta. To facilitate a political evolution, the paper suggests that “our next step should be designed to promote the beginning of a dialogue between the government of Pakistan and the Bangla Desh leadership.” The paper notes that we have two possible channels-the Government of India and the Bangla Desh representatives in Calcutta and elsewhere. State suggests that we say we believe President Yahya would be receptive to a dialogue. The problem with this is that as far as we know the Bangla Desh leadership only wants to negotiate on the basis of independence and the release of Mujib.”

Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting:

“Senior Pakistani officials are convinced that Yahya will launch a pre-emptive attack in the next few weeks. Yahya himself has given the British the impression that he is considering such action, but he has assured our DCM he is not.

The secret treason trial of Mujibur Rahman has antagonized the East. A reliable source says he has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Yahya can uphold the sentence, commute it or let the matter lie. His decision will be an indication of how conciliatory he intends to be toward East Pakistan.”

October 8: Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan US warns India to stop assisting Mukti Bahini:

“We have heard reports for some time of possible large-scale cross-border effort by Mukti Bahini to coincide with end monsoon season. We would, therefore, strongly urge that GOI act immediately to reduce these risks by efforts with MB to restrict cross-border operations. While we recognize that major responsibility for maintenance of India-Pak peace rests with GOP, GOI also bears major responsibility keep present situation from deteriorating into war or prolonged insurgency. Should such cross-border operations lead to conflict with Pakistan, this would have serious effect on US-India relations.”

Yahya’s letter to Nixon asking American support:

“Pakistan is considering to call a meeting of the Security Council to consider serious threat to peace in the sub-continent arising from India’s open and mounting interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and ever-increasing Indian military activities on Pakistan’s borders.”

October 9: Telegram from the Department of State to the Consulate General in Calcutta

“USG has no desire place itself between GOP and BD reps or to enter into merits of po­sitions of either side. USG therefore has no substantive comment to make on points raised by Mushtaq. We would urge, rather, that the BD reps seek earliest opportunity to present views directly to GOP reps, in effort explore possibility of negotiated settlement.”

October 10: “Six month long ban on politics in Pakistan lifted, yet Awami League is Illegal. Following the ban on the Awami League, the biggest single faction in the Assembly became the People’s Party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.” ( Reuters )

Pakistan: The propaganda War : The Sunday Times (Page 1) (Page 2)

October 11: Pakistan Peoples Party’s Karachi Secretary Meiraj Mohammad Khan admits Razakar terror.

Meiraj alleged that in East Bengal “power in effect has been transferred to those reactionary and anti-people political parties defeated in the elections and rejected by the people”.

He named one party-the Muslim Jammaat-e-Islami group-of indulging in wholesale massacre of political opponents for which they are using their Razakars.

Meiraj, who has influence among students, added: “Under the umbrella of a Government consisting of members of defeated and reactionary parties, elections cannot be free.”

The General secretary of NAP, Moshiur Rahman and Anwar Zahid (former joint secretary) who had left the NAP in 1970 met Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders in Dhaka who came to survey the situation in view of forthcoming by-elections for 78 seats formerly held by mem­bers of the Awami League. Maulana Kawser Niazi, publicity secretary of the PPP said that the talks had been fruitful. The PPP and Jamaat-i- Islami were against Bangladesh and directly supported the Pakistani army.

Telegram from the Consulate General in Karachi to the Department of State on discussion with Yahya:

“I referred specifically to possibility of Mujib’s serving as “trump card” and asked whether he might tell me anything further in that regard. Yahya noted that Mujib’s trial was still going on. If he were convicted, court would sentence him to punishment which would conceivably be death. Matter would then come before Yahya who had presidential power to modify court’s judgement. As he had already told us, he did not intend to permit any death sentence to be carried out.

Mujib’s role seemed to be a crucial issue, for example, with regard initiation any direct talks between GOP and BD leadership. We have recent indications that various pressures on BD leadership in Calcutta have inhibited any progress toward initiating talks, and one of their primary concerns seems to be that Mujib should have role.

Yahya responded that there were limits on his freedom of action. He pointed to predominant West Pak public opinion damning Mujib, and opined that not a single West Pak political leader would welcome an act to free Mujib and negotiate with him.”

October 12: Air Marshal (Retd.) Asghar Khan complains that there is no press freedom in Pakistan and he withdraws his party Tehrik-i-Istiqlal from the by-elactions. (The Dawn)

Telegram from the Embassy in India to the Department of State on discussion with Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and Foreign Secretary Kaul:

“Foreign Minister (a) claimed East Pakistan insurgency profoundly rooted in Bengali alienation and has own dynamic, not dependent upon India; (b) argued insurgency exists deep within East Pakistan and significance of cross-border activities easily exaggerated and any event GOI cannot shoot down East Bengalis entering or departing India; (c) noted how long insurgency will be prolonged and whether it leads to Pak attack upon India depends upon GOP; (d) stressed insurgency is caused basically by Pak military repression to which Mukti Bahini (MB) is reaction.

Foreign Minister (a) expressed strong resentment at any suggestion East Pakistan insurgency being maintained by India; (d) charged US support to GOP strengthens Yahya regime determination to maintain military repression policy; and (e) concluded US has heavy responsibility to exercise its “great influence” with GOP. Foreign Minister asserted in event GOP agreed to withdraw military forces from Indo-Pak borders, GOI could reconsider situation in light circumstances at that time.”

October 13: Bangla Desh Government’s reaction to Yahya’s broadcast to the nation.

October 14: Abdul Monem Khan, former Governor of East Pakistan, died of gunshot wounds inflicted by two men who visited his home in Dacca.

In absence of BD “Foreign minister” Mushtaq Ahmed, Poloff met BD “High Commissioner” Hossain Ali and briefed US position:

“Ali said Yahya’s October 12 broadcast to nation showed Yahya still trying pull wool over world’s eyes. They had seen no glimmer of hope for change in Yahya’s remarks.

Ali noted that Mukti Bahini had worked hard to build itself up in past few months, was ready for battle and eager to fight for independence of BD. Poloff argued that continuation and escalation of violent method by MB might lead to death, destruction and suffering, which USG earnestly hoped could be avoided. It would be much better for BD to find peaceful solution to their prob­lems so that energies of MB could be more constructively channeled to rebuild in East. While Ali agreed that this might be more desirable solution, he said he was not sure in his own mind that it would be possible for simple reason he did not believe Yahya would peace­fully accord independence to BD.”

US Dept of state’s direction to Ambassador regarding dialog with Yahya: Future of Mujib and political accom­modation

October 15: Letter from the Government of Bangla Desh to the Prime Minister of India requesting for recognition to the free and duly constituted Government of Bangla Desh.

“Since the formal proclamation of our Independence on April 10, our struggle for liberation has gained increased momentum and strength. Nearly 60,000 members of the former East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles and other para-military formations identified themselves with the struggle of the 75 million people of Bangla Desh and took up arms in defence of our motherland. They were joined by hundreds of thousands of young men whom they trained to defend the sovereignty and independence of their homeland, and to release it from the bonds of colonial oppression.

The policy of repression has continued with increasing brutality in the vain hope of liquidating the leadership and reducing the majority of the Bengali­speaking people to a minority. Members of the minority communities became special victims of the reign of terror. As a result of this policy of genocide, rape, arson and loot, nearly nine million of our men, women and children have been driven out in terror and have taken shelter in your country, and the exodus still continues.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, our undisputed leader and President, has been subjected to a secret military trial and has been reportedly condemned to death. The Awami League has been banned, which had won an unparalleled victory in the national elections held last December. The military regime of Pakistan has disqualified 79 duly elected representatives of the people and has imposed a so-called civilian regime consisting of defeated candidates and quislings which is now supported by the might of the military machine of Pakistan. These gestures have not deceived the 75 million people of Bangla Desh. They have only exposed the deception and insincerity of the military oppressors. All this has only made us more determined than ever to liberate Bangla Desh.

We are glad to inform you, Excellency, that this struggle has borne fruit. The liberation army of the People’s Republic of Bangla Desh, the Mukti Bahini, are in full control of half the territory of Bangla Desh. We also confirm that the Bangla Desh Government has established effective civil administration over this area which is functioning smoothly. This development has not merely been welcomed by the broad masses of the people, but the efforts of our Government have found spontaneous and overwhelming support in the areas under its control.”

October 18: Dhaka Guerillas start offensive: The Guardian

October 19: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s interview with Sydney H. Schanberg:

“She did not categorically deny that India was helping them. She said instead, ‘perhaps you know, they have many helpers, mostly their own people, all over the world. Also, many avenues are open to them’. She did not elaborate. ‘Whether they have arms or not, nobody can suppress the struggle’.

Mrs. Gandhi cited ‘threatening statements from Pakistan which, we feel, cannot be entirely ignored’. She mentioned, in particular, the speech last week of President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan in which he accused India of ‘feverish military preparations’ and called on his people to meet the threat as a nation of one hundred and twenty million mujahids or preachers of Islam ‘whose hearts are pulsating with love of the Holy Prophet’.

Mrs. Gandhi was asked if she felt there was a breaking point to the economic and social pressures placed on India by the refugees, a point beyond which India might feel compelled to take military action against Pakistan to halt the influx. “Well, actually, I would say, we have already reached it “, she replied. “But this does not mean that we are going to crack under it”.

Yahya’s Letter to President Nixon:

“In an already tense situation India’s land, sea and air forces have been brought to a state of confrontation against Pakistan’s frontiers in both the wings. There are 7 divisions of the Indian army which are deployed against West Pakistan and additional forces have been put in a state of readiness to move to forward positions at short notice.

Mr. President, the inevitable conclusion that one can draw from this offensive posture of the Indian armed forces is that it is pointed in the direction of conflict and not of peace. May I urge you to impress upon the Government of India the need for urgent constructive steps with a view to arresting further deterioration of the situation in the sub-continent.”

October 20: An evaluation of East Pakistan insurgancy:

“Over past three months East Pakistan insurgency has increased in intensity and widened its geographic scope of operations. Concentrating in the rural areas, with only token activity in cities (exception has been systemic and repeated disruption of power supply to Chittagong), Mukti Bahini (MB) have stepped up their disruption of roads, bridges, railroad lines in most parts of the country. In some districts, notably Dacca, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Bakarganj, MB seems able move about almost at will and appears even to have set up parallel administration at some points. Evidence on hand suggests that insurgents are better armed than formerly, (automatic weapons, mortars, heavier explosives) and increasingly able undertake sophisticated operations (mining of ships, effective sabotage of bridges, etc.). In central and southern districts mentioned, MB has demonstrated aggressiveness and skill in ambush operations against Razakars (voluntary home guards) and army, occasionally inflicting significant casualties. Areas other than those cited above, MB activities largely confined destruction of bridges, culverts, railway lines, apparently avoiding contact with govt forces.

To extent that “civilianization” and general amnesty were intended damp insurgent activities, they have demonstrably failed. While weariness and desire for “peace at almost any price” apparent among middle class urban groups, we have impression that younger Bengalis, particularly those in countryside, are entrenched in their detestation of Islamabad Government and bitterness against Pak army. These attitudes reinforced by persisting reports atrocities and indiscriminate retaliation carried out by government forces, principally army or Razakars, to point where even many conservative Bengalis see no other outcome than to drive army out by force.”

October 23: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Broadcast to the Nation urges Indians to unite to uphold the freedom and integrity of the nation

October 26: A Bangla Desh Government press release on Bangladesh delegation in the UNO

October 28: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London:

“As a result of the tragic events in East Bengal, 9,000,000 people have poured into our territory, creating a situation which seems to surpass the convulsions of partition. The crisis in Pakistan is a deep one and the spectre which haunts that unhappy country cannot be exercised by the usual recourse to blaming India. Two questions arise: first, whether religion by itself can form the basis of a nation state, especially when the state machinery is impervious to the ordinary laws of political development and cultural aspirations, and secondly, whether some action other than that of the bayonet is not necessary to win loyalty. We in India are restrained and calm in the face of provocation but we are bound to protect the interests of our country….”

October 30: Letter from President Nixon to Pakistani President Yahya:

On October 26 the press in Pakistan printed the text of Yahya’s October 25 letter to U Thant welcoming his offer to mediate in the dispute between India and Pakistan. I know of the Secretary General’s very recent letter to you and Mrs. Gandhi, and I welcome the tenor of your response to that letter.

October 31: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s address to the India League, London:

“It seems very strange to us how the situation can be normalised by suddenly declaring that some elected people are no longer there when they are very much in the world. You suddenly say that you are going to have new elections and that new elections are going to solve the problem. They cannot possibly solve the problem. The elections were not considered illegal when they were held, the programme put before the people was well known to the Government and the elections were presided over by the same governmental authority. They had a six-point programme on which they fought the elections and which was supported by the vast majority of the people of both sides of Pakistan. Nobody objected to it. The time to raise an objection was before the elections were fought. They could have said, ” well, we don’t approve of this programme, we are not going to accept the six points and, therefore, if you want to fight the elections you will have to re-think”. I do not know if it would have been proper, but certainly if any objection had to be raised, that was the time to raise it, not when the programme was accepted. The people thought it was accepted and they voted accordingly.”

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