The Department of State announced on May
6 that it has released the latest volume in the ongoing
official record of United States foreign policy. Volume
XI of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976,
deals with the South Asia crisis of 1971.
The election of Bengali nationalists early
that year in East Pakistan triggered a series of events
that dramatically affected relations between Pakistan, India,
the Soviet Union, China and the United States. The volume
chronicles action taken by the administration of former
President Richard Nixon within the context of the Cold War,
the secret U.S. efforts for a diplomatic opening to China
and the Soviet Union's alignment towards India against Pakistan.
The events depicted in the volume range
from "serious contemplation in the White House that
the crisis might lead to nuclear war... [or] a regional
conventional war in South Asia pitting India and the Soviet
Union against China, the United States, and Pakistan"
to what ultimately was resolved by cease fire in a way that
would "dramatically alter the Indian subcontinent."
Following is the press release announcing
the volume's publication:
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
May 6, 2005
Release of Foreign Relations Volume XI,
South Asia Crisis, 1971
The Department of State released today Foreign
Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XI, South
Asia Crisis, 1971. This volume, 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.
The volume begins with the political crisis
triggered by the electoral success of Bengali nationalists
in East Pakistan, led by Sheik Mujibur Rahman and his Awami
League, and the announcement by President Yahya Khan on
March 1, 1971, that the scheduled meetings of the newly
elected National Assembly would be postponed indefinitely.
The announcement was met initially by popular demonstrations
by the Awami League and the dispatch of additional troops
to Dacca by Pakistan's martial-law government. On March
15, Rahman announced that he was taking over the administration
of East Pakistan. Ten days later the army arrested him and
moved to suppress what it viewed as a secessionist movement.
The United States was loath to intervene in Pakistan's internal
affairs, especially since Pakistan was Nixon's secret conduit
for a diplomatic opening to the People's Republic of China.
The 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. When Indian officials such as Foreign Minister Swaran
Singh and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to Washington,
the Nixon Administration counseled non-intervention, but
assumed that India planned to go to war.
The signing of the India-Soviet Union Treaty
of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation in August 1971, while
not a mutual security treaty, was viewed in Washington as
a blank check to India in its confrontation with Pakistan.
President Nixon warned Soviet officials not to encourage
India and informed India that if it started a war with Pakistan,
the United States would cut off aid.
On November 22, India launched an offensive
against East Pakistan. The Nixon Administration cut off
economic aid to India, and 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.
When Nixon learned that Indian war plans were designed to
liberate "Bangladesh" and southern Kashmir, and
to destroy Pakistan's military armored and air strength,
he ordered the U.S. carrier Enterprise and its escorts into
the Bay of Bengal. 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
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."
In mid-December, Pakistani military forces surrendered in
East Pakistan. With U.S. encouragement, Pakistan accepted
an Indian cease-fire offer that would dramatically alter
the Indian subcontinent.
The text of the volume, the summary, and
this press release are available at the Office of the Historian
. Copies of this volume can be purchased from the U.S. Government
Printing Office at http://bookstore.gpo.gov/index.html.
For further information contact Edward Keefer, General Editor
of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1131; fax
(202) 663-1289; e-mail email@example.com.