U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger speak on Air Force One during their voyage to China on February 20, 1972.

U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger speak on Air Force One during their voyage to China on February 20, 1972.
| Photo Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library/Handout via REUTERS

A day after the war broke out between India and Pakistan in December 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger broke American arms ban on Pakistan and ensured Islamabad received air support from third countries like Jordan. The information was part of a bunch of documents that were declassified earlier but were circulated by the National Security Archive of the U.S.A. on Thursday to mark Prof. Kissinger’s demise at the age of 100. The documents have shed renewed light on the crucial 13 days in the first fortnight of December 1971 and has revealed that Nixon-Kissinger duo was worried about India launching an all-out war against Pakistan and wanted to prevent “crumbling” of the Pakistani state. 

A cable of December 4, a day after the war started, shows that the U.S. administration had come to believe that the war was started with India attacking Pakistan and that President Yahya Khan had sent an urgent appeal for military help from Washington DC. In course of the conversation, Kissinger is quoted as saying: “We have had an urgent appeal from Yahya. Says his military supplies have been cut off — in very bad shape.” Kissinger then asked President Nixon: “Would we help through Iran?” Iran was at that time ruled by the Shah and was favourably disposed towards the U.S. But so were a few other countries like Jordan that had strong military ties with Pakistan at that time. In response to Kissinger’s proposal, President Nixon said, “I like the idea. The main thing is to keep India from crumbling them up.” 

Rebelled against White House

The revelation has added the conversations that took place during those fateful days in the U.S. when a part of the U.S. establishment led by several leading Americans, including the U.S. envoy to Dhaka Archer Blood had rebelled against the Nixon White House as the news of the genocidal violence by Pakistani military in Dhaka and other parts of East Pakistan became known. President Nixon was of the opinion that the Indian side was getting a lot of support from within the U.S. bureaucracy, especially in the U.S. State Department, and wanted to crackdown on the bureaucracy and was reassured on December 4 that Jordan had sent 17 fighter jets to Pakistan. The document indicates that the additional aircraft were flown from third countries to Pakistan to ensure that Islamabad could defend itself if Indira Gandhi chose to turn the focus of the Indian war machine towards the west Pakistan. 

The documents from the NSA Archives also included the famous Blood Telegram, the message from U.S. Consul General Archer Blood in Dhaka. “I believe the views of these officers, who are among the finest U.S. officials in East Pakistan, are echoed by the vast majority of the American community, both official and unofficial,” stated the message that was sent by Mr. Blood. He further said, “The most likely eventual outcome of the struggle underway in East Pakistan is a Bengali victory and the consequent establishment of an independent Bangladesh.” The telegram was sent in April 1971, a few days after the Pakistani military launched operation searchlight which began a systematic elimination of the civilian population in East Pakistan. The stunning message did not mince words and was signed by large number of American officials stationed in the U.S. consulate in Dhaka and called out the U.S. silence in the face of the genocidal attack as “bankruptcy”. The Blood Telegram further pointed out that the silence of the U.S. in the face of Pakistani killings in Dhaka and the countryside depicted the American administration in poor light in comparison to the Soviet Union that had called upon Yahya Khan to respect the result of the December 1970 election which had given verdict in favour of the Awami League under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 

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