'Pro-Pak. Nixon Govt. wanted China to back Pak. militarily in 71'
Washington, May. 7 (PTI): Fearing that the Soviets might get involved in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, then US President Richard Nixon had wanted China to make coordinated military moves in support of Pakistan, according to documents released by the State Department.
The Nixon Administration was not prepared to involve itself in a civil war on the Indian subcontinent. Nor did it pay much attention to Indian concerns about "the carnage in East Pakistan" and the problems of refugees in West Bengal, said a State Department press release giving the gist of the papers on the Bangladesh war of liberation, released yesterday.
But, 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, it said.
The US policy included support of Pakistan in the UN and pressure on the Soviets to discourage India, with hints that US- Soviet detente would be in jeopardy if Moscow did not comply.
At Nixon's instruction, his Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger, met China's Ambassador to the UN Huang Hua, to suggest that Beijing make coordinated military moves in support of Pakistan. The implication conveyed by Kissinger was that if the Soviets responded militarily, the US would support China in any confrontation with Soviet Union.
When the Chinese asked to meet Kissinger in New York two days later, the White House assumed the worst and concluded that China had already decided to take military action against India, the release said.
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 US and Pakistan was more likely.
When the meeting took place, the White House learned that China's message had nothing to do with military moves in support of Pakistan. For his part, President Nixon realised that "Russia and China aren't going to war."
In mid-December, Pakistani military forces surrendered in East Pakistan. With US encouragement, Pakistan accepted an Indian cease-fire offer that would dramatically alter the Indian subcontinent, the release noted.
Tracing the history of the war, the volume released by the State Department described 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 Pakistan 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 Dhaka by Pakistan's martial-law Government. On March 15, Rahman announced he was taking over the administration of East Pakistan and 10 days later the army arrested him and moved to suppress what it viewed as a "secessionist" movement, the release said.