MONTH OF VICTORY
US observed that the Soviets would veto on one-Pakistan grounds
On this day in 1971, Pakistani Foreign Minister-designate Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was representing military ruler AM Yahya Khan at the United Nations, made some suggestions at the last minute to the US resolution to be placed at the UN Security Council.
During a meeting with US Ambassador to the UN George HW Bush in New York on December 13, Bhutto pushed for the amendment and requested that the matter be discussed with the Soviets in an effort to reach a compromise.
Bhutto mentioned that the US resolution should seek effective action by the Pakistan government toward a political settlement in East Pakistan, “giving immediate recognition to the will of the East Pakistan population within the framework of one Pakistan”.
This would mark a “departure from game plan and we are concerned that introduction of this type of clause, particularly at this point, could lead to quick dissolution of our position,” according to a backchannel message. It was sent by US president's Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs General Alexander M Haig Jr Haig to the US Ambassador to Pakistan Joseph S Farland.
Haig observed that the Soviets would veto on one-Pakistan grounds and then would be locked into a position on a political issue.
“Debate on a political question would inevitably ensue and hope for a quick cease-fire would evaporate. For our part, we want to stick with the game plan,” he added.
Haig wanted Farland to know at the earliest whether Bhutto's proposal represented instruction from Islamabad and, if so, on what basis.
Farland took up the proposed amendment with Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan, who consulted with Gen Yahya. He reported that, assuming the revised resolution provided for an immediate cease-fire, President Yahya approved the amendment proposed by Bhutto.
Sultan Khan emphasized the importance of an immediate cease-fire to stop what he characterized as the slaughter in East Pakistan, Haig said.
US President Nixon's Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger gave his view on the India-Pakistan situation in a message to Haig the same day.
“We are positioned well, but we must be as careful not to be maneuvered into the position of the last hold-out as we must be to avoid being the first to cave.”
He suggested that if the Security Council was still deadlocked on December 14 or the Soviets had vetoed, “we should consider backing a resolution for cease-fire and later withdrawal – even if the Soviet answer is not yet received”.
Kissinger also asked Haig to see whether the US could convince Bhutto to get some of his friends to surface such a resolution.
Regarding the Seventh Fleet, he said: “I am weighing an advantage of moving it against the risk of being called off prematurely by public pressure. Can we put it into Singapore for a day? In any event, the fleet should go into the Indian Ocean, not the Bay of Bengal.”
A memorandum sent from Kissinger to President Nixon on December 13 confirmed that the destruction of two aircraft in an Indian air attack on December 5 at the Islamabad International Airport had been done deliberately.
One of the two aircraft was the US defense representatives' plane, while the other was of the UN.
“Both planes were clearly marked and parked at a separate area of the field away from any Pak military aircraft. Our defense representative was convinced that there was no case of misidentification and that both planes were deliberately attacked,” Nixon said, adding that India had not given any formal reaction.
As soon as the facts were established, Secretary William P Rogers called in Indian Ambassador Lakshmi Kant Jha and protested the “indiscriminate strafing”.
Jha agreed that it was unfortunate and said that although India did not want to damage neutral countries' property, it was impossible to ensure selectivity in strafing airports.
Rogers retorted that the military planes had been on one side of the field and non-military on the other. He told Jha that it would have been hard to mistake the UN plane because it was painted white.
“While it is obvious that a more strenuous protest could have been undertaken at the time, events have now overtaken this issue and I recommend no further action,” Kissinger told Nixon.