MONTH OF VICTORY
Indira Gandhi recognized Bangladesh to force a surrender of the Pakistani forces within ten days, CIA reported
As the 1971 Liberation War escalated with India operating strikes on both East and West fronts, the announcement by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on December 6 recognizing Bangladesh as an independent nation enraged Washington.
US President Richard Nixon's Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger said that the recognition was “long-anticipated” and decided to cut off aid to India.
According to a memorandum prepared by Kissinger for the president on December 6, the significance of the move was lessened by India's “hostilities”, and Pakistani ruler General AM Yahya Khan responded by breaking diplomatic relations with India.
The Nixon administration had already shown its friendly gestures in support of Gen Yahya by advising Gandhi to withdraw Indian forces, stopping $2 million worth of arms supplies to India, and delaying the signing of PL-480 and development loans.
At the Washington Special Actions Group Meeting in the White House on December 6, Richard Helms of the CIA said India was concentrating on East Pakistan while fighting a holding action in the West.
“The objective of the Gandhi government was to force a surrender of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan within ten days. Pakistan was trying to relieve the pressure on East Pakistan by pressing an offensive into India from West Pakistan.”
Most of the exchanges in the West involved air strikes, but there was evidence that Pakistan was planning a major assault in Kashmir.
Helms said: “We also have a press report that the Paks have attacked Bombay. The Chinese newspapers are strongly attacking India, and India has begun referring to East Pakistan as Bangladesh in its newspapers.”
The meeting, chaired by Kissinger, decided that the US should bring public attention in the General Assembly to the plight of the Urdu-speaking minority in East Pakistan and call on all parties to take steps to prevent a massacre. The US should also make known what political moves it made to foster discussions between Bangladesh and Islamabad, and how they were thwarted while showing a certain coolness to the Indians.
Moreover, the State Department was asked to prepare a legal memorandum on the Indian blockade and a draft of a formal protest over the interference with American ships and check the legislative prohibition against third-country transfer of military equipment obtained from the US to Pakistan.
On the other hand, Kissinger asked the Department of Defense to do a paper within 24 hours on what emergency equipment the Paks were apt to request and ‘our ability to supply it and get it delivered.'
While USAID was asked to devise plans to ensure that humanitarian aid provided for refugee relief was going for that purpose, the meeting agreed to commence a study of ‘our policy' in the event of expected appeals for famine relief and other assistance from Bangladesh next spring.