Henry Kissinger Reveals Why The US Supported Pakistan In 1971

Henry Kissinger Reveals Why The US Supported Pakistan In 1971

by Prakhar Gupta - Sunday, November 27, 2016 11:55 AM IST


Kissinger Reveals Why The US Supported Pakistan In 1971 Henry Kissinger with President Yahya Khan in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Picture: Associated Press)
  • The US’ opening to China was being facilitated by India’s north-western neighbour.

The Pakistani channel of talks between the United States (US) and China would have collapsed if the US had publicly condemned human rights violations and atrocities by Pakistan’s army against the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has revealed in a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic.

For better understanding, one must know that US’ opening to China, which was facilitated by Pakistan, began in 1969. The crisis in Bangladesh, on the other hand, made no news until the early 1970s.

In 1971, when hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan over latter’s genocide of the Bengali population in East Pakistan and the refugee crisis that ensued, Islamabad was acting as an interlocutor to facilitate exchanges between Beijing and Washington at a time when the relations between the two were virtually non-existent.

These exchanges were conducted through Pakistan, which emerged as the interlocutor most acceptable to Beijing and Washington. The Bangladesh crisis, in its essence, was an attempt of the Bengali part of Pakistan to achieve independence. Pakistan resisted with extreme violence and gross human-rights violations.
Kissinger to The Atlantic

By the time the crisis in Bangladesh reached its peak, the US had conducted a number of highly secret exchanges with China, and was on the verge of achieving a breakthrough.

"To condemn these violations publicly would have destroyed the Pakistani channel, which would be needed for months to complete the opening to China, which indeed was launched from Pakistan," he said.

The then Nixon administration considered the opening to China as essential to a potential diplomatic recasting towards the Soviet Union and the pursuit of peace.

Kissinger said:

After the opening to China via Pakistan (1972) , America engaged in increasingly urging Pakistan to grant autonomy to Bangladesh. In November (1971), the Pakistani president agreed with Nixon to grant independence the following March.

This is a stunning revelation, one that is hard to believe especially because Pakistan invaded India the next month, pointing to its role in creating a crisis in East Pakistan.

"The following December, India, after having made a treaty including military provisions with the Soviet Union, and in order to relieve the strain of refugees, invaded East Pakistan (which is today Bangladesh)," he said.

By claiming that India invaded Pakistan, Kissinger once again exposes his undying bias towards Islamabad. The war broke out on 3 December 1971 as Pakistan Air Force launched a pre-emptive strike on eleven Indian airfields.

This is perhaps the best time to recall that Kissinger had once labelled India as a Soviet stooge over its support for Bangladeshi independence. “We’re in the position where a Soviet stooge, supported with Soviet arms, is overrunning a country that is an ally of the United States.” Kissinger had said in a telephone conversation with then US President Richard Nixon.

Further, Kissinger said that the US had to navigate between Soviet pressures; Indian objectives; Chinese suspicions; and Pakistani nationalism.

Adjustments had to be made—and would require a book to cover—but the results require no apology. By March 1972, within less than a year of the commencement of the crisis, Bangladesh was independent; the India-Pakistan War ended; and the opening to China completed at a summit in Beijing in February 1972. A summit in Moscow in May 1972 resulted in a major nuclear arms control agreement (SALT I).

He argued:

Relations with India were restored by 1974 with the creation of a US-Indian Joint Commission (the Indo-US Joint Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific, Technological, Educational and Cultural Cooperation), which remains part of the basis of contemporary US-India relations. Compared with Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the sacrifices made in 1971 have had a far more clear-cut end.

Read the full interview here.

Prakhar Gupta is a senior editor at Swarajya. He tweets @prakharkgupta.

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