US urges restraint in wake of Indo-Pak confrontation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 24, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:05 AM, April 24, 2021

Road to Freedom: This Day in Bangladesh Liberation War History

US urges restraint in wake of Indo-Pak confrontation

April 24, 1971

US STATE DEPARTMENT TELEGRAM

US State Department sent a telegram to the US Embassy in Pakistan on April 24, 1971. The telegram provided a critical overview of the East Pakistan situation based on US Assistant Secretary Sisco's meetings with Pakistan Ambassador Hilaly and Indian Ambassador Jha. 

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The telegram revealed that Sisco suggested Hilaly to consider availing Pakistan of international offers of humanitarian assistance. The US was prepared to participate in such international effort if the Government of Pakistan desired, he added. Sisco also expressed concern regarding extensive loss of life, suffering and damage in East Pakistan.

Sisco asked Hilaly to convey to the Pakistan government the following supplemental points:

-       Recent developments (incidents between Indian and Pak military forces, heated rhetoric and charges and counter-charges between India and Pakistan, refugee influx into India, siege of Pak Deputy High Commission in Calcutta) increased international tension in the area and prospects for Indo-Pak confrontation.

-       In view of these circumstances, as a friend, the US hoped the Government of Pakistan would exercise maximum restraint despite what it might consider provocations from other side.

-       The US had forcefully conveyed to the government of India that it too should act with restraint.

Commenting on the points, Hilaly complained India says one thing and does something quite different. He cited Indian involvement in a ceremony just across the border in East Pakistan announcing establishment of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh. He also condemned Indian handling of the Pakistan deputy high commission problem in Calcutta. India's objective was to internationalise East Pakistan situation to the extent possible and in process involve other countries in its efforts, he added.

Hilaly, however, gave assurance that the Pakistan government wished to avoid providing any pretext that India might use as causus belli. He indicated that the Pakistan army was staying away from the Indian border.

On the situation of East Pakistan, Hilaly said a military "mopping up" operation would be complete in about five days. He dismissed threatsof monsoon rains as inhibition to military operation and also dismissed threat of terrorist assassinations of pro-Pakistan Bangalees.

He referred to the appeal by Tikka Khan to politicians, Awami League members and even rebel military to associate with the government or rejoin army. He asserted that they would not be shot. In fact foreign press would be invited back to bear witness to the return of East Pakistan to normalcy. He added that restoration of port operations in Chittagong and Chalna was given top priority.

In a somewhat heated reference to possible international assistance, the Pakistan ambassador strongly criticised ICRC intervention through sending plane from Geneva without permission of the Pakistan government. He asserted that ICRC vice president had opposed the move but "Indian influence" had prevailed.

Hilaly went on to accuse foreigners in East Pakistan of strong partisanship and total acceptance of Bangalee charges against the Pakistan government.

"Americans in Dacca are anti-West Pakistani," Hilaly said. Despite these feelings about foreign offers of relief aid, Hilaly expressed his personal view that Pakistan government would ultimately accept such aid.

As to the meeting with Indian Ambassador Jha, Sisco reported that he had told him of US humanitarian concern, and indicated that the US was considering what contributions it might make if some international programme was mounted.

PAKISTAN ALTERS IMPORTING POLICY

The Pakistani government, in a press note released today, banned the import of 46 kinds of goods ranging from razor blades to refrigerators.

Explaining the ban, to last until June, and several other changes in import policy, Pakistan said: "The dislocation of trade and industry during recent weeks has resulted in pressure on the balance‐of‐payments position. The government has therefore decided to take immediate steps to rectify the situation."

Banned items are basic goods and luxuries. They include many kinds of motor vehicles, bicycles, phonograph records, gas heaters, earthenware toilets, thermos bottles, television sets, hurricane lanterns, enameled bathtubs, musical instruments, cameras, fountain pens, dates, cigars, shaving brushes and toothbrushes. No penalties for violating the bans were given, and no estimates have been made public yet of the amount of foreign exchange that the government hopes to save.

Shamsuddoza Sajen is a journalist and researcher. He can be contacted at sajen1986@gmail.com

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