The US administration condoned genocide in East Pakistan during 1971
Reports from the American Consul General In Dhaka were purposefully ignored by the US Administration
As we celebrate 50 years of the formation of Bangladesh, there is a severe dampening of elation and fostering of intense grief in our psyche as we recall the genocide perpetrated by Pakistan’s troops on its own citizens in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The occupation army showed no compunction in butchering an estimated three million of their fellow citizens, mostly unarmed, over a nine-month period in its then eastern wing.
And yet, there is no condemnation of Pakistan as a country for the shocking killing of a hapless populace. Not only that, Bangladesh has neither received any apology from Pakistan’s government nor any reparations. The country had no option, it is believed, but to acquiesce to the shenanigans of the wily regimes of both Bhutto and Zia-ul- Haq in Pakistan, in order to protect its own nationals trapped in Pakistan. It is a blot on history.
Hamid Mir, Executive Editor of Geo TV in Islamabad and the recipient of Saarc Lifetime Achievement Award in the Saarc Writers' Conference in Delhi, wrote in 2010 that “General Tikka Khan is still remembered as the "butcher of Bengal”.
In 1971, this General took over the command of the army's Eastern Command in East Pakistan and was appointed as Governor of East Pakistan where he oversaw the quelling, by brute force, of the liberation war efforts by the Awami League. Duly blessed by the USA, he rose to become the Pakistan Army Chief and was buried with full military honours in 2002.
The slaughter happened when President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger were at the helms of affairs in the dispensation ruling the USA. General Yahya Khan, the Chief Martial Law administrator and the Dictator in Pakistan was their crony and could not, according to the pair of Nixon and Kissinger, be annoyed, as he was opening their doors to a dialogue with China. “Nixon and Kissinger needed a secret channel to China, which they found in the good offices of Yahya – an impeccable discreet tyrant, on warm terms with both the USA and China," discloses American Columnist Garry J Bass in his treatise “The Blood Telegram”.
Whilst the Yahya regime was crushing its own people in East Pakistan, it was carrying messages back and forth between Washington and Beijing. During these meetings, Kissinger is known to have asked Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai to secretly mobilize troops to threaten India in order to defend Pakistan. And that was well before the Indian troops had actively moved in to East Pakistan. That was Nixon’s USA, deep with the cold war syndrome and fixed in its belief that India being a strategic ally of Soviet Russia and with whom India had signed a mutual interest treaty for its protection could not be trusted. Then India’s Army Chief General Sam Manekshaw had foreseen this development and prepared its commanders for such an eventuality .
The USA had already armed Pakistan with military aid amounting to nearly 50 million dollars despite a ban imposed by the US Congress. The American President had waived off the ban. What is truly forgotten is the horrendous discovery that this arsenal consisting of fighter jets and modern tanks supported by rapid fire weapons was unleashed by Pakisan’s troops in its own people. Above all, what is truly lost in the maze of history is that the US consulate in Dhaka had witnessed this genocide from its very inception in March 1971 and without fear of their masters sitting in Karachi and in Washington, had rendered factual reports of the killings. This process was led by the Archer Blood, the American Consul General In Dhaka.
These reports were purposefully ignored by the US Administration. Eventually, other US employees had joined ranks and sent the famous “Blood Telegram” to Washington in which they termed the mayhem as Genocide. It had created waves of horror all across US officialdom. In this campaign to bring home the truth, the US Ambassador to India Kenneth Keating emerged as the self-driven ally. He had also plunged in and told both Nixon and Kissinger about the blood bath. Much to the dismay of the members of the State Department, who were privy to the behaviors of the occupants of the White House, it had shocked them. Nixon had seemingly gone on record to have said “ It is Yahya’s business. What if a few Bengalis die”. Sadly, most vociferous protagonists of human values in the USA seemed to have forgotten the roles played by both Blood and Keating in bringing these perfidious actions to the notice of its people.
It brings an appalling admission to our perceptions. Both Nixon and Kissinger were equally complicit in this crime in the eyes of the Humanitarian Law to have supported the tyrant Yahya Khan with arms and above all in the spirit of the conspiracy to commit genocide. The Watergate Scandal which eventually implicated Nixon and led to his exit was too small a punishment as compared to his “acts of commission and omission” in dealing with Bangladesh.
It is believed that this cold and hostile US attitude towards India remained till the dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991 and their myopia lifted. In a graded change, both the countries have established deep strategic relations with India. India has joined the USA along with Japan and Australia in the formation of the QUAD , created with strategic orientations, to bring about or probably enforce “Rule of Law” in the China-inflicted waters of the Indian Ocean. Despite these changes India and now Russia, which emerged from the Soviet Union, remain all weather friends.
(The author is a strategic affairs commentator. Views expressed are personal)