Washington: Under US pressure, Pakistan had in November agreed to grant independence to what was then East Pakistan, former US diplomat Henry Kissinger has revealed in an interview in the latest issue of The Atlantic magazine.
Instead, Pakistan attacked India a month later, on December 3, 1971, forcing India to retaliate and eventually joined forces with East Pakistan in what would become the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Kissinger’s revelation only confirms that Pakistan appears to have a long history of breaking promises.
If Islamabad genuinely wanted to give East Pakistan autonomy, its air force wouldn’t have attacked the Indian Air Force’s forward airbases and radar installations under ‘Operation Chengiz Khan.’ That attack led to India’s entry into the war of independence in East Pakistan on the moral side of Bangladeshi nationalist forces.
Kissinger, who in 1971 was US National Security Adviser, said that the US couldn’t directly condemn Pakistan’s “gross human-rights violations” in East Pakistan as it was using Islamabad as an interlocutor to open diplomatic relations with China.
This in itself is a confirmation that the US has often, and still, induges in doublespeak – one the one hand it talks of democracy and on the other, it consorts with a Pakistan that was then committing “gross human-rights violations”. Not to mention, it was trying to cozy up to China, too, which especially at the time had a less-than-stellar human rights record.
“To condemn these violations publicly would have destroyed the Pakistani channel, which would be needed for months to complete the opening to China … After the opening to China via Pakistan, America engaged in increasingly urging Pakistan to grant autonomy to Bangladesh. In November, the Pakistani president agreed with (then US President) Nixon to grant independence the following March,” Nixon said in the interview to the US magazine.
To be sure, both Pakistan and China still aren’t exactly exemplars of democracy and flourishing human rights.
By Kissinger’s own admission, it was a fraught moment in history for US foreign policy.
“The U.S. 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,” he said.