Course: Foreign Policy of Pakistan-II (4662) Semester: Autumn, 2021
Q.lCritically evaluate USA role I East Pakistan crises in the light of Pakistan’s alignment with the USA.
East Pakistan was a Pakistani province established in 1955 by the One Unit Policy, renaming the province as such from East Bengal. Its land borders were with India and Burma, with a coastline on the Bay of Bengal. East Pakistanis were popularly known as “Pakistani Bengalis”; to distinguish this region from India’s state West Bengal (which is also known as “Indian Bengal”), East Pakistan was known as “Pakistani Bengal”.
East Pakistan was renamed from East Bengal by the One Unit scheme of Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Ali of Bogra. The Constitution of Pakistan of 1956 replaced the Pakistani monarchy with an Islamic republic. Bengali politician H. S. Suhrawardy served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan between 1956 and 1957 and a Bengali bureaucrat Iskander Mirza became the first President of Pakistan. The 1958 Pakistani coup d’état brought general Ayub Khan to power. Khan replaced Mirza as president and launched a crackdown against pro-democracy leaders. Khan enacted the Constitution of Pakistan of 1962 which ended universal suffrage. By 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as the preeminent opposition leader in Pakistan and launched the six-point movement for autonomy and democracy. The 1969 uprising in East Pakistan contributed to Ayub Khan’s overthrow. Another general, Yahya Khan, usurped the presidency and enacted martial law. in 1970, Yahya Khan organised Pakistan’s first federal general election. The Awami League emerged as the single largest party, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party. The military junta stalled in accepting the results, leading to civil disobedience, the Bangladesh Liberation War and the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. East Pakistan seceded with the help of India.
The East Pakistan Provincial Assembly was the legislative body of the territory.
Due to the strategic importance of East Pakistan, the Pakistani union was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. The economy of East Pakistan grew at an average of 2.6% between 1960 and 1965. The federal government invested more funds and foreign aid in West Pakistan, even though East Pakistan generated a major share of exports. However, President Ayub Khan did implement significant industrialisation in East Pakistan. The Kaptai Dam was built in 1965. The Eastern Refinery was established in Chittagong. Dacca was declared as the second capital of Pakistan and planned as the home of the national parliament. The government recruited American architect Louis Kahn to design the national assembly complex in Dacca.
The separation of East Pakistan was a great setback to Pakistan. By 1970, sentiments for national unity had weakened in East Pakistan to the extent that constant conflict between the two Wings dramatically erupted into mass civil disorder. This tragically resulted in the brutal and violent amputation of Pakistan’s Eastern Wing. The Bangladesh Liberation War was a South Asian war of independence in 1971 which established the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.
The war pitted East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan, and lasted over a duration of nine months. Popular attention has, thus far, focused on the Pakistani army‘s action against the Bengalis, or on the India-Pakistan war. However, East Pakistan in 1971 was simultaneously a battleground for many different kinds of violent conflict that included militant rebellion, mob violence, military crackdown on a civilian population, urban terrorism to full-scale war between India and Pakistan. It witnessed large-scale atrocities, the exodus of 10 million refugees and the displacement of 30 million people.
Begali nationalists declared independence (March 26, 1971). The Pakistani Army attempted to regain control in East Pakistan and committed terrible atrocities. Indian troops entered the war and quickly defeated the Pakistani Army. The Pakistanis conceded defeat (December 16, 1971). President Yahya Khan resIgned. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over Pakistan and recognized Bangladesh as an independent country.
Causes Which Led To The Civil War 1971
Geographically Divided Nation Tensions between East and West Pakistan existed from the creation of Pakistan (1947). Pakistan was an odd creation wIth the two parts, East and West Pakistan separated by more than 1,000 miles. The two parts of Pakistan shared few cultural and social traditions other than Islam.
The fusion of east and west on the basis of Islam led to the frustration of Bengali nationalism. The lack of common bonds was accentuated when political figures in the West seized control of the new state, dominating both political and economic power. The military governments which gave little attention to political demands in East Pakistan only promoted discord. As a result, the resentment in East Pakistan gradually grew.
The Awami League was founded as a an opposition party in East Pakistan soon after Pakistani independence (1949). The League has a moderately socialist ideology as was widespread in the new independent countries emerging from European colonial empires. Cofounder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assumed leadership a few years later (1953). Disturbed by the dominate role of West Pakistan leasers, Rahman demanded a more equitable distribution of power (1966). His plan called for a federation of East and West Pakistan which would have given EastPakistan a level of autonomy.
The first democratic elections in Pakistan were held in 1970 with the Awami League winning with a substantial majority. However Yahya Khan banned the Awami League and declared martial law after talks on sharing power failed. Bhutto was famously heard saying “break the legs” if any member of People’s Party attend the inaugural session at the National Assembly. Fearing on capitalization on West Pakistan, West-Pakistanis fears of East Pakistani separatist, and Bhutto demanded to form a coalition with Mujib.
Both Mujib and Bhutto were agreed upon the coalition government, with Bhutto as President and Mujib as Prime minister. The Military government and General Yahya Khan was kept unaware of such of these developments. Both Bhutto and Mujib continued a political pressure on Khan’s military government. Pressured by his own military government, General Yahya Khan postponed the inaugural session, and ordered to arrest Mujib and put Bhutto on house arrest.
Bengali Language Movement
In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Bengal. Facing rising sectarian tensions and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organised a protest on 21st February 1952.
The movement reached its climax when police killed student demonstrators on that day. The deaths provoked widespread civil unrest led by the Awami Muslim League, later renamed the Awami League. After years of conflict, the central government relented and granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956, which was too late to diminish the the hatefulness East Pakistanis had for Urdu speakers.
Non Bengali Muslims
Non-Bengali Muslims from the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who had migrated to East Pakistan (East Bengal) after the partition of India were collectively referred to as “Biharis” by the Bengalis. Pro-liberation Bengalis assumed these non-Bengalis to be in favour of united Pakistan. But a significant minority of Bengalis, including the religious parties, was also for unity.
In addition, many Bengalis who voted for Sheikh Mujib out of a long-standing sense of alienation and a desire for provincial autonomy, may not have been in favour of outright secession. The profound polarisation of politics reached even into individual Bengali families, dividing some of them horizontally – for example the father, who had experienced the creation of Pakistan, supported united Pakistan, while the son, swayed by the oratory of Sheikh Mujib, joined the fight for an independent Bangladesh.
Shifting of the Capital
The decision of shifting of the capital city from Karachi to Islamabad was perhaps a good step taken in the regime of President Ayyub Khan (1960) but it hit the East Pakistanis like a bullet. The Bengalis said that massive development was taking place in West Pakistan and it was being financed from the money that belonged to East Pakistan entirely.
Biased Nature of West Pakistan
Inspite of the repeated protest by the East Pakistanis, they were discriminated in the appointments in the jobs. The development funds were not given to them honestly. The East Pakistanis developed a colonial attitude towards the Bengalis.
Causes of the Defeat In East Pakistan
A planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army – codenamed Operation Searchlight – started on 25 March to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from East Pakistan.
The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May. The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in the same year. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly, from 5,000–35,000 in Dhaka, and 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole, and the atrocities have been referred to as acts of genocide.
Indian Secret Intelligence Services formed an Anti Pakistan Wing East Pakistan named as MuktiBahini meaning Freedom fighters or Liberation Army, which actively participated in persuading Population of East Pakistan to demand for a separate country. The Pakistan Army launched military operations against Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, and armed personnel after sundown on March 25, 1971.
In response, Bangladesh declared independence and Bengali military and paramilitary personnel, as well as civilians, started spontaneous resistance against the aggression. This was the formation of the MuktiBahini. The armed forces as well as the paramilitary and civilian forces who fought alongside them for the liberation of Bangladesh are referred to as the MuktiBahini.
Involvement of India
Wary of the growing involvement of India, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched a preemptive strike on Indian Air Force bases on 3 December 1971. The attack was modelled on the Israeli Air Force’s Operation Focus during the Six-Day War, and intended to neutralise the Indian Air Force planes on the ground. The strike was seen by India as an open act of unprovoked aggression. This marked the official start of the Indo-Pakistani War.
As a response to the attack, both India and Pakistan formally acknowledged the “existence of a state of war between the two countries”, even though neither government had formally issued a Declaration of War.
Q.2 Examine Pakistan’s role in the Cold War between the two superpowers, US and USSR. Do you agree/disagree with the view that Soviet move into Afghanistan altered Pakistan’s geo-strategic position.
Given the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, yesterday, it’s safe to say that Pakistan will be in the headlines for days to come. A Cold War timeline gives us a quick picture of Pakistan’s — often stormy — relationship with the US.
1945: PAKISTAN was an idea, not a state. The original idea of a Pakistani state revolved around creating a homeland for Indian Muslims where they would not be dominated by the Hindu majority in a “one-man-one-vote” democracy. The assumption was that if Pakistan were to become a state, both Pakistan and India would remain dependent on Britain.
1947: Jinnah, the leading figure in the Pakistan movement, and Mohammed Iqbal, a poet-philosopher whose ideas underpinned the Pakistan movement, argued that the Islamic nature of a new Pakistan would enhance the defense of the South Asia subcontinent.
1947: Pakistan became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and, thus, a Cold War ally of the United States.
1954: Pakistan and Iraq signed mutual cooperation agreements with Turkey (a NATO) member.
1954: Pakistan signed a Mutual Defense Agreement with the US.
1955: Britain and Iran entered into security arrangements, and the ‘Middle East Defence Organization’, popularly known as the ‘Baghdad Pact’, was formed. It was loosely modeled on NATO. The US never became a full member. (The Baghdad Pact later became known as CENTO).
1955 (February): Pakistan became a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), also called the Manila Pact. Like CENTO, it was designed to be a regional NATO that would block communist advances in Southeast Asia.
1958: The name of the Baghdad Pact was formally changed to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) after the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown. CENTO had little formal structure but it dd give the US and Britain access to facilities in Pakistan such as an airbase outside of Peshawar from which U-2 intelligence flights over the Soviet Union were launched.
1965: Indo-Pakistani War. The US suspended the arms shipments to Pakistan that the country had received in return for its membership in SEATO and CENTO. The US also suspended arms shipments to India. The embargo remained in place during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and was not lifted until 1975.
1971 (July): Pakistan facilitated a secret visit by US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger to Beijing. This visit led to a de facto US-China alignment directed against the Soviet Union. Pakistan took full credit for making this breakthrough possible. Some say that this signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War because the communist movement was now seen as having a crack. From now on, the US made a distinction between major Communist powers that were friendly (China), and those that were antagonistic (the Soviet Union).
1971: Pakistan descended into civil war after East Pakistan demanded autonomy and, later, independence. India invaded East Pakistan in support of its people after millions of civilians fled to India. At the end of 1971, Pakistan was partitioned and Bangladesh was created out of East Pakistan. The Bangladesh movement received widespread public support in the US, as did India’s military intervention. But the US government supported Pakistan, valuing the alliance over human rights violations by the Pakistani army and good relations with India.
1971: After the war, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto becomes president of Pakistan. He believed that Pakistan had been deceived and betrayed by the US, and embarked on a policy that would lesson Pakistan’s dependence on the US.
- He moved to bolster Pakistan’s Islamic identity, creating new and strong ties with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Islamic states.
- Pakistan became a key member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a group that had been founded in 1969.
- He stressed Pakistan’s non-aligned and ‘developing’ credentials. He called his new policy ‘bilateralism’, implying neutrality in the Cold War.
- He withdrew Pakistan from SEATO and military links with the West declined.
- When CENTO was disbanded following the fall of the Shah of Iran in early 1979, Pakistan became a member of the nonaligned movement.
1974: India conducted a ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ or weapons test. Pakistan reversed its past policy and initiated a secret nuclear weapons program in response.
1970s (late): Nuclear issues became the sticking point of Pakistan’s relations with its former Western allies, especially the US. Cold War alliances became formally defunct.
1977 (June): SEATO was dissolved.
1979: CENTO is dissolved after the Iranian Revolution. It had never been a militarily effective organization.
[SEATO like CENTO had regional and non-regional members. France, the US, and Britain were members, as were New Zealand and Australia. Regional states included Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan. SEATO was never formally involved in the Vietnam War, in part because of Pakistan’s objection.]
1979 (December): The Soviets invaded Afghanistan. This revived the close relationship between Pakistan and the US.
1980s (early): Pakistan strategists concluded that with a bomb they could provoke and probe India without fear of escalating to a nuclear conflict or large-scale war.
1981: Ronald Reagan offered to provide $3.2 billion to Pakistan over a period of 6 years, to be equally divided between economic and military assistance.
1985: The US Congress passed the Pressler Amendment which required the president to certify to Congress on an annual basis that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon. Otherwise, assistance to Pakistan would be cut off. For several years, President Reagan and President H.W. Bush provided the certification required for a waiver.
1986: The US announced a second package of assistance of over $4.0 billion. 57% of this amount was for economic assistance.
1989: The US ended assistance to Pakistan. With the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan and the end of the Cold War, the US discovered that it can no longer certify the absence of nuclear weapons.
1989-2001: Pakistan’s nuclear program remains the core issue in its relations with the US.
2001: The 9/11 attacks lead to a revival of the US-Pakistan alliance. The George W. Bush administration very quickly eliminates many sanctions against Pakistan. Washington declares Pakistan to be a ‘major non-NATO ally’, entitling it to buy certain military equipment at reduced prices. Pakistan serves as a support base for the US war against Afghanistan, and as a partner in tracking down al-Queda and Taliban leaders. A massive military and economic assistance program for Pakistan is initiated in return.
2008: The US Congress accuses Pakistan of not pulling its weight in combating radical extremism in Afghanistan and in Pakistan itself.
2011 (May 1): Osama bin Laden, the force behind the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center in September 2001, is killed in Abbotabad, Pakistan, by US Navy SEALS.
Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
At the end of December 1979, the Soviet Union sent thousands of troops into Afghanistan and immediately assumed complete military and political control of Kabul and large portions of the country. This event began a brutal, decade-long attempt by Moscow to subdue the Afghan civil war and maintain a friendly and socialist government on its border. It was a watershed event of the Cold War, marking the only time the Soviet Union invaded a country outside the Eastern Bloc—a strategic decision met by nearly worldwide condemnation. While the massive, lightning-fast military maneuvers and brazenness of Soviet political objectives constituted an “invasion” of Afghanistan, the word “intervention” more accurately describes these events as the culmination of growing Soviet domination going back to 1973. Undoubtedly, leaders in the Kremlin had hoped that a rapid and complete military takeover would secure Afghanistan’s place as an exemplar of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which held that once a country became socialist Moscow would never permit it to return to the capitalist camp. The United States and its European allies, guided by their own doctrine of containment, sharply criticized the Soviet move into Afghanistan and devised numerous measures to compel Moscow to withdraw.
Soviet combat vehicles move through Afghanistan. (Department of Defense)
In the summer of 1973, Mohammed Daoud, the former Afghan Prime Minister, launched a successful coup against King Zahir. Although Daoud himself was more nationalist than socialist, his coup was dependent on pro-Soviet military and political factions. Since 1955 Moscow had provided military training and materiel to Afghanistan; by 1973, a third of active troops had trained on Soviet soil. Additionally, Daoud enjoyed the support of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), founded in 1965 upon Marxist ideology and allegiance to Moscow. In 1967 the PDPA split into two factions: the Parchamists, led by BabrakKarmal (who supported Daoud), and the “Khalqis” led by Noor Taraki. For the next five years, Daoud attempted the impossible task of governing Afganistan’s Islamic tribal regions, while also struggling to reconcile the PDPA split. But the more radical Khalq faction never fully recognized Daoud’s leadership, while Karmal viewed the coup largely as a means to consolidate his own power. In response, Daoud hoped to mitigate both of these threats by steering Afghanistan away from Soviet influence and improving U.S. relations, while decreasing the influence of radical elements in the government and military.
Daoud’s middle course ended in disaster. On April 28, 1978, soldiers aligned with Taraki’s “Khalq” faction assaulted the presidential palace, where troops executed Daoud and his family. In the following days Taraki became the Prime Minister, and, in an attempt to end the PDPA’s divisions, Karmal became Deputy Prime Minister. In Washington, this Communist revolution was met with alarm. The Carter administration recognized that Taraki would undo Daoud’s attempt to steer Afghanistan away from Moscow, and it debated whether to cut ties with Afghanistan or recognize Taraki in the hopes that Soviet influence could be contained. Although the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski advocated the former course, Carter supported the Department of State’s advocacy of recognition. Shortly after the revolution, Washington recognized the new government and soon named Adolph Dubs its Ambassador to Afghanistan. Until his kidnapping and death at the hands of Afghan Shia dissidents in February 1979, Dubs strongly pursued good relations with the Taraki regime in the hopes that U.S. support would keep Soviet influence at bay.
Once again, the tumult of internal Afghan politics complicated both U.S. and Soviet jockeying. In the summer of 1979, Hafizullah Amin, a longtime ally of Taraki who became Deputy Prime Minister following the April Revolution, received word that BabrakKarmal (Daoud’s early supporter) was leading a Parcham plot to overthrow the Taraki regime. Amin took the opportunity to purge and execute many Parchamists and consolidate his own power. Complicating matters further, this internal strife damaged the Kabul Government’s major national program, namely, to bring the Communist revolution to the Islamic tribal areas beyond Kabul. By the winter of 1978, this program was met by armed revolt throughout the country. In response, Amin and Taraki traveled to Moscow to sign a friendship treaty which included a provision that would allow direct Soviet military assistance should the Islamic insurgency threaten the regime. This insurrection intensified over the next year and it became increasingly obvious to the Soviets that Taraki could not prevent all-out civil war and the prospect of a hostile Islamic government taking control. By mid-1979 Moscow was searching to replace Taraki and Amin, and dispatched combat troops to Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul. This move prompted the Carter administration to begin supplying non-lethal aid to Afghan mujahedeen, or Islamic insurgents. In August, a high-ranking Soviet military delegation arrived in Kabul to assess the situation. U.S. officials interpreted this mission as one last Soviet attempt to shore up the Taraki regime, and also an opportunity to devise a military takeover. Regarding the latter, most analysts in Washington believed that such a move remained possible but unlikely.
But this calculus was bound to change. Amin sensed the Soviet mission was designed to strengthen Taraki at his expense. In response, forces loyal to Amin executed Taraki in October—a move that infuriated Moscow, which began amassing combat units along its border. At this juncture Washington was still unsure how to interpret the Soviet maneuvers: was the Soviet Union planning a full takeover or did it remain committed to preserving the April Revolution? Analysts remained skeptical that Moscow would occupy the country given the political and economic costs. By the winter of 1979, faced with mutinies and an uncertain leadership, the Afghan Army was unable to provide basic security to the government against the onslaught of Islamic fighters nearing Kabul. By that point the Soviets were sending in motorized divisions and Special Forces. Washington demanded an explanation, which the Soviets ignored. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the invasion began. Soviet troops killed Amin and installed BabrakKarmal as the Soviet’s puppet head of government.
Although the Carter administration had closely watched this buildup from the outset, its reaction following the invasion revealed that, until the end, it clung to the hope that the Soviets would not invade, based on the unjustified assumption that Moscow would conclude that the costs of invasion were too high. In response, Carter wrote a sharply-worded letter to Brezhnev denouncing Soviet aggression, and during his State of the Union address he announced his own doctrine vowing to protect Middle Eastern oil supplies from encroaching Soviet power. The administration also enacted economic sanctions and trade embargoes against the Soviet Union, called for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and stepped up its aid to the Afghan insurgents. In sum, these actions were Washington’s collective attempt to make the Soviets’ “adventure” in Afghanistan as painful and brief as possible. Instead, it took ten years of grinding insurgency before Moscow finally withdrew, at the cost of millions of lives and billions of dollars. In their wake, the Soviets left a shattered country in which the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group, seized control, later providing Osama bin Laden with a training base from which to launch terrorist operations worldwide.
Q.3 How do you see prospects of cooperqtin between the Central Asian States Pakistan in the post-Cold War era? How do you see the Islamic connectins as a determining factor in Central Asia-Pakistan relations?
On May, 1, 1960, Francis Gary Powers took off in a U-2 spy plane from an airbase in Pakistan, flew over Afghanistan and into Soviet airspace, where he proceeded to photograph industrial and military installations before being shot down near Cheliabinsk, in Siberia.
By demonstrating that Washington had superior technology and was willing to violate borders to spy on the USSR, the U-2 overflights undermined Khrushchev’s overtures to US President Eisenhower. Khrushchev, already under pressure from security elites, was forced to effectively sabotage a planned summit with Eisenhower in Paris, abandoning discussion of nuclear issues and instead berating and lecturing the US president. Powers was publicly tried and sentenced to hard labor, until he was finally traded for the spy Aldrich Ames.
The story of Powers’ flight, capture, and return to the US is one of the best known incidents of the Cold War. Usually forgotten, however, is that Powers’ flight over Soviet territory began when he crossed the border from Afghanistan into southern Tajikistan. In August 2015, 55 years after the flight took place, an article in Tajikistan’s Russian-language AsiaPlus sought to correct this omission, explaining to readers that US authorities were clearly intrigued by the industrial construction underway in the vicinity of the capital.
It is unlikely that Dushanbe was the CIA’s main priority at the time, but the article does underline an important fact: by 1960, Tajikistan and other Central Asian republics had come to play an important role in the Cold War. The reason was not strategic. The Kingdom of Afghanistan, which bordered the Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, was a stable neutral state friendly to the USSR.
Rather, over the course of the 1950’s, Tajikistan and its neighbors played a crucial role in the ideological battle to prove that the Soviet Union offered the best path forward for newly-decolonizing states looking to cement their sovereignty and transform their economies. As former colonial territories with cultural ties to South Asia and the Muslim world, the Central Asian republics could play a particularly important role.
Back in 2000, historian Mathew Connelly urged his colleagues to “take off the Cold War lens” when approaching the study of decolonization and the international history of US relations with the so-called “Third World.” Connelly’s point was that neither post-colonial elites nor US policymakers thought in explicitly cold war terms when they engaged each other, and forcing their actions into cold war frameworks would blind researchers to other dynamics at play.
This was my own assumption when I first began planning what was intended to be a study of politics in the Central Asian republics after Stalin’s death. Both in popular perception and in historiography, Soviet foreign policy was made in Moscow. The rest of the vast territorial expanse of the USSR hosted military bases, provided material for nuclear weapons, or resorts for summit meetings. To my own surprise, however, I kept bumping up on evidence of the Cold War’s presence in the region.
But if one could spot relics of the Cold War in Europe in the shape of walls and checkpoints, or even in the form of faded and rusted “fallout shelter” signs in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up, in Tajikistan, where I did my research, the superpower confrontation announced itself more subtly yet just as certainly as it might in Berlin. There was the the Indira Gandhi Central Research Library of the Academy of Sciences, the name evidence of the special role Tajikistan was given in Soviet-Indian friendship during the Cold War. But it came through most clearly in the memories of people whom I met, both spontaneously and deliberately. Many professionals had worked abroad as translators, engineers, and economic advisers; many others were veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Even those who had never been abroad recalled how important they found global politics during their student days in the 1960s and 1970s.
Not surprisingly, it was not the European Cold War that was on people’s minds, but what Odd Arne Westad called the “Global Cold War”—the superpower conflict entangled with the struggles of decolonization.
As I argue in my recent book, Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan (Cornell University Press, 2018), the Cold War transformed how Moscow related to the region, how local politicians related to Moscow, and how the emerging elite, studying at rapidly expanding universities in the region, saw the world.
That book is primarily about development – about how knowledge and practice impact each other, and how people interacted with and shaped the Soviet institutions that were meant to transform the region. But I found that I could not make sense of the politics of the era, nor of the projects I was describing, without wrestling with the Cold War context. Moscow had to prove that the USSR was truly anti-imperialist, not simply the Russian empire in different guise, and that it had the answers to problems of economic development faced by post-colonial countries.
To the extent possible, Moscow preferred Central Asians to make these claims themselves, opening up opportunities for travel and interaction with the outside world. But local politicians, intellectuals, and writers, also used the opportunity engendered by this attention to change Moscow’s policy in the region: by calling for greater investment in industries, for example, or challenging cultural policies.
During the Cold War, scholars like Alec Nove and Donald Wilber had written about the attraction of Soviet economic development in Central Asia for other developing countries. In the early 1980s, Karen Dawisha and YacovRo’i were among those who noted how the USSR was not just using Muslims but starting to turn to Islam as a source of support in the Middle East.
While the above scholars recognized that Soviet Muslims, on balance, were an important asset in Moscow’s foreign policy, others, like Alexander Bennigsen, argued that Soviet Muslims represented a potential pressure point and the greatest reserve of resistance against Soviet rule. For Bennigsen and like-minded scholars, the USSR’s engagement with the Muslim world beyond Soviet borders would only hasten the activation of that resistance.
Since the end of the Cold War, a number of historians have continued to debate whether the Soviet Union was an empire or not, and whether it makes sense to speak of the Central Asian republics or those of the Caucasus as colonies of Moscow. The approach I took in my recent book was to incorporate this debate, but to focus primarily on the tensions between Moscow’s commitment to anti-colonialism at home and abroad and the obvious inequalities in power and economic development between Moscow and the former peripheries of the Russian Empire. I argued that we could see the Soviet era, and particularly the post-Stalin era, as an experiment in whether the legacy of colonialism could be overcome.
The documents that follow represent a selection of sources found in Moscow and Dushanbe archives. There is no central file or collection of documents related to Central Asia and Soviet Foreign Policy. Moreover, as foreign policy was not the primary aim of my research, I did not spend much effort working in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where access is in any case often unpredictable.
Rather, the documents presented here come from a variety of holdings, including the Central Committee files housed at the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), the files of the Ministry of Education at State Archive of the Russian Federation, the archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as the Central State Archive of the Republic of Tajikistan and the archive of the communist party held at the largely defunct Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Dushanbe.
These documents allow us to see how Soviet officials hoped to make use of Central Asia and Central Asians; they also show us what kind of possibilities opened up for Central Asians and how the latter responded to these new opportunities. The documents also give us some sense of the interactions that occurred.
Not surprisingly, however, the documents only give hints regarding two other questions. First, what did the intended audience of these presentations think? Were those predisposed to think about the USSR as just another colonial empire come around to seeing it as a genuinely emancipatory power? Were those looking for models of development more impressed by what they saw in Soviet public diplomacy than what was offered by Chinese or American outreach? And second: what did Central Asians take away from these interactions?
The archival materials clearly show that their claims were challenged, and Soviet emissaries give detailed accounts of how they parried questions regarding issues of cultural autonomy, economic development, or even religious freedom. Naturally, however, they could not write back to their superiors that they developed doubts themselves.
These two questions are difficult, but not impossible to answer. The first question, however, requires research far beyond Soviet archives. It calls for studying travelers to the Soviet Union, especially those from the so-called Third World who were often taken on trips to Central Asia. Such a project is beyond the capabilities of any one researcher, and I gave up my own ambitions in this regard fairly early in my research.
The second question requires moving beyond archival sources. Luckily, many of the travelers left behind memoirs; some are still alive and willing to be interviewed. These sources present a somewhat more nuanced picture: while travel or work abroad could certainly make one identify even more strongly with the Soviet Union (as accounts published in the Soviet era almost always suggested), they could also push one to reflect more critically on life back home.
The Tajik literary historian HudoynazarAsozoda, for example, served two stints as a translator in Tajikistan – one before the Soviet invasion, and one after. He recalled that some Afghanistanis insisted that groups like the Tajiks had little real autonomy in the Soviet Union. Asozoda knew that both Soviet and Afghan intelligence services were probably keeping an eye on him, and so he could not really engage in such discussions. Still, he noted, “the views [of his interlocutors] were not without effect on my world view.
Pakistan provides the natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia … We offer the critical overland routes and connectivity for mutually beneficial trade and energy transactions intra- regionally and interregionally”
— President Gen. Pervez Musharraf
June 15, 2006
Pakistan took due notice of the geo-strategic importance of Central Asian states in the changed security paradigm after the end of the Cold War. Initial efforts by Pakistan to make some inroad into Central Asia may not have succeeded because of its unclear foreign policy objectives, but Pakistan remains an important player in the region. In fact, its geo-strategic location makes it difficult for Central Asian regimes to ignore Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistan’s relations with the Central Asian Republics (CARs) have improved. In the unfolding geo-political situation, the current Central Asian regimes are trying to build new equations with Islamabad.
Analysis of Pakistan’s strategies in the Central Asian region constitutes the principal focus of this paper. It argues that various economic and geo strategic factors have shaped Pakistan’s policy towards Central Asia, but fear of India’s influence in this region remains a predominant factor in the formulation of its strategies. In fact, Pakistan’s foreign policy, since its very inception, has been conditioned by two interrelated factors, i.e., the fear of India and an urge to seek a strategic balance with India. Another important element of its foreign policy has been its self-proclaimed strong attachment to Islamic ideology.1 These strands determine Islamabad’s policy towards Central Asia as well. Therefore, Pakistan’s relation with the CARs needs to be examined in the context of its overall foreign and military policies.
Pakistan’s adversarial relations with neighbouring India play a vital role in the formation of its national security plans.2 Time and again this has been articulated within Pakistan.3 Its policy towards the United States (US) has always been premised on the consideration that military assistance from the US would help Pakistan attain parity with India.4Its strong politico-military ties with China also seek to counterbalance India’s influence in the region. At another level, its desire to be the leader of the Islamic bloc is premised on the consideration that this would enhance Pakistan’s influence in the Islamic bloc, which, in turn, can be used against India. Pakistan has always tried to project itself as the only country that can stand up to India in the region. This has been the cornerstone of Islamabad’s strategic thinking.5
Pakistan’s foreign policy-making is highly personalised and centralised, but the army plays a big role in setting the parameters within which Islamabad conducts its relations with the outside world. The military has a significant influence that even elected governments cannot ignore. The role of the intelligence agencies, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is equally significant. Also, the religious orientation of the state accords a special legitimacy to the role of religion in the training of the military personnel. There is, hence, a curious blend of loyalties of the armed forces to the state of Pakistan and the religion of Islam that serves as the ideological glue. Some scholars believe that “religion is very-very central to the Pakistan’s military strategic thinking.”6
A few scholars have argued that Pakistan’s foreign policy-making process is influenced by three contending schools of thought but that are united in their hostility towards India. They differ on the strategy to be pursued by them to counter India. The first school of thought lays emphasis on ‘surrender’ and believes in a uni-polar world. It maintains that Pakistan has little choice but to rely on and surrender its policy options to the US as a balancer. The second school of thought advocates ‘independence’ and has a multipolar worldview. While acknowledging the importance of the US, it wants Pakistan to reach out to and benefit from its relationship with other major powers like Japan, China and Russia. This school argues that such a relationship would offer Islamabad considerable flexibility. The third school of thought emphasises on ‘Islam’ and the Islamic nature of the Pakistani state. It also subscribes to the unipolar worldview and argues for alliances based on Pakistan’s ideological and religious interests.7
It is also often argued that within the Pakistani establishment there are either “hawks or liberal pacifists, but no realists”.8 These varied nuances demand serious consideration. It is important to note that Pakistani rulers and the military in particular, at some point of time, have been influenced by these three schools of thought while formulating Pakistan’s policy towards the CARs. Before examining Pakistan’s present-day strategies in the CARs, it is important to understand its involvement in Central Asia and Afghanistan prior to the emergence of the independent Central Asian states in 1991.
Pakistan’s quest for security led to its involvement in Central Asia much before the CARs emerged as independent states in 1991.The military regime under President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq encouraged the Afghan mujahideen to spread out to the erstwhile Central Asian republics within the then Soviet Union and the CIA supplied arms to the mujahideen through the ISI to conduct these forays. The fear of expanding Soviet influence in Afghanistan and beyond led to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and Central Asia.9
The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 added a new dimension to Pakistan’s existing threat perception. It was of the view that after consolidating its position within Afghanistan, Moscow would try to access the ‘warm waters’ of the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.10Islamabad was able to sell this idea to Washington and after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it became a ‘frontline’ state for the US. This threat perception was crafted by the Pakistani leadership to cement its ties with Washington, which otherwise was at an all-time low since the military takeover in 1977. It also helped Pakistan achieve its larger strategic goal of acquiring more military and economic aid from the US so as to attain parity with India.11 To counter India’s influence in Afghanistan, because of its earlier ties in Kabul, Pakistan always wanted to see a friendly Pashtun government in Kabul since the 1950s. And since the 1980s, Pakistan projected Afghanistan as a source of its “strategic depth” in the event of war with India.
As part of a strategy to destabilise the Soviet Union, a conscious policy was adopted by Pakistan to encourage Islamic influence in and infiltrate Islamist mujahideen into the Central Asian states. In 1984, Afghan groups trained by Pakistani intelligence sent 5,000 copies of the Koran across the border. This group had drawn in people living in northern Afghanistan– mainly Uzbeks. Moreover, the base camps of groups entering Soviet territory were located north of Peshawar in Chitral district on the border with Afghanistan. In fact, the policy of exporting jihad to Central Asia had an impact there during the Soviet era, which was visible in the immediate aftermath of the Geneva Agreements of April 1988 and the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The Tajik civil war broke out immediately after the Central Asian republics gained independence in 1991.
In the late 1970s, dissident Islamic underground parties had began to form in Tajikistan, and the Tajik nationalists were seen to be gaining in popularity and influence by the end of the 1980s. However, real disturbances did not occur until the early 1990s. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and Tajikistan declared its independence in 1991. The Tajik civil war started in 1992 and continued till 1997.
Islamabad did not make any change in its military-political strategy during Benazir Bhutto’s period. Reports of the Pakistani intelligence services and their role in promoting Islamic radicalism in Central Asia appeared in the writings of General A.A. Liakhovskii, a participant in the Afghan war. According to him, the organisation “Islamic Union of the Northern Peoples of Afghanistan” (Islamskiisoiuzsevernykhnarodov Afghanistan), created in 1988, launched subversive activities in areas of Central Asia contiguous with Afghanistan, with the goal of liberating Soviet Muslims and creating a “free Turkestan”. Azad Beg headed this organisation, which had its headquarters in Peshawar. According to Liakhovskii, the field commanders of this organisation shipped narcotics, weapons, and subversive (mainly Islamic) literature to the USSR.12
However, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of Cold War considerably altered the geo-strategic scenario in the region. Pakistan lost its role as a ‘frontline state’ thus losing its strategic relevance to the US. The Gulf War further dented Pakistan’s geo-strategic advantage with Washington reinforcing its links with the Persian Gulf region. This period also witnessed improved relations between India-US and India-China. Therefore, the 1990s offered a very different geo-strategic configuration. Another important development during this period was the emergence of the Taliban and its strong ties with Pakistan. The Taliban connection was used by Islamabad to sponsor cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and Afghanistan became the hub of terrorist activities. These developments had serious implications for the newly independent countries of Central Asia. Jihadi elements from Afghanistan and Pakistan started infiltrating into the neighbouring Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The events of 9/11 once again changed the geo-political landscape with new alignments and realignments taking shape in Central Asia. For the US and Pakistan, Central Asia became an area of great strategic significance. Islamabad, while forced to cooperate with Washington in its global war against terrorism, could manage much-needed economic and military aid for its services in Afghanistan and its sudden reversal of policy towards that country. Post-9/11, Pakistan tried to make inroads into Central Asia with an improved image. It offered shorter routes for Central Asian goods and connectivity with the rest of the world.
Pakistan’s Objectives in Central Asia
Pakistan’s objectives in Central Asia are determined by its political and security imperatives; its economic and commercial gains; countering India’s influence and its desire to be an energy transit-corridor13 in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.14 Pakistan has always desired to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond.15 Central Asia is seen as an area of natural expansion for Pakistan. Hafeez Malik believes that Central Asia presents Pakistan with a new security environment “…freed from the nutcracker squeeze the Soviet Union had created through an alliance between Afghanistan and India.”16
Related to Pakistan’s ambition to expand its influence is the desire to be the leader of the Islamic bloc. Albeit this idea has not crystallised, but it has always dominated the thinking of the Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Bhutto in the 1970s and Gen. Zia in the 1980s. The debate still remains pertinent to Pakistan’s geo-strategic formulations. The Islamic groups and parties viewed Central Asia as paving the way for an Islamic bloc thus providing an opportunity to unite Muslims in the CARs, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was felt that such a strategic bloc would acquire a central role in securing strategic interests vis-à-vis India or even the Christian-Jewish threat. The emergence of the CARs were perceived as an opportunity to form a large regional grouping stretching from the Arabian Sea in the south to the Black Sea in the west based on the common religious identity of Islam. Importantly, it was seen to offer a huge political and economic benefit to Pakistan.17
In fact, Central Asia does provide Pakistan with numerous opportunities in terms of trade in raw material and manufactured goods, contracting for regular power supply and opening up communications. The resourcerich Central Asia18 is seen as a future source of energy for Pakistan.
After the emergence of the CARs, Pakistan moved actively into Central Asia,19 but policy makers were clearly divided as to what Pakistan would gain out of Central Asia. While some wanted an Islamic revolution in Central Asia, others wanted open trade links through Afghanistan. The dichotomy of views revealed the limits of Pakistan’s Central Asia Policy. Moreover, during this period, the Central Asian leaders were extremely wary of Pakistan because of its involvement in the Afghan war and its support to the mujahideen.20 During the Pakistan-backed Taliban era in Afghanistan, bilateral relations between Pakistan and the Central Asian states touched rock bottom.
After Pakistan joined the global war against terrorism as a frontline state, bilateral relations began to be revisited. During the past few years, frequent visits by Central Asian and Pakistani officials (See Appendix I for Pakistani officials’ visits to CARs) to each other’s states reflect the changing nature of their bilateral relations. A number of agreements have been signed covering such areas as trade and tourism, cultural and economic cooperation during these visits. Pakistan has developed institutionalised arrangements for this purpose. Joint Economic Commissions (JECs) have been established with all the Central Asian states. Under a Special Technical Assistance Programme (STAP) initiated in 1992-93, Pakistan provides training facilities, which are fully funded by Islamabad. The programme includes courses ranging from English language, banking and accountancy to diplomacy.21
In this context President General Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in March 2005 was significant.22 Earlier, the two-day official visit of President NursultanNazarbayev of Kazakhstan in December 2003 to Islamabad was a step towards strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. During this visit, both the leaders decided to hold annual foreign ministerial consultations. While speaking at the Pakistan- Kazakhstan Business Forum, President Nazarbayev identified three zones of technological parks of information and biotechnology where Pakistani companies could invest significantly.23
It is important to note that during the Tajik Foreign Minister’s visit to Islamabad in January 2004, he assured President Musharraf that Tajikistan would not allow Indian military bases on its soil.24 This was followed by the visit of Tajik President EmomaliRahmanov to Islamabad in May 2004. During this visit, eight agreements were inked covering abolition of visas for holders of diplomatic passports, avoidance of double taxation, cooperation between the education ministers and justice ministers, combating drug trafficking, and cooperation between official news agencies and promotion and protection of investment.25
Pakistan-Uzbekistan relations have also been improving over the past few years given the changed security paradigm.26 During Uzbek President Karimov’s recent visit to Islamabad in May 2006, both sides agreed to expand trade and economic ties and coordinate anti-terrorism activities. It was also planned to extend road and rail links that would enable the CARs, particularly Uzbekistan, to make use of Pakistan’s seaports to develop commerce with other regions. A joint fight against extremism and terrorism has, of late, been on top of the list for both the countries. During his March 2005 visit President Musharraf assured the Uzbek leader of his determination to wipe out terrorists, including a substantial number of Uzbek nationals, from the tribal areas.27 How far these promises will be fulfilled is yet to be seen.
In an attempt to build strong ties with Central Asia, Pakistan has sought to use its cultural links with this region. It is perceived that Pakistan is the cultural extension of the Central Asian region that in turn is seen to be in fusion with the South Asian social milieu. In this context, a Pakistani scholar opined, “Pakistan’s political existence and emergence on the world map would not have materialised but for the primordial relationship that glues us together. The roots of our faith, undoubtedly, lie in the Arabian soil but our cultural linkages are with Central Asian civilisation, which in itself is an amalgam of diverse influence and cross-cultural fertilisation
Q.4 Analysis Richard Nixon’s policy towards Asia, particularly China. Elaborate Pakistan’s role in materializing Nixon’s Asian policy. How did it shift power balance in the US’s favor?
Nixon’s Foreign Policy
President Nixon pursued two important policies that both culminated in 1972. In February he visited Beijing, setting in motion normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China. In May, he traveled to the Soviet Union and signed agreements that contained the results of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks (SALT I), and new negotiations were begun to extend further arms control and disarmament measures.
These developments marked the beginning of a period of “détente” in line with a general tendency among Americans to favor a lower profile in world affairs after the Vietnam War, which finally ended in 1975 with the last withdrawal of U.S. personnel. While improvements in relations with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China signaled a possible thaw in the Cold War, they did not lead to general improvement in the international climate. The international economy experienced considerable instability, leading to a significant modification of the international financial system in place since the end of World War II.
During the Nixon Administration, international scientific, technological, and environmental issues grew in prominence. In October 1973, Congress passed legislation creating the Bureau of Oceans and International Environments and Scientific Affairs (OES), to handle environmental issues, weather, oceans, Antarctic affairs, atmosphere, fisheries, wildlife conservation, health, and population matters. The Department had difficulty filling the new Assistant Secretary position until January 1975, when the former Atomic Energy Commissioner, Dixie Lee Ray, took the job. However, she resigned six months later claiming that OES was not playing a significant policy role.
Although Secretary Rogers still had broad responsibility for foreign policy, including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and international organizations, the Department of State resented its exclusion from key policy decisions, and the Secretary continually fought to make his views known.
orty-four years ago in August 1969, the newly elected president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, visited Lahore, Pakistan, to meet with that country’s leader, President Mohammed Agha Yahya Khan, who had taken over earlier that year from his predecessor, Mohammed Ayub Khan, who dominated Pakistani politics for more than a decade.
That mini-summit in Lahore would eventually play a role in two subsequent historic events – Nixon’s visit to Communist China in 1972 and the 1971 liberation war that created the new state of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
According to Sultan Mohammed Khan, Pakistan’s foreign secretary at the time and a former ambassador to the U.S., Nixon made the trip to Lahore to informally become acquainted with Yahya Khan. (Nixon had visited Pakistan many times before, while serving as U.S. vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s and also as a private citizen in the following decade).
“[Nixon] mentioned to Yahya Khan that [he was] thinking of re-establishing contact with China,” Mohammed Khan told PBS. “It [had] been almost two decades [since the U.S.] broke relations with [China] and there [had] been no official contact and, when the time is right, [Nixon would] like to get in touch with [Yahya] to help [Nixon] and act as an intermediary in the establishment of relationship.”
Yahya agreed, but the matter was not raised again until October 1970, when he visited the White House and discussed China with Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.
The following month, Yahya Khan visited Beijing, where he was warmly greeted by Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai. During that trip, China signed a number of military supply agreements with Pakistan and even erased financial debts the country owed to Beijing.
“[Yahya Khan] conveyed President Nixon’s proposal for sending an envoy to China to meet Zhou En-lai or some other Chinese leader to discuss problems between the two countries,” Mohammed Khan said.
“[Zhou] said we have received many proposals from different sources for establishing contact with the United States but this is the first time a message has come from a … head of state. The United States knows that Pakistan is a great friend of China and therefore we attach importance to the message you have given, and we accept the proposal to receive an envoy of President Nixon in [Beijing].”
Pakistan was a key U.S. ally during the Cold War, said Dr. Ehtisham Ahmad, a visiting senior fellow of the Asia Research Centre at the London School of Economics.
“Despite President John F. Kennedy’s tilt towards India, and the freezing of military and economic ties after the 1965 war with India, Pakistan still remained of geopolitical importance to the U.S. at a time when the Cold War was still very much on,” he told International Business Times. “And the U.S. facing difficulties in extricating itself from Vietnam, Nixon was shoring up his support base.”
Apparently, Nixon’s efforts to reach out to China were kept classified and were known only to a very few officials in Washington, Islamabad and Beijing. (After several months of silence, in April 1971, the Chinese finally agreed to receive Nixon, facilitating the epoch-making event in 1972).
However, back in late 1970, having secured the willingness of the Chinese to meet with Nixon and other favorable deals, Yahya Khan nonetheless had another more urgent matter to contend with – the growing secessionist movement in East Pakistan. (When the British partitioned India in 1947, they created the Muslim nation of “Pakistan,” which comprised two distinct territories – West Pakistan and East Pakistan – separated by 1,500 miles.)
Moreover, elections held in December 1970 showed how hopelessly divided Pakistan was — the Awami League won virtually all seats in East Pakistan, but had no presence at all in West Pakistan. Similarly, the Pakistan People’s Party dominated the legislative assembly of West Pakistan, but held nothing in East Pakistan. (The two leaders of these two parties, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, respectively, would play crucial roles in this drama in the years to come.) Ahmad explained that the December 1970 election presented a serious problem for both Yahya and Bhutto, because the poll gave Mujib an overall majority in the national Parliament. “Both Bhutto and Yahya were afraid that if Mujib became prime minister (as was his right), all the provinces of Pakistan would have come apart — not just East Pakistan,” he said.
Fearing East Pakistan would secede (with the help of India), in March 1971 Yahya Khan commenced a crackdown on Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan that would eventually lead to a devastating war which would kill as many as 3 million people and prompt the flood of many more millions of (Bengali) refugees into India.
Yahya Khan’s military maneuvers failed against the combined forces of Bengali rebels and the Indian military — and, as he had to watch the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh — he apologized to his countrymen and stepped down in favor of Bhutto in December 1971.
Bhutto subsequently placed Yahya Khan under house arrest, a result of what Ahmad describes as “effectively a military coup” to remove Yahya.
“Even though Bhutto had been elected to Parliament, he came to power as chief martial law administrator,” Ahmad said. “Ideally, he should have sought a new mandate by another election — he did not have the majority in Parliament, but because the Bengali MPs were effectively disqualified, he assumed a leadership role.”
The U.S. also played a remote, but tangible, role in this South Asian adventure.
During the liberation war, Nixon ostensibly supported Pakistan but urged restraint on the part of Yahya Khan. In December 2002, declassified U.S. government documents revealed that Nixon ordered his aides not to do anything to compromise Yahya Khan’s war in East Pakistan.
“To all hands, don’t squeeze Yahya at this time,” declared a handwritten note Nixon wrote in April 1971.
Kissinger himself referred to Nixon’s fondness for Yahya Khan during a meeting in June 1971 with Kenneth Keating, then the U.S. ambassador to India, in stark contrast to Nixon’s hostility to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
According to reports, Kissinger said Nixon had a “special feeling for President Yahya” and that he wanted to treat the Pakistani president “with love, rather than with brutality.”
“One cannot make policy on that basis [personal feelings and friendship], but it is a fact of life,” Kissinger added.
Nixon and Kissinger even threatened to cut off diplomatic ties with India during the war – an event that was canceled by (West) Pakistan’s loss and surrender in the conflict as well as India’s declaration of a ceasefire in mid-December 1971.
There are also indications that the U.S. may have violated its own arms embargo on Pakistan during the liberation war – weapons that Yahya’s forces may have used to kill tens of thousands of Bengalis. Of course, Nixon likely viewed this South Asian battle in Cold War terms – with Pakistan as a strong ally of the U.S. and India as a proxy for the still-powerful Soviet Union.
Ahmad suggested that (West) Pakistan may have become better off losing (East) Pakistan.
“It is not clear that there was much appetite in Islamabad or the military command to hang on to East Pakistan in the face of a hostile citizenry,” he noted. “West [Pakistan] did very much better economically after East [Pakistan] had separated.”
Interestingly, the two men at the center of this global geostrategic power play, Yahya Khan and Richard Nixon, ended up as discredited politicians with a decidedly mixed legacy.
Yahya Khan remained under house arrest until 1977 when the new Pakistani leader, Gen. Zia al-Haq, released him. Yahya died in 1980 in relative obscurity in Rawalpindi.
”Yahya is largely forgotten and unimportant in the context of present-day Pakistan,” Ahmad noted.
Less than three years after the Bangladesh war, Nixon had to resign from the White House, a consequence of the Watergate break-in scandal. Nixon would spend the remaining 20 years of his life largely as a pariah and seek in vain to rehabilitate his image.