Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mujib Agreed To Release All POWs To Save Bhutto

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his conversation with Henry Kissinger said that he had agreed to the release of all prisoners of war (POWs) because he wanted to save Bhutto from military intervention in Pakistan. "I have done it intentionally. If I had not done this the military would again have come to power in Pakistan," Sheikh Mujib added. The then Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said this to the then US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger during his visit to Bangladesh on October 30 , 1974 at 5.30 pm at Prime Minister's Secretariat in Dhaka. The content of the discussion remained a classified document at the State Department until October 11 , 2007. The document was released for public on February 14 , 2009. The discussion between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Henry Kissinger clearly explained under what consideration Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had to release the POWs. Henry Kissinger visited Bangladesh on his way to visit India prior to the visit of the then President Ford of the USA to India. Kissinger was in Bangladesh to study the possibility of President Ford's visit to Bangladesh as it is evidenced from the document. During the discussion the then Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Hossain, Foreign Secretary Fakhruddin Ahmed, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Ruhul Quddus, Economic Secretary to Prime Minister Dr M Abdus Sattar, another officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abdul Bari represented Bangladesh side. On the American side Ambassador Boster, Assistant Secretary of State Atherton, Robert Oklay of NSC, Ambassador Robert Anderson and Deputy Assistant Secretary Laingen represented the United States. Henry Kissinger appreciated Sheikh Mujib for his farsightedness. Sheikh Mujib said to Kissinger that Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto during his visit to Bangladesh did not agree to share the wealth, and even did not say anything about the repatriation of the Biharis. Bhutto only agreed to set up diplomatic relations without giving anything. During the discussion Mujib repeatedly requested for help and painted a gloomy picture about the famine situation in Bangladesh. Mujib said, "I have set up 5303 food kitchens and we feed 100 , 000 people everyday." Sheikh Mujib also sought Kissinger's help to set up diplomatic relations with China at that time. With an oblique reference to India he also pointed to Kissinger not to discuss with them about Bangladesh. " When you deal with Bangladesh you are dealing with us and not with someone else," Mujib said. The spirit of the discussion can only be understood if any one goes through the document. The text of the discussion between Prime Minister ?ujib and the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger of the US is as follows. Prime Minister ? uji? (Mujib): I am grateful to you for finding the time to come here. THE SECRETARY ( Kissinger): You were kind enough to invite me. Mujib: I am glad you could see the love and affection of my people. It is sometimes very difficult to understand our position. Mujib: Once I can associate the issues and personalities of a country by visiting the place, it tells me a great deal that will be helpful to me in the future. It is particularly so when I am received as warmly as I was here. Mujib: We can't give you too much comfort in physical arrangements here. Kissinger: You have been very helpful and the guest house is extremely comfortable and pleasant. We reviewed with your Foreign Minister this afternoon a wide variety of problems. I would be happy to talk about whatever issues interest you most. We reviewed international events and I indicated in what areas we want to be helpful. The progress and development of Bangladesh are matters we have very much in mind. Mujib: You know our stand on these things. Who doesn't know you? As far as I am concerned, I can perhaps discuss Sub-continental matters. Kissinger: That would be very interesting for me. Mujib: I don't like to go into a great deal of background. If you review the history of our pre- independence period, however, you will find that ( the then) East Pakistan earned as much as 75 per cent of Pakistan's foreign exchange. I was a member of the National Constituent Assembly in 1956. You know that background.

Kissinger: What was the population then?

Mujib: In 1947 the population of this area was about 40 million. Again, I don't really like to go into the background of our troubles. But it should be remembered that it was the soil of Bangladesh that suffered in 1971 and not that of Pakistan. I showed Bhutto, when he was here this summer, some of the evidence of this.

Gen. Farman Ali's order I showed him, for example, the order issued by General Farman Ali that " the green land of Bangladesh must be painted red". That was an instruction to his forces. I have that and showed it to Bhutto. We thought the Pakistanis would be generous. But I must be frank with you. Pakistan seeks only diplomatic relations with us. Nothing else. We did our part. We released all the POWs. But then when we want to discuss a division of assets they say nothing. We did not ask for a concrete assurance of assets but we ask that they give us some idea of what could be done. But when Bhutto came, he didn't agree to anything. He only spoke of diplomatic relations. I have got 75 million people who have nothing. I have nothing from the Pakistanis; they have the planes, the ships, the reserves. Kissinger: I talked to Aziz Ahmed following our last meeting in New York. ?? referred to your unwillingness to consider the problem of shared liabilities. Mujib: But I have already assumed responsibility for the liabilities! W? made an agreement on this with the creditors. But why can't I get some assurance on assets?

Bihari issue:

And then there is the question of the Biharis. These people opted for Pakistan! Now they (Pakistan) refuse to accept them. There are problems in doing this in Karachi, I know. But there should be no problem to absorb them in the Punjab. I have no land; only 75 million people. How long will it be before other countries do something to help us on this? Kissinger: Are they in camps now? Mujib: That is almost the case. We have to give them rations. Those who have opted for Bangladesh can stay here. I have given them jobs. Kissinger: Are you proposing to permit the Biharis to stay if they want? Mujib: Yes, 400 , 000 of them. But another 300 ,000 opted for Pakistan. That is my point. I have no hatred in my heart. I have no quarrel with anyone. I want peace with all countries. I cannot ask that other countries go on helping us indefinitely. I have set up 5 , 303 food kitchens and we feed 100 , 000 people every day. Our problems are very difficult and the floods this year made things worse. Kissinger: This is obviously a very important reality that you are describing. We talked this afternoon about possibilities in the area of international flood control measures. Did you want me to speak to Bhutto about some of these things? Mujib: You are welcome to do so. But one should not only talk; one should assist! They should know that people are dying here; they have land and can be helpful. As for flood control, that is important. We have been suffering for a long time. For the big rivers we have the Joint River Commission with India. Kissinger: What causes the floods the rivers or the sea? Foreign Minister [ Kamal] Hossain: There are two aspects of the problem. This year it was the rivers. But in 1970 , it was a tidal bore from the sea. Mujib: If we could only control the rivers, it would be helpful through embankments and small projects. In five years, if we can mobilise our resources, we can cope with the food problem. Of course we need also to deal with population planning. Kissinger: Are you reclaiming land from the Bay of Bengal?

Mujib: Yes, a total of 200 square miles in one area will be available next year. Kissinger: Will you settle people there for cultivation? Mujib: Yes, we must do it. I thank you very much for the 150 ,000 tons of food grains and the 100 ,000 additional tons you are providing now. Kissinger: It is essential in the present situation. Mujib: We need one or two years more of food support. I need massive assistance to make my country self- sufficient. We need help in raw materials for our industries. We need better prices for our jute. Kissinger: You seem to get hit from all sides. Mujib: We have a fertiliser factory now being built with Japanese support. We have experts coming from Japan and the UK to assist in our fertiliser plants and especially to look into the plant which recently suffered an explosion. We don't blame anyone for this. ?e?t?inl? not the Japanese who are our good friends. The UK experts will also help us. Until they have done this the facts are difficult to come by as to this explosion. We can be self-sufficient in urea production. We are also getting some additional fertiliser factory help from India. Ambassador Boster: The US is also helping in this area, with a $30 million loan for the Ashugan Fertiliser Factory. Kissinger: That is the real way to deal with the food production problem. We and others can help, but the real effort must be made by your country. Mujib: We are not sitting idle. We are producing food from our own land. We have a compulsory procurement effort underway to get reserves. Kissinger: Are you trying to build up your stocks? Mujib: We need to build a buffer for emergencies.

Foreign Minister Kamal Hossain: It is essentially an anti- hoarding measure. Kissinger: I told the Foreign Minister earlier that I am giving a major speech next week at the World Food Conference in which I will describe our overall approach to the food problem. Thereafter we will try to better organize ourselves within our own government. What we need to do is not simply provide help in food but also, and perhaps more important, assist with technology and fertiliser so that other countries can grow more food. Ambassador Boster will be following up with you on this after my speech.

For China's recognition:

Mujib: Unfortunately we are not getting any assistance or recognition from the Chinese. Kissinger: I have the impression, however, that this will come along. Mujib: We are waiting and ready for relations. Kissinger: They may prefer to wait until Pakistan has established relations with you. Mujib: That might be. They are a big power and it is up to them. Unfortunately many of my people are dying every day. In part because Pakistan has taken everything from me. We have no problem with good Pakistan-US relations. You can be a friend with everyone. China too can do what it wishes. Kissinger: May I repeat your views to the Chinese regarding your desire for better relations? Mujib: Of course. I know Chou en-Lai. He came to Dacca at one time and I went there as the head of a delegation from Pakistan in 1957. I was there in 1952 also. He came here in 1956. That was a turning point in our relations with China at that time. Kissinger: That was an astonishing turn of events. I never thought at that time that Pakistan and China would become so close. Mujib: Chou en- Lai got a very good reception when he visited Pakistan the first time. Kissinger: I told your Foreign Minister earlier that I thought the Chinese could establish a very good relationship here. President Ford very much appreciated meeting you in Washington. You bamboozled him! Mujib: I liked him very much. He was very frank. Kissinger: He gave instructions thereafter to us to see what we could do further to help on food for Bangladesh. Mujib: Please give him my warm regards. He would be welcome to come to Bangladesh. He can come here when he goes to India.

Reference to India:

Kissinger: Yes. When he comes to India he could come here too. However, we don't think we need the permission of India in any way in our dealings with Bangladesh. Mujib: That is right. When you deal with Bangladesh you are dealing with us and not with someone else. I'd like you to see the food camps we have set up. My people are dying from hunger. The cattle are dying. I have to feed my people and I must give them jobs. This comes on top of our rehabilitation effort. We face very serious problems. Kissinger: Our problem is that we no longer have food surpluses. Five years ago we did and were in a position to make long-term projections. Now we need to wait until each year's crop is in before we attempt any projections. Mujib: I know you have great difficulty in this respect. Kissinger: But Bangladesh has very high priority with us.

No help from Pakistan:

Mujib: Pakistan gives us no help. They are not prepared to give us any ships or to share their reserves. Nonetheless, we have tried to make do on our own. Kissinger: Obviously you have made progress in improving your position. Mujib: We have done something in three years. We have restored communications, repaired roads, restored bridges and resumed cultivation. We've done something! Kissinger: I know. And world inflation trends make things very difficult for you. Mujib: Will you have some tea? Bananas? Kissinger: I am trying to reduce. Mujib: The Pakistanis also destroyed my banana trees. Kissinger: Has your climate changed in any way? Mujib: I don't know but we faced serious problems in the flood this summer. Seventeen districts were underwater. I have very fertile land and can produce wheat and rice. And we are already self- sufficient in sugar this year. Kissinger: We have problems in our own Congress on aid matters. We have Congressional elections next Tuesday. Of course, we don't predict that the Administration will win a majority of the kind you did in 1970 ! Mujib: Don't get that many seats! You see what happened when I ( did). The Pakistanis came and destroyed my country and they arrested me. ?? five- year old understood it perfectly; she said to me later, " Don't ever stand for elections again!" My country suffered a tidal bore, civil war, cyclones, and full-scale war. That' s what I get for my election results! Kissinger: I assume that does not mean you intend to avoid elections for a while! ?? own desire and that of President Ford is that we should do the maximum to help Bangladesh. On food, we can certainly do some more in the second half of fiscal 1975.

Mujib: Please don't forget other things like flood control so that we can grow more food. Population growth is difficult for us. Kissinger: That is happening everywhere. Mujib: But your people are educated. We have no variety of life. We have developed an overall health plan. And this will help. I expect to go to Egypt on fifth of this month for four days. Kissinger: I may be there about the same time. I am trying to find out what went on at Rabat. Mujib: You are doing your best. Kissinger: I like Sadat. Do you? Mujib: Very much. Kissinger: Do you like Assad? Mujib: I like him too. He is a dramatic person. Kissinger: It's not that Bangladesh's leaders are without colour! Mujib: We have had a long struggle and gone through catastrophic times. Twice the Pakistanis tried to kill me but I came out alive. Your government helped. Kissinger: We did apply pressure although we didn't know exactly where they were keeping you. We made many representations.

93 ,000 Pakistani soldiers:

Mujib: If I had been killed, the 93 , 000 Pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh at that time would have been in serious trouble immediately. But I have forgotten all of this. I want peace in the subcontinent; just as you acted after your war in Germany. We want Pakistan to cooperate. Kissinger: So the major issues are the assets and repatriation questions? Mujib: Nothing else. It's up to Pakistan. I have nothing in hand. Bhutto knows what the Pakistanis did to us. I showed him evidence that General Farman Ali tried to "paint the green of Bangladesh red", a quotation which we found as an order by Farman Ali to his forces. Kissinger: What did Bhutto say?

Mujib: He was astonished and showed it to all his friends sitting here in this room. Kissinger: Aziz Ahmed told me in New York he wanted you to assume responsibility for liabilities, too; not only to consider the assets issue. Mujib: But I have done that, for all visible projects in Bangladesh. Everything else is in Pakistan. Kissinger: Was it a deliberate Pakistani policy to keep the East Wing backward? Mujib: Yes. We were colonised for 25 years! That was on top of 200 years in the ?ritish period. Ayub's offer to Mujib at RTC Kissinger: When did you decide you wanted independence? Not at first, I think. You could have been Prime Minister of Pakistan! Mujib: Of course. Ayub offered this to me at the time of his Round Table Conference (RTC). I was for a long time a leading political figure in Pakistan. Kissinger: Can Pakistan overcome its current political problems? Mujib: Force won' t do. The army is from the Punjab. They can't keep the Baluchis down. But Bhutto is a politician and he will try to deal with it in that way. I hope he will do it. I have agreed to the release of all the POWs because I wanted to help Bhutto. I have done it intentionally. If I had not done this the military would again have come to power in Pakistan. Kissinger: That was farsighted of you. Mujib: A leader should lead his people and not let the people lead him. With help I have resources in my country to build a strong economy. I have gas, limestone deposits, and we are working to control the floods. We have signed contracts with American companies to search for oil in the Bay of Bengal. Kissinger: If you find oil, you can join OPEC! Mujib: I have natural gas to sell now. We can use this to make fertilizer and develop other resources. It is not that we do not have resources. We have them. We could produce three times the food we do now. Kissinger: But population control is obviously also very important. Mujib: I have to educate my people for this. We are still recovering from the wounds of the war. Let me repeat how glad I am that you have come to Bangladesh. When the President comes we hope you will come with him. We will make a treat for him; we can show him Bengal tigers! I have always wanted friendship with the US. I said that as soon as I came out of prison in Pakistan. Kissinger: You have show great generosity of spirit.

Malice towards none:

Mujib: That reflects our overall policy of friendship to all and malice towards none. Prime Minister and Secretary at this point went to a separate room and met briefly with the press.