42. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Regional Staff Meeting1 2


  • P Mr. Sisco
    E Mr. Robinson
    T Mr. Maw
    AF Ambassador Mulcahy, Acting
    ARA Mr. Rogers
    EA Mr. Zurhellen, Acting
    EUR Mr. Armitage, Acting
    NEA Mr. Atherton
    INR Mr. Hyland
    S-P Mr. Hyland
    EB Mr. Enders
    S/PRS Mr. Funseth, Acting
    PM Mr. Vest
    PM Ambassador Buffum
    H Ambassador McCloskey
    L Mr. Leigh
    S/S Mr. Borg, Acting
    S Mr. Bremer
[Page 2]

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Bangladesh]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Let’s talk about Bangladesh.

MR. ATHERTON: Well, it was a remarkably well-planned and executed coup for Bangladesh.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What does that mean? Is Mujibur alive or dead?

MR. ATHERTON: Mujibur is dead; his immediate clique, which was largely family, nephews, brothers.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I get good advice from INR.

MR. HYLAND: He wasn’t dead when I talked to you.

[Page 3]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Really? Did they kill him after some period?

MR. ATHERTON: As far as we know—I can’t say we have got all the details. But the indications are that the plan was to kill him. And they simply surrounded his palace and went in and killed him. That is as far as we know now.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Didn’t we tell him that last year?

MR. ATHERTON: In March we had lots of indications—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Didn’t we tell him about it?

MR. ATHERTON: We told him at the time.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Didn’t we tell him who it was going to be, roughly?

MR. ATHERTON: I will have to check whether we gave him the names.

MR. HYLAND: We were a little imprecise on that.

MR. ATHERTON: He brushed it off, scoffed at it, said nobody would do a thing like that to him.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: He was one of the world’s prize fools.

MR. ATHERTON: But it seems that the coup leaders are in complete control.


[Page 4]

MR. ATHERTON: They are military officers, middle and senior officers, who are generally considered less pro-Indian than the past leadership; pro-U.S., anti-Soviet.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Absolutely inevitable.

MR. ATHERTON: Islamic. They have changed the name to the Islamic Republic—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That they would be pro-U.S. was not inevitable. In fact, I would have thought at some turn of the wheel they were going to become pro-Chinese, and anti-Indian I firmly expected. I always knew India would rue the day that they made Bangladesh independent. I predicted that since ’71.

MR. ATHERTON: I think our biggest problem is going to be to avoid too close an embrace.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why—because they are friendly to us?

MR. ATHERTON: I think they are going to want us to come in with promises.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: The principle being we only embrace on the sub-continent those who oppose us. What is the principle?

MR. ATHERTON: I think our principle ought to be we are giving about all the aid we can really give or Bangladesh [Page 5] can really absorb.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Before we implement it, let’s check that. I know we can’t do a huge increase in aid. But I think if people who think they are pro-U.S. come to us and then get a technical lecture that unfortunately we can’t do any more—there must be some maneuvering we can do on food aid and some token increase in aid.

MR. ENDERS: We can do a little more on food aid.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I would like them to get it, if they are indeed what you say they are, which I don’t know.

MR. ATHERTON: These are all the initial indications.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Then they ought to get a friendly reception.

MR. ATHERTON: I think the immediate question is how we comport ourselves with the new government. It seems to me despite what the memo says which we sent you, which I didn’t have time to go over carefully this morning—I think we ought to simply respond to any overtures.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What did the memo say?

MR. ATHERTON: It says we ought to hold off on a decision on recognition. But I don’t think that needs to be posed as that sharp a question.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We ought to recognize.

[Page 6]

MR. ATHERTON: I don’t know what recognizing means in this case. I think we simply—

MR. SISCO: Just continue. That memo said also we have to check all this with the Indians, as if to give the Indians a veto. I certainly don’t agree with that.

MR. ATHERTON: I think it would be useful—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We certainly shouldn’t go to the Indians.

MR. ATHERTON: I think there might be some merit in an exchange of views with them.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: After we have done it. We will not even discuss establishing contact with the new government with the Indians. After contact is established, we would be interested to hear their views, as long as they clearly understand that they cannot tell us what to do, and as long as they cannot go to the Bangladesh and tell them—and then ask Bangladesh for their views, so that they can be transmitted to us.

MR. ATHERTON: I fully agree.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Which is what India would dearly love to do.

You better let me see any approaches.

MR. ATHERTON: I think we have to prepare a telegram [Page 7] today, and we will clear it with you, on what we say to the Indians. And the Pakistanis are important. There will be some move towards Pakistan.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I also want to see you for a few minutes on a sober instruction to Bhutto, and some of his ideas on commitments. Okay.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Bangladesh]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–77, Entry 5177, Box 3, Secretary’s Analytical Staff Meetings. Secret.
  2. Assistant Secretary Atherton briefed Secretary of State Kissinger on the unfolding coup in Bangladesh.