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FO Files for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Introduction

"This collection will supplement, in a vital way, a period of India's post-colonial history which is in many areas thinly documented within the existing official archives. As well as tracing the international connections between India, the Commonwealth and the wider world, this collection offers unique insights into political movements and cross-border tensions that were central to the modern state's preoccupation with stability and national unification."
Dr William Gould, University of Leeds

 

These three collections consist of the British Government's files on the countries of South Asia from shortly before Indian partition and independence up to 1980. This was a turbulent era in the region's history. The partition of 1947 and the splitting apart of Pakistan in 1971 were accompanied by much loss of life and enormous population movements, as refugees fled violence or ethnic conflict. India fought Pakistan twice in Kashmir, in 1947-8 and 1965, and China in the Himalayas in 1962. Stable and democratic government proved elusive outside India, the region experiencing a succession of coups: in Pakistan in 1958 and 1977, in Afghanistan in 1973, 1978 and 1979, and in Bangladesh in 1975; democracy underwent a flowering and then a withering in Nepal, where King Mahendra established a partyless autocracy in 1959. Even in India, which had successfully established a democratic, secular state at independence, the government of India Gandhi became increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of dissent in the 1970s, imprisoning hundreds of opponents.

From the perspectives of the Cold War superpowers of the era, South Asia was a decisive military and ideological battleground. Britain maintained naval bases in Ceylon after its independence and established a significant RAF presence in the Maldives; in 1971 an American airbase was set up on the British island of Diego Garcia. Pakistan became a significant ally of the United States, which supplied arms and military technology; it also joined CENTO, an alliance intended to stop Soviet expansion into the Middle East. In contrast, India under Nehru followed a neutral course, being instrumental in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, until it was forced to look to western aid when faced with a hostile China. The 1970s also saw both India and Pakistan develop nuclear weapons.

 

Nature and Scope

"Independence, Partition and the Nehru Era, 1947-1964 is a comprehensive survey of the politics following the independence of India until the death of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The documents focus on a variety of subjects and topics including the politics of Kashmir, India’s relationship with the US, as well as Pakistan and India’s regional neighbours, economic development policies, and the relationship between Hindus and Muslims after independence. Scholars and students of Indian history, political science, international relations and economics will find in this publication a rich source of materials to explore and understand a critical period in India’s postcolonial history."
Professor Yasmin Saikia, Arizona State University

 

Nature of the material

  • Reports
  • Diplomatic dispatches
  • Correspondence
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Political, economic and military analyses
  • Statistical tables

 

Scope of the collection

This collection covers the years from 1947 to 1980, encompassing files on all the countries of South Asia: principally India and Pakistan, but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and the Maldives.

The collection is split into three, chronologically based parts:

Section I: Independence, Partition and the Nehru Era, 1947-64

Section II: South Asian Conflicts and Independence for Bangladesh, 1965-71

Section III: Afghanistan and the Cold War, Emergency Rule in India, and the Resumption of Civilian Rule in Pakistan, 1972-80

 

Section I: Independence, Partition and the Nehru Era, 1947-64

This section covers the period of the birth and development of the Indian and Pakistani states from the run-up to partition in August 1947 until the death of Jawarhalal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, in 1964. The region's two principal states underwent a traumatic birth, with the violence and displacements of partition followed by tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir which erupted periodically into both skirmishes and full-blown warfare. The period also saw India clash militarily with Hyderabad in the wake of its ruler's attempts to maintain independence, with Portugal over its unwillingness to give up Goa and its other Indian possessions and, less successfully, with China over disputed territories in the Himalayas. The majority of files in this section are from the FO 371 series, with smaller numbers from DO 133 and DO 134.

Interesting files on principal subjects include:

Partition:

  • DO 133/59-61: Boundary Commission in awards Punjab and Bengal and disturbances arising therefrom (1947)
  • DO 133/62-63: Emergency committee: Papers and minutes (1947)
  • DO 133/68-69, 73-88, 95-98: Kashmir: Indo-Pakistani war (1947-48)
  • DO 133/100: Criticism of Mountbatten's handling of the issue of the Sikhs during Partition
  • FO 371/69705-69728: The United Nations: India, Kashmir and Hyderabad (1948)
  • FO 371/84205-84236: The Kashmir dispute (1950)
  • FO 371/92854-92862: The Kashmir dispute (1951)

Independence:

  • DO 133/70-72: India: foreign policy (1948-52)
  • DO 133/106: Independence day celebrations: India and Pakistan (1948-53)
  • DO 133/113-114: Elections in India (1952)
  • DO 133/117-118: Indian land reform (1952-53)
  • DO 133/122: India: Merger of minor states with provinces (1949)
  • DO 133/144: India: constitutional amendments (1954-61)
  • DO 133/152-158: Indo-Pakistani relations (1962-64)
  • FO 371/61465: Anglo-Afghan relations consequent on the transfer of power in India (1947)
  • FO 371/63529-63539: Preparations for the transfer of power in India (1947)
  • FO 371/63566-63572: Transfer of power: Indian relations with United Kingdom (1947)
  • FO 371/84252-84257: Indo-Pakistani relations (1950)
  • FO 371/84258: Pakistani constitution (1950)
  • FO 371/106857: Indo-US and Pakistani-US relations (1953)

Nehru and his rule:

  • DO 133/70-72: Indian foreign policy (1948-52)
  • DO 133/148: Border dispute between India and China (1959-60)
  • DO 133/151: Implications of Nehru’s death (1962-64)
  • FO 371/76096-760977: Nehru’s visits to the United States (1949)
  • FO 371/84239-84240: Organisation of Indian National Congress (1950)
  • FO 371/92866-92868: Indian political scene: Nehru’s resignation from Congress executive (1951)
  • FO 371/101133: India's foreign policy; Prime Minister Nehru's speech on foreign affairs (1952)
  • FO 371/112196-112197: Nehru’s statements on foreign policy, foreign possessions in India and relations with China (1954)
  • FO 371/112221: Nehru’s visit to China (1954)
  • FO 371/117298: Nehru’s tour of Europe (1955)
  • FO 371/164873-164877: Kashmir conflict (1962)
  • FO 371/166356-166358: Kashmir conflict (1963)

 

Other significant topics covered include:

DO 133 files:

  • Preparations for the transfer of power in British India (1946-7)
  • The functions of high commissioners in India, Pakistan and the UK (1946-8)
  • The British Government’s purchase of diplomatic buildings from the Government of India (1947-50)
  • The immigration of Indians into Fiji (1947-50)
  • Incursions into Kashmir by Pakistani-backed irregular troops, the abortive accession of Kashmir to India after attempts to maintain its independence, proposals to partition the territory, proposals for full independence, United Nations involvement in the area and the first Indo-Pakistan War (October 1947-December 1948)
  • The Punjab Boundary Commission awards, and the disturbances and refugee movements arising from them (1947-8)
  • Evacuations of British citizens from Indian hill stations (1947-8)
  • India and Pakistan's position in the Commonwealth, particularly with regard to their becoming republics (1947-52)
  • The situation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indian possessions in the Indian Ocean (1948)
  • The Indian invasion of Hyderabad (December 1948) and Pakistani reactions to this
  • Indian co-operation with other countries in the region and the Pacific Security Treaty (1948-51)
  • The political situation in China in the wake of communist victory in the civil war and the effect of this on relations with India, particularly with regard to borders (1949-51)
  • The development of political parties in India, including communist parties (1949-53)
  • The status of British officers serving in India in after the declaration of an Indian republic (January 1950)
  • The future status of Sikkim and Bhutan (1950)
  • The evolution of Indian political relations with China (1951-53)
  • Indian land reform (1952-3)
  • Communism in India and Pakistan, and Indian and Pakistani communists’ activities in Europe (1952-3)
  • The political situation in Sikkim (1953-62) and the nature of its relationship to India
  • Attitudes of the Indian governments to foreign missionaries (1953-4)
  • The future status of Portuguese possessions in India (1954)
  • Indian attitudes to remaining British colonial possessions
  • The future of the India Office library in London (1962)
  • The political implications of Nehru’s death and the succession to the leadership of the Congress Party (1962-4)
  • The future of the Gurkhas in the British Army

DO 134 files:

  • Incursions into Kashmir by Pakistani-backed irregular troops, the abortive accession of Kashmir to India after attempts to maintain its independence, proposals to partition the territory, proposals for full independence, United Nations involvement in the area and the first Indo-Pakistan War (October 1947-December 1948)
  • The strategic position of Afghanistan after Indian partition and independence (1947-51)
  • The Indian invasion of Hyderabad (December 1948) and Pakistani reactions to this
  • The position of the maharajah of Kashmir (1952)
  • The declaration of martial law in Pakistan and the abrogation of the constitution by General Muhammad Ayub Khan (1958)

FO 371 files:

  • Preparations for the transfer of power in British India (1946-7)
  • British representation in Tibet (1947)
  • Incursions into Kashmir by Pakistani-backed irregular troops, the abortive accession of Kashmir to India after attempts to maintain its independence, proposals to partition the territory, proposals for full independence, United Nations involvement in the area and the first Indo-Pakistan War (October 1947-December 1948)
  • Political implications of Indian independence for the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms under British protection (1947)
  • The Punjab Boundary Commission awards, and the disturbances and refugee movements arising from them (1947-8)
  • The Inter-Asian Relations Conference, Delhi (1947)
  • India and Pakistan's position in the Commonwealth, particularly with regard to their becoming republics (1947-52)
  • The Indian invasion of Hyderabad (December 1948) and Pakistani reactions to this
  • Reaction to the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1948)
  • The proposed Pakistan-USSR non-aggression pact (1949)
  • Indo-French and Indo-Portuguese relations, with reference to French and Portuguese India (from 1949)
  • Nehru’s visit to the USA (1949)
  • US economic aid to India (1949)
  • UK arms supplies to India and Pakistan, particularly of aircraft (1949-52)
  • The development of political parties in India, including communist parties (1949-53)
  • Chinese interest in north-east India, with particular regard to territorial claims (1950)
  • The future status of Sikkim and Bhutan (1950)
  • The assassination of the Pakistani prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan (1951)
  • The signing of treaties of friendship between India and Iran and India and Burma (1951)
  • British and US interests in India and Pakistan in the context of Middle East defence (1951)
  • Indo-Pakistani disputes over the waters of the Indus (1952-4)
  • The first Indian general election (1952)
  • Communism in India and Pakistan, and Indian and Pakistani communists’ activities in Europe (1952-3)
  • The political situation in Sikkim (1953-62) and the nature of its relationship to India
  • Indian efforts at industrialisation, particularly with regard to establishing car and steel industries (1953-5)
  • US military aid to Pakistan (1953-4)
  • Agitation for independence by the Nagas of Assam (1953)
  • The future status of Portuguese possessions in India (1954)
  • Indian attitudes to remaining British colonial possessions
  • Developing Indian relations with the USA, China, France, the USSR and other western, eastern and non-aligned states
  • The visit of UK prime minister Sir Anthony Eden to India (1955)
  • Political relations between India and the UK, the USA, the USSR, France, China, Cambodia, Yugoslavia and Vietnam (1956-8)
  • Trade unions in India (1956)
  • Political relations between Pakistan and Iran, the UK, the USA, China, Burma, the USSR and Egypt (1958-9)
  • The Indian seizure of Goa and UK obligations to Portugal under Anglo-Portuguese treaties of 1661 and 1889 (1961)
  • Escalating border disputes with China over Aksai Chin and North-East Frontier Agency, leading to the Sino-Indian War (October-November 1962)
  • The supply of Soviet military equipment to India (1963-4)
  • UK aid to South Korea, Nepal and Bhutan (1964)
  • The future of the Gurkhas in the British Army

 

Section II: South Asian Conflicts and Independence for Bangladesh, 1965-71

This section covers the period from Nehru’s death to the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan and the subsequent war and humanitarian crisis. The period also saw renewed war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir (August-September 1965), the accession to power in India of Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter, and the continuance of military government in Pakistan under Yahya Khan. Most files in this section are from the FCO 37 series, with small numbers from DO 133, DO 134 and FO 371.

Interesting files on principal subjects include:

The Indo-Pakistani war of 1965:

  • FO 371/180963-180964: Kashmir (1965)
  • DO 133/173-174: Kashmir: internal situation (1965-7)
  • DO 133/176-177: India-Pakistan hostilities over Kashmir (1965)
  • DO 133/178: World reaction to India/Pakistan hostilities over Kashmir (1965)
  • DO 133/179-181: India-Pakistan hostilities over Kashmir: dispute negotiations following ceasefire (1965)

Military governance in Pakistan:

  • DO 134/31:Correspondence between Rawalpindi/Lahore/Karachi/Dacca on Pakistan general politics (1967)
  • DO 134/36: British High Commission correspondence on Zulfikar Ali Khan Bhutto, ex-Pakistan Foreign Minister (1963-68)
  • FCO 37/178-181: Internal political situation in Pakistan (1967-8)
  • FCO 37/182: Internal political affairs in West Pakistan (1967-8)
  • FCO 37/183: Internal political affairs in East Pakistan (1967-8)
  • FCO 37/185: Political activities of Mr Z. A. Bhutto (1967)
  • FCO 37/209: Pakistan's nuclear capacity and development (1967)
  • FCO 37/500-502: Pakistan: Economic consequences of political disturbances (1968-69)

Indira Gandhi's consolidation of power in India:

  • FCO 37/364: Abolition of Privy Purses and recommendation for Lord Mountbatten (1968-9)
  • FCO 37/365: Appointments to the Indian Cabinet and government (1969)
  • FCO 37/367: Analysis and results of the Presidential election (1969)
  • FCO 37/368-369: Developments and review of Indian political crisis (1968-9)
  • FCO 37/399-400: Proposed visit of the President of the Indian National Congress (1969)
  • FCO 37/403: India: Nationalisation of the banks (1969)
  • DO 133/195-197: General elections in India (1971)

The Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 and the independence of Bangladesh:

  • DO 133/219-221: Relief for East Pakistan refugees in India (1971)
  • FCO 37/876-891: Political crisis in East Pakistan (1971)
  • FCO 37/896: Declaration of independence of Bangla Desh 17 April 1971: creation of government in exile (1971)
  • FCO 37/901: Relations between Pakistan and Bangla Desh (1971)
  • FCO 37/902: International recognition of Bangla Desh (1971)
  • FCO 37/945: Famine relief to East Pakistan (1971)
  • FCO 37/949: Famine relief for Pakistani refugees in India (1971)

 

Other significent topics covered include:

DO 133 files:

  • The assassination of Prime Minister Jigme Dorji of Bhutan (April 1964)
  • The 1971 Indian general election
  • Refugees from East Pakistan in India (1971)

FCO 37 files:

  • Nuclear non-proliferation (1966-8)
  • Asian immigration to the UK (1967-8)
  • UK-Indian relations and the developing political profile of Indira Gandhi (1967)
  • Discussion of the official languages of India (1967-8)
  • Indian interest in possible British military use of the British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego Garcia) (1967-8)
  • British supply of Hunter aircraft and Leander frigates to India (1967)
  • Celebrations of the centenary of Gandhi’s birth (1967-9)
  • The proposed sale of British tanks to Pakistan (1967-8)
  • The Tarbela Dam project in Pakistan (1967-8)
  • US arms sales to India and Pakistan (1967-8)
  • Politics and separatism in Nagaland (1967-8)
  • The internal situation in Ceylon (1967-8)
  • British policy on aid and development in Ceylon (1967-8)
  • The internal political situation in Pakistan (1968)
  • President Ayub Khan of Pakistan’s visit to the UK (1968)
  • British economic assistance for Afghanistan (1968-9)
  • Concern of Indian Sikhs over the perception of unfair treatment of Sikhs on buses in Wolverhampton (1968-9)
  • The future of British statues a d monuments in India dating from the Raj (1968-9)
  • British military aid to Nepal (1968-9)
  • The future running down of Gurkhas (1968-9)
  • Britain and the Ceylonese tea industry, with a focus on the proposed nationalisation of British-owned estates (1968-9)
  • British discussions with the Maldives over the continuing use of RAF Gan (1968-9)
  • The sale of British computers to Pakistan (1968-9)
  • The political situation in Bhutan (1969)
  • UK immigration controls and their effects on Indians and Pakistanis (1969)
  • Ceylon’s intention to become a republic (1969)
  • Indian socialists and elections (1969)
  • Proposed US defence facilities on Diego Garcia and the future of its inhabitants (1969)
  • India’s position on UK citizens of Indian origin (1969)
  • British economic aid and trade with India (1969)
  • British military aid and the supply of Hunter and Canberra aircraft (1969)
  • British Leyland’s investment in car plants in India and Ceylon (1969)
  • Political disturbances in Pakistan and their economic consequences (1969)
  • President Nixon’s visit to Pakistan (1969)
  • Emergency plans for the evacuation of British citizens from East Pakistan (1969)
  • Reports on politics and events in individual Indian states (1968-9)
  • UK prime minister Edward Heath’s proposed visit to India and Pakistan in 1971 (1970)
  • Effects on South Asian countries of British entry into the European Economic Community (1970)
  • Police training for Afghanistan from the Metropolitan Police (1970)
  • The possible visit of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan to the UK in 1971 (1970)
  • The Ceylonese general election 1970 and the subsequent election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike to a second term (1970)
  • Ceylonese defence agreements with the UK (1970)
  • Recognition by the UK of the incorporation of former Portuguese possessions into India (1970)
  • The visit to India of Sir Solly Zuckerman, the British Government's chief scientific adviser (1970)
  • The fourth Indian economic five-year plan (1970)
  • The development of television in India (1970)
  • Nuclear developments in India (1970)
  • The use of RAF Gan by US forces (1970)
  • UK financial aid to Nepal (1970)
  • Visits of President Yahya Khan of Pakistan to China and the UK (1970)
  • The deployment of Gurkhas in Brunei (1970-1)
  • Pakistani relations with China; Chinese interests in Kashmir (1970)
  • Remittances to Pakistan from emigrants in the UK (1970)
  • British relief in the aftermath of the East Pakistan cyclone (1970)
  • Attacks on Pakistanis resident in the UK (1970)
  • The political situation in Afghanistan and relations with USSR (1970)
  • UK aid for Afghanistan (1970)
  • The state visit to Britain of the King and Queen of Afghanistan (1971)
  • The UK Immigration Bill 1971
  • The effects of Indo-Pakistani war on British merchant shipping (1971)
  • The political and economic situation in Ceylon and Prime Minister Bandaranaike’s visit to the UK (1971)
  • UK sales of arms to Ceylon (1971)
  • Indo-Soviet relations (1971)
  • A second visit to India by Sir Solly Zuckerman (1971)
  • Indira Gandhi’s visit to the UK (1971)
  • The Anglo-Indian Technological Collaboration Group (1971)
  • Soviet activity in the Maldives (1971)
  • The Politics of Nepal, communism there and Nepali relations with India (1971)
  • British funding for archaeological work at Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal (1971)
  • Indo-Pakistani relations, Kashmir and the UN's role there (1971)
  • The Pakistani community in Britain (1971)

 

Section III: Afghanistan and the Cold War, Emergency Rule in India, and the Resumption of Civilian Rule in Pakistan, 1972-80

This last section covers the 1970s, a decade in which all the main states of the Indian subcontinent all experienced political upheavals and repression in varying degrees. Bangladesh emerged as an independent state but failed to achieve political stability, and Pakistan returned to civilian rule, in the wake of the military’s failure to prevent Bangladesh’s secession, before another military coup returned the army to power five years later. In India, the government of Indira Gandhi became increasingly dictatorial, jailing hundreds of opponents and declaring a state of emergency in 1975. In 1977, Gandhi’s government fell and India elected its first non-Congress prime minister. Events also began in Afghanistan which foreshadowed the chaotic conditions there of the 1980s and 1990s: the monarchy was overthrown by a coup in 1973, and a further coup in 1978 brought a communist regime to power. This was followed by internecine fighting within the government and a Soviet invasion in 1979, heralding a long, brutal civil war. The 1970s also saw India develop nuclear weapons and Pakistan begin development in response. All files in this section are from the FCO 37 series.

Interesting files on principal subjects include:

The Indian Emergency (1975-77):

  • FCO 37/1588-1598: Political situation in India (1975)
  • FCO 37/1620: Indian government take-over of Burmah Oil and Burmah-Shell companies (1975)
  • FCO 37/1718: Political parties in India (1976)
  • FCO 37/1719: State of emergency in India (1976)
  • FCO 37/1721: Internal political situation in India (1976)
  • FCO 37/1731: Terrorism in India (1976)
  • FCO 37/1926-1928: General elections in India, March 1977: defeat of Mrs Gandhi's Congress Party
  • FCO 37/1923: Leading personalities in India (1977)
  • FCO 37/1933: Political detainees in India (1977)

Coups, instability and the rise of People's Democratic Party in Afghanistan:

  • FCO 37/1217-1218: Coup in Afghanistan, 17 July 1973
  • FCO 37/1219: Recognition of new regime in Afghanistan (1973)
  • FCO 37/1686: Internal political situation in Afghanistan (1976)
  • FCO 37/2076-2078: Afghanistan: military coup, 27 April 1978
  • FCO 37/2123-2126: Internal political situation in Afghanistan (1979)
  • FCO 37/2131-2132: Political relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union (1979)
  • FCO 37/2135: Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979)
  • FCO 37/2214: Leading personalities in Afghanistan (1980)
  • FCO 37/2215-2217: Afghanistan: opposition groups (1980)
  • FCO 37/2218: Afghanistan: humanitarian aid to the resistance (1980)
  • FCO 37/2219: Afghanistan and the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists (NTS) (1980)
  • FCO 37/2223: Foreign Affairs Committee report, 'Afghanistan: The Soviet invasion and its consequences for British Policy' (1980)
  • FCO 37/2224-2225: Internal political situation in Afghanistan (1980)
  • FCO 37/2226-2227: Recognition of the Karmal regime in Afghanistan (1980)
  • FO 37/2234: Afghanistan: government in exile (1980)
  • FCO 37/2236-2253: Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1980)
  • FCO 37/2260: Soviet and Afghan defectors (1980)
  • FCO 37/2278: Checmical warfare in Afghanistan (1980)
  • FCO 37/2281: Human rights in Afghanistan (1980)

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the return of military government in Pakistan:

  • FCO 37/1333-1335: Constitution of Pakistan (1973)
  • FCO 37/1337: Political parties in Pakistan (1973)
  • FCO 37/1652-1653: Internal situation in Pakistan (1975)
  • FCO 37/2035-2040: Internal political situation in Pakistan (1977)
  • FCO 37/2043: Political prisoners: Amnesty International report on Pakistan (1977)
  • FCO 37/2104-2108: Internal political situation in Pakistan (1978)
  • FCO 37/1294-1296: Case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan: appeal before Supreme Court, pleas for clemency and execution on 4 April 1979

Coups and instability in Bangladesh:

  • FCO 37/1555-1557: Internal political situation in Bangladesh (1975)
  • FCO 37/1559-1560: Constitutional reform in Bangladesh (1975)
  • FCO 37/1562-1563: Bangladesh: army coup led by Khandaker Mostaque Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, beginning 15 August 1975
  • FCO 37/1564: Political reform in Bangladesh after army coup led by Khandaker Mostaque Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, beginning 15 August 1975

 

Other significant topics covered include:

FCO 37 files:

  • Political parties in Pakistan after the restoration of democracy (1971)
  • The likely political situation in Afghanistan after King Zahir Shah’s death (1972)
  • US policy towards South Asia (1972)
  • The political situation in Sikkim (1972)
  • Compensation claims for seized cargo resulting from the Indo-Pakistani war over Bangladesh (1972)
  • Afghan relations with the UK, Pakistan and the USSR (1972)
  • International recognition of Bangladesh, and its admission to the Commonwealth and United Nations (1972)
  • The establishment of a republic in Ceylon and the changing of the state’s name to Sri Lanka (1972)
  • The development of nuclear power in India (1972)
  • The Queen’s visit to the Maldives (1972)
  • UK mountaineering in Nepal (1972)
  • The death of King Mahendra of Nepal (1972)
  • The withdrawal of Pakistan from the Commonwealth and its probable economic and military consequences (1972)
  • The political situation in Bhutan (1973)
  • The visit to South Asia of a UK Parliamentary select committee on race relations and immigration and the effects on South Asian countries of the 1971 Immigration Act (1973)
  • Afghan relations with India, Pakistan and the Soviet Union (1973)
  • Narcotics in Afghanistan (1973)
  • The foreign relations and internal security of Bangladesh (1973)
  • The visit of Leonid Brezhnev to India (1973)
  • British talks with India about the possible expulsion of UK passport holders of Indian origin from Uganda (1973)
  • Civilian use of RAF Gan (1973)
  • British food airlifts to Nepal (1973)
  • The new Pakistani constitution (1973)
  • Pakistan and the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) for Middle Eastern defence (1973)
  • The visit of Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the UK (1973)
  • Prisoners of war captured during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war (1973)
  • RAF involvement in the transfer of populations after the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war (1973)
  • US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s visit to South Asia (1974)
  • Immigration from South Asia to the UK (1974)
  • Floods in Bangladesh (1974)
  • Elections in India (1974)
  • Indian nuclear tests and their effects on relations with UK, particularly regarding the export of military equipment (1974)
  • The visit to the UK by the prime minister of the Maldives (1974)
  • The aircraft industry in Pakistan (1974)
  • The Islamic Summit conference, Lahore (1975)
  • Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the coup of Mohammed Daoud Khan (1975)
  • The Bangladeshi coup and its effect on relations with India and Pakistan (1975)
  • Nationalisation of tea plantations in Sri Lanka and its effect on British interests (1975)
  • The closure of RAF Gan (1976)
  • British export of Jaguar military aircraft to India (1976)
  • The political situation in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir (1976)
  • The politcal situation in Sikkim and its annexation by India (1975)
  • Drug-trafficking in Afghanistan (1976)
  • The effects of Indira Gandhi's state of emergency on foreign policy (1976)
  • Indian nuclear policy and UK aid (1976)
  • The visit of Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher to India and Pakistan (1976)
  • Centenary celebrations in Pakistan of Jinnah’s birth (1976)
  • Pakistani claims to the Koh-i-Noor diamond (1976)
  • Developments in British policy east of Suez (1977)
  • Overseas events for the Queen’s silver jubilee (1977)
  • Assembly elections (the Loya Jirga) in Afghanistan (1977)
  • Prince Philip’s visit to Kabul (1977)
  • The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, London, 1977
  • Proposed British sales of a nuclear reactor to Bangladesh (1977)
  • Civil disturbances in Sri Lanka (1977)
  • India’s external nuclear policy (1977)
  • Air services between India and the UK (1977)
  • Developments in Indian industrial policy (1977)
  • The Indian community in the UK (1977)
  • Human rights in India (1977)
  • The political situation in Nepal (1977)
  • The possible deployment of Gurkhas to Belize (1977)
  • Leading personalities in Pakistan and the internal political situation there (1978)
  • The visit of UK prime minister James Callaghan to Pakistan (1978)
  • The nuclear situation in Pakistan (1978)
  • Human rights in Pakistan (1978)
  • The visit of Indian prime minister Morarji Desai to the UK (1978)
  • The proposed export of nuclear inverters from the UK to Pakistan (1978)

 

 

Highlights from the collection

There follow some interesting selections from the documents, which help to illustrate the varied and absorbing nature of the material.

Section I

The difficulty of partitioning British India:

"After the close of the public sittings, the Commission adjourned to Simla where I joined my colleagues, and we entered upon discussions in the hope of being able to present an agreed decision as to the demarcation of the boundaries. I am greatly indebted to my colleagues for indispensable assistance in the clarification of the issues and the marshalling of the arguments for different views, but it became evident in the course of our discussions that the divergence of opinion between my colleagues was so wide that an agreed solution of the boundary problem was not to be obtained. I do not intend to convey by this that there were not large areas of the Punjab on the west and on the east respectively which provoked no controversy as to which State they should be assigned to; but when it came to the extensive but disputed areas in which the boundary must be drawn, differences of opinion as to the significance of the term “other factors”, which we were directed by our terms of reference to take into account, and as to the weight and value to be attached to those factors, made it impossible to arrive at any agreed line. In those circumstances my colleagues, at the close of our discussions, assented to the conclusion that I must proceed to give my own decision."

(Cyril Radcliffe, ‘Report to His Excellency the Governor-General’, Delhi, 12th August 1947, in DO 133/59)

 

Mahatma Gandhi's final fast:

"We presume Reuters have cabled report of Government of India’s sudden decision to implement financial agreement between India and Pakistan in announcing which they stated that “They make this spontaneous gesture in the earnest hope that it will be appreciated in the spirit in which it is made and that it will help in preserving an atmosphere of goodwill for which Gandhiji is suffering crucifixion of the flesh and thereby lead this great servant of the Nation to end his fast and add still further to his unparalleled services to India.”

"The Government of India were not on strong grounds in previously refusing to implement agreement. They may thus have felt Gandhi’s fast to be a suitable opportunity for putting themselves in the right, though perhaps it would be unfair to suggest that considerations of good will did not also contribute to this decision.

"The simultaneous announcement to hold a referendum in Junagadh, Manavadar, Mangrol etc. in the third week of February has also been attributed here as a further gesture consequent on Gandhi’s fast."

(UK High Commission, Delhi, to Commonwealth Relations Office, London, 19th January 1948, in DO 133/93)

 

Muslims in independent India:

"As regards the personal security of Muslims in the Indian Union it can be said quite definitively that the communal situation has shown a considerable improvement during recent months. In Delhi, for example, Muslims now move about far more freely than at any time since September last and there are reports too of Muslims who left India after partition returning to their homes, though admittedly in very small numbers. Much of this improvement is due, of course, to Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts at the end of last year which have continued since his death by Pandit Nehru in no uncertain voice. Indeed, the Prime Minister is never lacking in reminding his audiences that India is a democratic secular State in which all communities have equal rights. It is, however, all too likely that this improvement will suffer a considerable setback if India and Hyderabad are unable to settle their differences amicably."

(Terence Shone, UK High Commissioner, Delhi, to Philip Noel-Baker, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, London, 19th May 1948, in DO 133/105)

 

Nehru's first visit to the USA as Indian prime minister:

"Everywhere he goes in this country, the red carpet is being rolled out for Prime Minister Nehru of India. President Truman sent his private plane to London to fetch him here. He got the No. 1 treatment in Washington – Blair House, State dinner, addresses to House and Senate, and all that – and today in New York he gets the works, City Hall welcome, Broadway parade and honorary degree at Columbia University.

"All told, India’s P. M. couldn’t have done better on his first jaunt to America – not even if he had been a Channel swimmer. Only thing is, he hasn’t quite swum that channel yet. In a New York interview, the political heir of the Mahatma Gandhi was asked whether he had made any commitments to place his country on the side of the Western democracies in the cold war.

"He replied: “We have no intention to commit ourselves to anybody at any time.”

"O. k., the Pandit has laid it on the line. If India insists on remaining aloof in the cold war, can’t we at least start saving wear and tear on our welcome carpets for the candid visitor?"

(‘The Reluctant Pandit’, leader in Daily News (Washington, DC), 17th October 1949, in FO 371/76096)

 

Potential Chinese encroachment into India:

"The experience of forty years ago shows the disturbance which can be caused in the border states of India’s northern frontier by the establishment of Chinese power over Tibet; and the situation of that period may be recreated if the Chinese Communist Government fulfils  its threat against Tibetan autonomy. It may, however, be doubted whether the resultant troubles would take precisely the same form. In the days of Chang Yin-tang, the foundation of Chinese action lay in the claim to suzerainty; but even though a Chinese Communist Government might not regard itself as bound by the National Government’s renunciation in 1949 of its claims over Nepal – a renunciation which by implication might be held to apply to the case of Bhutan also – still it is not probable that the Chinese Communists would revive claims based on Imperial suzerainty. But though the method might be different, the objective would not be dissimilar. Chinese ambitions, as before, would probably not stop at the southern border of Tibet but would seek to draw the border states into the Chinese orbit, and this desire would be stimulated by the Communist hope of using these territories as the starting-point for the infiltration of subversive agents into India."

(Foreign Office Research Department, ‘Chinese interests in the territories on India’s northern frontier’, 3rd March 1950, in FO 371/92871)

 

Cold War alliances in the Muslim world:

"The Secretary of State said yesterday that Lord Salisbury had told him that, when he was in Washington in July, Mr. Dulles had adumbrated to him his ideas about the possibility of basing Middle East defence upon the “Northern tier” of countries extending from Turkey to Pakistan. These remarks of Mr. Dulles were made, as I suspected, at one of the Anglo-American bi-partite meetings which took place in Washington on Middle East affairs. The relevant passage is at pages 48 and 49 of the attached volume.

"It will be seen that Mr. Dulles, at that time, gave a pretty clear indication of the direction in which his thoughts were moving. But, though he indicated that he had in mind the possibility of military assistance to Pakistan, he seemed to think at that time that it might be difficult for the time being to do much with Pakistan because of the Kashmir problem."

(W. D. Allen, Foreign Office, ‘American aid to Pakistan’, January 5th, 1954, in FO 371/112314)

 

Britain’s obligations to defend Portuguese India from Indian aggression:

"Under the Treaties of 1373 and 1661 there is a clear obligation on us to defend Portuguese colonies. A clause in the 1561 Treaty binds us to "defend all conquests or colonies belonging to the Crown of Portugal against all his enemies, as well future as present". This clause was specifically confirmed in 1899 (Boer War) in a declaration which was given by Her Majesty's Government in return for an assurance that Lourenço Marques would be available for use by British forces in the forthcoming hostilities in South Africa.

"Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century we considered that we had the right to judge for ourselves the circumstances in which the Treaties could be invoked and we so informed the Portuguese in 1873. The conclusion was reached by Sir F. Grey in 1913 and confirmed in the 1920's that "while the Treaties are still in force, Her Majesty's Government reserve to themselves the right of judging the circumstances in which help may be given or withheld."

"In 1949 the Portuguese, without formally invoking the Treaties, asked if we could come to their aid in Macao. They were told that we could not.

"When the Goa crisis was at its height in 1954, Mr. Nehru declared that the Anglo-Portuguese Treaties were irrelevant to Goa. The Cabinet considered the matter and the Indians were later told that circumstances could arise in which the treaties could be invoked. The Portuguese were also told that it was doubtful if we would go to war to defend Goa."

(E. J. W. Barnes, Foreign Office, ‘Debate on Angola: Treaties of alliance with Portugal’, 5th July 1961, FO 371/159705)

Section II

The political career of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto:

"On foreign affairs Bhutto made some significant remarks which may well mark a recognisable change in his attitude. He was critical of Britain, referring to the weakness of the British economy and apparently blaming Mr. Wilson for dabbling in the Indo/Pakistan war. But he claimed now to wish to co-operate with Britain and the U.S., given the precondition that Asia should first be “free”. […] In private, Bhutto spoke more freely about India, emphasising the common socialist background of India and Pakistan and implying that this could be the basis of a policy of reconciliation after the present Pakistan administration had been replaced. […]

"While Bhutto’s opinions are no doubt left of centre, he is not regarded as radical by left-wing students here [in the UK]. It would appear that he has fished for support in a number of pools, including East Pakistan elements, but in general he appears to feel that distrust and dislike of the Ayub administration will be sufficient to secure responsible support without his adopting particularly extreme attitudes."

(Letter from J. Davidson, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to A. A. Halliley, British High Commission, Rawalpindi, 31st July 1968, in FCO 37/181)

 

US plans for a military installation in the British Indian Ocean Territory:

"The United States would interpose no objection to the use of Peros Banhos and Salomon Islands for the resettlement of copra workers and their families now on Diego Garcia, with the understanding that any similar persons elsewhere in the Chagos Archipelago can also be transferred to Peros Banhos and Salomon Islands should our plans call for such action.

"The United States has no current plans for the use of these two islands. […]

"We wish to emphasize, however, that the absence of current plans on our part does not preclude consideration of utilizing other islands in the archipelago for such purposes as siting either manned or unmanned remotely operated communications installations (e.g. antenna farms, space surveillance, tracking sensors, meteorological, seismic and other equipment), should that become desirable at a later date."

(Letter from Gerald Oplinger, US Embassy, London, to Robin Johnstone, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 22nd November 1968, in FCO 37/386)

 

Developing splits in the Indian National Congress:

"The Prime Minister [Indira Gandhi] and her friends have indeed done whatever was in their power to prevent Mr. Patil’s return to Parliament. Although Mr. Patil was offered apparently safe seats by Mr. Nijalingappa in Mysore and Mr. Sukhadia in Rajasthan, and although one leading Congress M.P. (Mrs. Sharda Mukerjee) offered to resign her seat in order to create a bye-election for him, Mr. Patil refused to contest from another constituency until the outcome of his election petition against Mr. Fernandes was known. […]

"The question of Mr. Patil’s inclusion in, or exclusion from, the Cabinet can probably be settled, however, only in conjunction with the choice of the Congress candidate for the Presidency. […] If either Swaran Singh or Jagjivan Ram should be accepted as the candidate this would, of course, create a major vacancy in the Cabinet which it would be difficult (or at any rate dangerous) for the Prime Minister to fill without making some kind of offer to Patil."

(Memorandum, ‘Krishna Menon and S. K. Patil’, British High Commission, New Delhi, to Foreign Office, 19th May 1969, in FCO 37/361)

 

The British Government's reaction to the proposed nationalisation of Ceylon's banking system:

"In terms of business turnover the British banks by no means occupy the prominent position which exists, or used to exist, in many other Commonwealth territories. [… But] international banks by reason of their size and repute enjoy unquestioned credit-standing in the world’s money markets, and this enables them to obtain mainly from their own worldwide network of branches but also from their overseas correspondent banks larger credit facilities and better terms than would be available to indigenous banks. […]

It is also relevant that since 1965 the exchange banks have provided a substantial line of credit to the Central Bank of Ceylon, thus greatly assisting the country to finance balance of payments deficits[. …]

[…] Given the preponderant position of local banks in domestic banking in Ceylon and the valuable services in the international sphere provided by the exchange banks, it is impossible to make a rational case for dispensing with the latter. To do so could only be to Ceylon’s detriment. It would be bound also to lead to a loss of confidence in the country by the international financial community at a time when Ceylon is in need of continuing assistance, both public and private."

(Bank of England memorandum ‘Ceylon: The importance of the British exchange banks’, 22nd June 1970, in FCO 37/581)

 

War and natural disasters at the birth of Bangladesh:

"How much longer can Britain and the rest of the world continue to refuse to get the United Nations involved in the situation along the India-Pakistan frontier? Four million refugees from East Bengal now face not only a pitiless monsoon but also the ravages of cholera – and still their numbers grow daily while the international relief effort hardly begins to meet their needs. Meanwhile, too, despite General Yahya Khan’s soldierly phrases about security having been restored in East Bengal, the true position is that his country is farther than ever from solving its constitutional problems. And now that a new phase of guerrilla fighting has opened, India and Pakistan must inevitably drift closer to a state of hostilities."

(Observer leader, ‘Pakistan: What Britain must do’, June 1971, contained in Foreign Office telegram in DO 133/220)

 

The volatile nature of India and Pakistan's relationship even in times of formal peace between them:

"I have been instructed by my Government to bring to the notice of the Security Council the serious violations of Pakistan’s borders and air space committed by the armed forces of India in recent weeks. These violations are mentioned in the notes of protest which have been addressed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan to the High Commission of India in Pakistan on 10 September, 21 September, 9 October, 19 October and 23 October relating to borders and 20 September, 5 October, 19 October and 23 October relating to air space. Copies of these notes are enclosed.

[…] I have the honour to request that this letter along with its enclosures may be circulated as a Security Council document."

(Letter from A. Shahi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, 30th October 1971, in FCO 37/941)

 

Section III

India's first nuclear test and British weapons sales to India:

"For the past couple of years the Government of India have indicated that they want us to become a major supplier for their next generation of conventional weapons. The problem has been that India does not have the cash to buy and has wanted concessional credit terms. The amounts involved are considerable – in total, probably in the region of £1,200 million at present day prices.

"[...] The new factor is the explosion by the Indians of a nuclear device on 18 May [1974]. They have claimed that they are only interested in the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy and have no intention of making nuclear weapons. They have not been prepared to give us, or any other interested country, any guarantee that the explosion of 18 May was a one-off effort. Indeed, their silence must make one assume that it was probably only the first of a series of tests. The current Whitehall assessment agrees, and goes on to say that the series is mainly, though not exclusively, concerned with the development of a military nuclear capability.

"There has also been considerable international criticism of the Indian action, not only on the grounds that it will encourage other countries to follow suit and consequently drive a coach and horses through the credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but also over this irresponsible allocation of scarce resources by a major aid recipient country.

"[...] It remains a matter of considerable doubt whether Indian assurances can be taken at their face value and that they will not be tempted to develop a nuclear weapon and a delivery system so that their nuclear achievement is lent a credibility and so ensures their full membership in the nuclear club.

"[...] I recommend that we suggest to the Ministry of Defence the following policy:

a) any commitment to supply [the] Jaguar [combat aircraft, with the potential to drop a nuclear bomb] or the RB199 [aero]engine should be avoided. MOD should explain to the Indians the legitimate financial reasons which prevent us offering the type of credit terms they are seeking; no doubt they will draw their own conclusions.

b) institute some form of safeguard to prevent any UK involvement in India's space technology programme which would have the possibility of contributing to a nuclear capacity.

c) permit consideration to continue on the sale of the Corvettes [warships] to India on the basis of the usual political and economic considerations."

(Memorandum by C. H. Seaward, South Asian Department, Foreign Office, 13th June 1974, in FCO 37/1469)

 

A glimpse into the government of Bhutan during the coronation of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck:

"It is very difficult during the Coronation period when all attention is naturally focussed on the King to assess where in this Kingdom of just over one million people the real power of government lies between the temporal and spiritual authorities in the State. So far as I could judge it is shared between the Monarchy and the Monkhood – or Lamas – with the balance beteween the two depending on the respective personality and standing of the King and the Chief Lama. It is difficult to establish what roles are played by the National Assembly, the Royal Advisory Council and the Council of Ministers. They are all of recent creation and I think their functions are more advisory than executive. However, as Mr F S Miles, then Deputy High Commissioner in Calcutta, pointed out in his despatch of October 1972, the existence of these institutions is the first step on the road to democracy especially as the Assembly has the power every three years to confirm the King's rule by a vote of confidence. However, one still gets very much the feeling of a highly patriarchal society with the King and his family closely concerned with and well informed about every activity of government. The King's two elder sisters for instance act as his personal representatives in the Ministries of Finance and Development. In the latter Ministry there is at present no Minister and it is the King's intelligent and very attractive sister who in effect carries these responsibilities."

('The Enthronement of the Dragon King', despatch from Michael Walker, British High Commissioner to India, 17th June 1974, in FCO 37/1535)

 

The problems of consolidating opposition to Indira Gandhi's Congress government in India:

"The formation of the BLD [Bharatiya Lok Dal] was first seriously considered after the relative success of the triple alliance (BKD [Bharatiya Kranti Dal], SSP [Samyukta Socialist Party], Muslim Majlis) in the Uttar Pradesh elections in February. Charan Singh, a man never happy without either power or a cause, was clearly the choice for leader having been Chief Minister of India's largest state and not being prepared to join an alliance of which he was not the leader. However, both the BKD and the Swatantra Party had considerable difficulty in convincing their rank and file that dissolution of their parties was in their best interests. Mr Minoo Masani, former President of the Swatantra Party, dissociated himself from the new party which he claimed was a sacrifice of principle for the sake of power. The party itself endured a split with a sizeable section, particularly in Orissa, choosing to remain as the Swatantra Party. Similarly a section of the BKD under Mr M S Oberoi (MP Rajya Sabha) the hotelier, took the drastic but farcical step of summoning the little used national executive and formally expelling Charan Singh from the Party. Charan Singh immediately countered in the Uttar Pradesh party committee by expelling Mr Oberoi and his friends. Feelings were bitter and even led to fighting in the lobby of the UP Assembly. (It is rumoured that the BKD split and the trouble caused by Mr Oberoi was engineered by Mrs Gandhi who is no doubt in a position to satisfy certain demands of the hotel business). The image of the BLD was therefore somewhat tarnished even before its birth.

"It is symptomatic of the economic and political difficulties which the Congress Government faces that a significant number of the parties to the right of Congress have been able to join forces at the national level in an attempt to provide a viable alternative to the electorate. If the leadership manages to consolidate the party before the 1976 General Election it may well be a force for Congress to reckon with, at least in the States from which it draws its strength. Much depends on whether the strong personalities who lead the new party will be able to maintain the degree of unity they display at present and whether their followers will be able to work together in the constituencies."

('Bharatiya Lok Dal – A New National Party', memorandum by D. R. C. Christopher, British High Commission, New Delhi, to M. L. Deas, South Asian Department, Foreign Office, 30th August 1974 in FCO 37/1456)

 

The British departure from RAF Gan in the Maldives:

"We have two political objectives;

a) to avoid political criticism about the economic and social results of our abandonment of Gan.

b) to continue to deny military rights in the Maldives to other countries.

"[...] To achieve these two objectives, we are proposing to hand over the airfield as a going concern, and to try to assist the Maldivians in obtaining medical and technical personnel to enable them to run the airfield (or at least maintain it on a care and maintenance basis). But handing over the airfield as a going concern increases its attractions and potential for other countries. We do not wish to see third countries obtain defence facilities in Maldives following our departure, and we should therefore prefer to retain the right which the 1965 Anglo-Maldivian Agreement gives us of giving or withholding consent to the granting of such facilities. The size and the nature of the Maldivian request for all the non-military equipment on Gan makes it possible for us to acquire in return the continuing denial of military facilities in the Maldives to other countries. This could be achieved most simply by Maldivian agreement that the 1965 Agreement remains in force until its original termination date of 1986.

"It is, of course, our contention that the 1965 Agreement remains in force irrespective of Maldives wishes since it contains no provision for unilateral termination. Nevertheless, we could hardly refuse to negotiate the termination of the Agreement if the Maldivian Government so required."

(Briefing note, 'Withdrawal from Gan: Meeting with Mr Maniku (Vice President of the Maldives)', 15th January 1976, in FCO 37/1757)

 

The personality and habits of Mohammed Daoud Khan, president of Afghanistan:

"President Daoud must be among the least known of today's national leaders. Since assuming power in 1973 he has visited the Soviet Union (twice); Pakistan, India and Iran. He is said occasionally to motor about Kabul in the evenings, but otherwise he is virtually a recluse and makes few visits to the provinces. Like the majority of his predecessors he prefers to rule with the counsel of a few intimates. But in Daoud's case there is an important difference since he is the only modern Afghan ruler to have considered himself as the People's representative, and claims to make the peoples [sic] 'will' and endeavours a point of cardinal importance to his rule.

"[...] In appearance short, powerfully built and bald, Daoud's hunched stance and sullen features are unprepossessing, but they give an undeniable impression of power and of a certain dignity. His face rarely reflects emotion. His smile is perfunctory and cold, except when talking to children. In private audience his moods are said to vary: at times courteous and affable; at other laconic. He cares little for formal society. On State visits abroad he at times carries with him an air of awkwardness, uncertain as to his hat and distrustful of potted palms and bric-a-brac. He has a reputation for ruthlessness and his links with the tribes – nurtured during his period as Military Governor in the Eastern Provinces, and said to remain strong today – are founded in respect rather than affection on their side, and coloured by memories of his vigorous suppression of the Safi revolt in 1947-49 during which the tribes involved were forcibly dispersed over wide tracts of Northern Afghanistan. Although the Royal Family was treated leniently after the coup, Daoud's political opponents have generally been dealt with harshly."

(Memorandum by A. J. Ramsay, British Embassy, Kabul, to E. J. Field, South Asian Deaprtment, Foreign Office, 30th August 1977, in FCO 37/1840)

 

Foreign attempts to gain clemency for former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, sentenced to death in Pakistan:

"The Bhutto verdict has been overshadowed over the past two days by publicity for the Prophet's birthday and for [President] Zia's speech on 10 February on further measures of Islamisation.

[... But] The press continues to publicise freely further appeals by foreign governments and foreign comment (such as that of Sir Cyril Pickard to the BBC), although editorials on the Bhutto issue are still absent. New appeals from foreign governments include China (Hua), Soviet Union (Brezhnev), the Pope, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Yugoslavia, India, Syria, Italy, Viet Nam, Iraq, Libya, Spain and Portugal. It is of interest that Chairman Hua's message has been printed in full. It is quite mildly phrased, expressing concern, but emphasising that this is "entirely Pakistan's internal affair". There has so far been no mention of Saudi intervention.

"The general view here is that foreign appeals on their own are unlikely to affect the issue, unless those countries with leverage on Pakistan (which means particularly Saudi Arabia and China) were to make clemency a condition for continued political and financial support. There is so far no evidence that this is the case, although it is worth recording that the Chinese ambassador has commented privately that, following the recent visit of the Chinese vice premier [...], the chances of Bhutto's survival looked better.

"However, most observers now believe that, once the remaining legal procedures have been sorted out, Zia will go ahead with Bhutto's execution. Speculation mainly centres on the legal timetable.

"[...] Although delay would not seem to be in Zia's interest, the pressures on him to move to an early resolution now may be less, given that the verdict has as yet had little impact on internal order. There continue to be minor acts of sabotage (bomb explosions and a breaching of a canal bank in Sind). But the country as a whole is surprisingly quiet. This suggests either that pro-Bhutto elements are biding their time (the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] central executive, having issued an appeal for clemency on 9 February, are said to have met again yesterday): or that the governement's [sic] preventative measures are proving effective."

(Telegram, J. C. W. Bushell, British Ambassador to Pakistan, to Foreign Office, 11th February 1979, in FCO 37/2194)