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South Asia contains about 1.9 million square miles of land, and about 670 million people, almost one-fifth of the world's population. The culture of the area comprising India and Pakistan is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 3000 B. C. The history of the area is one of absorption of peoples entering the subcontinent from the northwest. The inhabitants of South Asia have historically been inward rather than outward looking. The people have rarely been united, and then only for brief periods under a strong conqueror. There is wide variation in climate, language, religion, ethnic background, customs, social organization, and form of government.

But for all of its diversity, the subcontinent of South Asia has certain characteristics which are generally common to the entire area.

One striking common characteristic is change. All over South Asia far-reaching developments are taking place in the economic, political, and social fields. In the political sphere new forms of government are developing. Centuries-old social patterns and codes of human relationships are being broken down under the impact of modern education. Among the masses of the people there is a new awareness that poverty need not be their lot--that they need not accept social patterns and economic conditions which have long deprived them of a decent livelihood.

Another common characteristic of the nations of South Asia is economic underdevelopment. Agriculture is generally carried on by primitive means and crop yields are low. Though industry is developing rapidly is some areas, it is still almost totally lacking in others. In every nation of the subcontinent the governments in power are striving to achieve the economic progress so desperately needed. While the problems to be overcome are enormous and while some of the development plans may at times falter, each day sees some change--the opening of a new factory, the completion of an irrigation project, the harnessing of a new source of power, the discovery of a new mineral deposit.

The fact that the nations of South Asia have in the past several centuries experienced varying degrees of foreign domination or influence has had a profound effect in determining their present attitudes toward world affairs. A part of the European heritage is the generally suspicious attitude of many South Asians toward the west and its motives. To some South Asians, the imagined threat of domination by the west, whether through economic or other means, looms as large as the threat of Communist imperialism. In addition, there is a particular sensitivity to racial questions, since the experience of many South Asians was one of domination of white over colored peoples. This is one of the factors underlying the prevailing attitude of neutralism in this area.

The United States broad policy objectives in South Asia were summed up by President Nixon in 1971:

"Our aim is a structure of peace and stability within which the people of this region can develop its great potential and their independent vision of the future. Our policy is to help these nations deal with their own problems, and to bring our activity into a stable balance with that of other major powers in the area.

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Stability of the area was seriously disrupted in 1971 over the Bangladesh crises. India and Pakistan were the principal participants in the dispute, but Russia, China and the United States played varying roles too. A description of events and our reaction to them was provided in "A Report of the Secretary of State," March 8, 1972:

"Crisis in South Asia

"A year which began with great promise in South Asia ended in tragedy and war. Early in the year 1971 both India and Pakistan seemed poised for a new period of political stability and economic growth aided by democratic institutions and the technology of the Green Revolution. Instead of choosing peaceful solutions to some of their domestic and international issues, however, both countries used force to resolve problems which might have been solved by negotiation.

"The Pakistan Government's decision to use military force in East Pakistan to suppress the Awami League, victorious in the December 1970 elections, in order to maintain Pakistan unity, led

to a bitter civil war, massive disruption in East Pakistan, and the flow of millions of refugees into India. In response, over the course of several months, the Government of India encouraged and supported an insurgent movement whose principal purpose was the creation of an independent Bangladesh by force of arms. This support culminated in the direct involvement of Indian forces on Pakistani territory and ultimately in full-scale hostilities between India and Pakistan.

"We were disturbed by the Pakistan Government's decision to use force to deal with its internal differences, and we publicly expressed our concern over the loss of life, damage, and hardships suffered by the people of Pakistan. We were no less disturbed by India's decision to broaden the crisis by her reluctance to allow the United Nations to become involved. We took exception to Indian escalation of the use of force in pursuit of political goals even at the risk of full-scale hostilities.

"The situation concerned the United States, not only because it created one of the most massive humanitarian problems of modern times--the flight of an estimated nine million or more refugees-but also because of the fundamental impact which these events have had and are likely to have on the long-term well-being of the region. As a result of the conflict, the political integrity of an independent nation has been shattered; the principles contained in the U. N. Charter for the peaceful settlement of international disputes have been flouted, and the prospects for the economic development and political stability of the region have been greatly complicated.

"We endeavored throughout the period after March 25 to use our diplomacy and relief assistance to avert hostilities and to meet the urgent humanitarian needs created by the crisis. We considered the events in the East Pakistan crisis to have involved internal matters, with which the government and people of Pakistan had to deal. Nonetheless, we recognized that the consequences of these events-the flight of refugees, the danger of famine, and the growing insurgency--were matters of grave concern to all nations and especially India. We believed that if peaceful conditions were to be restored and if human lives were to be saved, it was clear that:

--Restraint would have to be exercised in the subcontinent by India and Pakistan and by outside powers.

--The international assistance programs would have to be expanded to avert famine and create conditions to encourage the return of the refugees; and

--Efforts toward an effective political settlement in East Pakistan would have to be actively pursued.

"We worked toward these ends.

"On November 12, the Secretary of State expressed apprehension about the buildup of forces and the rising number of clashes. He said:

'We are apprehensive that these clashes might lead to an outbreak of hostilities in the days ahead.

'We believe that a war would solve nothing, but would merely add to the massive problems that already exist in the


'In view of these concerns, we have urgently counselled both sides to exercise maximum restraint.

'We have also been the principal supporter of an international program designed to meet the problems that have arisen from the huge exodus of refugees from East Pakistan into India; and through quiet diplomacy on both sides, we are seeking to encourage steps which would defuse the situation, get a dialogue going between those principally concerned, with a view to making practical progress toward a political accommodation. '

"Unfortunately, these efforts proved unavailing, and neither the withdrawal of forces nor the political dialogue which we sought to promote came about. In late November, Indian forces crossed the East Pakistan border at several points in support of insurgent groups. On December 3, full-scale hostilities erupted.

"After the outbreak of hostilities, we made repeated efforts through the U. N. Security Council to obtain an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of forces. The Soviet Union, unfortunately, vetoed three resolutions which commanded the support of most Security Council members including the United States. With the Security

Council immobilized by Soviet vetoes, we took the issue to the General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolution. There, we and 103 other nations supported a resolution calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal. Finally on December 21 after the fighting had stopped, the Security Council was able to pass a resolution demanding a withdrawal of forces, the maintenance of the ceasefire, and urgent humanitarian efforts. It is on this resolution that we and other members of the international community will be building in the year ahead to restore normal and stable conditions on the subcontinent.


"In March 1971, for the fifth time since independence, India went to the polls to elect a new national government. The ruling Congress Party of Prime Minister Gandhi won an overwhelming victory, including two-thirds of the seats in the lower and more influential house of Parliament. Mrs. Gandhi emerged from these elections as India's undisputed national leader, committed to the eradication of poverty and to more rapid and progressive social and economic policies. Her victory enhanced prospects for India's future economic development and political stability. Because of the importance the United States attached to India's progress, we continued our economic assistance to India to help it achieve a rate of growth sufficient to insure a rising standard of living for the Indian population and political development under democratic institutions. Commitments under A.I.D., Public Law 480, and Export-Import Bank programs in FY 1971 totaled $434.1 million in addition to U. S. contributions to international lending agencies which also assisted in India.

"These prospects dimmed, however, after the March 1971 civil disturbances in East Pakistan when an estimated nine million refugees, primarily Hindus, fled to politically sensitive and economically depressed eastern India. India subsequently took the position that all of the refugees would have to return home but only after a political settlement between the Government of Pakistan and those officials elected by the people of East Pakistan in December 1970. India sought international support for its demand for such a settlement. The Indian Foreign Minister visited Washington in June and Prime Minister Gandhi in November to convey India's position to the U. S. Government.

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