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LIST OF WITNESSES
CRISIS IN EAST PAKISTAN
TUESDAY, MAY 11, 1971
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 2:05 p.m. in room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Cornelius E. Gallagher (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GALLAGHER. The subcommittee will come to order.
We are rather short on members, because we are knee-deep in the SST debate on the floor. We will proceed as the members come in.
We are beginning hearings today into the situation in East Pakistan with particular emphasis on the related problems of refugees and famine.
I think it would be useful to briefly summarize events leading to what may be one of the worst human tragedies in modern times.
In November 1970 a cyclone and flood killed thousands in East Pakistan and crippled the main port of Chittagong. The recent fighting has prevented most crops from being planted. Because East Pakistan is a food deficit region in the best of times, as many as 30 million people may starve, according to reports said to have been submitted to the Agency for International Development and the World Bank, Right now, refugees are streaming from East Pakistan into India at the rate of 60,000 each day, swelling the already strained Indian food supply by an estimated 1.5 million new mouths to feed.
The refugees and the potential famine are the result of civil war which broke out on March 25, 1971. While the politics of Pakistan and the subcontinent are not the focus of this hearing, it is important to remember that in the election for a National Constitutional Assembly in December 1970, the Awami League captured 167 of the 169 seats contested in the East. This gave them an absolute majority of the 313 seats contested in all of Pakistan.
While the government of Yahya Kahn now is in apparent control of the cities, those who embrace autonomy for Bangla Desh claim the countryside. Factually, the countryside of East Pakistan is the equal of the countryside of South Vietnam in providing natural surrounding for insurgency and the fighting thus far has produced reports of savage atrocities on both sides.
Putting this together, we seem to have a situation which is potentially equal, in terms of human misery, to a combination of Vietnam and Biafra. Because of our military, aid to the central government it appears that our arms, in conjunction with those supplied by other governments, are being used to defeat the people who won the election.
While these and other questions are as important as they seem to be unanswerable at this point, our focus is the immediate threat to the lives of millions. To emphasize that concern, we are very pleased to welcome this afternoon Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. His Subcommittee on Refugees, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has produced extremely valuable information about the impact of policy on people and the dimensions of the suffering and the dislocation in countries where war has been conducted.
The humanitarian aspects of the East Pakistan situation must be considered by all the parties involved, and it will be a great pleasure to hear you this afternoon, Senator Kennedy, discuss the information developed by your subcommittee.
On behalf of the members of the subcommittee, we welcome you here this afternoon.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Senator KENNEDY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to express my very sincere appreciation to you, as the chairman, in providing this leadership, and in providing an opportunity for those of us who are concerned about humanitarian needs to explore them with you and the members of the subcommittee.
I feel that there are too many times and instances in the past where we of the United States have tried to portray ourselves as being truly humanitarian, truly concerned about suffering and pain and hunger and malnutrition throughout the world, but we have been all too slow in responding to these needs.
I think you and I realize the very great sense of humanitarianism which exists within the American people, and I always feel that if the American people had a fair understanding of some of the great human tragedies that have existed throughout the world, they would demand of their Government the kind of response which I am sure you and I, and many others in the Congress and in the Nation, would like to see. But too often there is dragging of feet, failure to recognize a problem, and failure of an adequate response by our Government.
I say that not only in terms of observing by this administration. It has been true of past administrations, in terms, for example, of responding to the Biafran situation.
So I truly appreciate the chance of being with you this afternoon, and of making some comments on a subject which so many of us are interested in. And I am hopeful that the hearings will underscore the urgent need to further encourage the initiatives underway to meet the needs of the Bengali people.
Official reports from our Government and elsewhere express very serious concern about the condition of the people in East Pakistan. These reports say that within a month the condition of the people will become acuto. The precarious situation which exists today will evolve into a nightmare of death for millions-unless immediate and concerted efforts are made to meet the needs of the people involved.
Although reports from East Pakistan suggest that violence has subsided considerably, reports also indicate that feelings are tense between the people and the army of the central government. In fact official reports to our Government suggest that the great bulk of the population is alienated, perhaps forever. Regrettably, this can only complicate, and perhaps delay, the organizing of a meaningful relief program, and the solving of those political problems which generated the recent violence.
Moreover, reports also indicate that the army effectively controls only the cities and towns, and that throughout most of the countryside, government administration and services do not exist. The transportation and distribution of available foodstocks and medical supplies are at a standstill—even in the area struck by the cyclone last fall, where conservative estimates say a million persons have been solely dependent for their survival on effective relief operations. Food reserves-except that confiscated by the army-are very low.
The tragedy, finally, has now spilled over into India, which so far has found it necessary to give asylum to nearly 2,000,000 refugeesof whom at least 526,000 are in camps. The recent daily influx into India has reportedly been some 50,000. The State Department informs me that the influx will continue at a high level, “at least until the beginning of the monsoon in a few weeks, when both military operations and travel will become more difficult." The continuing heavy influx of refugees into India is a stark reminder of how bad conditions have become in East Pakistan.
Over the last month I have repeatedly communicated my concern in these matters to officials in the Department of State and elsewhere, in an effort to encourage and support reasonable initiatives by our Government and the international community to help meet the urgent political and humanitarian problems in East Pakistan. I have strongly believed these initiatives should be taken through the United Nations.
On the humanitarian problems, at least, some progress is being made.
On the Indian side of the border, and at the invitation of the Indian Government, representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are currently assessing relief needs and developing a plan of international action. According to a communication I received from the Department of State this morning, our Government has "authorized up to $2.5 million in food and other assistance as our initial contribution to the international relief effort.”' While the UNHCR effort is being organized, the U.S. is providing emergency food assistance for 237,000 refugees in West Bengal. The food assistance is being distributed by CARÈ, Catholic Relief Services, and Church World Service/Lutheran World Federation.
I must add here, Mr. Chairman, that while this interim U.S. assistance to these refugees is welcomed by all concerned, it falls far short of India's immediate need. It also falls short of India's bilateral request for emergency aid, in order to tide them over until the UNHCR program begins. This dragging of our feet over a simple request for emergency aid is distressing, to say the least.
understand that the Indian authorities requested, over 2 weeks ago, some direct bilateral help and assistance from our Governmeni. And once again, our Government has been extremely slow in responding to this kind of help and assistance, indicating that the prime help and assistance ought to be through international agencies.
Of course, I support this view, and have strongly advocated it to our Government over the past few weeks. But until these agencies can function, I do feel that there is a direct role, a traditional and historical role, which we ought to play in responding to the initiative by India. The situation is an extraordinary kind of burden, I think, for the Indian Government.