Interviewer: Mr. President, there have been reports that you may meet with President Nixon in Tehran after visit to Moscow. Are those reports true?
President: No, I don’t think those reports are correct. I intended to go to Tehran but after President Nixon has left the country.
Interviewer: Do you think a meeting with Mr. Nixon at this particular point would be helpful to you and your country?
President: It would always be helpful to meet the President of a great power, United States, but I think President Nixon has so many other problems at the moment that it would be better to allow him to concentrate on those basic problems, which have suddenly come into the wake and he’s confronted with them.
Interviewer: Well, are you concerned about what’s happening in Vietnam right now?
President: Naturally, deeply concerned. We’ve always been concerned. Vietnam is a part of Asia and above all it’s a human problem.
Interviewer: Do you think Mr. Nixon’s solution or the acts he has taken now are correct?
President: I don’t know whether that’s the solution but he’s taken certain acts and judging from past record and the past events of the Vietnam conflict. I don’t think that such acts have contributed to the overall solution.
Interviewer: Well, in spite of the current situation in the Far East, Mr. President, American long-range policy is one of disengagement. Are you concerned that United States may not honor its commitments to Pakistan in the future?
President: No, I think the United States will come to its own policy objective in the interests of its own national interests and its global interest and the United States is quite capable of taking care of her objective interest.
Interviewer: Is it valid to suggest, Mr. President, that Pakistan is a valuable asset to the United States as long as the Russians wish to have a land route to the Indian Ocean?
President: Well, that’s an over-simplification. I think that inherently people are valuable and if we approach problems on those lines I think the long-term interests of the whole world would be better served. We are a nation still of sixty million, if East Pakistan is separated from us; an extremely important part of the world. And all of these factors I’m sure are in the consideration of not only the United States but also the other great powers.
Interviewer: There was considerable criticism of the Nixon Administration for their alliance with West Pakistan during the war last year. Would you anticipate a change with a new administration, notably a Democrat one?
President: No, I can’t anticipate events that are much ahead but I wouldn’t say that there was an alliance between Pakistan and the United States Administration. Unites States Government took certain positions. I think it took them sensibly; however, our complaint is that the alliance was broken rather than that an alliance was maintained.
Interviewer: Well, on this show, Mr. President, both Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Rahman maintained that the big power should leave the subcontinent alone and let them solve their own problems. Do you agree with this?
President: Well, it’s nice for Mrs. Gandhi to say this now after the Soviet-Indian Treaty of August last year and the advantages that India derived from it. It’s all very well that after having taken the advantages to make such biased statements.
Interviewer: You and Mrs. Gandhi presumably are going to the summit shortly together. It does appear that you’ve settled on an agenda. Have you settled on anything else or are you simply going to go and begin talking from scratch?
President: Well, Yes and no, Talking from scratch is not possible with India and Pakistan. We’ve lived in the same subcontinent, we were one nation till 1947. We know our problems inside out. In the last 25 years we’ve turned Kashmir upside down, looked at it sideways and from all angles. So it can’t be beginning from scratch in those terms but if we approach these problems with new values and with a new dimension and with a fresh outlook, then, of course, in a way you’re right. We’ll begin from scratch.
Interviewer: Well, as you yourself say, Sir, you’ve turned Kashmir upside, downside, sideways for the last 25 years. What makes you think that Kashmir can finally be settled?
President: Well, you see the question is that when I say “we” I used the word loosely. If the principle of self-determination had not been violated and if attempts have not been made to overcome it, I think we would have found the settlement long ago. So to us the principle of self-determination is sacrosanct.
Interviewer: Well, aside from Kashmir, Mr. President, what do you think is the most pressing issue between India and Pakistan at this particular time?
President: Kashmir really and a state of mind - a change in the state of mind. I think to put it more metaphysically, a change in the state of mind, if that takes place, we can resolve I think the basic issue of Kashmir on established principles.
Interviewer: Well, you have talked about a peace line instead of a cease-fire line. Just what do you mean by a “peace line”?
President: Yes, to lift the curtain and so let people come and go and let them see things for themselves here and let the Kashmir’s go there and see things for themselves. After all, they’re one people and for 25 years they have been arbitrarily held apart from each other.
Interviewer: So you’re suggesting that a plebiscite at the moment in Kashmir, which you’re always, insisted on before, is not necessary as a first step.
President: It’s a forerunner. But even otherwise in the past there were many forerunners to a plebiscite, appointment of a plebiscite administration and various other things. Well, since that procedure and that method didn’t work, now I feel that if aside the curtain is lifted, all the barriers are broken between the two part of Kashmir, there’ll be more intercourse and more integration and thinking between the two people and basically for them to determine their future. So if the two sided of the Kashmir leaders and people get together, perhaps they will find equilibrium.
Interviewer: Shortly after the end of the war, Sir, you expressed deep and constant concern about the state of the prisoners of wear in India. There appears to be less pressure in Pakistan now about their return. Is that true?
President: I’m thankful to the people of Pakistan. They have heroically responded to my patriotic call. When I came back everything was in a vacuum and in a state of flux and naturally the people were extremely agitated about this problem and they still are concerned. Obviously, they’re concerned. It’s a very big problem. It’s a basic human problem involving about eighty thousand to ninety thousand people. But we went out to the families. I sent my Party people; I sent our workers and tried the consequences of war-of the more they would weaken their own position and their country’s position. So, I repeat, I’m very grateful to them that they have seen the point and they’re exercised great restraint and discipline.
Interviewer: Have you thought in your own mind how long it might be before they do come home?
President: It’s very difficult to guess. In normal circumstances one would say it’s easy to guess because the war is over, there’s a cease-fire both sides want peace, there are Geneva conventions, there are United Nations’ resolutions and so in normal circumstances they should have been back home But we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. We’re dealing with a difficult neighbor who I hope will become less difficult in her victory.
Interviewer: So why is India holding your prisoners of war still?
President: Why does India do many things?
Interviewer: Why do you think? A tactic? Hostage? A trading card?
President: Well, I would not like to say words, which will spoil our future meetings.
Interviewer: Well, is there any kind of a compromise or deal possible on prisoners? You only have a few Indian prisoners; they have 93 thousand. They’ve taken an awful lot of Pakistan territory during the war. You only have a little parcel of Indian land. What kind of a why what makes you think that you could possible reach some agreement with India when your bargaining position seems to be very bad?
President: Bargaining position in those terms but not in terms if India tries to impose an unequal treaty on Pakistan. In that event, the whole of Pakistan will turn into an arsenal of defense.
Interviewer: Mr. President, you have said that in the forthcoming summit you will not be dictated to. You’ve also said there are certain inherent implications stemming out of a lost war and that Pakistan will have her ups and downs. Are those statements contradictory?
President: No, it only shows that we will adopt a flexible posture; at the same time not compromise inherent fundamental principles.
Interviewer: Are you fearful at all that India will try to place a one sided settlement on you?
President: I don’t think they will be all that myopic and I think they have also learnt a lesson from the past failures and how negative our enmity has been and how detrimental it has been to the people. So I think that they’ll be little more constructive. And if they are constructive, there’ll be ample reciprocity from this end.
Interviewer: You have been in office for about four months. You talk about a new democracy in Pakistan. Now there have been eleven regimes in Pakistan since partition. Why should the Indians now trust you.
President: I don’t want them to trust me. I want our people to trust us. It’s not a question of Indians trusting me. It’s not a personal matter. Indians will have to deal with me because I am the elected leader of the people.
Interviewer: Mr. President, can we move to another matter? It’s been said that Pakistan’s recognition of Bangladesh is not a question of principle but a question of timing. Would that be a fair statement?
President: It’s both because if the people of East Pakistan really want to sever their connections from us permanently than that’s a question of principle, that they want, the people want to part from us altogether, for all times to come and we cannot deny what they want. There the principle is involved. But we have to first find out if that is the correct position and we can’t find out being a thousand miles away and having had no dialogue or communication with them. So that’s why we must first meet their leaders and come to an objective assessment.
Interviewer: Well, you seem to be getting into a position where it’s impossible to have any kind of agreement. Mr. Rahman says no meeting with you till recognition; you say no recognition till meeting. How do you solve this?
President: Well, I think my good friend will take out the lollipop from his mouth and accept the realities and the logics of politics.
Interviewer: It’s been suggested he might be pushing you too hard?
President: No, I don’t think I can be pushed hard easily.
Interviewer: Did you and he have an agreement about a future meeting when he left Pakistan?
President: Certainly. He was extremely enthusiastic about it.
Interviewer: So is he now reneging on that meeting?
President: No. I don’t know. I have no contact with him.
Interviewer: He‘s also most insistent at the moment, Sir, as I’m sure you’re aware about war crimes trials. Does that affect your recognition and what is your general view on his trials?
President: yes, that’s a more serious matter. It’s not serious only because it’s not the right thing to do because we believe there’s no analogy between Nuremberg and the situation here in the subcontinent as what happened. I do not go into all the legal aspects of it but, strictly from the practical point of view, it will just muck up the atmosphere. And you know our people are sensitive; Bengalis are sensitive. And these trials will go on and all sorts of things will be said; the press will play it up. I’m afraid it will take us to the point of no return.
Interviewer: Well, Mr. President, you have warned of terrible repercussions if those trials are held. What did you mean by terrible repercussions?
President: I didn’t say it in that sense nor in the sense of reprisals; in the sense that it will become almost impossible for us then to keep the situation under control and for the forces of sanity to prevail.
Interviewer: Do you accept the view that Sheikh Mujib probably needs to hold some kind of trials?
President: Well, if that is his position after four months of having returned to Dacca as a hero, then I’m afraid he can’t go on from one gimmick to the other.
Interviewer: Do you fell any, to hold war crimes trials here at all? That has been suggested?
President: No, we won’t approve that. But if there are people who have committed excesses then we are prepared to consider taking legal action against them.
Interviewer: Is this final question on it? Is this an issue upon which future relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh flounder?
President: I wouldn’t like to put it that emphatically because I would like to keep all the doors and windows open for a settlement, and I wouldn’t like to take the Mujib approach of slamming one door after another. If we both start doing that then we’d be really in a quagmire.
Interviewer: Well, Mr. President, what kind of a compromise is possible on the war crimes Issue? There has been talk of possible having token trials in Bangladesh, which would satisfy everybody?
President: Why should, how can a token tr4ial or any form of trial satisfy everybody/ It won’t satisfy us because a principle is involved. These people, they were defending their national territory and integrity and unity. They might have committed excesses and we’re not condoning those excesses. We are prepared to try some of them here under the ordinary law. So I don’t under stand how we can compromise on such questions.
Interviewer: It is not difficult in Pakistan now, Sir, to find the opinion expressed that other than the moral loss of East Pakistan, that economically and politically it’s good riddance?
President: Whoever says that to you couldn’t really be a patriot?
Interviewer: That’s why I excepted the moral issue and said it was simply politically and economically that Bangladesh was a burden to this country and that you might do better without it.
President: I really, I can’t even think in those terms.
Interviewer: Well, has Pakistan adjusted economically, politically and mentally to the loss of East Pakistan?
President: That’s another mater. You have to accept the painful conditions and we have made I think sufficient efforts to find new accommodations.
Interviewer: Well, what is your most pressing internal problem right now?
President: Internal problem? Firstly, I would say that we have to consolidate political unity in the country. Secondly take some strides in the economic field, establish the rule of law. We have now a constitution and go back to the democratic rails firmly and I hope for all times.
Interviewer: Thank you, Mr. President, for being our guest on “Issues and Answers”. Mr. President when you released Sheikh Mujib from imprisonment here in West Pakistan, he claimed to have been so ignorant of the situation in the East that he could not make any binding or lasting agreements with you about anything. Is that correct?
President: Well, in the first place I didn’t ask him to make any commitments. Whatever he said was of his own accord, about our future relationship. Secondly, when I met him I did give him the salient features of what had happened. That was on the 27th of December. On the same day I gave him a radio and allowed him all the newspapers. I met him again on the 7th of January. By that time he must have had some idea of the situation and he repeated what he had said to me earlier before he left Pakistan for London.
Interviewer: In the last four months here. Sir you have spoken about relatively massive development for West Pakistan; increased aid to education-increased aid to health; rebuilding the Army and raising two new divisions. Where is the money going to come from?
President: Money will come. Money will not come from trees and it will come with labor. Money will come with sweat. Money will come with good intentions. Money will come from the fat industrialists. Money will come.
Interviewer: Some people are suggesting that in fact you think money will come down from the trees?
President: No, I don’t.
Interviewer: Well, let us be more specific. What about the consortium? What about renewed aid from Britain, the United States? What about increased private investment here? What about increased private investment here? It’s all at an all-time low, I gather?
President: Never mind. I have been talking to the trees for a long time, ever since it became a popular song in the United States. But we’ll get the money. And the Consortium I think is readjusting itself to our needs. If our intentions are good and we mobilize the people and the world knows that we are determined to get somewhere, the sympathy, the understanding will all come back into place.
Interviewer: Well, the Consortium has maintained all along that you had to take certain drastic economic and financial steps to put your own house in order before they would resume aid. Do you fell that you have convinced them that you’ve taken these measures?
President: Well, we’re taking these measures. We’re taking these measures according to our own light and we cannot be dictated to on what should be done internally. That’s been done for too long and we’ve got nowhere. Quite independent of outside consideration and advice, we are taking steps, which they think are the right steps. Sometimes they might think that we have not gone far enough but we judge our own situation according to our on light and according to our own conditions.
Interviewer: You said, Mr. President, that there’s a need to rebuild the Army. You said more emphatically that you never intend to disarm. Again, that could appear to some to be a contradiction between your search for a durable peace. Now is it a contradiction?
President: No, because United States made its best search for a durable peace when armed to the teeth. I don’t say the analogy holds for us but at the same time you can’t disarm completely and yet undertake that search. Besides India, in spite of the events of last year, has increased her defense budget. I can’t close my eyes to that factor. We’re surrounded by important and interesting countries. We can’t close our eyes to that factor.
Interviewer: Those surrounding and interesting countries are Afghanistan, Iran, and China. Are you worried about them?
President: Soviet Union. And if they want to be friendly with us we’ll be more than happy to be friendly with them. But if they want to have relationships, which increase out tensions, we have to take precautions. But so far I don’t think we have had any difficulties with these countries and I hope that we won’t have any difficulty with them in the future. Principally, it has been India and if India begins to disarm sincerely and effectively, we won’t allow that factor to be ignored by us because our conditions also need greater consideration on economic matters.
Interviewer: Is there any possibility of a no-war pact?
President: I don’t think that phrase “no-war-pact” is a right one to use. Its been subjected to so many interpretations because it’s been used by Indian and Pakistani leaders in a long debate stretching over 25 years, so it’s become a term of art. But fundamentally we’re quite prepared to adopt a civilized course, which is to try and settle our disputes by peaceful means.
Interviewer: Well, how do you do this, Mr. President? For 25 years there have been atrocities, there has been war between the peoples here. What has to be done first before this thing will finally end?
President: I think I answered that question earlier by saying that on this occasion there has been some kind of a fairly decisive military outcome and we take our roots from the debris of this war.
Interviewer: Well, there was a recent border clash in the Kashmir area and there were reports it was more than a clash that Pakistan troops actually occupied some positions that were occupied by the Indian Army. First of all, is that report true?
President: Well, Now that you mention it to me I’m glad to get this good news after having lost so much territory, figure a little bit of territory, it comes as good news.
Interviewer: Well, how do you stop this kind of thing from escalating?
President: Well, by respecting the cease, fire line, by withdrawing forces, by returning prisoners of war, by meeting soon, as soon as possible, by coming to some sensible settlement to settle disputes by peaceful means. But you can’t do it on an ad-hoc basis when the tow armies are facing each other and when the prisoners of war are in India, when tension hasn’t subsided.
Interviewer: Back to the trading issue for a moment, Sir, Sheikh Mujib suggests, fairly strongly, that you may hold the Bengalis in West Pakistan as hostages?
President: No, he’s talking through his nose or hat, whatever the expression is. We never do that.
Interviewer: Much of your administration in the last four months has reflected the negative aspects of the last years on the previous regimes. What is in fact the difference in the nature of your regime and that of Yahya Khan?
President: Well, only little difference. Yahya Khan’s regime was composed of barbarians. Mine is composed of civilized people taking their roots from the people having had swept the elections, not imposed themselves on the country, not usurper power. That’s the only little difference.
Interviewer: And as you look even further back now over the last 25 years, do you have any different view of Partition?
President: No, not at all. No. My commitment to the two-nation theory is not a fleeting commitment dependent on the vagaries of military adventures.
Interviewer: Are you concerned, Mr. President, about any further partition of Pakistan? I know you have seemed to have averted a problem with your two northern frontier provinces. Do you expect any further attempts in further partitioning the country?
President: Well, the problems in these two provinces are grossly exaggerated, people everywhere unhappy. People were unhappy in east Pakistan. People in West Pakistan and every part of West Pakistan were unhappy with 13 years of dictatorial and arbitrary rule. And your unhappiness took various shapes and forms. Some people just reconciled to it. They were going through a living death. Others tried to become extrovert. But basically its structure was against the system and it wasn’t for independence of all the provinces of Pakistan. It took that form and shape in East Pakistan after complete frustration. If Ayub Khan had adjusted himself to the democratic process or to the political process we would not have been in this position. The first culprit before even Yahya Khan was Ayub Khan who refused to consider political settlement of political problems. And so if this had gone on, if Yahya Khan had gone on and if a Yahya Khan, some other military general had come and there had been suffocation, complete absence of freedom and no participation of the people, then all of us might have become secessionists. So this problem of Balochistan and frontier is grossly exaggerated. They are patriotic Pakistanis and you’ll find that in the days to come, the months to come, in the years to come, they’ll make a most handsome contribution for the consolidation of this nation’s interests.
Interviewer: Would you like to sum up what you have said, Mr. President?
President: We want durable peace in the subcontinent. Peace for all times. For centuries our people haven’t seen peace and it’s about time that we turned our backs to hostility and put our attention to the basic problems of the people. India and Pakistan, people of India and Pakistan, are too poor to afford the luxury of wars, every five to ten years. We should depend on our own resources, make our own country on the strength of our own efforts and not go begging to the world for assistance and aid. This doesn’t make sense. But in order to have peace, we must have a peace based on principles, peace based on justice and peace can be lasting only if it is based on principles, equity and justice. Otherwise an imposed peace will not work and so with all our hearts, with all our effort, with all our deepest fait in peace, we look forward to our negotiations with India in that spirit.
Interviewer: Thank you, Mr. President, for being our guest on “Issues and Answers.”