After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975, then chief of army Ziaur Rahman sought military support from the US through its embassy in Dhaka to what he said thwart India-backed intervention of miscreants in Bangladesh.
Then ambassador to Dhaka Davis Eugene Boster wrote to Washington about it after two more army officers – Maj Farooq and Maj Khandaker Abdur Rashid – had called on the embassy’s political counsellor at the latter’s home on October 21, 1975.
Farooq and Rashid – convicted for the assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family members – claimed that the Indians were endeavouring to undermine the government of Moshtaque Ahmed.
“Ambassador had previously given then army chief of staff Ziaur Rahman discouraging reaction to his sounding about possibility of US military assistance,” Boster wrote in the secret cable released by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
“The majors asserted that they are convinced that India will make every effort to prevent the government from fulfilling its promise to restore democracy.” They went on to say that the police were not capable enough to deal with anything but the most ordinary law and order.
“The military is very weak, and possesses only most limited capability to deal with internal security matters, much less any overt external threat.
“After stressing that they do not think such support as they might receive from China or Pakistan could be adequate to thwart the Indians, majors asked whether United States would be prepared to assist Bangladesh military with equipment, either directly or by permitting third-country transfers. Clearly aware of American sensitivities from their period of Pakistan service, they said they not seeking weapons but need helicopters and surface transport,” reads the cable.
Farooq and Rashid mentioned that they did not comprehend direct Indian military intervention. But the items were required to meet what they described as potential internal security threat of serious proportions which would be inspired and supported by Indians.
“The embassy’s political counsellor said that he was in no position to respond to their request. He added that such a request should properly be made formally by the Bangladesh embassy in Washington to the Department of State.
“Majors then asked what American reaction might be were a formal request made, indicating that Bangladesh would not want to make such a request if a rebuff was likely. Political counsellor again said he in no position to offer any categorical comment but went on to remind majors that extent and character of our economic assistance indicates American view that we can best contribute to Bangladesh through efforts to advance its economy.
“Major Farooq replied that economic growth obviously necessary over the long haul, but unless present threat met there is no certainty that Bangladesh would survive to enjoy fruits of development.”
In the cable, Boster also mentioned that Farooq and Rashid had not asserted that they calling on political counsellor on instructions from or even with knowledge of the president.
“Whatever may have prompted visit, the political counsellor left with clear impression that majors, who said they no longer engaged in kind of random troubleshooting which earlier marked their activities but are concentrating wholly on perceived internal security threat, are convinced that integrity of Bangladesh is threatened by India, and also by the soviet union.
“We are not able to comment on what the Indians are doing, but in any event that may be less important than what the Bangladesh government thinks they are doing. We operate on the assumption that the majors, while young, inexperienced and possibly naive, are not irresponsible and that have reflected fears also held by others in the government.”