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Sultan Mohammed Khan, Foreign Secretary, Pakistan, on:
the channels of communication

Sultan Mohammed Khan It was November 20th when I'd gone to see him about some foreign policy issues. He said, "I want to entrust to you something important and very sensitive and from now on only you and I will know about it in Pakistan. The channels of communication to Dr. Kissinger will be our Ambassador in Washington, to Chou En-lai the channel of communication with the Chinese Ambassador in Islamabad." He also laid down that all messages would be hand-written to reduce the risk of leakage through secretaries, no copies would be kept. Our Ambassador to Washington was instructed that after he had read out the message every time he should destroy the message. Only the Yahya Khan kept copies of all the correspondence, from which I received certain information and notes. I took notes and then he told me of his discussions with Nixon in Washington and with Chou En-lai in Beijing. I wrote out a message for our Ambassador in Washington to be conveyed to Dr. Kissinger on the 23rd of November. Well we failed to alert our Ambassador in Washington that a special message was coming, so not knowing anything about these matters he'd taken off for Mexico where he was unreachable. So it's one of those twists where a very important matter like re-establishment of relations between China and the United States was kept on hold until the 9th of December when the Ambassador returned from Mexico. He gave it the same day to Dr. Kissinger.

When the Chinese said they would be ready to discuss with an American envoy the question of location of Chinese territory for Taiwan, sending this message Yahya Khan added that this should not be taken literally. This is the opening gambit and once direct talks take place all issues, everything, can come for discussion, and in any case there has been for twenty years a total lack of communications between China and United States. So one shouldn't be surprised if the Chinese were a little suspicious of the initiative, and this was conveyed along with the message to Dr. Kissinger. He gave a reply on the next day, on the 10th of December, saying that the question of talks between the envoy and the Chinese leader would cover a wide range of issues of interest in the two countries and also take up questions for reducing tensions and improving relations. And, if I remember correctly, the American message went on to say that as tensions declined in the region [inaud] the American [inaud] to reduce its presence in South East Asia, the Pacific and the Taiwan Straits. So in a way a linkage was established between the winding up of the war in Vietnam and the withdrawal of American forces from Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits.

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