Ted Kennedy in Dhaka in 1972
Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy:
In 1971, the government of Pakistan, with the support of the Nixon administration, sent troops into what was then called East Pakistan, in order to contain a secessionist movement. This created a massive refugee crisis as millions streamed across the border to India.
Although the situation got little coverage in the United States, Kennedy, who had a lifelong interest in refugee issues and was eyeing a run against Nixon, traveled to inspect the situation:
“On his return, he issued a scathing report to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Refugees. The report, “Crisis in South Asia,” spoke of “one of the most appalling tides of human misery in modern times.”
“Nothing is more clear, or more easily documented, than the systematic campaign of terror — and its genocidal consequences — launched by the Pakistani army on the night of March 25th,” he wrote.
“All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad. America’s heavy support of Islamabad is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal.” More:
[Photo: Ted Kennedy in Dhaka in 1972. From Flickr user faria! via Foreign Policy]
In Bangladesh, Ted Kennedy revered
It may have started as a politically prudent move by a Democratic senator eyeing the White House during a Republican regime. But Kennedy stood up to the Nixon administration in 1971 and alerted the world to the bloodshed that was engulfing then-East Pakistan.
“In 1971, there were very few leaders from the so-called free world who were paying any attention to what was going on in Bangladesh. And for Ted Kennedy to come forward and to personally visit, the impact was huge,” said Akku Chowdhury, founder and director of Bangladesh’s Liberation War Museum.
“And that’s one thing Bangladeshis have always remembered.”
At the time, the U.S. policy — directed by President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger — was to resolutely support Pakistan, from which Bangladesh was trying to secede. More: