UK Foreign Office’s confidential letter on Zia

President Ziaur Rahman paid an official visit to the United Kingdom in June 1980 that made headlines in The Times and The Guardian.

A letter was sent to the Prime Minister’s office when he expressed his willingness to visit the United Kingdom and have a discussion with Prime Minister Margaret Hilda Thatcher from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (foreign ministry of the UK) written by Sir Roderic Michael John Lyne, on behalf of Lord Peter Carrington, who was then the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

In the letter, Sir RMJ Lyne made a brief assessment of Ziaur Rahman as the President. The text of the letter is given here for the readers:


The British High Commissioner at Dacca (telegram no 119, enclosed) and the Bangladesh High Commissioner in London have told us that President Zia is keen to pay an official visit in June. This would be a useful opportunity for an exchange of views on Afghanistan and Iran, with a sympathetic and helpful Islamic leader.

President Zia has done much to restore democracy in Bangladesh. He is an honest, likeable and pro-Western leader who is an enthusiastic supporter of the Commonwealth. Under his guidance his country has been playing a useful role in the United Nations (where Bangladesh is currently a member of the Security Council), in the Non-Aligned Movement, and in the Islamic Conference. Bangladesh was active in rallying support amongst the Non-Aligned for condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The President wrote on 14 April to the Iranian President urging the release of the American hostages. A visit would provide us with the opportunity to encourage President Zia to maintain his moderate line on international issues as well as to reassure him of our own (and the West’s) continuing interest in Bangladesh’s political stability and economic development.

Lord Carrington recommends that President Zia should be invited to visit Britain, as the guest of the Government, from 16-19 June, and that the Prime Minister should hold talks and give a lunch for him. If the Prime Minister agrees to an invitation, we propose to send the attached draft telegram to Sir Michael Scott in Dacca.

If these dates are not convenient, could you suggest alterna­tives? I am copying this letter to David Wright (Cabinet Office).

The letter is collected from the National Archives of the United Kingdom and it is protected by the Crown Copyright.

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