Record of Informal United States–United Kingdom Discussions, London, Monday Afternoon, September 18, 19501
Participants: Foreign Office
R. H. Scott, Assistant Under-Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
J. D. Murray, Head, South-East Asian Department
S. J. L. Olver, South-East Asian Department
D. P. Reilly, Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department
Commonwealth Relations Office
J. J. S. Garner, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
General Sir Geoffrey Scoones, Principal Staff Officer to the Secretary of State
Mr. McGhee, Mr. Mathews—Department of State
Mr. Thurston—American Embassy, Moscow2
Mr. Palmer, Mr. Ringwalt, Mr. Root—American Embassy, London

General Survey of Indo–Pakistan Relations3

After Mr. Scott had welcomed Mr. McGhee and the other representatives of the Department and stated that the UK side was glad for the opportunity to discuss problems of mutual interest in South Asia, Mr. McGhee said that he would like to preface the discussions by stating what it was hoped to achieve from them. Recent events in Asia have intensified our interest in the area and we are anxious to examine with the UK how, within the context of the greater interest and responsibility to which the UK is best fitted, we can supplement its efforts to preserve political and economic stability. We wish to come closer to grips with the problems of the subcontinent in conjunction [Page 197] with the UK and to establish with it the same close understanding and working relationship that we now enjoy with respect to other geographical areas, such as the Near East.

Mr. Scott said he was sure that the British side would fully agree that this close liaison was desirable. Affairs on the subcontinent had assumed enormous proportions. The rift between India and Pakistan presented us with some hideous problems, not only for the dangers implicit to the subcontinent itself but for the repercussions they would have in a much wider sphere of international relations; and, as a third factor, it was clear that India and Pakistan were destined to play a much larger role on the international political scene.

Mr. Garner reviewed briefly the major developments in Indo-Pakistan relations since partition, enumerating the points of danger which now existed between the two countries. It was a gloomy situation, indeed, which faced us and the problem of course was what to do. We could agree, he said, that it was our primary aim to promote the settlement of Indo-Pakistani differences in every way possible, but the real difficulty which the UK for its part found was to see just how we could assert our influence. From past experience, the UK was inclined to feel that open intervention could do more harm than good. We had learned that interference from the US and the UK was almost as likely to be resented as appreciated.

Mr. McGhee thought it was of fundamental significance that both India and Pakistan had supported the two Security Council resolutions on Korea4 and the UK officials agreed there had been in recent months a hopeful change in India’s attitude towards events in Asia. So far as the disputes between India and Pakistan were concerned, it was felt on both sides that these were not so much causes in themselves as the symptoms of an underlying bitter distrust between the two countries. Mr. McGhee mentioned that Sir Owen Dixon5 had seemed to think Kashmir6 was kept alive by the Indians as an issue on which to hang other aims, providing them, for example, with an excuse for maintaining a large army. It was possible that India still had in mind the eventual elimination of Pakistan.

There was then some discussion of the extent to which Nehru7 might be forced by the internal political situation in India into a more intransigent position than he himself would like to take. Mr. Garner recognized this as a possibility but said that he personally was still [Page 198] inclined to feel that the whole idea of Pakistan was anathema to Nehru. Where Kashmir was concerned, he wondered whether the situation was not reversed and, whereas the majority would be willing to see a settlement, the issue was kept alive by a small but powerful minority.

Mr. McGhee said we hoped that Britain and the Commonwealth would continue to take the lead in trying to bring about agreement between India and Pakistan. He realized the difficulties which this posed for the Commonwealth but said that there seemed at the same time to be a limit to what the Security Council can do. It was difficult to see what clear line of action it could take. A solution depended largely on the parties themselves and there was still no proof that India at least really had the will to compose its differences.

Mr. Scott emphasized that the time factor had assumed the utmost importance. The UK had already endeavored to bring India and Pakistan together in cooperative effort. This was one of the primary purposes of associating them in Commonwealth aid to Burma through the Ambassadors Committee set up in Rangoon.8 However, the pressure of the world crisis no longer left us with the time to work out a gradual solution along these lines. He too felt that if the parties had the will to settle their differences, there were a half dozen formulas which could be used for this purpose, but in view of the persistent failure of our efforts so far to heal the breach, he was seriously concerned whether mediation or intervention could any longer succeed.

Mr. McGhee then underlined the important defense role the two countries could play if they were to join their efforts for this purpose. We would at least like to see them in a position to defend themselves. Unfortunately, as matters now stood their military potential represented a threat to the peace of the subcontinent rather than a guarantee.

Military Needs of Area—and in particular coordination of US–UK policy

General Scoones summarized British assistance with respect to the defense efforts of the countries of South Asia. He said Ceylon is important as a communication center. The UK is able to supply its military needs, but there is not a great deal which it can absorb. Ceylon is conscious of the threat to its security and is constantly urging the UK to keep the largest possible forces there. The UK is in close touch with the situation and has good contacts there, but Ceylon is outside the primary area of danger and there are limits on the role it can fill.

In India and Pakistan the forces are organized along British lines and use British equipment. The UK had continued to supply their [Page 199] armed forces within the limits of its capacity, these efforts being limited mainly to furnishing necessary maintenance requirements for the present establishments. Now, however, the UK was being forced to cut down its assistance to India and Pakistan in view of its obligations in the present crisis to North Atlantic Treaty countries and other members of the Commonwealth. The supply of jet aircraft, for instance, was being stopped; India and Pakistan would for the present get only a very few at best.

The military picture on the subcontinent was deeply affected by the political problem. The two countries seemed to be more preoccupied with the threat from each other than any from outside and there was always the danger they might go to war. The UK, of course, did not wish inadvertently to encourage this prospect in any way. The priority of India and Pakistan on the military availabilities of the UK had gone down in the general picture and it was doubtful whether they would be supplied with anything beyond limited needs for maintenance.

In Afghanistan the regular army was of low standard and the important factor was that it was made up largely of recruits from northern Afghanistan who were racially akin to inhabitants across the border in the USSR. Moreover, this same region, the area north of the Hindu Kush, was the richest area of Afghanistan. It should not be difficult for the Russians to take it over and if they did Afghanistan would face destitution and the disintegration of its regular forces. The army had some British equipment and the air force was almost entirely equipped from British sources. As for the prospect of sending further supplies through to Afghanistan, even small arms, he thought the simple fact here was that there would be the greatest difficulty in getting Pakistan to agree to their shipment.

Summing up, General Scoones said that the crux of the military supply problem was that there was no guarantee that the equipment we might furnish the subcontinent would be used for the ends we desire. Answering Mr. McGhee’s question, he thought it would be possible to develop an effective military potential, as indeed had [been] the case with British India, but only if the present political difficulties could be surmounted. It seemed to him that we were miles away from this objective.

Mr. McGhee elaborated a little further on the thought that India and Pakistan might collaborate on some territorial guarantee of the non-Communist countries of South and South East Asia. Could they not, for example, make clear they would come to the aid of Burma in the event of Chinese Communist threat? General Scoones thought that for this particular problem Pakistan could not be of much practical help and that the burden would fall on India. Generally speaking, he [Page 200] was quite skeptical of realizing any effective coordination in defense while Indo-Pakistan differences remained.

Mr. McGhee explained that US policy has been to grant export licenses for only a very limited amount of military equipment for India and Pakistan. With the crisis in Korea, however, our policy has become somewhat more positive and we have taken an increased interest in their military strength. We hope to give them increased help in the procurement of supplies and we now have legislative authorization permitting them to buy from military stocks. Both countries had presented us rather comprehensive programs. Mr. Mathews said the US might also be of some assistance in supplying spare parts and facilitating the transfer of certain lend-lease equipment needed for maintenance.

Mr. McGhee went on to say that, nevertheless, with the present increased demands on our availabilities from other more critical areas, the relative priority position of India and Pakistan has probably gone down and their prospects of getting any considerable amount of supplies is definitely limited.

General Scoones said the Pakistanis were anxious to build up an arms industry which, in contrast with India, they are completely without at the moment. The UK could be of only limited help in this respect and probably none at all financially. Mr. McGhee said that funds now available for building up the defense capacity of our overseas friends could conceivably be used for this purpose but that this use would have a very low priority.

Mr. McGhee said he had the impression from what had been discussed that the UK has no wish to press us to divert any greater flow of military aid at this time to the subcontinent. This view was confirmed by the UK side.

There was then some discussion of the possible help Pakistan might provide in stemming any military advance towards the Persian Gulf and in the Near East generally, and it was agreed Pakistan might provide some help in this respect if it were ever free from internal worries on the subcontinent.

The consensus was that we should lend every encouragement to India and Pakistan to be strong enough to protect themselves but that before they could represent any strong and certain defensive element in the area, their political problems would have to be overcome. For the time it was undesirable to divert military supplies from other important areas beyond those which might be used for internal security.

Kashmir and other disputes

Mr. McGhee referred to his recent conversation with Sir Owen Dixon in which the latter indicated his feeling that the Kashmir problem [Page 201] should be separated into the question of demilitarization, with which the Security Council should deal, and the territorial aspects, which should be left to the initiative of the two parties. Both sides mentioned their doubts that this was desirable or even possible. Mr. Garner felt that if the two aspects were separated the practical effect would be that the present cease-fire line would become the frontier. He pointed out, however, that Dixon would probably not present his views in a manner to tie the Security Council’s hands but would merely indicate what he personally thought might constitute an ideal settlement. Mr. Garner felt there was no hope of separating the political problem from demilitarization. If the Indian troops were withdrawn they might merely go to reinforce the elements on the Punjab frontier and thus constitute an even greater threat than at present. Both sides agreed there was no prospect of demobilization of the main forces in sight.

There was considerable discussion of timing and tactics in dealing with Dixon’s report9 and there was some feeling on both sides that it might be wise to defer Security Council action until some further progress could be made privately in reconciling the views of the two disputants.

Mr. Mathews felt we must keep in mind the possibility we might be faced with the peculiar situation where India was supporting Dixon’s ideas on partition-plus-plebiscite while Pakistan opposed them. It was the unanimous view that Pakistan objections to giving up overall plebiscite promised to be a serious problem and that we must give careful consideration to Pakistani reactions at the present delicate stage of the Kashmir problem.

Mr. Garner pointed out that Dixon’s efforts did, after all, break down on a rather narrow point and that, if there were really a will on the part of the two sides to settle the problem, it should not be impossible to devise a formula that would, on the one hand, avoid the complete withdrawal of the Abdullah Government, and, on the other, allow proper UN supervision of the plebiscite.

Mr. McGhee, pointing out that partition-plus-plebiscite seemed to be the most likely solution ultimately, thought we might use Dixon’s report as the basis for consolidating efforts in this direction. Admittedly, however, we might lose bargaining power with India if we proceed too quickly. As for administration in the plebiscite area, he believed it was inevitable that we would have to rely to some extent on the local administrative facilities.

[Page 202]

Mr. Mathews suggested that, since the Indians have indicated previously to both of us their interest in partition-plus-plebiscite, we might go to them now and ask why there was a breakdown in the negotiations and what it is they really do want. This approach could be made by the UK, with the US in the background to make substantially the same points if asked, or it might be made simultaneously. The big question remaining, of course, would be what to do about the Pakistanis.

Mr. McGhee said that Dixon’s report was not yet available for him to read before his departure from New York and we would have to wait to examine the report before we could decide more precisely what we would do now. It was agreed that Mr. Mathews would consult during the remainder of the week with UK officials dealing with Kashmir in an effort to devise the most suitable plan of procedure for the US and UK from this point.

Mr. Mathews mentioned his concern over indications that the water rights question might come before the Security Council. Mr. Garner, however, informed the group that a recent personal letter from Liaquat10 to Nehru had a somewhat more temperate note. Liaquat was now suggesting submission of the issue to the International Court, holding reference to the Security Council for the time in reserve, and the UK had some hope that Nehru might accept the suggestion, at least to the extent of agreeing to some form of arbitration. Both US and UK officials believe it was undesirable for the dispute to come before the Security Council.

India’s attitude toward recent events in Asia

Mr. Scott reviewed the increasingly important role India was playing in Asia’s politics. The effects were already in evidence. Tibet was a good illustration. He thought India was largely due the credit for the relaxation in tension there.11 Above all, in India’s policy, was the desire to get on with China and to view its development within the context of Asian affairs. Mr. Scott then referred to the problem which was giving the UK much concern: India’s attitude toward the United States. He felt it was, in this connection, of the utmost importance to realize the importance to us of Indian support whatever the future held in the way of war or peace for us in Asia.

Mr. McGhee said the US fully recognized the importance of having India’s cooperation. It was clear that in the last analysis Asia could be rid of Communism only by Asians themselves and it was to our best interest to build our hopes on India. Circumstances had, unfortunately, led us to divergence with India over the Chinese question. [Page 203] This situation was really forced on us by the attitude of Communist China itself and by military necessity in the case of Korea and Formosa. It was to be regretted that in Indo-China and elsewhere we might find ourselves on the opposite side of the fence with the Indians and he recognized that our different interpretation of events in Asia constituted a running sore. The factor of main importance, however, was Nehru’s support for the original two Security Council resolutions on Korea. We appreciated the importance of a closer understanding with India and we were now attempting to work out a more effective arrangement for prior consultation with India where Asian problems were concerned. We were also studying how we could be of greater assistance to India and satisfy its complaints on this score. At the moment, for example, we were trying to arrange to supply India with a certain quantity of milo at a concessional price.

Mr. McGhee went on to say that in the best of possible worlds the Asians would be left to decide their own fate but that under present conditions the Asians must first realize the threat that international Communism represents before cooperation can be fully effective.

Both sides agreed that it was highly desirable to place greater responsibilities for Asian developments on our non-Communist friends, particularly India, and to encourage them to face up to the problems to be settled there. Mr. Mathews mentioned in this connection the role that India, for example, might play in reconstruction in Korea. This should be more to its liking than supplying military aid.

The UK officials agreed that we should not relinquish our position on the Asian mainland or abdicate to a political vacuum. They were fully in accord with our views on the desirability of passing along all the responsibility possible to India and our other Asian friends. There were definite signs that the Indians were becoming more and more realistic about Asian developments. They would probably respond favorably to consultation. We should not forget, however, the hurdles to be overcome. India’s outlook would be dominated by its relations with Peking. This could, of course, serve to our advantage, as, indeed, it appeared already to have done. But it was clear that India would want to see greater satisfaction given to Communist China. In this connection, Mr. Scott felt it was significant there was now some suggestion India might withdraw from its participation in investigating the Yalu River bombing incident because of the Security Council vote denying the Chinese Communists the right to be represented. Mr. McGhee thought India’s desire to get along with Communist China was, in general, a good thing and said we would like to encourage it. The relationship had already produced its benefits.

Mr. McGhee wanted to know whether the UK felt there was at this time any prospects of a regional association in South and South East [Page 204] Asia Mr. Scott thought that such a development would be a very slow growth. The UK’s objective now was to build up cooperation on an economic basis, which in his view was the only approach. Mr. McGhee wondered whether the program of economic and technical aid now being initiated by the Commonwealth12 would promote a closer political association. Would not the participation of European members in this endeavor arouse the suspicions of the Asians and hinder fully effective cooperation? Mr. Scott did not think so. He felt the Commonwealth program had a chance to be successful. Cooperative arrangements of this order, of which the rice conference in Singapore was an example, had already been made to work. He pointed out that the Commonwealth aid program was not being played up as an anti-Communist effort and that the emphasis was on its constructive economic aspects. However, it was the Indian delegate at Sydney himself who had indicated an awareness of the political significance it might have.

Pakistan’s attitude toward recent events in Asia

Mr. Scott said that with respect to the Far East Pakistan did not like to follow in India’s footsteps but that this had generally been the case so far. The countries of Southeast Asia tended to look to India rather than Pakistan. This was true even of Indonesia in spite of its Moslem population. Turning to the Near East, Mr. McGhee said that the US was inclined to welcome Pakistani initiative in the Moslem world. We had no confidence in the effectiveness of Egypt’s influence and, looking elsewhere for leadership, we were bound to think of Pakistan, which was the most progressive and capable of the Moslem countries and was in a good position to point out the inconsistency of backward economic and social conditions with Moslem principles. While the UK officials were skeptical that Pakistan would ever emerge as the head of an effective political association of Moslem countries, feeling that the language difficulties and its different historical associations largely ruled out such a prospect, they did agree that Pakistan might set an example and its leaders exercise a useful influence. Mr. McGhee mentioned the Korean issue as one instance of this already. Mr. Garner says we should keep in mind, of course, that a close attachment between Pakistan and the rest of the Moslem world might have adverse consequences if the Pakistani ever felt we let them down and reaped the sympathy of their Moslem neighbors. It was agreed that, generally speaking, the Pakistan attitude toward the UN, Korea and [Page 205] other problems of concern to us had been on the whole helpful. As for the possibility of a rapprochement between Pakistan and the USSR, it was thought that while there was always the risk of flirtation, in which Pakistan might feel there were useful tactical advantages, the Pakistan leaders had no desire or inclination to move towards the Russian camp. Mr. McGhee thought we should keep in mind the useful role Islam might be playing with respect to the Moslem minorities in Central Asia. Mr. Thurston agreed there were at least a few indications that this attachment might work to our advantage.

Afghan-Pakistan dispute on Pushtoonistan13

Mr. Mathews said it appeared there had been an increase rather than a decrease in agitation and that meanwhile efforts at mediation had gotten us nowhere. He had been considering whether there was any new approach to the problem and he wondered whether the following plan might not be worth considering: (1) Try to get the parties to agree to stop all propaganda during a cooling off period; (2) propose that following this they hold a conference without an agenda. This at least might give some encouragement to the moderate elements in Kabul and provide some opportunity for an exchange of views on the welfare of the tribes. While both sides were skeptical that this arrangement would bring about any appreciable progress towards the eventual solution of the Pushtoonistan problem, it was felt that it might reduce the tension and was worth studying. Mr. Mathews agreed to discuss it further with Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations officials later in the week.

Mr. Scott said the UK felt that it had shot its bolt with the Afghans and that further intervention on its part would be useless. He was also afraid that the sort of concerted pressure from outside powers which had already been tried would be dangerous to repeat. Mr. Mathews said that he appreciated these factors and he thought perhaps the US could take the initiative in suggesting the approach he had in mind. He agreed with the UK that the proposals might include the exchange of ambassadors between Pakistan and Kabul.

The consensus was that the Pakistanis had been quite reasonable in their relations with the Afghans. Mr. McGhee said that the US had generally accepted the British position that Pakistan had succeeded to the treaty responsibilities of the UK and that the legal position it maintained was a correct one. We had in fact made it pretty clear to the Afghans we saw little or no validity in their case.

Mr. McGhee wondered about the motivation behind the Afghan position. Mr. Scott felt there was no proof that the Indians were responsible and General Scoones pointed out that the present Afghan [Page 206] dynasty owed its position largely to the support which had been given it by the tribes. As a consequence there was always the fear that Pakistan might wean away the tribes. He felt the Afghan contention that the tribes were dissatisfied was entirely artificial. If the tribes were dissatisfied, he said, they certainly would not have remained quiet for so long.

In answer to a question, General Scoones said the Pakistani subvention to their tribes was not a very considerable one. He believed the Pakistanis estimated it cost them about 40 million rupees per year. To meet the Afghan charges, Mr. McGhee wondered whether it would not be feasible to set up a mixed commission to study the facts about the treatment of tribes and such incidents as occurred. General Scoones doubted this would be effective. He felt the tribes would not accept such interference.

Consideration of arrangements for later full US–UK review of respective policies towards South Asia

Mr. McGhee said there would probably be considerably more to consider in this connection later in the week when there was a discussion on the economic situation in South Asia14 and on plans for economic and technical aid. As for future US–UK meetings of the present sort, he said he hoped to hold a meeting of US Chiefs of Mission in South Asia in February of next year and that this might provide an opportunity to pass through London for a continuation of the present exchange of views. Mr. Scott said continued understanding was of the greatest importance. He warned that the siuation in the subcontinent might deteriorate to the point where we were faced not simply with preventing an outburst but of containing it.

  1. Drafted by John F. Root, Second Secretary of Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  2. Ray L. Thurston, Counselor of Embassy in the Soviet Union.
  3. For documentation on United States relations with India, see pp. 1461 ff.; on United States relations with Pakistan, pp. 1490 ff.
  4. Documentation on the Korean conflict is in volume vii .
  5. United Nations Representative for India and Pakistan, appointed by the Security Council on April 12, 1950 in accordance with the Resolution of March 14, 1950 (UN doc. S/1461).
  6. For documentation on Kashmir, see pp. 1362 ff.
  7. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India.
  8. The Committee under reference here cannot be identified further in Department of State files.
  9. Reference is to the Report submitted by Sir Owen Dixon to the United Nations Security Council in September 1950 stating that no agreement had been reached between India and Pakistan for the demilitarization of Kashmir or on any other outstanding problems relating to that area, and requesting formal termination of the position of United Nations Representative for India and Pakistan (UN doc. S/1791).
  10. Liaquat Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  11. For documentation on Tibet for 1950, see vol. vi, pp. 256 ff.
  12. Reference is to the meetings of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee on South and Southeast Asia which on November 28, 1950 published a report, the so-called Colombo Plan, calling for the economic development of those areas. Documentation on United States interest in the Colombo Plan is in Department of State file 890.00.
  13. For documentation on Pushtoonistan, see pp. 1446 ff.
  14. See Record of Informal US–UK Discussions… September 22, p. 212.