Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. John Frick Root, Second Secretary of Embassy in the United Kingdom

top secret

Memorandum of Informal US–UK Discussions in Connection With the Visit to London of the Honorable George C. McGhee 1 Tuesday Afternoon, April 3, 1951

Topic for Discussion: South Asia

Foreign Office
R. H. Scott, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
J. D. Murray, Head, South-East Asia Department
Commonwealth Relations Office
N. Pritchard, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
George C. McGhee, Department of State
Arthur E. Ringwalt } American Embassy, London
John Frick Root

Pakistan Contribution to Near East Defense

In a discussion of how Pakistan’s support in the defense of the Near East could be obtained, Mr. McGhee said that it had occurred to him that it might be possible for the US and UK to satisfy Pakistan’s apprehensions about India by giving an assurance that we would not recognize a fait accompli in Kashmir brought about by the unilateral action of India. Mr. McGhee said that he believed it unlikely that India would actually invade Pakistan and that Pakistan’s real fear was that India would take advantage of any international turmoil to fasten its grip on Kashmir. For this reason, Pakistan felt that it had to keep the bulk of its armed forces available as protection against such eventuality. We might be able to obtain Pakistan support in the Near East with some such assurance and we must remember that the contribution Pakistan could make was probably the only hope of holding the area. Both Mr. McGhee and Mr. Scott recognized that India would be unwilling to make any contribution to Near East defense, Mr. McGhee observing that Delhi was inclined to put the US down as imperialists in the Near East in pursuit of oil.

[Page 1690]

Mr. Scott said he agreed entirely on the role that we should try to get Pakistan to play in the Near East. He thought any assurances to Pakistan, however, should not be directed too obviously against India. Perhaps they might be provided under some sort of blanket assurance to countries of the Near East generally. It might be wise to go to both India and Pakistan and ask them what help they might be able to provide toward the problem of Near East defense. The Indians could of course be expected to turn down any suggestion that they should participate. It might then be possible to arrange for some regional association in which Pakistan would enter and which would provide the satisfaction with respect to any threat from India which it might desire. Mr. McGhee said that it seemed clear that Pakistan was anxious to play a leading part in the Near East, doubtless in part at least in order to ensure the support of the Moslem world for Pakistan in its difficulties with India. Furthermore, he thought that public opinion in Pakistan would almost demand some sort of intervention in the event of a Russian invasion of Iran. Mr. Scott said that the suggestion for an assurance to Pakistan made by Mr. McGhee was well worth exploring in view of the vital importance of obtaining its association in Near Eastern defense.


Mr. McGhee said that he had given particular attention to the problem of neutralism in the Near East and South Asian countries he had visited. We were increasingly concerned about the position Nehru had been taking and were interested in learning what substance there was to the support he had obtained from the Near East and Asian countries. Mr. McGhee said that as a result of his conversations with Government leaders in the countries he had visited he was convinced that Nehru was not expressing a consensus of opinion but rather represented an extreme point of view and that among other countries there was no philosophical attachment to a neutralist policy. He thought Government leaders in most of the area were quite realistic about the struggle between communism and the free world and only held back from taking a more open stand because they were conscious of the internal weaknesses and insecurity of their countries. Mr. McGhee said that he had a talk in Cairo on this subject with Sir Esler Dening2 and that Sir Esler had been convinced that the countries of South East Asia were not under Nehru’s influence and were only lying low in the East–West struggle until they were able to build up their own internal strength. Sir Esler believed that Nehru would end up isolated. Mr. McGhee said that it appeared to him that Nehru was the [Page 1691] only one putting out neutralism as a philosophy. He was unrealistically obstinate in refusing to recognize that we were in the midst of a power struggle, in which India was helpless without food, petroleum and the other vital supplies it could only obtain from outside its borders.

Mr. Scott and Mr. Pritchard commented on the characteristic interest of the Indians in political to the neglect of economic issues and thought that Nehru’s position was an outward expression of something deep within the Hindu character. He was rationalizing the negativism and passivism which found its roots in Hindu emotion and philosophy. It was noted, moreover, that Nehru was probably misled by the reports he got from his representatives abroad, who fed his ego and encouraged him to believe that he was the only one sincerely working for peace.

Pakistan Conspiracy 3

When asked what he thought was the explanation for the recent conspiracy in Pakistan, Mr. McGhee said that it probably lay largely in the personality of Gen. Akbar Khan, whose ego had been played upon. Mr. Scott said he had wondered whether disorders in such parts of the Moslem world as Morocco, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, might not have some links with international communism. Mr. McGhee felt there was no evidence that troubles in these areas resulted from some master plan. In Iran, for example, the recent crisis seemed to have sprung mainly from the internal situation. Communist or Communist sympathizers were no doubt to some extent involved in Pakistan.

Afghan-Pakistani Dispute

Mr. McGhee then described conversations he had had in Karachi in an effort to obtain Pakistan’s acceptance of the US proposals for joint Afghan-Pak talks. He had assured Pakistan that we would try to prevent the Afghans from attempting to derive any advantage from the fact that discussions were to take place. He had reiterated to the Pakistanis our position on the Durand Line and the reasons why we felt we could not amplify it at this time and he believed that Liaquat saw the logic of our position. In fact there seemed to be little margin any longer for Pakistani objection to proceeding on the basis of our proposals. Liaquat seemed to be ready to call off propaganda, to exchange Ambassadors and to talk with the new Afghan Ambassador about any subject he wished save Pushtoonistan. Mr. McGhee [Page 1692] thought it might be possible to work out some basis for agreement under which Ambassadors would be exchanged with talks to follow say some two months thereafter. Pakistan has now asked for an extension to April 15 for giving its reply to our offer and he was encouraged to believe that some arrangements on the basis of our proposals would be possible.

Colombo Plan

Mr. McGhee explained the US position on giving aid to Asian countries and the relationship of this position to the Colombo Plan. He said that we were willing to continue our membership on the Consultative Committee. The British said they found nothing in our position incompatible with the British concept of the Colombo Plan. Mr. Scott emphasized, however, the British desire to keep aid within some regional framework so that economic development in the area would be seen as a cooperative enterprise. The virtue of the Colombo scheme was that it was designed to focus attention on economic and social problems.


With regard to Kashmir the desirability of standing by the Security Council resolution was recognized. The British mentioned that US–UK efforts to find a representative under the terms of the resolution and said that they understood consideration was now being given to Dr. Frank Graham as a candidate for the position.

  1. Mr. McGhee met in London with British Government officials on April 2 and 3. The subjects of discussion other than those covered by this memorandum included Iran, Arab Refugees, Near East Defense, and “Egypt, Libya, and Neutralism in the Near East.” The memoranda of these conversations were enclosures to despatch No. 4832, April 10, from London (788.00/4–1051).
  2. Sir Maberly Esler Dening of the United Kingdom Foreign Office, appointed to special duties in the Far East with the rank of Ambassador.
  3. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, had on March 9 announced the discovery of a “conspiracy hatched by the enemies of Pakistan.” Among those arrested as leaders of the conspiracy was Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan, Chief of the General Staff. The text of the Prime Minister’s statement is printed in Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, p. 11396.