213. Memorandum of a Conversation, Karachi, July 9, 1956, 10 a.m.–noon1


  • President Mirza
  • Vice President Nixon
  • Chargé d’Affaires, A.Z. Gardiner
  • Colonel LeRoy Watson (OSD/ISA)
  • Mr. William Henry


  • Acting Prime Minister, Mr. I.I. Chundrigar
  • Acting Foreign Minister, Mr. H.I. Rahimtoola
  • Finance Minister, Mr. Amjad Ali

The Vice President opened the conversation by asking President Mirza what topics were now of special interest to him. President Mirza said first of all he wished to raise the question of President Eisenhower’s recent statement on neutralism2 which had caused some difficulties in Pakistan. At the time Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact, the Government had met considerable opposition. They were now being asked, “Are you sure the U.S. Government wants you in this Pact?” Mirza did not think that the U.S. Government wanted to exclude Pakistan from such arrangements and wished to point out that the Government of Pakistan had joined the Baghdad Pact for the security of Pakistan, which to his mind is bound up especially with the security of the area extending from Basra to the Straits of Ormuz (i.e., Persian Gulf). At every opportunity he was asking U.S. and U.K. officials what arrangements they were planning for the security of that area. As far as logistics were concerned, he thought that the U.S.S.R. could attack with substantial forces at D Day plus 35 and, therefore, there must be a defense plan to assemble defensive forces at D plus 30. In spite of all his efforts, the President said he could not get the answer to the question, “What forces will you make available to defend the area?” from either American or British authorities.

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The Vice President asked Colonel Watson to respond to this question. Colonel Watson stated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff foresee no Soviet aggression in this area as a separate action. It would only occur if there were a global war. He thought that estimates of Russian capabilities had overlooked the defensive capacity of U.S. strategic and tactical armed forces and that the Russian capacity is exaggerated. President Mirza asked whether the U.S. could put in ground troops quickly enough. Colonel Watson replied that special troops with special weapons could be quickly made available and that the planning of the Baghdad Pact countries on the military side was just getting under way.

Vice President Nixon said that President Eisenhower’s remarks were taken from context and that our position would be further clarified. The Vice President then referred to the grand concept of the area to be defended in the event of Russian aggression. He considered that the Middle East and the European complex was equally involved and that it was a prime objective of U.S. policy to prevent the area from being overrun. Colonel Watson pointed out that the maintenance of ground troops by the countries immediately involved, sufficiently strong to stop the Russians, would break the economies of the countries in question. President Mirza said that if the U.S. joined the Baghdad Pact, Pakistan’s worries would be over.

. . . . . . .

The Vice President then asked President Mirza if he had considered the other type of attack, erosion through subversion. President Mirza by inference indicated that his greatest concern in this context was with Tehran. The Iranian Army was not highly regarded by Mirza; the officer class was corrupt and by and large worthless. The soldiers, however, were good and possibly some improvement was being made through the U.S. military assistance group. The system under which Generals were paid a lump sum for feeding the troops was very bad. He had told the Shah about this. He thought the Shah was shaping up well as a leader. Mirza was planning to visit Iran in November and Turkey in July. His object was to cement the Baghdad Pact countries as closely as possible.

Continuing, President Mirza said that he was especially concerned with Russian infiltration into Afghanistan. The Afghans had obtained weapons from the Czechs and the U.S.S.R. did not have to come out into the open. They were, however, supporting the Afghans on the Pushtoonistan question, and Mirza was especially worried about the road program which is envisaged to encircle Afghanistan, tapping the Russian military headquarters just across the Oxus. A road is also being built from Fala to Zahedan, where [Page 465] the Iranians are especially weak. He suggested the Vice President impress upon the State Department and on the Pentagon that the Afghan problem is of much greater significance than it has been in past years and of considerable military importance.

Vice President Nixon asked what we could do to ease the situation.

President Mirza replied that he thought the situation justified increasing the Pakistan Army by one infantry division to build up the total to five infantry divisions and one and a half armored divisions…. He would leave no stone unturned to come to an arrangement with the Afghans when he visits the King. He would try to keep Pushtoonistan in cold storage for a five or ten year period in agreement with the Afghans. He would try to establish a joint border commission to settle cases of difficulties between the tribes. He assured the Vice President that he would make every effort for a peaceful settlement.

The Vice President then turned the subject of the conversation to neutralism. He said that this concerned the American leaders very greatly, and asked what posture President Mirza thought the U.S. should adopt. President Mirza replied that despite his personal dislike for the neutralists and particularly Nasser,3 he would, if he were responsible for U.S. policy, continue to give economic aid to the neutrals if the aid in question was of any importance to the masses. He would not help the neutrals as much as the countries aligned with the U.S., but he saw no objection to extending aid for projects designed to raise standards of living and remove the masses from the threat of communism. He felt the same way about aid to India. He would not stop American aid to India, if he had the say, despite the fact that Pakistan’s relations with India are not good. If questioned on this point by opposition groups in Pakistan, his answer would be that his interest was in the aid that his country was given. He agreed that America must take the world as a whole and not drive neutrals into the communist camp by withholding aid.

On the other hand, he would urge that we turn a deaf ear to Indian protests concerning the aid that America was giving to Pakistan.

The Vice President asked what President Mirza thought was the effect of the new propaganda “look” of Bulganin and Khrushchev and of the Commie Chinese. President Mirza replied that he wondered whether there was a real change in policy until he read the text of Mikoyan’s speech at the 20th Congress of Soviets. Examination of this speech convinced him that the Soviets had changed their methods but not their objectives which are no different in the [Page 466] present regime from those of their predecessors. The Russians were very busy inviting Pakistanis to see Russia.

The Vice President asked what the U.S. should do insofar as cultural and trade contacts were concerned. President Mirza implied that these were difficult to control.

The President pointed out that there was a great liking for China and the Chinese in Pakistan. The Chinese were effective and intelligent people with wonderful manners. They were very adept in “getting round” the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis were very interested in visiting China and would undoubtedly continue to do so. He was watching the Commie trend very carefully and was not frightened. He pointed out that most of the Commonwealth countries were busily trading with China, and as far as Pakistan was concerned, they were glad to have the Chinese market especially for their exports of cotton. They were also ready to do business with the Russians, although he had blocked the establishment of a Russian trade delegation in Dacca which would simply become another communist cell.

The Vice President observed that President Mirza appeared to regard these contacts as good business but that he understood that they had no effect on Pakistan’s basic foreign policies. He wondered about the exchange of persons program.

President Mirza replied that there would not be much to this with Russia but that there was more activity insofar as China was concerned. He said he had recently talked with a mullah who had visited China and the mullah observed that conditions looked good on the surface but as far as the Muslim religion was concerned, the Chinese were keeping it alive for the older generation and that Islam would be dead in China when the younger generation came along.

Vice President Nixon observed that it was his impression that President Mirza felt it was in the U.S. interests not to be bashful about standing in clearly with our friends and allies and that we need not fear the effect on local governments of appearing too friendly. President Mirza said that his views were very clear on this and he agreed with the Vice President. However, many of his Ministers did not agree with him. He pointed out the attitude of the Egyptian Ambassador who had tried to explain to Mirza how to deal with the U.S. According to the Egyptians, the best way was to accept aid from the communists and then U.S. assistance would come forward in greater volume. The Vice President and President Mirza both agreed that in the long run such a policy would not work out, as it violated fundamental moral issues.

At this point, the President called for Acting Prime Minister Chundrigar, Minister of Finance, Amjad Ali, and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Rahimtoolah to join the gathering.

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The Vice President asked whether our aid was moving fast enough, and requested an outline of Pakistan’s economic problems.

Mr. Chundrigar pointed out that Pakistan was still faced with three major problems; first, the need to obtain materials for its industrial plants and to expand its industries; secondly, its need for basic raw materials such as foodstuffs; and third, the need to have aid move swiftly. He then raised the question of Pakistan’s need for assistance in atomic energy needs.

Continuing, Mr. Chundrigar said that Pakistan’s problems insofar as atomic development are concerned are twofold. First of all, India was establishing a $14,000,000 reactor, having received half the cost from Canada for the foreign exchange components of this installation, and a gift from the U.S. of $250,000 for heavy water. This was a striking contrast with the assistance proferred by the U.S. to Pakistan, which was only half the cost of a small reactor ($350,000) of no particular use to the Pakistanis. Pakistan needed some help in a big way. Vice President Nixon agreed that this posed a difficult political problem for the Pakistanis in view of Indian neutralism and Pakistan’s alignment with the free world. Acting Prime Minister Chundrigar continued that Pakistan’s difficulties were compounded by U.S. action in setting up the regional center in the Philippines. East Pakistan could use a package power station such as that planned for the regional center at Manila. Such an installation would help solve the power problem of East Pakistan which was very serious, as shortages of power in East Pakistan hampered the future of their jute market.

The Finance Minister continued by pointing out that the proposed atomic center in Manila might be divided between Thailand, the Philippines and East Pakistan, the three SEATO members concerned. If the installations were located in the three countries, students could circulate, and the process would be a useful liaison for SEATO.

Turning to problems of aid, the Finance Minister pointed out the long time required to make decisions. After Congressional appropriations in July, allotments were generally delayed until November, and it was difficult to finalize action in Pakistan on specific programs until late winter or early spring. He pointed out that last year discussions for the PL 480 program started in November, and while grateful for the immediate shipments of rice and of wheat, the 1956 fiscal program had still not been finalized so that it was necessary to fall back on mutual security funds for necessary shipments of wheat.

The Finance Minister continued by pointing out the value of a buffer stock of cereals in this part of the world. If such a stock were established and the U.S. helped with storage facilities, the U.S. could thereafter avoid continuous storage expenses which would be borne [Page 468] by Pakistan. A stock of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 tons of wheat would be very valuable insurance against panics in the local cereal markets, and it would be good public relations to have a food base in Asia in contrast to airplane bases. He thought arrangements could be made whereby grain could be moved and stored each year and released only as needed. In response to a question from the Vice President, the Finance Minister thought that the presence of such a stock would go far to alleviate panic conditions, as generally speaking the fear of shortages led to hoarding which exaggerated difficulties such as the Government was now facing both in East and West Pakistan.

The Vice President asked about prospects of capital development and the interest of private capital in Pakistan. The Finance Minister indicated that the Pakistanis were attempting to attract American capital and had been successful particularly in the case of the oil companies, with Standard Vacuum and Hunt both exploring here. There was also interest expressed by the Sun Oil Company in exploration. The Export Import Bank was not functioning in Pakistan, but Pakistan had obtained lines of credit totalling about $60,000,000 from the I.B.R.D.

Acting Prime Minister Chundrigar pointed out that both Standard Vacuum and Burmah Shell had put up oil refineries in India, and that an oil refinery in Pakistan would be very useful for refining imported crude oil, if not for the eventual refining of crude oil which very likely would be discovered in Pakistan.

The Vice President thought that the Pakistanis should make special efforts to attract private capital.

The Acting Prime Minister responded that Pakistan was a poor country and that the U.S. businessmen think in large terms.

The Vice President then asked what he might say when he returned to America which would be most helpful to Pakistan. The following points were made by the President and the various Ministers:

President Mirza suggested that the Vice President might talk privately about the military situation, especially Pakistan’s need for an additional division.
All concerned suggested that he attempt to expedite the flow of aid.
Storage of food as suggested by the Finance Minister was another major point.
Acting Prime Minister Chundrigar. referred to immediate shipments of food which he thought should be rushed to Pakistan. He pointed out that rice had recently moved up in price from 15 to 50–70 Rupees per maund.
Pakistan’s need for assistance in the atomic energy field was emphasized.

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The Vice President then asked what questions might arise when he talked to reporters at the airport before his departure. Mr. Chundrigar thought he would very likely be questioned regarding neutralism, with particular reference to President Eisenhower’s recent statement, and that there would be questions about Kashmir.

Vice President Nixon then suggested that visits by leading Pakistanis to Thailand and the Philippines would be extremely valuable as both these countries needed the moral support of their allies at this time. The President said he was considering a trip to Indonesia and that President Soekarno was coming to Pakistan in January. Vice President Nixon thought this was a good thing, and that Pakistan would do well to cultivate the Indonesians with whom they were joined by religious bonds.

President Mirza then said that we frequently expressed ideas of “defensive armament”. He wondered what was meant by this. He thought that after the results of the Korean war, we had given up ideas that defense alone was of any value.

The Vice President observed that one must emphasize defense in public statements as a political matter, but as far as what one did was concerned, actions would be both defensive and offensive.

Colonel Watson pointed out that defensive armament was a political and not a military concept.

President Mirza then reverted to his interest in light bombers to permit the possibility of retaliation, which might have an especially salutary effect on Afghanistan. He recalled that in 1951 when conditions between India and Pakistan were tense, the presence of six Halifax bombers had been known to the Indians, and in all likelihood had prevented India’s attacking Pakistan. President Mirza thought that a light bomber squadron4 would be very helpful in deterring Afghan aggression as well as threats from India, although he stated that so far as war with India was concerned, it would be both criminal and suicidal from Pakistan’s point of view.

At this point, the conversation was broken off as it was necessary for the Vice President and his party to return to the airport.5

A.Z. Gardiner
  1. Source: Department of State, Karachi Embassy Files: Lot 64 F 16, 361.1 Nixon. Top Secret. Drafted by Gardiner. Forwarded from Gardiner to Allen under cover of a letter dated July 12. In telegram 85 from Karachi, July 11, Gardiner summarized the main points covered in the conversation. (Ibid., Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–1156)

    Nixon was on a brief Asian tour, organized around his visit to the Philippines for the tenth anniversary celebration of Philippine independence. Further documentation is ibid., 033.1100–NI, and ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 729A. He stopped in Pakistan on July 9 for a few hours. In telegram 2 from Karachi to Taipei, July 6, repeated to the Department as telegram 36, Gardiner extensively briefed the Vice President on Pakistani developments. (Ibid., Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–656)

  2. The text of the President’s statement is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 18, 1956, pp. 1004–1005.
  3. Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egyptian Prime Minister.
  4. President Mirza told the Chargé on the evening of July 9th that he had just read a presentation made by “his people in Washington” asking for two squadrons of light bombers, and that he was “horrified” by the manner in which this request had been put forward. A.Z.G. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. In telegram 130 from Karachi, July 14, Gardiner reported that the Pakistani leaders regarded Nixon’s conversation of July 9 to be significant due to his sympathetic attitude. “Mirza subsequently expressed to me his thorough satisfaction with talks,” the Chargé noted, “particularly attitude expressed on military pacts, and VP’s undertaking clarify further US position on neutralism.” (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–NI/7–1456)