224. Letter From the Ambassador in Pakistan (Langley) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree)1

Dear Bill: You may have realized better than I did when I left Washington that in Pakistan we have an unruly horse by the tail and are confronted by the dilemma of trying to tame it before we can let go safely. That takes some doing and I have the uneasy feeling that far from being tamed this horse we assumed to be so friendly has actually grown wilder of late.

The enticements which we have managed from our unfavorable position don’t seem to have worked well enough and I believe the time is overripe for us to reappraise our situation as best we can while still in motion and put some new methods into action. To do this we whose hands are on the tail need an assist from Washington.

I wonder if we have not collectively developed certain generalizations about Pakistan and then proceeded to accept them as gospel truth without sufficient periodic scrutiny. For example, I was told that Pakistan constitutes a cornerstone of U.S. policy in this part of the world, that Pakistan is the anchor of the Baghdad Pact, and of SEATO, that the Paks are strong, direct, friendly and virile, and that Pakistan constitutes a bulwark of strength in the area, etc. What concerns me is that all this is in real danger of being wiped out if something is not done to arrest the current deterioration in many aspects of Pakistani life.

Political. The recent governmental crises in Pakistan have highlighted the increasingly byzantine and sterile characteristics of political activities here. As the new government takes over2 it looks as if things would become worse before they improve. When I left home Mirza and Suhrawardy were partners and our great hope here. Now they are bitter political enemies and the weakling Noon is Prime Minister.

Economic. Economically deterioration is steadily developing and this notwithstanding the aid which the U.S. has invested in Pakistan. As matters now stand the rate of deterioration is tending to accelerate, what with continuation at a constant or increasing level of unproductive expenses (military and government operating costs) and a decline in the productive part of the budget. Unfortunately, I [Page 488] fear that our past generosity in helping out our friends has too often permitted them to avoid “grasping the nettle” and facing their problems with the required spirit of urgency and determination. While statistics can be misleading, particularly in Pakistan where they are most unreliable, I am nevertheless convinced that the cost of living is increasing with an appreciable decline in the standard of living of Pakistani wage earners in view of the lag in their paper income. Also there can be no doubt but that large portions of both the business and governmental communities are corrupt and that this has had its effect on the energies and determination of the entire population.

Psychological. Psychologically, also, I find the Pakistani situation disturbing. It is only among the very small upper crust (senior army officers, top group of politicians, leading businessmen, and a few other elements here and there who are directly connected with the benefits of American assistance) that a state of mind is found which corresponds to the cliché depicting the Pakistanis as the only strongly pro-U.S. and pro-western oriented people in this part of the world. As to the remaining vast majority of Pakistanis, while I have not encountered an inclination towards communism or the USSR, there is an underlying yearning for “friendship with all.” On the part of what we might call the middle group or the intelligentsia, i.e. vocal educated elements without vested interest in the present regime—and this even includes a significant proportion of civil servants—there is an appalling contempt for the governing clique which is viewed as selfish, corrupt, and intent only on advancing their own political or cash fortunes. At least until the elections are held there is slight prospect for improvement and a real danger of further deterioration. The situation of strength which we have accepted as synonymous with Pakistan has too large a component of wishful thinking.

Militarily. The first conclusion which I have reached is that Pakistan’s military establishment must be appreciably trimmed. No “Holcomb costing analysis” is needed to formulate this recommendation. Such an analysis would be useful to help determine how much the armed forces should be cut but not whether they should be reduced. At the present time Pakistan military expenses absorb approximately 65% of the government’s tax revenues. The drain on the economy is such that U.S. aid, as important as it is, only serves to maintain precarious living standards, and, while this is important, it is difficult for the man in the street to appreciate a benefit which has to be measured in almost negative terms!

I fear that it would not be too difficult to make a rather convincing case that the present military program is based on a hoax, the hoax being that it is related to the Soviet threat. Instead it [Page 489] is my view that the Pak forces are in betwixt and in between—they are unnecessarily large for their prime purpose of assuring internal security and likewise unnecessarily large for dealing with any Afghan threat over Pushtunistan (barring of course larger Soviet aid than that currently being rumored). However, concentration on India is such that a considerably larger Pakistan arms program would not yield a division for use to the west within the Baghdad Pact area.

The U.S. in appraising its own interests via-à-vis either India or Pakistan should recognize as its basic premise the indivisible character of its relations with and interest in the entire subcontinent. I am convinced that a portion of the military strength built up in Pakistan would be of little use to us should perchance worst come to worst and India go communist. Likewise, and even though India is undoubtedly less vulnerable to events in Pakistan, the larger country would hardly profit from a complete breakdown of the embryonic structure of political democracy in Pakistan. Therefore, we cannot afford to participate in or close our eyes to an arms race between Pakistan and India.

Recommendations. Consequently, and as a first concrete step I recommend that I be instructed to approach President Mirza personally and most confidentially and express our serious concern to him. In particular, I should recognize the commitments made by the U.S. in the aide-mémoire of October 1954. I should point out that the U.S. is not trying to renege; the U.S., however, believes that when these commitments were entered into in good faith their full consequences were not, and could not, be appreciated. Certainly no pact or agreement between such staunch and loyal friends as the U.S. and Pakistan can be permitted to become a mutual “suicide pact.”

The object of this démarche would be to lead President Mirza into taking the initiative for a costing and evaluation study so as to set the outer limits of the Pakistan military program, both in military and financial terms. As I have cautioned in several telegrams, it is extremely important that in seeking to extricate ourselves from the present worrisome situation we not unintentionally render the situation acute by appearing to be withdrawing our support from those elements which, for whatever motive, and however imperfect, are currently our closest friends and supporters. Thus it is imperative that the review of the Pakistan military establishment be conducted by and with Mirza and General Ayub and at all costs not against them.

The second immediate measure has already been initiated by the USOM: a review of the U.S. aid program so as to eliminate secondary or marginal projects and concentrate on those of greater benefits to the Pakistan economy.

My third recommendation calls for a generally more critical and somewhat tougher attitude towards our friends. This policy is already [Page 490] partially operative, as when I asked that the $10,000,000 special machinery project be stopped because within the Pakistan Government itself the economic validity of many of the items in the project was being publicly questioned.

One of the most disturbing attitudes I have encountered in the highest political places here is that the United States must keep up and increase its aid to Pakistan, and conversely, that Pakistan is doing the U.S. a favor in accepting aid, in addition to the Pakistan pro-western posture in the Baghdad Pact and SEATO and the UN, when actually these postures are in part dictated by Pakistan hatred for India.

I don’t expect gratitude can be bought here any more than anywhere else, but I do believe that the U.S. is entitled to a reasonable degree of respect. Finally, we are trying for quality rather than quantitative solutions.

Sincerely yours,

James M. Langley3
  1. Source: Department of State, Karachi Embassy Files: Lot 63 F 84, 320 Pakistan. Secret.
  2. Malik Firoz Khan Noon, a former Pakistani Foreign Minister, succeeded Chundrigar as Prime Minister on December 16.
  3. Printed from a copy which bears this typed signature.