10. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 17, 19581


  • U.S. Aid to Pakistan and Indo-American Relations


  • The Secretary
  • G. L. Mehta, Indian Ambassador
  • Lampton Berry, Deputy Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Armin H. Meyer, SOA

Ambassador Mehta described United States aid to Pakistan as the one unfortunate obstacle in Indo-American relations. He said that having spent more than five years in this country, he tried his best in some 25 speeches during his recent visit to India to explain to Indians America’s friendliness. He was so outspoken, he said, that some Indian newspapers described him as “the United States Ambassador to India.” He had pointed out to Indians everywhere that the United States has already extended $1,000,000,000 in assistance to India. However, no one, he said, could understand United States military assistance to Pakistan. Noting that Mr. Krishnamachari2 had estimated that India has been forced to spend $500,000,000 more for military equipment than normal because of arms aid to Pakistan, the Ambassador said all Indians consider U.S. support of Pakistan an act of unfriendliness. He added that Indian bitterness toward Pakistan continues to exist, due largely to hostile statements made by Pakistani leaders. He asserted that Indian leaders on the other hand in their various utterances have reflected a genuine desire for a friendly and strong Pakistan. He noted that Indian Finance Minister Krishnamachari and Pakistan Finance Minister Amjad Ali had very friendly talks at Ottawa and there is no reason why Indo-Pakistan differences cannot be resolved.

Agreeing that this issue is a serious one, the Secretary expressed the belief that there has been willful misrepresentation on the part of Indian leadership concerning United States military aid to Pakistan. It appeared to him, the Secretary said, that this issue is being used as an excuse for an Indian military build-up.

[Page 53]

The Secretary recalled how Mr. Bevan during his talks in Washington3 kept referring to categorical charges by Indian leaders that the United States by supplying bombers to Pakistan has compelled India to purchase British Canberra bombers. This was simply not so, the Secretary said, since the United States has not supplied any bombers to Pakistan. To have high Indian officials, he said, constantly assert that the United States is providing Pakistan with bombers when we are not doing so seemed to him to be something that ought to be looked into.

Agreeing that he did not want to see this issue exploited, Ambassador Mehta said that he wished to have further discussions with Messrs. Rountree and Berry to remove any misunderstandings. He went on to say that in India many elements are arguing that India should accept offers of arms from the Soviet Union. As long as Mr. Nehru remained Prime Minister, he did not believe the Soviet offers would be accepted, despite pressure in that direction.

The Secretary pointed out that although we have not supplied bombers to Pakistan, the acquisition of Canberra bombers by India has caused the Pakistanis to come to us demanding bombers because the Indians have them. “That’s the way things get built up,” he said. Ambassador Mehta countered that United States aid to Pakistan had started the arms race and he wondered how long the U.S. aid would continue. He said that India has received all sorts of reports as to the extent of the Pakistani military build-up, but has no way of knowing the precise situation. The Secretary stated that no doubt such stories have been exaggerated.

When Ambassador Mehta said many Indians are asking how long a poor country like India can continue when the power of the United States is behind Pakistan, the Secretary noted that the Pakistanis complain that it is United States economic aid to India which makes possible the Indian military build-up.

Asserting that the arms issue is being exploited by certain elements in India for their own ends, Ambassador Mehta reiterated his hope that he could discuss frankly and in detail the arms question with Assistant Secretary Rountree and Mr. Berry.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.5-MSP/1–1758. Secret. Drafted by Meyer. The Secretary and Ambassador Mehta also discussed U.S. aid to India; see Document 201.
  2. Tiruvallur Thattai Krishnamachari, Indian Minister of Finance.
  3. Aneurin Bevan, Treasurer of the British Labour Party and Member of Parliament. Dulles met with Bevan on November 2, 1957. A memorandum of that conversation is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.