308. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 29, 19581


  • The Political Situation in Pakistan and its Reflection on Foreign Policy


  • Amjad Ali, Pakistan Finance Minister
  • Mohammed Ali, Pakistan Ambassador
  • NEA—William M. Rountree
  • SOARufus Burr Smith
  • SOAGarrett H. Soulen

Amjad Ali reviewed at length the political situation in Pakistan, characterizing it as restive. In that context there was and remains continuing antipathy towards Pakistan’s foreign policy. This situation obtains both with the people and parliamentarians. The recent parliamentary debates (March) were punctuated with severe criticism of the government on foreign policy issues from which two main points emerged.

(1) The foreign policy of the GOP is not contributing to Muslim unity. (2) Pakistan’s alliances are operating to the detriment of Pakistan; witness the large scale external aid which India is receiving and the fact that the Kashmir dispute is no closer to solution than it was years ago.

Speeches hammering on these two main themes were used to harass and badger the government. They were not confined to the opposition alone but included statements from members of the coalition party as well.

Amjad Ali said he had only ten minutes in which to meet these critical speeches in parliament and that he endeavored to point out that Pakistan’s alliances had been worthwhile and that a certain amount of Muslim unity had been achieved through the Baghdad Pact.

Amjad Ali claimed that the people’s restiveness “is due largely to India’s uncompromising attitudes.” The people feel that the Indians “are growing even more cantankerous especially as regards the Canal Waters dispute.” This hardening attitude towards all of its disputes with Pakistan is being backed by India’s large purchases of arms and its continually increasing expenditure on its military establishment. There is real concern in Pakistan that India’s intransigence portends belligerent or hostile designs.

As regards the Canal Waters dispute Amjad Ali recounted his discussion with Prime Minister Nehru during which the latter had been patient, had listened, but in effect had refused to discuss the situation. He had pointed out to Nehru that he saw no solution to the Canal Waters problem unless the Kashmir issue was solved. He said, “I got no reaction out of him at all.” Amjad Ali expressed his fear that the GOI will merely say “sorry, we intend to use the three eastern rivers” and that any waters from those sources which they might make available to Pakistan would only be given on the basis of Pakistan replacing a like amount from other sources. He stated that while in London, he had seen Sir Gilbert Laithwaite2 and had said to him “someday we are going to have to ask you ‘what are you going to do if [Page 637] and when India takes that water.’” Amjad Ali mentioned the talks now going on in Rome with the World Bank and stated that the Pakistan representatives were proposing a series of alternatives; the basis of each was the necessity for Pakistan to be independent of any Indian control over water to be used by Pakistan. He expressed pessimism that anything constructive would emerge from the Rome discussions. He said his government was now preparing to take the Canal Waters issue to the Security Council with the hope that that body would ask the GOI not to take unilateral action; in other words not to proceed with its construction of headworks and its intent to withdraw water, without the concurrence of the GOP. He expressed a conviction that the good offices of the Bank should be retained and voiced his belief that Security Council action could strengthen the Bank’s position.

He then reverted to India’s arms buildup and mentioned that their annual expenditure was now in the neighborhood of 304 crores of rupees (3,040,000,000) as against Pakistan’s annual expenditure of 100 crores (1,000,000,000). He said, “we believe this buildup is against no one but ourselves” then added his personal opinion “I do not believe India is going to attack us.” He explained his reasoning by stating that “the GOI is in possession of Kashmir and sits in control of the waters; therefore, they can cripple us without going to war. They have also made it clear that if war comes, they will crush us.” Amjad Ali saw only two alternatives for the GOP: (1) to acquiesce to India’s position or (2) go to war. He said that any foreseeable Pakistan government would have to take the second alternative.

He expressed an appreciation of the vast sums which the US was spending in India and Pakistan and stated his understanding that those efforts were not being expended for charity’s sake but were being made to ensure that the large populations of the subcontinent would not fall into the clutches of the communists. He said, “if we fight among ourselves, we will destroy what you are building. The aftermath of such a fight would create a situation which would constitute an open door for the communists.” He said that in the face of this situation Indo-Pak differences had to be settled. He reverted to his discussions with Nehru and stated that he had asked the latter for some fresh thinking on these problems and had pointed out that world statesmen had successfully solved even larger problems. He then recalled that Mr. Rountree while in Karachi (February 1958) had mentioned that the US was thinking along these lines and expressed his sincere hope that the US would continue to give thought and consideration to the end that solutions would be found.

Amjad Ali said that in view of Pakistan’s situation vis-à-vis India, his government had been reviewing the status of its military establishment. Although the army was smaller than its Indian counterpart, it [Page 638] was of excellent caliber and could give a good account of itself. As regards the navy, he said a decision had been taken to reduce the number of destroyers to six. In speaking of the cruiser (which Pakistan recently purchased from the UK for 500,000 pounds sterling) he stated that it was antiquated, of little use and really of no consequence as a fighting ship. However, in view of its recent acquisition, it would be a serious blow to navy morale if it were scrapped at this time; therefore, they would keep it. As regards the air force, he claimed that Pakistan needed some bombers to act as a deterrent to India. In this connection he said “if you cannot give us those bombers, I will reluctantly have to fork out the money”. He stated that if India in its arms buildup had stopped when its military strength was even double that of Pakistan, the GOP would not have been too concerned but, he claimed, “they have gone far beyond and no government can close its eyes to those hard facts”.

In discussing the specifics of internal opposition to Pakistan’s foreign policy, Amjad Ali pointed out that the new President of the Muslim League, Qayum Khan, was violently attacking the foreign policy, criticizing the President personally, and eulogizing Nasser. He said there were three main groups opposed to collaboration with the West: the Bashani group, the Hindus, and the Ghaffar Khan elements. He excused Prime Minister Noon’s March 8 speech as having resulted from harassment and as having been made “off the cuff”. He added that had he been Prime Minister, he would have certainly chosen different words and phrases. Amjad Ali reassured Mr. Rountree that Prime Minister Noon is definitely Western orientated; his education and background as well as his convictions do not allow him to be otherwise. He stated that Noon does make snap judgments—some good, some bad—and that often his frankness and bluntness work against the interest which he basically supports.

Mr. Rountree in reply expressed his appreciation for Amjad Ali’s thorough resume. He stated he could not deny a certain amount of surprise and dismay in the US when the Prime Minister’s March 8 speech was published. He added that although it is possible to understand certain things being said in the heat of debate it was disquieting to the US that the status of Mr. Noon’s remarks remained nearly the same as when they had been uttered; they had not, to his knowledge, been modified by the Prime Minister. He realized, of course, and fully appreciated Mr. Noon’s own constructive attitude on international questions. He emphasized that the US recognized clearly that a country’s foreign policy must be made in its own self-interest. The US had fully appreciated those aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy which included its membership in regional security organizations and its definite intent to maintain its independence through its own indigenous resources as well as by association with like minded free world nations. [Page 639] Any change from such policies would be received by the US with regret. He reassured Mr. Amjad Ali that there was no weakening in the Executive Branch of the US Government or among the American people in the US intent to continue to help Pakistan. He voiced appreciation for the many difficult problems facing Pakistan and recognized that certain aspects of US policy toward India contributed to those problems. Unfortunately, those were facts of life which we had to work with. The other side of that particular coin was that certain aspects of our policy toward Pakistan created difficulties for and misunderstandings in the Government of India.

As regards aid to India, Mr. Rountree emphasized that it was not only in the US interests but in the interest of the entire free world, including Pakistan, that India’s economic development proceed in such manner as to forestall and obviate the possibility that a communist regime be established in India. Such a take-over would be deplorable and in the US opinion would be extremely dangerous for Pakistan. He pointed out that we have participated to a very large degree in Pakistan’s economic development and in the strengthening of its military forces. If aid to India were put on a per capita basis, it would be much less than what has been given Pakistan. He offered his personal and frank view that despite statements made in India to the effect that its arms acquisitions were being made primarily to protect India from Pakistan (and the latter’s US-supplied arms) he believed that was largely a convenient political justification for India to meet its legitimate arms needs in light of the potential threat of Red China. He stated his belief that even if Indo-Pak relations were satisfactory, India would still maintain a military force comparable in magnitude to its present strength. He expressed the above opinion on the situation as it exists, not on what we would like it to be. In that connection he expressed regret over India spending so much of its foreign exchange on arms when such monies were so badly needed for economic development. He recognized that it was inevitable that the GOP in the face of growing GOI military strength would exercise common prudence and see to its own defenses against all potential dangers, including such danger as it saw in India. He pointed out, however, that our military aid program to Pakistan was not based upon the status of Indo-Pak relations or upon the strength of Indian military forces. Public statements by Pakistan leaders to the effect that their military buildup was vis-à-vis India made it more difficult for the Executive Branch of the government to justify programs which it wished to carry on in Pakistan.

As regards Pakistan’s need for light bombers, Mr. Rountree stated that he understood General Ayub was having discussions at the Department [Page 640] of Defense3 and expressed a desire to speak further with Mr. Amjad Ali on that subject at a later date. He said that regardless of the outcome of the General Ayub-Defense talks, he wished to express his great concern, given Pakistan’s economic situation, over any intention of the Government of Pakistan to use its meager foreign exchange by purchasing expensive bombers.

On the Canal Waters dispute, Mr. Rountree expressed his opinion that the GOI announcement of intent re the Rajasthan Canal had been a mistake. He expressed hope that something constructive would emerge from the Rome talks and his trust that no precipitous action would be taken on the Canal Waters issue. He urged that all possible alternatives be fully explored.

Mr. Rountree stated that he wished to consider this an initial talk in a series of discussions which he hoped to have with Mr. Amjad Ali and assured the Finance Minister that the Department wished to be as helpful as possible in achieving the ends for which he came to the US.

Mr. Amjad Ali stated that he had just read in Dawn April 24 and 25 where the Prime Minister, in answer to questions, had forcefully reiterated his government’s intent to continue its membership in and cooperation with the Baghdad Pact and SEATO. Nevertheless there existed in Pakistan a deep feeling that its foreign policy must take greater cognizance of Pakistan’s situation vis-à-vis India. Unfortunately most Pakistanis could not understand the high moral aspects of its foreign policy which require Pakistan to stand with the free world even though in so doing it allowed other, non-committed countries to get a “free ride” as far as security was concerned. Pakistanis were prone to look at India, and its position through which it obtains something from both camps, with something akin to envy. It was also a fact that the USSR reversed its policy toward the GOP after the latter had joined the Baghdad Pact and SEATO. That change in policy was manifested when Khrushchev and Bulganin visited India and spoke of Kashmir as being Indian.3 It was later reiterated through the USSR veto in the Security Council on the Kashmir issue.4

Mr. Rountree stated that he recognized the problem as being one of the most difficult in foreign affairs. He pointed out that we differ with India on many issues, but we do not want to see it go communist. [Page 641] In the process of our trying to work with that problem, he stated that Pakistan should be assured that its legitimate interest would be kept fully in mind.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.00/4–2958. Secret. Drafted by Soulen on March 30. During this meeting, Rountree and Amjad Ali also discussed Pakistan’s economic problems and Pakistan’s desire for assistance in the construction of a steel mill. Separate memoranda of those conversations, drafted by Smith, are ibid., 890D.00/4–2958 and 890D.331/4–2858, respectively.

    In addition to this meeting with Rountree, Amjad Ali also met with Dulles, Dillon, and officials of ICA, DLF, the Export-Import Bank, and the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. He also held discussions with representatives of the IBRD and the International Monetary Fund. These discussions are summarized in telegram 2857 to Karachi, May 12. (Ibid., 790D.5–MSP/5–1258) A memorandum of the discussion with Dulles, held on April 30, is printed as Documents 30 and 31.

  2. U.K. Permanent Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.
  3. See infra.
  4. Nikita S. Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and Nikolay A. Bulganin, Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, arrived in India on November 19, 1955, for an official 1-month visit. They visited Kashmir, December 9–10, and publicly supported India’s claims to that disputed territory.
  5. On February 20, 1957, the Soviet Union vetoed a draft resolution on Kashmir, jointly sponsored by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Cuba.