310. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs (Bartlett) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree)1


  • Bombers for Pakistan

At a meeting with Assistant Secretary of Defense Sprague on April 29 (copy of memorandum of conversation attached),2 General Ayub Khan and Air Vice Marshal Asghar Khan were informed by Mr. Sprague that since the United States had made a commitment in 1954 to furnish a light bomber squadron (UE–20) to Pakistan, it was the intention of the United States to live up to this undertaking. Mr. Sprague told the Pakistan representatives that the United States was in a position to consider furnishing four to six B–57–type bombers in the third or fourth quarters of calendar year 1959 if the Pakistan pilot training and maintenance crew training warranted delivery at such a time. The position which the Department of Defense thus took with Ayub and Asghar was in accordance with the agreements reached in Mr. Murphy’s office at the meeting which you arranged on Saturday, April 26.

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At both the meeting in the Pentagon on April 29 with Mr. Sprague, as well as at a meeting on May 5 with Mr. Charles H. Shuff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Military Assistance Programs, Air Vice Marshal Asghar raised objection to the type of plane to be provided, alleging that Pakistan had expected to be given a better plane. At the second meeting, at which I was present, Asghar, who had apparently left the first meeting under the erroneous impression that the entire squadron of light bombers would be delivered during calendar year 1959, also objected to the delivery schedule whereby only four to six planes would be delivered in the last half of calendar 1959 and the remainder during calendar 1960. Finally, Asghar noted that he presumed a squadron of twenty planes meant an operational squadron, which would require that a total of more than twenty planes be made available in order to have twenty operational at any one time. This had been the case in connection with the Sabre Jet deliveries and this was his understanding of the meaning of UE, “Unit Equipment”.

If only twenty planes were involved, and if only up to six could be delivered in 1959, Asghar did not know whether it would be worth while for Pakistan to attempt to receive and activate the squadron of B–57’s. Unless they could get B–66’s, they might, under these circumstances, have to seek planes elsewhere. By “elsewhere” it was clear that Asghar had in mind the United Kingdom. He said, however, he would have to review this question with the Pakistan Finance Minister since foreign exchange expenditures were involved, and would let Defense have a definite answer by May 7.

Comment: Both Defense and, at the first meeting, General Ayub seemed surprised at the young Air Vice Marshal’s cool reception to the United States offer. We in SOA believe, however, that Amjad Ali, who has a Finance Minister’s veto, will prevail upon Asghar to accept the planes in order to save Pakistan’s foreign exchange. If he does not and if the Government of Pakistan thereby rejects our reasonable offer to fulfill our 1954 commitment, I believe that, while we cannot prevent the GOP from buying planes from the U.K., we should make it very clear, possibly through an exchange of letters or a unilateral note, that we consider that in offering the squadron of B–57’s, we have discharged our 1954 commitment.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.5622/5–658. Secret.
  2. Printed supra.
  3. At the meeting with Asghar Khan at the Pentagon on May 7, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) Shuff explained the anticipated schedule for the delivery of bombers to Pakistan. He emphasized that the aircraft would be provided over a 3-year period. Asghar Khan replied that he understood and at the conclusion of the meeting indicated that he was “happy” with the way things turned out. (Memorandum of conversation; Department of State, SOA Files: Lot 62 D 43, Pakistan—1958)