35. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, May 13, 19581


  • United States Approach Toward Improving Indo-Pakistan Relations


  • Mr. Eugene R. Black, President, IBRD
  • Mr. W. A. B. Iliff, Vice President, IBRD
  • Mr. Davidson Sommers, Vice President and General Counsel, IBRD (for some of the time only)
  • Mr. Frederic P. Bartlett, SOA

Mr. Bartlett opened the conversation by indicating that he was speaking on behalf of Mr. Rountree who had earlier telephoned Mr. Black to apologize, because of the current situation in Lebanon, for not being able to be present. Mr. Bartlett noted, however, that what he was about to say had been outlined by Mr. Rountree himself. The subject matter was a highly sensitive one and was being brought to the attention of Messrs. Black and Iliff on a strictly confidential basis in their individual rather than official capacities.

The United States Government, Mr. Bartlett noted, had for many years been concerned over Indo-Pakistan relations. Instead of cooperating in building up their economies under democratic institutions and thus helping to assure political stability in the subcontinent, India and Pakistan had unfortunately been devoting a substantial part of their energies and resources in opposing each other. This not only threatened the continued independence of the vitally important sub-continent, but also caused American programs in it to be misunderstood. The United States, therefore, felt it to be absolutely necessary to try to find some way through which progress might be made in resolving Indo-Pakistan tensions.

In this connection, the Department of State was delighted to hear from the Bank’s representatives that the current Indus waters negotiations, under Mr. Iliff’s auspices, seemed to be more encouraging than had been the case during the past several years.2 The Department wanted to assure the Bank that it wished to give every appropriate support toward the latter’s efforts to resolve the highly complicated problem of handling the division of the Indus river valley basin waters.

[Page 103]

Mr. Iliff would recall, Mr. Bartlett stated, their conversation of last November when Mr. Iliff noted that the several elements making up the complex Indo-Pakistan problem—Indus waters, Kashmir, military build-up, and post-partition financial settlements—were closely related.3 This had been pointed out also last fall by the Pakistan Finance Minister, Mr. Amjad Ali. The Department hoped that, if the first problem, that of the Indus waters, could be resolved thanks to the Bank’s efforts, it might help to unlock the doors to the other problem areas.

Without prejudice to the Bank’s efforts, however, and regardless of whether these might actually result in a solution of the Indus question, the Department would still wish to encourage the resolution of other elements of tension underlying Indo-Pakistan relations. Therefore, and again Mr. Bartlett noted the extremely confidential character of the information he was about to give, the United States Government had decided in utmost secrecy and through diplomatic channels to initiate private talks with the leaders of the two countries. The purpose would be to determine whether the United States could be helpful in bringing India and Pakistan closer together on the entire complex of issues presently separating them. The United States did not intend to suggest any “cut-and-dried” solution to any of the problems concerned, but in the first instance would simply wish to elicit the views of the two governments. This high level approach to the leaders of India and Pakistan had been reviewed only with the United Kingdom Government and in that Government was known by only a few of the highest leaders and officials. The United Kingdom Government had warmly supported the proposed approach. Mr. Bartlett concluded this summary presentation by stating that whatever might be the results of the forthcoming talks with the Pakistan and Indian Governments, it was the intention of the United States Government to insure that its efforts might contribute to, rather than in any way interfere with, the Bank’s own negotiations in connection with the Indus waters.

Mr. Black replied that he was pleased to have the information just given to him. He was happy that the United States had taken this initiative. He felt also that the timing was excellent since the Indus negotiations under the Bank showed promise of reaching a stage when serious consideration of financial assistance might profitably be involved. He assumed that both Pakistan and India would contribute to the development of the necessary irrigation works in the Indus valley but, from information available to him, Mr. Black believed that outside financing would also be necessary. Presumably such outside financing [Page 104] would have to come, aside from what the Bank might be able to contribute, from the United States and possibly from the United Kingdom.

Mr. Iliff then reviewed in summary fashion the status of the Bank’s negotiations. Pakistan had promised to present by June 21 a fairly detailed plan for the development by it of alternative sources of water from the western rivers which would eventually permit India to utilize all the waters of the eastern rivers for its our own purpose. The Indians had promised him to give the Pakistan plans their most serious and urgent study. Current calculations of the roughest kind only would indicate that Pakistan’s plan might cost a total of some $660 million spread over the next ten years or so. A part of this cost would be clearly allocatable to Pakistan since it would bring that country additional water supplies over and above its historic withdrawals from the eastern rivers. Part of the remainder would undoubtedly be contributed by India, but Iliff felt that there would be a substantial gap between the amount India would be prepared to pay for the development of alternative sources from Pakistan’s rivers and the cost of actually developing these sources under Pakistan’s plan. It would be this gap that would have to be filled by outside financing of some kind or other. The encouraging feature of the current negotiations was indeed that the question of financing had seriously arisen. Previously the proposals of India and of Pakistan had been so far apart that there had been no need to come to grips with the problem of funding.

Mr. Iliff then noted that there was another problem which concerned the Bank—Pakistan’s reported decision to bring the Rajasthan canal issue to the Security Council. Mr. Iliff did not know whether they would actually go ahead with this, but the Bank was anxious, in view of the favorable course of the current Indus negotiations, to do what it could to discourage Pakistan from raising the issue in the Security Council. The Bank was, therefore, preparing a letter which Mr. Black would send to Mr. Nehru. A copy of this letter would be shown, but not given, to Mr. Shoaib since the Bank, of course, did not wish the Pakistan Government to use it as the very basis itself for presenting Pakistan’s case to the Security Council.

At this point Mr. Sommers entered with a draft of the letter, which was read aloud. The gist of the letter from Mr. Black to Mr. Nehru was that the Bank, whose attention to the statement had been called by the Government of Pakistan, had been most concerned that S. K. Patil in a recent speech in the Indian Parliament had indicated that India, which was beginning the construction of the large Rajasthan canal, intended by 1962 to use the waters of its eastern rivers to feed this canal whether Pakistan by that time had developed alternative sources or not. Mr. Black, in his letter, proceeded to tell Mr. Nehru that in the Bank’s opinion alternative sources could not be feasibly [Page 105] developed, even if plans were completely agreed upon and funding provided, by 1962. Under the best of circumstances, it would take considerably longer. Therefore, the Bank hoped that it could be assured that India did not have the intention of fully utilizing the Rajasthan canal’s capacity by 1962 since otherwise the Bank would have no grounds upon which to continue its negotiations. Both Mr. Black and Mr. Iliff hoped that knowledge that the letter had been sent to Mr. Nehru would be sufficient, at least for the present, to discourage Pakistan from raising the issue in the Security Council, particularly since it was not at all certain that the Security Council would be willing to seize itself with a problem which would not come to actual fruition for four years.

Mr. Black concluded the interview by stating that if and when the Bank should have to come to a decision to terminate its good offices in connection with the Indus valley negotiations, it would certainly inform the United States and British Governments in advance. Mr. Bartlett expressed appreciation for this and said that he assumed that it would continue to be the hope of the United States Government that the Bank would continue its good efforts in connection with the Indus valley problems until they were finally resolved.

On leaving Mr. Black’s office, Mr. Bartlett had the opportunity to tell Mr. Iliff privately that, if there were any leak in connection with the initial approach of the United States Government to Mr. Mirza and Mr. Nehru, we intended to explain that, and this would be in part the absolute truth, our démarche was in the interest of supporting the Bank’s good offices in the Indus waters dispute. Mr. Iliff readily agreed that this would be a logical and appropriate explanation.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 690D.91/5–1358. Secret; For Limited Distribution Only. Drafted by Bartlett.
  2. During this meeting, Bartlett and Iliff also spoke about the Indus Waters problem. A separate memorandum of that conversation, drafted by Rufus Burr Smith, is ibid., 690 D.91322/5–1358.
  3. Reference is presumably to the BartlettIliff conversation of October 25, 1957; a memorandum of that conversation is ibid., 690D.91322/10–2557.
  4. The Department summarized this conversation in telegram 2648 to New Delhi, May 13, also sent to Karachi. (Ibid., 690D.91/5–1358)