9. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Sprague) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree)1

Dear Mr. Rountree : I have read with very keen interest the study on relations between Pakistan and India which you recently forwarded [Page 50] to me.2 I found it a well-conceived paper, and the proposals for the exercise of U.S. initiative in bringing about a lessening of tensions between the two countries very thought provoking. In view of the military implications of the study, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were asked to review the proposals outlined in the study. Their views and conclusions, which are concurred in, are forwarded for your consideration.3

The Department of Defense naturally would welcome any reduction in the tensions existing between India and Pakistan and appreciates the degree to which our national interests would be served should a significant improvement in their relations be achieved. It is feared, however, that the arms limitation portion of the proposal, resting as it does upon the questionable military assessment in paragraph 8(b), would find no acceptability, despite any reassurances the U.S. might advance. It can be generally accepted that any limitation (and implied reduction) of the military capabilities of India and Pakistan, either individually or jointly, would expose them to an increased Soviet threat.

The solidarity of western regional defense organizations is now being severely tested by recent Soviet technological advances and politico-economic offers of assistance. In the case of the Baghdad Pact, the Joint Chiefs of Staff feel that early accomplishment by the member nations of agreed force objectives is the best means of insuring the effectiveness of that organization as a bar to Soviet expansion in the Middle East and South Asia. Except for Turkey, Pakistan provides the greatest source of trained and potential manpower among the Baghdad Pact countries in the Middle East. Pakistan, of course, is also a member of SEATO. In light of strong and positive U.S. support of both alliances, any proposal on our part which might militarily weaken Pakistan would appear most inconsistent and would raise serious doubts among our allies as to our national sincerity and integrity. Furthermore, since the force objectives for Pakistan are based primarily on the defense of the Baghdad Pact area, any reduction in Pakistani forces would have immediate and detrimental consequences, both military and political.

The Baghdad Pact concept for the defense of this area against the Soviet threat is generally the same as the United States concept. The U.S. defense objective in Pakistan is the creation of a military capability in-being necessary for an appropriate contribution to the Baghdad [Page 51] Pact as well as for the maintenance of internal security and limited resistance to external aggression. The existing problem between India and Pakistan was not a factor in the determination of this defense objective. The stationing of certain Pakistani ground forces near the Kashmir border, while reflecting to some extent Pakistan concern for the current Kashmir situation, does not seriously affect Pakistan’s capability to carry out its Baghdad Pact commitments.

[1 paragraph (9 lines of source text) not declassified]

In view of these considerations the Department of Defense concludes that:

Present Pakistani military forces and programmed aid are essential to maintain what is considered minimum U.S. defense objectives in this area in view of the Sino-Soviet threat.

U.S. sponsorship and support of the Baghdad Pact and SEATO dictate that we encourage member nations to contribute their fair share of the forces needed for collective security.

Current or planned Pakistani forces in themselves should not pose a serious military threat to India’s national security.

The United States should not assume additional military commitments by assuring India and Pakistan against armed attack.

In closing I want to emphasize again the desire that we share with the Department of State that some practicable means be found to bring about a healthier relationship between India and Pakistan.

It is my considered belief that the Defense position stated above does not preclude the United States taking the initiative to obtain an improvement in such relationship by concentrating on the non-military issues. This belief is based on the firm conviction that the “arms race” is a symptom and not a cause of the tension; that the tension and resulting instability would continue to exist regardless of any arms limitation or even force reductions unless the non-military issues are substantially resolved. With the resolution of these non-military questions the “arms race”, to whatever extent it is an actual rather than alleged irritant, would evaporate. Moreover, the leverage of its economic aid programs should give the United States ample bargaining position with both nations.

Therefore, I would urgently hope that the United States will proceed to exercise initiative in this matter.


Mansfield D. Sprague
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 690D.91/1–1758. Secret.
  2. On December 23, Rountree forwarded to Sprague a copy of NEA’s memorandum regarding a possible package solution of Indian-Pakistani tensions. (Ibid., 690D.91/12–2057)
  3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff forwarded their views, which are summarized in this letter, in a memorandum of January 8 to Secretary of Defense McElroy. (Washington National Records Center, JCS Records, CCS 092 India (7–16–57))