134. Telegram From the White House to the Embassy in the United Kingdom0

CAP 5279-62. Amembassy London pass action to Prime Minister Macmillan as soon as possible and keep as info for Ambassador. From the President.

Dear Prime Minister,

I fully understand your difficulties over Lightning Mark II’s for India. I also share your feeling that we must at the very least try to forestall Indian manufacture of MIG’s. However, from the standpoint of US public and congressional reaction and its impact on our aid legislation, an initial MIG purchase will be fully as bad. It may compromise the long-range policy of massive aid to India on which we are embarked.

Equally worrisome, we see Krishna Menon embarked on a vital test of strength over this issue, and reportedly on the verge of success.

Therefore, we still regard it as of the highest importance to get in with at least a spoiling offer of aircraft as well as engines by mid-June. We [Page 266] have again reviewed the F-104 possibility, but regretfully conclude that it involves far too much risk of a disastrous Pakistani reaction involving the Peshawar facilities. An offer of F-104 would also play hob on our domestic scene. We are trying out the French on Mirage III’s but are dubious that they could come through in time.

All this leads me to try once more on Lightnings. Even an offer which was unlikely to be accepted might at least buy us time to dredge up other alternatives. Perhaps you would consider an interim offer of some of the Mark I’s and I-A’s I understand you have in service, to be replaced later by new models.

We are prepared to do whatever is necessary within reason to fill any temporary gap in your defenses and to make this tough choice otherwise attractive. Secretary McNamara tells me that there are a number of possibilities to this end, including a loan of F-104’s for your defense, and I am prepared to have him or some of his top people come over immediately to discuss them with Watkinson. Let me assure you that I would not tackle you again on this issue, if I did not feel strongly that the Indian MIG deal will have most adverse effects on the interests of us both.

With warm regards,

John F Kennedy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 791.5622/6-962. Secret; Niact. Repeated to the Department of State and to the Department of Defense for William Bundy. The source text is the Department of State copy.