22. Memorandum of Conversation0

United States:

Vice President Johnson

Mr. Stephen Smith

Mr. Busby

Ambassador Horace Smith

Ambassador Rountree


President Ayub

General Burki, Minister of Health, Welfare and Social Affairs

Mr. Manzur Qadir, Minister of External Affairs

Mr. Mohammed Shoaib, Minister of Finance

Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Minister of Information

Mr. Dehlavi, Foreign Secretary

Vice President Johnson began by stating that Pakistan was held in very high regard by the United States, which greatly valued its friendship. He mentioned in the context of his public life his interest in international affairs, and the various trips abroad which he had made on official missions since he assumed office as the Vice President. He described President Kennedy as a young and extremely vigorous man, hopeful and very confident. The Vice President fully shared President Kennedy’s philosophy. President Kennedy had wanted him to visit nations of Asia, particularly allies, to talk about problems of common interest and to share views of how the strength of the free world might be increased. The United States was anxious to do everything it could to contribute to the strength of Asian nations, particularly in the fostering of economic progress upon which strength could be based. It felt that impoverished nations must be helped; in helping them we were in fact helping ourselves since those more fortunate must share the burden of improving the lot of the poorer if even the rich were to be secure. Continuing, the Vice President said United States had a particular fondness for Pakistan and President Ayub. Pakistan had convictions which it was willing to express. It was willing to support SEATO, including the contribution of forces in connection with the Laos problem, and we appreciated that commitment. The Vice President observed that he did not know where recent events in Laos left us. He wanted to exchange views with President Ayub on this subject.

[Page 46]

The Vice President said that President Kennedy was eagerly looking forward to President Ayub’s visit, during which many matters could be discussed; however, there was substantial business which would have to take place before the visit. (In this context he handed President Ayub a letter from President Kennedy.)1

The Vice President said that in his visits to several countries of Asia he had found them all aware of the current danger and anxious to do their best to meet it. All the leaders believed they had inadequate means for accomplishing what they considered necessary. We were anxious to do everything that we reasonably could to help them. We recognized the need for additional defensive strength, but even more the need for economic strength.

Referring to Laos, the Vice President said we were prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. He would like to have President Ayub’s view as to what would be the best course to follow. There were various alternatives. The United States could, for example, “go back to San Francisco,” but we did not want to do that. On the other hand, our people did not want to get killed in unnecessary and fruitless fighting. He said we had relied on our allies to help train Laotians. This had not worked out well, and the other side seemed far more willing to fight than ours. In Viet-Nam 150,000 friendly forces were confronting 10,000 enemy. Yet they needed even more men and equipment to cope with the problem. In Thailand there were similar difficulties. The problem of the defense of free forces in South Asia would of course be far greater if the Chinese should come in. Yet Diem had said that if we gave him help he would stand up, and Sarit said he needed not nine but 15 divisions.

The Vice President said he would like to be able to inform President Kennedy of what we could expect from our allies if the United States was ready to do thus and so for the area. The United States did not want anything for itself beyond the preservation of the independence of the states of the region. The question was what would be necessary to prevent the communists from gobbling up the weaker nations. It was possible that we could equip them and help them fight properly. If they were not helped, they would be lost. It would be one or the other.

President Ayub responded that he agreed with the Vice President’s summary of the problem. He said he would like to outline at length his views on the world situation, but in view of the shortage of time he [Page 47] thought it best for the Vice President simply to read his assessment which had been prepared in summary form for the purposes of the meeting. He handed to the Vice President his notes, which are attached.2

The Vice President agreed generally with President Ayub’s views, but commented upon his remarks about American policy by saying that we sometimes might be “kindhearted but not wise.” We did, however, know who stood up, and the difference between strong friends and neutrals. Regarding possible influence by the United States or India to bring about a solution of the Kashmir problem, he thought President Ayub attributed to us a capacity which the Vice President was not sure we had. We had tried some of these things, but had had little influence with Nehru on the question.

President Ayub responded that he knew Nehru would not listen if he did not feel compelled to. That did not mean that he should not listen, nor that the United States did not have the power to influence him. India’s flexibility today was gone. With the pressure from the Chinese Communists, India relied even more heavily upon the United States. In fact, it had no alternative.

Continuing, the President said the United States was Pakistan’s friend and anything going wrong with the United States hurt Pakistan. In Cuba, for example, a situation had been created which greatly damaged not only the United States, but also its allies, including Pakistan. He mentioned the conversation which he had had with Ambassador Rountree on the Cuban situation and the message which he had sent through the Ambassador to President Kennedy on the subject.3 Pakistan did not want to the United States to fail. It wanted it to win against the Soviets. Its battle was Pakistan’s battle. If the United States did not use its power, it hurt Pakistan. The power of the United States was much greater than at times the Americans seemed to think. Its power to influence Nehru was very great indeed. Unless there were peace with India which would permit cooperation in the defense of South Asia, there would be a very great threat within a few years and that threat derived from the fact that the communists wanted to control the entire subcontinent. The Soviets were pressing Pakistan and would like to take over the country, but their interest was not in Pakistan itself but in the entire region. Thus, the threat to India was very great, both from the Soviets and from the Chinese Communists, and the Indians must come to realize that. The United States was spending a terrific amount of money in India. It was doing it because it sought Indian security. It could not, however, say that India really was secure. The Indians must do far more to achieve real security and this [Page 48] involved the creation of a situation in which good relations between Pakistan and India could be maintained. American diffidence about Nehru bothered the Pakistani. The United States should help India; but by the same token it should demand that Nehru help create security in the area around India. Thus India should make peace and cooperation with Pakistan possible.

The President was disturbed by the fact that the Communists gave support to any friend regardless of the merits of the case, but they assured themselves that the countries helped would not operate against their global policies or their world position. Failure of the United States to support its friends created a one-sided proposition that Americans seemed not to realize. Nehru only wanted American economic assistance, and the assurance of help if he should get into difficulties with the Chinese. He would never help the United States. His policies were in fact extremely harmful to the United States; yet America had not used its leverage to bring about a change in those policies, despite Nehru’s very heavy reliance upon it.

The Vice President responded again that President Ayub attributed to us the capacity for greater influence with Nehru than we in fact possessed. He did not in fact think that Nehru would listen to us on the Kashmir question.

President Ayub remarked that he would listen if the United States should say that it would not otherwise give him all the help he asked. The Vice President remarked that President Ayub was suggesting the “quid pro quo” approach, to which President Ayub responded that he thought it would be a very good idea when dealing with that type of person. He said again that the United States had very great power and that it should use it. It should not be bluffed by Khrushchev; it should do in a straightforward manner what was necessary for the American and free world position.

Responding to the Vice President’s question about what should be done about Viet-Nam and other Asian trouble spots, President Ayub said that if the present leadership in those countries could not run their affairs, they should get someone able to do so. It must be seen to that they were operated properly. If the leaders could not get that bulk of the people to resist communism, the United States should see to it that key people were in the right places to do so. He thought the situation in Laos was extremely bad. Militarily, it was a nightmare. The Thais were beginning to get the jitters. He thought American military people in Thailand, Laos and Viet-Nam should be in a position to assume command responsibilities.

President Ayub thought the Tibetan situation would have a considerable influence in India. Through Tibet, the Chinese Communists were already penetrating India, not physically but in influence, particularly in [Page 49] the Calcutta area. Fortunately the large communist party in India was presently split over the Chinese situation. If this were not so the problem would be even greater than it was today. Responding to the Vice President’s question, President Ayub said that China’s current economic problems were not substantially lessening Chinese activities in other countries. They were in fact even more aggressive in Africa than the Soviets. The Chinese were not likely, due to their own internal difficulties, to concentrate on a single part of the world, such as Laos, to the exclusion of others.

Responding to the Vice President’s question about SEATO, President Ayub said no one seemed to want to fight “except us.” The Vice President remarked that we appreciated Pakistan’s willingness to contribute forces to which President Ayub responded, jokingly, that he thought however that the United States should come along with them. The Vice President observed that it still had not yet been decided what would be necessary in Laos. Considering what other countries were prepared to do and contribute, he doubted that much of a fight could be put up there. President Ayub thought that any sort of a fight by the Royal Laotians would mean that the army must be directly commanded by United States officers; otherwise they simply would not fight.

The President remarked that Thailand was relatively easier to defend, to which the Vice President responded that he thought we would have to make a stand much before Thailand was attacked.

President Ayub described the size and disposition of the Pakistani forces, in reply to the Vice President’s question. He said that Pakistan had an excellent army but that it needed more equipment and more mobility. These needs had been described to the American authorities and he hoped that it would be possible for them to be met in light of the tremendous advantages to the United States and the free world of Pakistan having a strong military force capable of real help in meeting the threat in this part of the world.

The Vice President thought it would be an excellent idea if President Ayub could visit the leaders of other Asian nations and talk with them about some of these problems. The President remarked that he recently had visited several countries. He was, however, very busy at the moment and did not see how it would be possible for him to undertake other visits.

Turning to another subject, President Ayub and the Vice President discussed economic problems and development of Pakistan. The President and Finance Minister Shoaib described the magnitude of the five year program and its general content. Replying to the Vice President’s question, they said the annual deficit in foreign exchange financing would be in the neighborhood of 500 million dollars, which it hoped [Page 50] could be financed through contributions by the nations soon to meet in the consortium group under the auspices of the International Bank.

The President expressed an interest in the Peace Corps and said he hoped that projects could be worked out so that specialists could be sent, particularly in the fields of health, education and agriculture.

The problem of water logging and salinity was discussed at some length. President Ayub handed to the Vice President copies of the Pakistan Program for Water Logging and Salinity Control in the Irrigated Areas of West Pakistan. The Vice President expressed a keen interest in the problem, and said he thought every consideration should be given as to what assistance the United States could render. The President said that Finance Minister Shoaib was leaving almost immediately for Washington and was taking copies of the report with him. He earnestly hoped the United States could provide substantial assistance in this matter. The program covered a 10 year period and would involve the annual expenditure of 110 million dollars.

Before proceeding to lunch (during which the talks were continued),4

President Ayub described on the map in his office the military problems confronting Pakistan and the necessary disposition of Pakistani forces related to the dispute with India over Kashmir. Settlement of the Kashmir problem would permit these forces to concentrate entirely upon defense against possible communist aggression. Another Pakistani interest in Kashmir was described by the President as being the need for controlling the headwaters of rivers flowing into Pakistan upon which Pakistan depended for its very existence. These were practical and immediate reasons why Pakistan must find a solution to these problems. There were other reasons, of course, relating to the desires of the people concerned in Kashmir and of a historical nature.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, Vice President Johnson’s Trip to the Far East, May 61. Top Secret. Drafted by Rountree. The meeting was held at the President’s House in Karachi.
  2. Kennedy’s letter, dated May 8, underlined the importance of Johnson’s fact-finding mission and the significance Kennedy attached to Johnson’s discussions with Ayub. He pointed to the need to build military strength to resist Communist aggression in the area and noted that such strength rested upon economic development. He applauded Pakistan’s efforts to promote economic development and noted that his administration was engaged in reorganizing its aid programs in order to better support such efforts. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.90D/5-861)
  3. Not attached.
  4. Transmitted in telegram 1831 from Karachi, April 19. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4-1961)
  5. Conversation over lunch dealt largely with programs for education and land reform and prospects for economic development in Pakistan. (Memorandum of conversation, May 20; Johnson Library, Vice Presidential Security File, VP Johnson’s Trip, Far East, May 1961)