30. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Kennedy-Ayub Talks


  • President Ayub
  • External Affairs Minister Qadir
  • Finance Minister Shoaib
  • Ambassador Aziz Ahmed
  • Foreign Secretary Dehlavi
  • President Kennedy
  • Vice President Johnson
  • Secretary of State Rusk
  • Ambassador Rountree
  • Asst. Secy of State Edwin M. Martin
  • Asst. Secy of State Phillips Talbot
  • White House Asst. Rostow (Deputy Special Asst. to the President for National Security Affairs)

President Kennedy opened by expressing a warm welcome to President Ayub on his arrival in the United States.1 Vice President Johnson and President Kennedy’s sister had taken great pleasure in seeing President Ayub in Pakistan. We had greatly appreciated his sturdy support of SEATO’s Plan 5 at a most dangerous period. Now we wanted to give him our thinking and to get his views on subjects of common interest. For all these reasons, we were glad he could come in July rather than waiting until November. Another reason was that some of the Congressmen who have been least enthusiastic about the American aid program were particularly friendly to President Ayub’s country, and when they heard him tell the advantages of the aid program, perhaps they would see it in a better light.

Observing that in these talks the two presidents could begin anywhere, President Kennedy started with his recent visit to Vienna. In 1914, in 1939, and in Korea troubles had arisen in part because there were many misunderstandings. To avoid miscalculation based on misunderstanding, he had wanted to get to know Khrushchev, whose January 6 speech had sounded as if it could lead only to war. He had wanted to know what was really meant. Unfortunately he got little enough satisfaction out of the talks. Khrushchev was courteous, but made it very clear he intended to follow the course he had set out.

[Page 67]

On Laos, Khrushchev had said the right words about neutrality, but the President had come away unclear as to what meaning he attached to them. On nuclear testing they got nowhere. On Berlin Khrushchev had said what he had since stated publicly, that he expected to sign a peace treaty, then announce that both the USSR and the Western Powers had thereby lost sovereignty in the area. If this were done, East Germany might or might not take action immediately. All in all, we were faced with a difficult situation, which could end in disaster. We might have to strengthen our military establishment. The extra $4-5 billion would hurt us in the foreign aid field and in other activities although we would do it if necessary. One of our problems was that we did not have as large forces as the USSR and had relied on nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Thus the situation had the dangerous capability of escalating rapidly. We would hope Khrushchev would give way, and we supposed Khrushchev hoped we should.

On the question of Laos, President Kennedy said that in March, when it appeared the Pathet Lao might capture Vientiane, he had gone to see Prime Minister Macmillan. We had heard that the British would not intervene, nor would the French. Macmillan agreed to a limited plan, but the French would not. Then came talk of a cease-fire, and we were faced with a new situation. We had just been through the Cuban episode—which was a mistake, at least in implementation—and he had taken a fresh look at the U.S. military situation. There was the problem of getting troops into Laos, which had no seaport. The U.S. concluded that it might be difficult to go in. Viet-Nam was another country that troubled President Kennedy. President Ayub knew that it was easier to get into these situations than out of them. In many ways this was one of our most anxious problems, because we should not want to make a mistake which would leave us fighting in an Asian situation where we could not win without using nuclear weapons and forfeiting the support of peoples of Asia.

President Ayub responded with general comments about conditions in Southeast Asia. Much of the problem, he said, arose because most of the rulers were princes and others wanting mainly to protect their own interests. Unless they were prepared to identify themselves with their own people, no amount of aid would save them. If the U.S. wanted to help them, it should insist that they undertake reforms. It should also be prepared to take active leadership of local armed forces, including use of weapons, training, and operations. To President Kennedy’s comment that the U.S. did not even put Southeast Asian soldiers into uniform, President Ayub agreed that there were many problems. The French would not fight in Southeast Asia, he thought, nor had the British now much interest in the area. Would it not be better, therefore, to detach the French and the British from SEATO? It would give more flexibility. [Page 68] Pakistan had been asked to prepare to send a battalion to Laos, President Ayub said, but he had concluded a battalion could do nothing but get itself lost. He had decided therefore that it would be better to send a brigade group so it could fight well as a more integrated group.

President Ayub then turned to Pakistan’s security situation. Displaying a map showing Pakistani information on the deployment of Indian forces, he said that of one-half million troops in the Indian army, 15 per cent were deployed against China and 85 per cent faced Pakistan. Displaying a second map on which Afghan military formations were indicated, President Ayub referred to an Afghan army of 80,000 to 90,000 men on paper but said he didn’t know how effective they were. The Russians had poured in $450,000,000 worth of military equipment, though perhaps the Afghans could not yet use the equipment effectively. The Pakistan Army, he added, showing a third map, was necessarily deployed against India and Afghanistan. That was why he kept harping on the Kashmir question. Until it was settled, the armies would face one another. Should the Afghans get properly trained, moreover, Pakistan would be up the gum tree if an attack came from either India or Afghanistan.

President Kennedy believed the Indians are not going to march. They already had what they wanted in Kashmir. To President Ayub the point was that India wanted to neutralize all Pakistan. In answer to President Kennedy’s question how that would help India, President Ayub said that it was clear from the Indian Army deployments that they regarded Pakistan as enemy no. 1. To them the Chinese problem was just an aberration, a misunderstanding. President Kennedy observed he could understand India’s desire, especially Nehru’s, to hold on to what they had in Kashmir. He could also understand India’s force being placed there to keep out Pakistan, which had irredentist feeling. President Ayub responded that Kashmir was a test; if India should settle with Pakistan on Kashmir, it would mean India wanted to live at peace with Pakistan.

President Kennedy explained that the U.S. had supported India not with the expectation that India would support U.S. policies, but because we felt it in the interest of us all that India should not collapse. He perceived difficulties in dealing with Nehru, who had been around a long time, and he did not know what the U.S. could do. We could not even bring Chiang Kai-shek, whom we had helped more than anyone, to do what we saw was in his own interest.

President Ayub thought that what the U.S. wanted in South Asia was an area of stability. He wouldn’t say that the U.S. should threaten to withhold aid to India, but surely the U.S. had the right to demand responsible action from Nehru. President Ayub acknowledged that the U.S. wanted to do good and to assist India in order that it should not go [Page 69] Communist, but at the back of its mind the U.S. surely thought India would support the U.S. To the contrary, President Kennedy explained, he did not expect Nehru’s support on the items that were vital to the U.S. The U.S. had supported the Indian Consortium even when Nehru was strongly attacking U.S. actions in Cuba. President Ayub agreed that Nehru would not support the U.S.; he wanted to keep open his channels to Moscow, also.

One clue to the understanding of India in President Ayub’s opinion, could be found in the peculiar patterns in underdeveloped countries wherein central governments collected funds which were then spent in the states. Since demands were always greater than the funds, wrangling resulted of which the Communists could take advantage. Regional wrangling had already started in India for this reason and because of other divisions such as caste, with the result that local regionalisms were growing stronger. So far Nehru’s personality and the unity obtained in the fight against the British had held India together, but these could not carry on indefinitely. Meanwhile the Chinese Communists had an army of one-half million troops in Tibet ostensibly to control a population of two million. Actually these troops were not too far from Calcutta, which was the base of Communism in India. In his view India was bound to break up in 15 to 20 years. If it were said that the key to the defense of the rim of Asia was India, he would add in these circumstances that the key to the defense of the subcontinent was Pakistan.

President Kennedy wondered what his guest would feel Nehru could agree to in the Kashmir dispute that Pakistan would also agree to. Describing on the map their respective locations, President Ayub replied that Nehru had shown no disposition to yield anything beyond the cease-fire line in Kashmir. Pakistan would have no objection to India’s taking Jammu. To protect its resources Pakistan would have to have some miles on the other side of the River Chenab. But he didn’t wish to come down to details now; only to point out the necessity of the two nations coming to negotiate. Pakistan’s people were getting fed up. This is why they sometimes talked of working more closely with China, though they didn’t want China to come in. What then did Pakistan want of China, President Kennedy wondered. President Ayub wanted nothing of China; he’d like to see it go to hell. But the Pakistani people were anxious to do something about Kashmir.

President Kennedy could understand why a settlement was important, but didn’t know whether the U.S. could influence Nehru. In President Ayub’s opinion, however, Nehru now had to come to the U.S. He had no maneuverability left. The Chinese did not like him, so he had to turn to the U.S. Why could the U.S. not see that? President Kennedy felt the U.S. to be not all that influential with Nehru on Kashmir. It was a bone-deep issue. Even so, President Ayub felt that the U.S. need merely [Page 70] tell Nehru it was concerned about the waste of its money that occurred because the Kashmir issue was not settled. President Kennedy still believed one should not underestimate the strength of feeling about such issues. He recognized, for example, that Pakistan could not understand why the U.S. should feel so strongly about the admission of Communist China to the U.N., but it did. He supposed that Nehru had the same kind of feeling about Kashmir. Even if this were true, President Ayub commented, many people of India did not agree with Nehru. They would like to get outstanding issues settled. When a number of boundary issues had been settled, many people were joyful. Looking ahead strategically, the U.S. should remember that anything it gave was wasted until the Kashmir issue was solved. Summing up this part of the discussion, President Kennedy wanted President Ayub to understand that (1) the U.S. gave aid to India not to get that country’s support but to help it stay free; (2) it was in the vital interest of the United States that this issue be solved; and (3) when Nehru came to Washington in November President Kennedy would make a major effort with him. He wanted President Ayub to know that even if he did not succeed, he would have tried. Unless this effort succeeded, President Ayub believed that Pakistan would have to bring the case again to the U.N. Would the U.S. then support Pakistan? Yes, President Kennedy said, the U.S. would support the U.N. resolutions. President Ayub thanked him for this statement.

Secretary Rusk asked whether there was any chance for a broader consideration of the problem. Could the Kashmir issue be put into the context of the security of the entire subcontinent, for example? Expressing doubt, President Ayub described Kashmir as the manifestation of India’s hostility toward Pakistan. No government of Pakistan, he added, could stand by dealing with other problems while ignoring Kashmir.

President Kennedy said that if the U.S. was to be involved in the Kashmir case again, Pakistan should at least wait (to raise the question in the U.N.) until after he had seen Nehru. If after that, Pakistan finally decided to bring the question to the U.N., the U.S. would vote with Pakistan. (Comment: In later discussion with Messrs. Rountree and Talbot, the President made it clear that at the proper time the U.S. should appraise the possible consequences of renewed consideration of the Kashmir question in the U.N., and should counsel the Pakistanis strongly if the prospects were negative. End comment) President Ayub noted that the past U.S. position on Kashmir in the U.N. was known, and that President Kennedy could use this record in his talks with Nehru. Secretary Rusk observed that in the communique of the present meetings, it would be important to emphasize the past record, not talk of the future.

Saying he also wished to talk about Afghanistan, President Ayub recalled that during all the time Afghanistan had served as a buffer between Russia and Britain (British India) it had never had good roads. [Page 71] Now three excellent road systems being built in Afghanistan by the Russians would enable the Russians to bring 9 to 12 divisions to bear on Pakistan if they wanted to. The U.S. was obligingly building lateral roads for them. When this complex was completed, the Russians would be in a position to intimidate Pakistan militarily. Their goal was to intimidate Pakistan and to knock it out of SEATO and CENTO. To reduce this pressure was one reason that Pakistan made its oil deal with the USSR.

President Ayub believed our ability to act in Southeast Asia to be now completely curtailed. Because they were a liability, he felt the protocol countries should be detached from SEATO. President Kennedy reminded him that in Viet-Nam the U.S. had taken on almost unilateral responsibility. Yes, President Ayub responded, and now the U.S. was getting somewhere. The Communists were creeping in all the time, so nothing but direct action could stop them. He doubted that Thailand would last long. As the U.S. was giving the Thai equipment it should ask them to give it the controls so the soldiers would fight.

In President Kennedy’s judgment the threat posed by the Soviet Union was not overt war in that region. If it wanted war, it would attack the U.S. He would think the threat that Pakistan might confront in Afghanistan was the possibility of guerrilla warfare and Communist party control. The question was the strength of the border forces in Afghanistan and of the Communist Party influence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Things along the border went on, President Ayub responded. There were attacks in the area, and Pakistan hit back hard. The Afghans believed the Russians would prevail. They wanted to get all the support they could from them, but at the same time to keep them at arm’s length. They did this by getting U.S. support. Yet the Royal Family in Afghanistan did not want to commit suicide. The U.S. could therefore tell the Afghans it would give aid when their actions justify it. President Kennedy wondered whether it was then President Ayub’s opinion that the U.S. should not want to give aid to Afghanistan. Ambassador Byroade had taken another view—that the Afghans should not be allowed to be smothered, and that the U.S. should give them support. President Ayub felt nevertheless that if the U.S. wanted Afghanistan to behave, it should pull back a bit. Answering President Kennedy’s observation that at least Afghanistan was not yet a satellite, President Ayub suggested this was true because the Soviets didn’t want it yet. In essence he felt Afghanistan was a satellite; the Royal Family was no longer free. But the USSR did not yet have the Communist Party cells in Afghanistan to take over.

Mr. Qadir thought the United States should endeavor to place the Afghans in a position of seeking our aid. If the United States did not give assistance so freely, the Afghans would come to realize the danger of losing it altogether, and this they did not want.

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President Kennedy observed that no amount of American aid would make a country want to preserve its independence. Unless there was a will and determination in this regard, assistance rendered was wasted. We should therefore always consider the attitude of the government toward independence as a criterion in determining aid uses. He mentioned Guinea as a country in which the determination of the leaders to preserve their national independence seemed in doubt, and therefore a country in which the utility of American aid was also doubtful.

President Ayub commented that Sekou Toure was a Communist. However, he might be replaced by someone else who would pursue other policies. The difficulty in Afghanistan was that in present circumstances the rule was confined to only one family.

President Kennedy mentioned the problem of judgment involved in such matters. For example, the extension of aid to Yugoslavia had lessened Yugoslav dependence upon the Soviet Union and had helped to bring about a greater degree of independence. There were other such places where we should use economic assistance to avoid, in effect, turning the country over to the Soviet Bloc.

President Ayub said many countries were exploiting American anxiety to help them. This was particularly true in Afghanistan. If, however, the Royal Family should feel itself in danger of losing American aid and thus of increased reliance upon the Soviet Union, their attitude might change. If the United States should pull back a bit they would feel naked and might become more sensible in their foreign relations. He thought in any event it would do no harm to try this tactic. Certainly Pakistan did not want to suggest any course which would increase the danger of the Communists taking over in Afghanistan. Their interests were exactly to the contrary and it was the President’s belief that the “shock treatment” would be more successful than the course currently followed by the United States.

President Kennedy said the Pakistanis might have an exaggerated idea of the magnitude of American aid to Afghanistan. The program now was quite limited—we had spent only $22 million in FY 1961 and $165 million in FY 1951-60—and he felt we could not withdraw completely without running a real danger.

Mr. Qadir commented that Secretary Rusk had observed at Bangkok that the United States was sometimes thought of as a cow with milk but with no horns. He thought we should develop a few horns and become a bit tougher in dispensing aid.

President Kennedy referred to the matter of Pakistan’s using U.S. equipment on the Pakistani border against Afghan tribal incursions. Recalling that some had thought the situation similar to that in Algeria, where we had come in for criticism because the French had used U.S. equipment, he said that here the situation was different. We had no objection [Page 73] to Pakistan’s using U.S. equipment to protect its national security if it felt action vital; it was a question of how best to get into position to settle differences with Afghanistan. President Ayub said that military equipment was not the sort of thing one used unless there was need. Pakistan had no intention of attacking the Afghans. But if they came at Pakistan, it would hit them hard.

Explaining Pakistan’s reactions to U.S. policies, President Ayub said that whenever the U.S. had a success anywhere, Pakistan shared in the success. When the U.S. suffered reverses, Pakistani morale went down. U.S. power was the only cover available to Pakistan and other countries. Thus it was not that Pakistan was criticizing U.S. policies, but that if any policy failed, there were repercussions on Pakistan’s security. Sometimes a firm stand was necessary. The Russians, for example, used to play a trick on Pakistan. They would give Pakistan very short notice of overflights of their planes to Delhi, and then take unauthorized routes. Finally he had had to tell them that if they again took an unauthorized route, their plane would be shot down. That worked. Pakistan faced that sort of thing quite often. It was living in the midst of tricksters—Russians, Chinese, and those bloody Hindus.

President Kennedy pointed out that if the U.S. were not involved all around the world it could easily maintain military control in limited areas, say the Caribbean. By the same token, so could the USSR over areas near its territory. If the Americans seemed less assertive in some areas, it didn’t mean we were fainthearted. But while chances remained in Afghanistan, we’d like to be in a position to move forward with them.

Returning to the subject of Indo-Pakistan relations, President Ayub repeated Pakistan’s desire to settle the disputes. He sometimes wondered what sort of statesmanship Nehru had. He had been neither impressed nor inspired by Nehru, who could not see what a fatal mistake he was making in not seizing the chance to settle the disputes.

President Kennedy asked about transportation arrangements across India between the two wings of Pakistan. Mr. Qadir explained that after having agreed to permit transit of some trains each week, Nehru found some objections in his Parliament and as a result India had now made clear this would not be implemented—even though Pakistan had permitted Indian trains to cross parts of East Pakistan between Bengal and Assam.

President Ayub spoke of having hoped that things would ease up, but this was the sort of people they were. These chaps had no intention of fighting China, either. They were spending $700 million on armed forces, shoving the money down the drain. He couldn’t understand why they should continue doing so, instead of settling the disputes. But he found Indians a very trigger-happy people. In 1951 they had got on the move, for no apparent reason. President Ayub went on to say that there was a [Page 74] great deal of concern in Pakistan over the spreading scope of American military aid. His people wanted to know whether there was any intention to give India more arms aid.

President Kennedy replied that there was no intention to give India any arms aid.

If this should happen, President Ayub continued, the Pakistani people would force his country out of the pacts and alliances and everything.

President Kennedy explained that when in the new aid bill changes were made in the political qualifications that countries must meet to be eligible for American military assistance, India was not even discussed. If sometime a situation, such as impending war with China, should arise that would cause the Indians to come to the U.S. for military aid, we would talk with Pakistan and see what was the best course of action. However, there was no intention now to give India military aid. If there should be a change in U.S. policy, President Kennedy would talk with President Ayub first.

Mr. Qadir was worried mainly about the public relations angle. Indian newspapers had carried these stories of change in the American law and had suggested India might get U.S. military aid, and Pakistani newspapers had picked them up. As a result, the Pakistani people had become alarmed. The Pakistan Government could not repudiate the story, and if there were no repudiation on this end, people would think the story true.

To President Kennedy the best course seemed to be to try to let the issue pass. It would be wrong to issue a statement. We would get into a fight about something that was not a fact. The best thing therefore was just to let the whole thing pass. Mr. Qadir agreed that that would be best, but felt the people of Pakistan would not let it pass. President Kennedy suggested that all should think about what to do about this in the common interest.

President Ayub concluded the meeting by repeating that he found it a great pleasure to see President Kennedy. He wanted him please to remember that Pakistan genuinely regards him as a friend.2

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Pakistan, Subjects, Ayub Visit, 7/61. Secret. Drafted by Talbot. According to the President’s Appointment Book, the meeting was held at the White House. (Ibid.)
  2. President Ayub arrived in Washington on July 11 and returned to Pakistan from New York on July 18. He spent the first 3 days in Washington and was Vice President Johnson’s guest during a 2-day trip to the LBJ Ranch in Texas.
  3. Presidents Kennedy and Ayub continued their discussions on July 12 and July 13. The conversation on July 12 dealt largely with economic issues. The conversation on July 13 opened with a discussion of the question of Chinese representation in the United Nations before turning to the issues of economic and military assistance for Pakistan. Ayub had an additional discussion of military assistance with Johnson on July 15 during the flight to Texas. Memoranda of the two conversations with Kennedy are in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Pakistan, Subjects, Ayub Visit, 7/61. A memorandum of the conversation with Johnson is ibid., Pakistan, General, 5/61-7/61. Additional documentation on the Ayub visit is in Department of State, Central Files, 790D.11 and ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366.