120. Letter From the Ambassador of Pakistan (Ahmed) to Secretary of State Rusk1

My dear Mr. Secretary,

I have received the following message from the President of Pakistan for transmission to the President of the United States:

Begins “Dear Mr. President,

I write to inform you of the grave situation that has arisen in the sub-continent as a result of India’s aggressive actions in recent months: First, the forcible occuption of Pakistan’s enclave of Dahagram, then an aggressive march into disputed territory of the Rann of Kutch and now concentration of virtually the entire striking power of the Indian armed forces on Pakistan borders. Dahagram was restored to us only after the Indians came to realise that their action was wholly untenable and it was impossible for them to continue to stay there; India’s attempt to take over disputed Rann of Kutch territory by force was foiled only by counter military measures which we, under the circumstances, were compelled to take, and, now, we too have had to deploy our forces in defensive positions on the India-Pakistan border to meet the threat that arises from India’s latest action.

As you know Kashmir has been the prime source of this conflict between India and Pakistan. Even as I write, reports are pouring in from Srinagar and other places in Indian-occupied Kashmir of wholesale arrests of Kashmiri leaders and firing by Indian forces on the unfortunate Kashmiri people whose only crime is that they are struggling to free themselves of Indian military yoke and are protesting against the imprisonment by India for the third time of their leader Sheikh Abdullah. This is yet another instance of India’s cynical disregard [Page 258] of the need for a peaceful settlement of her disputes with Pakistan on a just and honourable basis.
This same attitude is demonstrated by the Indian stand in regard to the Rann of Kutch dispute. Here again, as in the case of Kashmir, the Government of India now claims that the disputed territory is Indian territory. In actual fact the dispute concerning this territory has been previously discussed between India and Pakistan on several occasions—the latest in 1960 when the two Governments agreed that pending further consideration of this dispute, neither side would disturb the status quo. India accuses Pakistan of aggression in the Rann of Kutch. In fact it was India that moved large forces into the disputed territory during months of January–April this year, established forward military posts therein and carried out full-scale land, sea and air manoeuvres in its vicinity, thus forcibly demolishing the status quo. It was only on April 8th when the Indian forces attacked a Pakistan out-post at Ding in an endeavour to complete a military take over of the territory to present Pakistan with a fait accompli that the Pakistan forces went into action for the first time, and it was on April 19th after patiently watching India’s aggressive actions in the Rann of Kutch for three and a half months that Pakistan forces went into the disputed territory for the first time. Subsequent military developments in the Rann are known to your Government.
Foiled in her attempt to seize the disputed territory by force, the Indian Prime Minister proceeded publicly to threaten Pakistan that India would attack Pakistan on other points of our border of her own choosing if we refused to accept solution dictated by India. These were: a cease-fire and return to status quo ante, which meant that India would stay in possession of the disputed territory while we would have to clear out, and that the dispute would be settled only on the basis that the border needed to be demarcated and there was no territory in dispute. We could scarcely be expected to accept such a demand at the point of the gun.
Even in face of this I have exercised the greatest restraint. On April 29th I stopped our troops in the Rann of Kutch from exploiting a favourable tactical situation when after the capture of Biar Bet they were in a position to cut right through to the Indian forces on the 24th parallel and destroy from the rear the two Indian Brigades located in the disputed territory. Furthermore on April 30th I unilaterally ordered our troops in the Rann of Kutch not to do anything that might aggravate the situation, which ultimately led to a de facto cease-fire there. All this was done in face of considerable opposition and in the hope India may thus be convinced of our sincere desire to settle disputes by the sensible method available, i.e., by peaceful means.
Following these truculent declarations India has massed practically the entire Indian Army and Air Force, including all Indian armour, [Page 259] on Pakistan’s borders in offensive formations. Pakistan has naturally had to deploy her own forces in defensive positions to meet this new threat. We have also informed the Security Council of the threat to peace that has thus arisen in this region.
The armies of Pakistan and India now stand poised against each other. The situation is one of the utmost gravity. A trial of armed strength between India and Pakistan will be a war without frontiers. It could engulf the entire six hundred million people of this sub-continent with all its terrible consequences. But we trust that even at this late hour it may be possible for the Indian leaders to pause and consider where India’s true interests lie and that she may refrain from seeking a military decision.
As you know Mr. President we have time and again warned your Government that arming of India by the U.S. on the scale on which it has proceeded during the last two years could only lead to situations such as the present, that India would be encouraged to settle her disputes with Pakistan by force, that she was building two armies—one allegedly to fight the Chinese and the other to contain Pakistan—but that when she found a suitable opportunity she would employ both these armies against Pakistan. Your Government continued to believe that India had no such aggressive intentions, and has continued to arm India even though the Chinese military threat has admittedly receded. While defending this policy spokesmen of your Government have time and again reminded us of American assurances to come to our assistance in the event of aggression. At one time Mr. Harriman even expressed surprise to our Ambassador that Pakistan should not have been satisfied with those assurances. That India should have followed her aggressive actions in the Rann of Kutch by proceeding to mass against Pakistan practically her entire army—and a large part of forces allegedly facing China—regardless of your diplomatic persuasions to the contrary, and that the two countries should now be on the brink of war confirms fears we have repeatedly expressed about the unwisdom of arming an aggressive and unreliable India.
Explaining the explosive situation arising out of the massing of Indian troops on our borders we have suggested to your Ambassador that your Government consider reminding Mr. Shastri of the existence of American assurances in the event of aggression against Pakistan in the hope that such a reminder may help to deter Mr. Shastri and the other fire-eating Indian leaders from involving the sub-continent in a war which could do irreparable damage to the cause of freedom and peace in this region.

With warm personal regards,

Yours sincerely,

[Page 260]

Mohammad Ayub Khan.” Ends.

I should be grateful if the above message is conveyed to the President.

Please accept, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my highest consideration.2

G. Ahmed
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Pakistan, Vol. I, Pres. Ayub Correspondence, 12/15/63–12/31/64. No classification marking. The letter was forwarded to the White House on May 12, under cover of a memorandum from Executive Secretary Read to McGeorge Bundy. (Ibid.)
  2. Ahmed delivered the letter to Rusk on May 11. After reading the letter, Rusk commented that according to a Reuters report just received from Karachi, the two sides appeared to have reached agreement on British proposals relating to the dispute in the Rann of Kutch. If that were the case, the concerns mentioned in Ayub’s letter became moot. Ahmed agreed but reiterated that until a settlement was effected the situation along the border was volatile. (Telegram 1288 to Karachi, May 11; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDIA–PAK)