30. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1

4705. For the Secretary from Talbot.

Since leaving subcontinent I have been pondering grave deterioration of Indo-Pak relations and implications for our policies, on which I should now like to comment.
As usual situation includes many conflicting strands. Compared to several years ago, both countries show substantial modernization and development, especially in cities and towns. Recent tours of Ambassador Bowles in South India and Ambassador McConaughy in East Pakistan yielded warm and friendly receptions. It is clear that in both countries our long-term policies are having beneficial effects; it is US which is looked to first for understanding and support.
Internal dynamics of India and Pakistan are, however, in sharpest contrast in years. With Nehru dessicated, Indian top leadership is defensive and defiant in face of farm shortfalls, rising prices, bankruptcy of Kashmir policy, conviction that Paks and ChiComs are making common cause, and evident reduction of Indian influence in Afro-Asian and world councils. Despite impact in economy and development, therefore, Indians now scheduling annual military outlays of nearly $2 billion, with emphasis on defense production and fascination with sophisticated weaponry.
Moreover, Indian focus on ChiComs as prime enemy has in recent months been befogged by Pak policies which have also refur [Page 68] bished position of Pak haters in India. Last year’s confidence US would help India against China has consequently now been diluted by doubts US would similarly be available to restrain Paks if they should cause trouble alone or in association with ChiComs. Indians therefore are increasingly of mood to hedge position by finding alternative sources of military equipment. As fears of Pakistan have risen, earlier reluctance to become dependent on Soviet supplies has been dropping. Now many Indians seem pleased at prospect that in military procurement as in political field, they can play different options against one another.
Pakistan, by contrast, today shows mixture of basic anxieties and new-found buoyancy. While still driven to foreign policy extremes by fear and distrust of India, Paks are sufficiently pleased with prospects of making gains from current Indian weakness so there is risk they will badly over-estimate their tactical advantages. Nonetheless, I believe Shoaib is not alone in recognizing Paks have been suckered by ChiComs and now need to restore balance by greater caution with Peiping and more careful cultivation of US relations. Surprising warm-up of Pak delegation in recent CENTO economic meeting may have meaning in this connection.
However, in view centrality of India in Pak perspective we can anticipate Paks like Indians will welcome alternative options to full dependence on US. Assuming they now recognize they cannot cross permissible limits of alliance with ChiComs, Paks could become easy targets of those like De Gaulle and current Iraqi visitor who advocate neutralism in Asia and argue US will live with that.
Thus Soviets, ChiComs, neutralists and West—each with own objectives—are kibitzers and to some extent actors in present Indo-Pak turmoil.
It is in this context that some Indo-Pak climax is slowly approaching. Kashmir fever, armed clashes on borders, and refugee followers are spreading viruses that erupt in communal killings. These generated high tempers, naked distrust and intransigence on both sides. Most hopeful thing I can see is that situation may be producing its own anti-toxins. In similar crises in past both sides have finally pulled back for negotiations. Sometimes periods of relative calm and constructive activity have ensued. Both countries remain under control today of men who went through 1947 cataclysm. I found several on each side remembering those days and determined not to permit similar disintegration now.
Our stakes in subcontinent remain very high. At one level is our interest in preserving and if possible expanding our cooperation with Paks against Soviets and with Indians against ChiComs. At another is importance of preserving and strengthening freedom and viability of this region of 550 million which, if taken over by Communists, [Page 69] would represent setback of dimensions comparable to ChiCom victory of 1949. India and Pakistan are so intertwined we cannot expect either to remain healthy if other disintegrates. With these thoughts in mind, I suggest following policy lines for consideration:
An over-all stance of sympathy and reserve on most explosive Indo-Pak issues. These conflicts are corrosive and costly, and deserve our understanding. They are also hot issues, and our counsels of restraint are likely have little impact until parties themselves see wisdom in pulling back from brink. Plethora of tactical advice sometimes reduces impact of our interventions at really crucial moments. It also tempts each party to use our readiness for immediate interventions in ploys against other. While I am somewhat out of touch at moment, I suspect this applies just now to refugee movements and communal rioting, for example.
On Kashmir, a posture of limited diplomatic but, so far as possible, no public activity. For their own reasons Pakistan requires continued external involvement in Kashmir issue and India rejects any. I doubt any external enticement or pressure (within limits tolerable to maintenance of our overall interests in sub-continent) will soon loosen Indian grip on Kashmir. Certainly none will have effect at this moment of defiant weakness. I doubt equally that Ayub can afford to give up political dividends of continuous attack on Kashmir status quo; indeed, pressures on him to permit military pin-pricks and Algeria-type penetrations into Kashmir in absence of progress on diplomatic front may be real. Since this is not an obsolescent issue I believe outside powers involved in sub-continent cannot escape it. Our goal therefore should be to acknowledge it but to tamp it down. Best ploy I can think of is to encourage secret talks outside sub-continent, as privately advocated by Munuddin and B. K. Nehru but not yet by their governments. This would have advantage of being an operation process to keep heat on India but not a public circus.
On military aid to India, prompt progress toward detailed and intimate discussion of Indian military plans in context of our five-year assistance proposals. To protect its economy as well as to avoid unnecessary provocation of Pakistan, India needs to re-examine its $2 billion military planning figure, with 15%-18% required in foreign exchange. Probably only US can substantially influence it in this direction, and then only if we are genuine participants in its defense build-up. Also, probably only US can press focus on ChiComs as real enemy. Considering our difficulty in applying restraints to ambitions in such countries as Iran and Pakistan, where we have provided bulk of military hardware available to armed forces, we can expect extremely difficult task in peddling advantages of restraint to Indians to whom [Page 70] even $50 million aid level will be only peripheral. Yet costs of failure so significant that major effort will be worthwhile.
On economic aid to India, continuation of present policies. Need continues great; indeed, as economy grows balance of payments strains also grow, and our interests would be as adversely affected as in part by Indian inability to meet its problems. Even so, we can hardly increase economic aid to India while military expenditures are out of balance.
On aid to Pakistan, a frank business as usual approach. In recent past we have sought to register our unhappiness with Paks by dragging our feet on aid projects and planning. It has not worked. It is now evident prideful Paks under Ayub’s instructions are not raising aid questions with us. Hold-up of Dacca Airport loan, for example, makes us look picayune and a little silly. Economic aid considerations are the same for Pakistan as for India. On military aid, we ought to start talking promptly and with no fanfare about possible five-year planning. Paks know we are entering this phase with India, and as they examine alternative options in immediate future their estimate of our interest in them will be important. I incline to treat Paks in next stage as if Shoaib’s assertion they want to improve relations with us were correct. If it is not, we can drag feet later. If it is, we do not want to lose this turn in their thinking by refusing to believe it is true.
On weaponry, an effort to de-emphasize symbolism of supersonics. At present it seems crux of our military aid posture is yea or nay on supersonics. But rest of world has crossed this bridge and if such little fellows as Iraq and Syria have MIG 21’s while we are about to give or sell supersonics to such countries as Iran and Lebanon, both India and Pakistan will find ways to develop supersonic fleets soon. If we could de-emphasize their symbolism and threat them like weaponry our military aid program in both India and Pakistan would be easier to handle.
My apologies for length of this message. I have not found time on this trip to distill it further.2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDIA–PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to New Delhi and Karachi for the Ambassadors only and passed to the White House at 1:15 p.m.
  2. McGeorge Bundy sent a copy of this telegram to Komer for comment, noting in the margin, “He’s coocoo on the way to treat Ayub.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, India, Cables, Vol. II, 4/64–6/64)