464. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1

1269. Ref. Rawalpindi 11972 and 1241.3 Subj: Military Supply. Please pass White House.

At social function October 6, Defense Minister Admiral Khan requested I call on him following morning on urgent matter.
Next morning he had with him Defense Secretary Ghias Uddin Ahmed. After pleasantries, they made following statements, with the Minister doing most of the talking.
Next to President Ayub, they and the military establishment are the best friends USG has in Pakistan;
They offer their assistance in connection with any problem our Embassy here might have, even if not within sphere of their Ministry;
They do not know what USG desires might be with respect to continuation of Peshawar, but are anxious to help fulfill whatever they might be; and
They badly need 200 tanks, reciting usual statistics about originally agreed force levels requirements, battle losses, and obsolescence, emphasizing “mad arms build up of GOI” and Pakistan’s need to be equipped for 30-day holding action in the event of GOI attack to allow time for U.N. and friendly countries to halt hostilities. They explained increase in GOP request from 100 to 200 tanks by saying Pakistan really needs 600 to 700 and previous fiscal limitations of 50 for FY 68 and 50 for FY 69, have now been relaxed to 100 each year. They added, Ayub, despite dedication to security, continues to give economic development first priority.
In response, I mentioned U.S. overall and subcontinental arms policy as well as current Congressional situations. When I referred to gratifying though small reduction in percentages in GOP and GOI budgets devoted to arms, they alleged GOI budget is meaningless, since it [garble] being adhered to and GOI is arming feverishly and has purchasing missions scouting in many countries including Czechoslovakia. They claimed all this was directed against Pakistan, since GOI well aware ChiComs have no intention attack or conquer India where they would encounter almost unsurmountable logistical and terrain problems.
I said Minister and Defense Secretary seem to have more information about arms buildup in India than I, and they volunteered to furnish me “documented statistics”.
I pointed out that:
We have no solid information from GOP regarding number of ChiCom tanks Pakistan has received or which might still be committed and
We have no assurance that if US-manufactured tanks became available GOP would not seek more elsewhere.
Defense Minister and Secretary responded that:
They would be glad to welcome a technical group and show what material Pakistan has and needs and why; and
Firm assurances would be given that if Pakistan acquired 200 tanks requested no more would be sought or acquired elsewhere.
Defense Minister and Secretary said while they will prepare report for me on alleged GOI arms build up, it would be better for me to discuss with Ayub the points in paras 5 and 6 above, adding it would be a good idea to do it “in cool of evening over couple of scotch-and-sodas”. They would set up date for me at 1930 hours October 11, and I should confirm with Ayub’s Military Secretary, General Rafi.
Rafi was in Lahore and did not return until evening of Oct. 9. I was subsequently informed Ayub had previous commitment for evening October 11 and would see me to discuss these matters after his return from France, Romania, and Turkey October 31.
This approach by Defense Minister and Secretary suggests several pregnant speculations including that:
It is opening ploy in campaign to relate US military supply to Peshawar continuance. Although only tanks were mentioned it seems probable ante will be raised to encompass at least all pending requests for military supplies (including aircraft, artillery, rifles) and will be related to Pakistan’s continuing requirements for lethal end items replacement and modernization to maintain desired military posture vis-à-vis India;
Ayub returned empty handed from Russia with respect to USSR military equipment for GOP and reduced assistance for GOI, although possibility exists he obtained some assurances of help insufficient to Pak needs, and he wishes to see can be done with USG; and
Postponement of suggested discussion until Ayub’s return from France indicates he wishes defer our conversation until he explores possibility of obtaining military equipment from France.
Range of above speculations could be extended almost indefinitely, but I believe we shall be on firmer ground in this regard after my next meeting with Ayub, during which I hope mostly to find out what he may have in mind. Meanwhile, Washington may wish to consider implications from its perspective, of apparent Pak inclination to link military supply and Peshawar.
I would appreciate benefit Washington’s preliminary views for my background prior to seeing Ayub.4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PAK-US. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to New Delhi.
  2. In telegram 1197 from Rawalpindi, October 9, the Embassy asked for a rundown on the talks in Washington with Foreign Minister Pirzada. (Ibid., POL 7 PAK)
  3. Telegram 1241 from Rawalpindi, October 11, reported that Oehlert’s tentative appointment to meet with Ayub that evening had been postponed until Ayub returned from France. (Ibid., POL 12–5 PAK)
  4. In assessing the Pakistani request for tanks, the Department stressed that the vital factor in deciding how to respond to the request would be the number of tanks supplied or committed to Pakistan by China. (Telegram 55550 to Rawalpindi, October 18; ibid., POL 12–5 PAK)