5. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State 1

1323. I saw President in Karachi for a half hour early evening Jan 14 at my request, for general exchange of views. FonOff DirGen Salman Ali present as very industrious note taker, which made atmosphere slightly less informal and relaxed than on some other occasions.


I expressed our concern at outbreak and spread of communal disturbances West Bengal and East Pakistan. Voiced earnest hope that everything possible would be done by leaders of both countries to extinguish communal passions and restore law and order. I expressed satisfaction at the useful instructions and the moderating effect of the President’s message to the people of Pakistan of Jan 13.

I also noted the several good points in his message of Jan 13 to Indian Pres Radhakrishnan,2 text of which just released by press.

President was incensed at West Bengal excesses against Muslims but his anger was well contained. He said his govt recognized importance of curbing natural retaliatory feelings of people of Pakistan and assured me every effort would continue be made to this end. He felt the thousands of refugees pouring into East Pakistan could not be prevented from telling their tales of horror and he feared the spread of these stories would compound the difficulties of restraining the [Page 9] people. He thought the prospects were good that the situation would not get out of hand in East Pakistan unless there should be new outrages against Muslims on a wide scale in West Bengal.
I told President that evidence available to us indicated Indian authorities both central and local, civil and military, were making honest and energetic efforts to restore law and order in Calcutta and throughout West Bengal. Five battalions of army troops said to have been brought in and signs indicated situation rapidly being brought under control. I said Amb Bowles was in close touch with GOI and was urging effective police and relief action by authorities, that they refrain from inflammatory public statements, and that Indian public be urged not to react violently to unfortunate communal incidents in Khulna and elsewhere in East Pakistan.
President doubted that Indian steps to restore law and order would be efficacious. He said GOP was seriously considering taking to UN entire question of mistreatment of Muslims by GOI in Kashmir, and in West Bengal and Assam. He expressed skepticism that Western countries would support a Pakistan UN complaint along this line and I did not comment on this speculation.
President in common with other Pakistani officials was inclined to dismiss outbreaks in East Pakistan against Hindus as relatively inconsequential and not to be mentioned in same breath with mass attacks on life, property and residence rights of Muslims in India. His posture was one of suppressed but deep indignation.
On prospective deployment of Indian Ocean task force,3 I found President technically noncommittal but privately still clearly critical of the concept. I could only get his assent that his govt will not take any public position on proposal before it is fully and officially defined. I called attention to various ways in which the proposal had been exaggerated and otherwise distorted by the press and some govts following the unfortunate premature and inaccurate publicity. I expressed confidence that GOP would perceive stabilizing and deterrent value small independent task force could have in area and would agree that its intermittent presence on high seas in area would pose no problems on any consequence for GOP. I said the force if activated would not have to put into ports of area in order to carry out its role, and we would not need any permission from any other govt for it to operate on high seas, but naturally we sought approval and cooperation of friendly countries and would like to feel that the vessels would be [Page 10] welcome as in past for periodic courtesy calls at friendly ports, including Karachi, and possibly Chittagong.
President said he still felt that task force could not fulfill role we envisage for it. It would be too far removed to have any effect on China and it would not be useful in dealing with what he called “local squabbles” of area, would create more problems than it would solve, and would certainly tend to spread any conflict. He thought there would be a better chance of avoiding intervention by other powers and of containing and liquidating local squabbles, if GOP forces were enabled with proper equipment to do job themselves. I observed that the primary objective of task force would be prevention rather than cure. I noted that his apparent discounting of the stabilizing and deterrent effect of such a naval presence did not seem very compatible with the deep misgivings frequently expressed to us by GOP about the possibility of aggression in area. The President said the harm resulting from the upsetting of established ratio of power in subcontinent by our arms aid program for India could not be offset by operations of a carrier task force. I asked the President to keep an open mind on task force and to continue to refrain from taking a negative position on task force until all point ramifications could be more fully explored and he indicated his assent.
Chou En-lai visit. I took oblique approach to impending visit of Chinese Communist leaders, Chou En-lai and Chen Yi. President had asked me about my travel plans for the next few weeks, and I mentioned likelihood that I would be in Lahore for horse show in early March. I half-humorously expressed the hope that I would not encounter Chinese Communists as guests at horse show. (This was prompted by persistent but unverified rumors that Chou En-lai may delay his travel here by a couple of weeks in order to compel Pakistanis to make him chief guest at Lahore horse show.) The President responded by minimizing any embarrassment if Chou En-lai were at horse show. He argued that the presence or absence of Chou En-lai would not be matter of any great significance.
With this opening, I told the President that in the view of myself and my government the pitch in which the visit was played would make considerable difference. I knew the GOP would feel the visit to Pakistan could not be cancelled now, and, of course, we know that the essential requirements of protocol and courtesy would have to be met. But there were many degrees of cordiality and recognition above this necessary minimum which could be invoked or withheld, depending on the desires of the host government. We hoped that visit would be played in as low a key as possible in order to minimize the harm. I remarked that the treatment accorded the Chinese Communist visitors in Pakistan would be closely observed in Washington.
The President said the traditions of hospitality in Pakistan went beyond minimum customary diplomatic requirements, and Pakistani tradition of special hospitality would have to be maintained. He hoped that not too much would be read into this. I said we know that a certain amount of red carpet would have to be rolled out, but we hoped the red carpet would be no wider than necessary and the pile of the carpet no deeper than necessary.
In response to some light probing, the President acknowledged that Chou En-lai would visit various places in Pakistan and would be exposed to the public on various occasions. I expressed the hope that he would not be given wide scope for public speeches or other good sounding boards for his propaganda efforts. The President said the effectiveness of Chou En-lai’s contacts with the people of Pakistan would be up to the people themselves. The government could not control reaction of the people, and if they wished to respond enthusiastically to Mr. Chou En-lai that could not be helped.
The President said he felt it would be a mistake to get excited about a visit which was in the normal tradition of exchanges of official missions by neighboring governments maintaining diplomatic relations. There was nothing unusual about it, and he hoped we would not react unduly.
President assured me that his only objective was to “hold back the Chinese and keep them on their side of the line.” He felt the pursuit of “normalization” was the best way of avoiding provocation and ensuring that the Chinese would stay where they belonged. He thought his method of dealing with them would be more successful than the Indian had been.
I told him that any opportunities offered Chinese which they could exploit were unfortunate at this time. We could not be happy about any evidences of acceptance of the Chinese Communists, considering their record.
Other topics of less urgent nature are being reported by airgram.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to New Delhi and London.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  3. Documentation on the proposal to deploy a U.S. Naval task force in the Indian Ocean, which was developed and discussed during 1963, is in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XIX.