506. Telegram From the Ambassador to Pakistan (Oehlert) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

334. 1. When I left your office at approximately 1700 hours on Friday, June 28, you and I, along with Nick Katzenbach and everyone else concerned at State, Defense, Joint Chiefs and the intelligence community, were in full and complete agreement that we should move heaven and earth to insure that the Belgian tank deal went through as immediately as possible.

2. After considerable delay on the part of the Belgians, Brussels sent its 80012 on July 12 setting forth the bases on which the Belgians were prepared to move.

3. There were no conditions in the Belgian proposition that we had not discussed in advance and agreed we should comply with. In fact, we were willing to go much further than the Belgians required.

4. Thirteen days have now gone by with no response to Brussels from Washington, despite two intervening messages from me to Washington.

5. I can understand why Washington would be interested in Ayub’s response to President Johnson’s letter,3 but on the other hand we ought to be willing to look at the other fellow’s side of it, which may be briefly outlined as follows:

Our April 1, 1967 announcement of a new military supply policy encouraged GOP to believe that at long last it would be able to obtain some American-made equipment.
The Paks then worked up a deal with Germany, which we refused to approve because instead of selling direct, the Germans insisted on selling through a third country. Admittedly, there was a difference between this proposal and our new policy, but it didn’t appear to the Paks to be a difference of substance.
Nevertheless they accepted our position and worked out a deal with Iran which was precisely in accord with our policy. Nevertheless, [Page 1001] we refused to approve this deal for reasons which the Paks could never be expected to understand. It was precisely in accord with our policy and our only reason for rejecting it was because we did not want the Shah to spend too much of his own money buying equipment from us, even though such sales would be to our labor, profit, taxation and balance of payments interests.
We then put the Paks in touch with the abortive Italian-German deal which many of us knew from the beginning could not possibly succeed because:
The Italians had no tanks of their own, but had to acquire them from Germany;
The Italians would not move until they had customers for all the 750 tanks;
The Italians were insisting on outrageous prices;
The Germans insisted on a clause in the Italian contract which would prohibit resale to Pakistan.

6. Then we steered the Paks to Belgium. We have every reason to believe that the Belgians have indicated to the Paks that they are ready and willing to proceed, but that we are dragging our heels, which, in fact, we are. Under all these circumstances, I think we should have some appreciation of Ayub’s difficulty in making any affirmative response to President Johnson’s letter.

7. We are committed to the tanks. We all recognize that. We should fulfill our commitment. We can not expect any Peshawar success unless we do, nor can we expect to have any credibility or influence with the Paks unless we do.

8. I am counting on you, personally, old friend, to break this deadlock in accordance with our agreement.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Pakistan, Vol. IX, Memos, 5/68–11/68. Top Secret. Sent [text not declassified] from Ambassador Oehlert to the White House for Walt Rostow.
  2. In telegram 8001 from Brussels, July 12, the Embassy outlined the grounds on which the Belgian Government was prepared to proceed with the sale of tanks to Pakistan. The Embassy noted that the only new element of importance among the Belgian conditions was the Belgian desire to inform India that Belgium was prepared to sell tanks to India on similar terms. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 19–8 US–BEL)
  3. See Document 503.
  4. President Johnson considered and accepted Oehlert’s advice at a luncheon meeting on July 24 with Rusk, Clifford, Helms, Rostow, and Generals Earle Wheeler and Maxwell Taylor. (Memorandum for the record by Rostow; Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, May–June 1968)