63. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S. Military Assistance to India


  • The President
  • His Excellency Ghulam Ahmed, Ambassador of Pakistan
  • Mr. Tayeb-Uddin Mahtab, Second Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan
  • Assistant Secretary Phillips Talbot (NEA)

Ambassador Ahmed congratulated the President on the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and expressed the admiration of the Pakistani [Page 133] people for the President’s courage and skill in successfully carrying through legislation of such historic importance. He then handed over a letter from President Ayub.2

When the President had read the letter, the Ambassador suggested that from its contents the President would recognize the depth of President Ayub’s anxiety about United States military assistance to India. Pakistan had hoped the time had come when this aid would be stopped, since the Chinese threat to India had clearly receded. Instead, United States military assistance to India had been doubled. There was also now a long-term understanding on arms aid. He was sorry to have to say that these regrettable developments had definitely upset the balance of power in the subcontinent, and, in addition, had clearly eroded Pakistan’s ability to meet its obligations to its allies.

The President interrupted to ask if this were why President Ayub had not replied to requests for some assistance to Vietnam. He had been shocked at President Ayub’s silence, especially as Pakistan had once before offered troops to assist in protecting Southeast Asia. He had thought that now President Ayub would at least put the Pakistan flag there.

The Ambassador, clearly uninformed on this question, said he did not know about other assistance but, of course, Pakistan could not now put any soldiers there. Pakistan faced a difficult threat. Its neighbor, India, was completely non-aligned and had made no commitment whatsoever to any free world cause. As President Ayub had pointed out before, Pakistan could foresee that a militarily strong India would oust the American presence from Southeast Asia. President Ayub had great respect for President Johnson and trusted that, with his knowledge of the situation in the area, he would be able to understand the situation and rectify the steps that were being taken.

After a quiet pause, the President said he would study President Ayub’s letter carefully and talk with his associates about it. However, he did not share President Ayub’s feeling that because the United States has helped India, Pakistan should ignore its alliance obligations. Obviously Pakistan would have to decide its course. He himself did not think it would be in Pakistan’s interest to leave the alliances, but that would have to be Pakistan’s decision.

The Ambassador, visibly concerned at the President’s reaction, interposed that President Ayub had not said he would leave the alliances. In response the President read from the Ayub letter, saying he had inferred the President was thinking of this possibility from such phrases as the following: [Page 134]

“On May 26 my Foreign Minister explained to Ambassador McConaughy Pakistan’s growing concern at the continued arming of India. He also stated that if this policy continued, Pakistan would be compelled to reconsider the commitments to her allies.”

The Ambassador asserted that what President Ayub hoped was that this United States policy would not continue. The President then read another quotation from the letter:

“Further, by continuing to build India’s armed might, the United States might well force India’s smaller neighbors—already deeply mistrustful of India—to seek the protection of China.”

The Ambassador responded that this could happen. Without referring to Pakistan’s relations with China, he said that after all Nepal was already almost in the mouth of China; Burma was under considerable pressure; Ceylon, as everyone knew, was going wildly from policy to policy; and there were difficulties in Sikkim and Bhutan.

Speaking slowly and seriously, the President expressed great admiration for President Ayub and great affection for the people of Pakistan. He knew that the Ambassador was about to go to London to see President Ayub,3 and asked him to give President Ayub his warm personal regards. However, he added soberly, he did not agree with what President Ayub had written about the necessity of the United States following the course President Ayub recommended. In light of the way President Ayub seemed to feel, he guessed we were coming to the point at which we would all have to re-evaluate the condition of our relationship. This troubled him deeply, he concluded, because there was no people for whom he had greater regard then for the Pakistani people.

After a pause, when it became clear that the President had no more to say, the Ambassador, who appeared shaken by the tone and content of the President’s comments, said he would carry the President’s message to President Ayub, and took his leave.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Pakistan, Vol. II, 6/64–11/64. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Talbot. The meeting was held at the White House. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.) Another copy of this memorandum is in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 19–8 US–INDIA.
  2. Document 60.
  3. Ayub was attending the Commonwealth Conference in London.