65. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President’s Conversation with Ambassador McConaughy2


  • The President
  • Ambassador Walter McConaughy
  • Mr. Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary of State, NEA
  • Mr. R. W. Komer, White House

Ambassador McConaughy said Ayub has manifested strong feelings of rapport with President Johnson, especially after his visit to the Texas ranch in 1961. Ayub had been disappointed with what he felt was a failure by President Kennedy to understand fully Pakistan’s problem with arms assistance to India and had counted on a more sympathetic hearing from President Johnson. Ayub felt that we were not taking Pakistani views enough into account. The Ambassador thought it would be most useful to build on the great respect which Ayub had for the President by inviting Ayub here for a face-to-face talk after the U.S. elections. This would please Ayub and give him a chance to get things off his chest, even though we might have to agree to disagree again. The Department had incorporated a suggestion for such a meeting in the draft Presidential letter for the Ambassador to take back with him, if the President approved.

After rereading President Ayub’s July 1, 1964 letter3 and reading the proposed reply, the President outlined a different type of reply he wished to have made to Ayub. Instead of taking a letter, Ambassador McConaughy should give an oral response when he next saw Ayub. The President did not want to give Ayub an invitation to Washington now, or anytime before the November election. He did not see much point in another session of unproductive argument with Ayub.

[Page 137]

The President said that the Ambassador should restate the President’s highest personal regard for President Ayub. The Ambassador should then say that the President had read President Ayub’s letter with a great deal of interest and considerable distress. The President had little to add to what he had already told Pakistan Ambassador G. Ahmed when the letter was presented. He did not share President Ayub’s viewpoint that he was being disloyal to the Alliance by trying to work with India in what he considers to be our interest and also Ayub’s. Moreover he was distressed that such an old and valued ally of ours as President Ayub should want to give the attention he has given to Communist China. Ayub must know we Americans felt strongly about China; we were having all sorts of trouble with China in Southeast Asia right now. As for President’s Ayub’s suggestion that he might have to reappraise Pakistan’s commitments to the Alliances, the President could not see that this would be in Pakistan’s interest or in ours, but it was a decision that only President Ayub could make. We valued the Pakistan alliance. As he had said to Ambassador Ahmed, we recognized Pakistan’s right as a sovereign country to re-examine its policies. Regrettable as it might be, we would have to re-examine ours also, if Pakistan did so.

Commenting on these statements to be made to President Ayub, the President said he did not wish to provoke Ayub. Ayub, who is about as able, tough and ruthless as anyone the President had known, was enough of a dictator so that if the President were to respond to the letter by inviting Ayub to Washington, Ayub would think we were admitting we had been wrong in our policy toward India. After the election, the President would see if he wanted to have Ayub here for a debating contest, or let Pakistan go its own way. If Pakistan wanted to change its course, there wasn’t much we could do about it. We were giving Pakistan more than double the per capita aid that we gave India. If Ayub wanted to jeopardize this, it was up to him. The President doubted that Pakistan could get much from either Communist China or the Soviet Union.

Ambassador McConaughy estimated that as long as Ayub was in control in Pakistan, he wasn’t about to commit suicide by reversing Pakistan foreign policy and risking the loss of U.S. aid. Ayub was very conscious of the value of his U.S. ties, and while a shrewd bargainer was unlikely to go over the brink. In fact, Pakistan was continuing to work with us in many fields and had just recently offered to share any intelligence they collected on the new air route to Communist China. However, Ayub was very disillusioned with what he saw as a shift in U.S. policy and in the sub-continent power balance at the expense of Pakistan. We should try to bring Ayub around, seeking to avoid any action which might cause him to think he was being forced to the brink.

[Page 138]

The President wondered how much we were getting for the very large amounts of aid we were giving to India as well as Pakistan. He asked how much our aid to Pakistan was running; when told that it was over $400 million including PL–480, he commented that the question of aid to Pakistan would certainly be settled if the Morse Amendment were passed. The President said that when Ayub was willing to send men to Laos, he thought our aid was worthwhile. But now that the Pakistanis refused to help us in Viet Nam, he didn’t know whether we were getting very much for our money. Mr. Komer and the others present noted the special facilities available to the U.S. and cooperation in various intelligence fields, but agreed that the price was high in terms of specific benefits.

Ambassador McConaughy thought that a Kashmir settlement would contribute more than anything else to the solution of our dilemma on the subcontinent. Ayub had made clear that if only Kashmir could be settled, he would again offer joint defense to India. Pakistan and India would not have to deploy against each other and they could release forces for use elsewhere. The President didn’t think that either side would settle Kashmir. The President observed that what we did for many countries was repaid by their involving us in their own ancient feuds—not only Kashmir between India and Pakistan, but the Arabs and Israel and now the Greeks and Turks over Cyprus.

The President had endured what Ayub had written without questioning his loyalty to our cause, but he did not share Ayub’s view that while we were giving twice as much aid per capita to Pakistan as to India we ought to be precluded from doing with India what we thought to be in our interest and the over-all interest as well. He was not sure that all our actions with India have been the wisest possible, but we were set on that course and would see it through. After the election we should take a “long look” at our Indian policy over the next four years.

The President then reiterated that he didn’t want to set up a meeting with Ayub now. As the President put it, “Ayub says he’ll take a look at his hole card. Let’s wait till he does so and then we will look at ours. Isn’t this good poker?” Mr. Talbot agreed.

Summing up, the President requested Ambassador McConaughy to restate to Ayub the position the President himself had taken with G. Ahmed on July 7. He should tell Ayub that the President had read his letter with interest but with distress. He regretted Ayub’s feeling that it was necessary to re-evaluate the desirability of Pakistan’s alliance. But he recognized that this was a decision for Ayub himself to make. In this case, we would have to re-examine our policy toward Pakistan, too. The President then repeated that he wasn’t sure about all aspects of our India policy either and we should take another look at our policy after the election.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Pakistan, Vol. II, Cables, 6/64–11/64. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Talbot on July 20. The meeting was held at the White House. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.)
  2. Ambassador McConaughy was in Washington on home leave and was scheduled to return to Pakistan on July 21. In an undated note to President Johnson concerning his scheduled meeting with McConaughy, Secretary Rusk noted that McConaughy should be in a position to respond to President Ayub’s July 1 letter when he returned to Pakistan. Rusk attached a draft letter to Ayub that he recommended the President sign as a basis for McConaughy’s discussion with Ayub. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Pakistan, Vol. II, Cables)
  3. Document 60.