8. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan1

62792. Subject: CENTO and Military Supply Policy. Ref: Rawalpindi 3982 (Notal) and 4048.2

In past several weeks we here have done considerable soul searching over future of CENTO, including helpful discussions with you last month based in part on NEA’s “Contingency Study on Pakistan and the Alliances,”3 copy of which had previously been pouched to you.
At CENTO Ministerial meeting in Tehran we envisage our principal objective as signifying our continuing deep interest in future of our relations with regional countries (and particularly Turkey and Iran). Foresee collateral objective as “holding action” on CENTO itself while we reassess its future. We would hope get clearer idea of value that regional members and UK attach to CENTO and what changes (including possibly dismantling) they might desire or be prepared to accept. (Copy of our “Objectives” paper for Tehran meeting, as [Page 29] approved by Secretary, being airpouched all addressees.) We do not wish our interest to be misinterpreted and wish avoid any action in interim which might prejudice Secretary’s private discussions with other Council members at Tehran.4
Your views on need to reassess CENTO’s future (reftels and as expressed during your recent consultation here) are not inconsistent with Dept’s current thinking. We have no illusions about Pakistanis dim view of CENTO. Basic fact is that decision whether they stay in or get out is up to them. We have not lifted a finger to oppose Pakistan’s withdrawal from military exercises, its decision not to be represented by a Minister at annual Council meeting and other actions to downgrade its membership in Pact. We intend no pressure on Pakistan to maintain even its minimal participation in CENTO.
Agree with you that any decision on modifying CENTO will have to be weighed in close consultation with our friends. Views of Turkey and Iran, as well as UK, will have to be taken into careful account.
Seems to us question of Pakistan’s continuing membership in CENTO need not be decisive in terms military sales policy for South Asia. As you know, military sales policy now under review on its own merits in broad context our interest South Asia.5 We appreciate your views on it as expressed Rawalpindi 3842.6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 4 CENTO. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Stein, Sidney Sober (NEA/RA), and James W. Spain (NEA/PAF); cleared by Brown (S/S); and approved by Sisco. It was repeated to Ankara, London, and Tehran.
  2. In telegram 3982 from Rawalpindi, April 21, the Embassy argued that the United States should allow Pakistan to leave CENTO and carefully limit supplies to Pakistan for its own defense. (Ibid.) In telegram 4048 from Rawalpindi, April 22, the Embassy concluded that U.S. interests in Pakistan would be well served by early moves “toward graceful dissolution of CENTO structure, perhaps maintaining CENTO treaty.” (Ibid.) Other Embassies had reached a similar conclusion. (Telegram 1090 from Tehran, March 28; and telegram 2023 from Ankara, March 27; ibid.) In telegram 1416 from Moscow, April 4, the Embassy noted that although the Soviets already discounted CENTO’s military significance, they would not see its dissolution as a sign of opportunity for increased aggression given their desire for normal relations with Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. (Ibid.)
  3. Not found.
  4. The Ministerial Meeting occurred May 26–27 in Tehran. The Objectives Paper was not found. Documentation on the Tehran meeting is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 212, Agency Files, CENTO, and ibid., Box 1234, Saunders Files, CENTO, 1/20/69–12/31/69.
  5. A reference to NSSM 26, “Military Supply Policy in South Asia,” February 21; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 10.
  6. In telegram 3842 from Rawalpindi, April 16, Ambassador Benjamin H. Oehlert, Jr., provided a lengthy analysis of the deteriorating Pakistani role in regional alliances, its difficulties with India, and its growing ties to the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. He argued that a strong Soviet presence in Pakistan would add to the pressures the United States was experiencing throughout the Middle East and Indian Ocean. He urged a liberalization of U.S. military supply policy to Pakistan as the best and perhaps only means of maintaining strong bilateral ties and Pakistani ties with the West. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 4 CENTO)