25. Telegram 6484 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1 2


  • Military Supply Policy


  • A. State 147357, April 16, 1968

Joint State-AID-Defense

Summary: Country Team has reviewed Indo/Pak military supply question and concluded anew that early adjustment April 1967 policy would be in our best interests. Specifically, we strongly recommend providing USG with additional option of selling limited quantities lethal end-items directly to India and Pakistan, on case-by-case basis, while we recognize this likely create problems for us in our relations with India, we see course as the lesser evil to placing Pakistan in a position where it will increasingly feel need to turn to communist China as ts major source of military equipment. We therefore urge approval of suggested modification of April 1967 policy. President Nixon hopefully would be able to inform President Yahya of decision when they meet in Lahore August 1.
At risk of repetition, we wish avoid any possible misunderstanding of what proponents of revision of 1967 policy specifically have in mind. We in this Embassy never contemplated “liberalization” in sense of allowing massive sales of sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan. We are fully confident this was and remains Ambassador [Page 2] Oehlert’s view. What we and he advocate in effect is rendering operative the intention of the restrained 1967 policy, which contemplated selective sales. Now apparent that we can accomplish purposes intended in 1967 only if we drop our condition that lethal end-items sales must necessarily be consummated via a third country route. To date, that route has secured six Hawker-Hunters for India and nothing for Pakistan.
Direct sales modification would still leave us with highly restrictive but more flexible policy in practice with sales keyed to our perception of how best to influence South Asian developments in face of Soviet and ChiCom machinations. Such a semantic adjustment, away from “liberalization” concept, would ease our supposed congressional problem and perhaps even the Indian’s psychological problem.
Moreover, modification need not preclude modest US private assistance in development of indigenous defense production facilities in both countries, in which process India would probably gain relatively more than Pakistan. Lastly, we continue to urge significant increase in our grant military training programs for both countries.
In concrete terms, modified policy would permit us to sell directly (assuming the Turkish tank deal is successfully negotiated) the second tranche of 100 obsolescent M–47 tanks which Presidents Johnson and Ayub discussed in Karachi December 23, 1967. Such tank sales would, of course, be conditioned on satisfactory GOP assurances re scrapping similar equipment on one-for-one basis and restrictions on additional acquisitions from other sources. Further sales would be dependent upon case-by-case decisions, measured against our appreciation of valid defense deterrent requirements and of pertinent political and economic considerations. In any event, we continue favor early approval sale six F–104s which possible under existing policy as replacement for accident losses (see State 174467, April 14, 1967).
We do not need in this message recapitulate all the arguments for policy modification outlined in reftels. Some key considerations merit reiterated stress.
Given apparent intractability Indo/Pak political impasse, USG [Page 3] (and GOP) believes Pakistan’s major potential for positive foreign policy role in near and middle future lies in region immediately to west e.g., in cooperation with moderate Moslem countries such as Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Possibility of Pakistan’s playing constructive role in Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Near and Middle East would be reduced if we force Paks to turn wholly to ChinComs and/or Soviets for weapons which are not compatible with hardware held by our area friends. (ref B.) Similarly prospects Paks can play role in post-Vietnam Southeast Asia settlement likely to be reduced if their military supply orientation shifts wholly to communists.
Imperative of GOP’s resource/demand ratio are such that it simply cannot afford to purchase minimal arms it needs at commercial rates in Western Europe. Thus, US is only practicable non-communist source of hardware which Paks will in any event procure. In wake of anti-Ayub upheaval martial law administration (MLA) and successor GOP should greatly increase expenditures in social sector and especially in East Pakistan. Moreover, as US equipment is rapidly losing operational effectiveness, GOP may soon be faced with necessity of standardizing of equipment from different sources, leading to very rapid increase in defense expenditures. We cannot believe rational elements in GOI would, considering all relevant factors, including importance of preserving unified Pakistan, wish to deny Paks a non-communist arms supply option.
In addition to such important gains as (1) strengthening our ties with military (which will inevitably be a key group here for considerable time, and younger officers of which are increasingly oriented towards China) and (2) enhancement of your ability to repress excessive defense spending, to permit selective direct sales would materially improve our leverage in encouraging MLA to do those things we deem necessary to insure adequate progress towards real stability. For instance timely, decisive moves to restore civilian rule under representative government and better deal for East Bengalis.
While Indian factor places inhibitions on extent to which Soviets can provide arms to Pakistan, ChiComs suffer no such inhibitions. Moreover, it apparent that Soviets can go further than they have in supplying hardware to Paks without incurring unacceptable setback in their relations with India. In absence of US option as source of supply, GOP would perforce have to be more amenable to communist “advice” than it is or wants to be. Implications for Pakistan’s long-range political and economic development are evident.
Recommendation. We urge decision to modify April 1967 policy so as to allow limited direct sales of lethal end-items India and Pakistan, on case-by-case basis. If decision taken, in time, the President could inform Yahya, at least in general terms, to this effect when they meet in Lahore August 1. President Nixon could stipulate, inter alia, that we would of course expect the GOP’s firm commitment not to employ US arms in an offensive operation [Page 5] against India over Kashmir or any other issue, and that reasonable approach would have to be worked out for measuring Pakistan’s defensive requirements. In context this presentation, President could refer to our large economic aid program here, to our hope for gradual improvement in Indo-Pak relations and to our anticipation that Pakistan will move in timely fashion toward restoration of responsible civil administration with broader political participation.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 PAK. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, and New Delhi. On July 8 the Embassy in New Delhi commented on the recommendations advanced in telegram 6484 from Rawalpindi as follows: “We must emphasize that any policy change permitting direct sales to Pakistan of lethal end items—even on a severely limited basis—would evoke sharp GOI reaction and severely damage our position in India.” (Telegram 9574 from New Delhi; ibid.)
  2. The Embassy renewed its arguments for limited direct sale of lethal weapons to Pakistan and India.