- Bilateral Conversation With Afghan Prime Minister January 7, 1970
- In addition Prime Minister Nur Ahmed Etemadi, following persons were on Afghan side: First Deputy Prime Minister Ardullah Yaftali; Minister of Planning Dr. Abdul Wahid Grabi; Minister of State Ghulam Ali Ayin; Director General for Political Affairs, MFA, Dr. Rawan Farhadi; Director Political Departments, MFA, Dr. Saadullah Gmaussi and Director Economic Affairs, MFA Dr. Abdul Wahid Karim.
- In addition Vice President following Americans present: Ambassador Neumann, Blair, DCM Lainger, Houdek, Political Counselor Naas.
- Following 35 minute tete-a-tete, Vice President and Prime Minister joined other participants. Pri Min commenced with warm welcome and expressions of pleasure having VP in Kabul which presented opportunity to exchange views on matters common interest. Moving into substance, Pri Min used technique of introducing his colleagues and then moving into subject in which they primarily involved. Introducing Yaftali he said that key problem for RGA was to move out of current economic stagnation. He emphasized Afghans intended rely primarily on their own efforts but hoped for continued support of US and other friends.
- Turning to Sorabi, he explained that Afghanistan had mixed economy. First two 5-year plans had emphasized infrastructure and with help of US, USSR, FRG and others plans have been successfully implemented. 3rd 5-year plan was now in Parliament and emphasis was on small projects and private enterprise as ways get out of stagnation and provide employment. He said RGA must [Page 2] revise tax structure if it were to do more on its own. It was not easy task to convince people and especially Parliament of the need for self-reliance and austerity. It would be difficult to get land and livestock taxes through Parliament.
- Presenting Farhadi, he said Afghan foreign policy of non-alignment and international cooperation with all was well known. Pointing to the long common boundary with USSR and 50 years of good relations, he said Afghanistan was living example of possibilities of coexistence of two countries which have absolutely nothing in common. Beliefs, political and social structures, history, etc. of Afghanistan-USSR were very different. Yet, USSR has helped greatly in Afghan economic development and there have been frequent contacts between officials of both countries; for example, Kosygin visited Afghanistan in 1969 to celebrate the 50th year of relations and PM, himself, had visited USSR in 1968. RGA firmly believed that such steady contacts and good relations with USSR had beneficial impact on entire area in relieving tensions. People had been skeptical in 1955 when particularly close relations had started, but in last 15 years affairs between two countries had gone very smoothly. In a sense, Afghanistan had shown this way to other countries in area; Iran, Pakistan and Turkey were now improving their relations with USSR.
- As small country, PM continued, Afghanistan could not afford serious quarrels with neighbors; regional cooperation is essential. With this in mind, Afghanistan had proposed transit trade conference, but, unhappily Pakistan, in view its problems with India, had so far blocked convening of such conference. RGA believed economic and political problems must be separated. He noted that GOP attitude had hurt Afghan trade with India. He then added that there was, of course, the Pushtunistan problem with Pakistan. In very mild manner, he said that RGA simply wants self-determination for Pushtuns living in Pakistan and that RGA would always use peaceful means to reach solution. Under President Ayub relations between two countries had suffered, but he wished to assure VP that RGA had no ill intentions towards Pakistan. To contrary, prosperous, peaceful Pakistan was in Afghan interests. Under Yahya regime, relations had improved and current intention of GOP break up “one unit” was first visible step and it was premature to draw any long term conclusions.
- With Iran, he said, there were no serious problems and two countries were united by special bonds of friendship and spiritual ties. He termed Helmand waters issue small “technical” problem and he was optimistic solution would soon be found. He expressed appreciation for past US good offices on this issue. Solution would open new era of cooperation, particularly in Chakhansur and Sistan. In connection with this matter, the PM said he wanted to record appreciation of RGA for US assistance in Helmand valley development. Afghanistan wanted to see this project succeed and this was important because so far more than $100 million had been invested and because the name of America was closely attached to it. More time would be needed to achieve the substantial contribution which this project could make. The RGA was especially anxious to see progress and development of the lower delta area and also the Kajakai hydroelectric scheme. (At this point the PM passed to the VP two aide-memoires. First generally describes RGA development efforts, plans and hope for continued foreign assistance. Second deals specifically with land development program of the Helmand-Arghandab valleys and desired US role. Copies being pouched NEA/PAF.)
- Relations with China were “normal and correct” and China was extending some economic assistance. He recalled that President Nixon had said that world was entering “an era of negotiations.” RGA believed now is the time to apply this view to China as well. He hoped US would continue look for modus vivendi which would slowly dissipate misunderstanding over China problem. Philosophically, he said, all mankind has a common interest in surviving in this nuclear age. Unhappily arms races were seen everywhere and a terrible waste of resources was the result.
- On Near East, he said he would be brief for RGA position well known: enforcement November 1967 Security Council resolutions and restoration of rights of Arab people. Afghans were saddened by strained relations between US and Arab states and he hoped US would place more faith and trust in leaders of Arab countries.
- With respect Vietnam, RGA hoped peace would soon come so that Vietnamese people could solve their own problem. In allusion to Vietnam, he said, every country must find its own solutions to its problems; there must be a “national answer” and there could be no general pattern in peaceful settlement of disputes.
- Turning briefly to internal affairs, he said development brings in its wake problems, particularly increasing expectations and the unrest of youth. Afgan society was divided; many want unrealistic overnight changes and yet at same time many doubt wisdom of current policy of social, political and economic development. His government, he said, was determined to adhere to principles of its democratic constitution and educate people not only on their rights but their responsibilities and obligations as well. He said his government came under heavy criticism from some quarters for moving too slowly but they did not understand difficult, time consuming, constitutional processes. Since there were no political parties as yet, he faced in effect 216 parties. However, he was optimistic that government would get through current very difficult period.
- PM then concluded his presentation, again thanking the VP for his visit, a visit that had revived happy memories of visits by President Nixon, the late President Eisenhower, and Secretary Rogers.
- The VP responded by expressing his own and Mrs. Agnew’s great appreciation for the welcome they had received in Afghanistan and in particular for the opportunity for frank talks with both the PM and his majesty. The VP said he deeply appreciated the emphasis on human dignity which the PM had referred to so often in his presentation of Afghanistan policies. This had deepened our respect for this very independent country that we admire so much. He had not at first expected to visit Afghanistan during this trip, and had been delighted when the President had asked him to add Afghanistan to his itinerary. He had been impressed to learn how rapidly Afghanistan had changed in the last 10 years, changes due in large part to Afghanistan’s firm policies of independence and neutrality and using its diplomatic skills to deal in a cooperative way with its neighbors in settling disputes and developing areas of understanding.
- The US understood Afghanistan’s international posture completely. We were not distressed that the Soviets had close relations here; we hoped American assistance had been helpful too. The VP said he was also encouraged to hear of Afghan efforts to improve relations with China. The US was also trying, through relaxation of trade and travel, to improve its relations with China. The response had not yet been encouraging but the US recognized that China and its problems were large and complex and progress would not come quickly. We would keep trying to improve relations so that less of our resources are used in deploying arms against each other and more for the mutual benefit of our peoples.
However, we want Asians to know as well of our continuing commitments to our friends in Asia. Our friends must know that we will not turn our back on these commitments under any circumstances. President Nixon had made clear several cardinal points in our policy towards Asia: i.e.
—We intend to stand by our friends and treaty commitments
—Should small countries in Asia be the victim of outright aggression as distinct from subversion, we would feel constrained to look at the situation with a view toward protecting these countries including possibly utilizing our protective nuclear umbrella.
—We believe strongly in regional economic cooperation, for example with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. While we recognize the obstacles to cooperation that stem from old and emotional political issues we will continue to encourage our friends to find bilaterally ways to outgrow these problems and to improve relations.
—Finally the Nixon Doctrine clearly recognizes the solution of Asian problems rests with Asians. The US as a pacific power will help those nations that have the courage and vision to do things for themselves but the intitative must come largely from them.
- THE VP told the PM that the USG applauded Afghanistan’s 1964 constitution. He had been personally deeply impressed by his conversations with the King, who showed a deep sense of awareness and readiness to make adjustments to meet political problems. As far as Afghanistan’s problems with Pakistan and Iran were concerned, we saw these best solved through a continuation of bilateral discussion and exploration. On the Helmand waters, he was glad to hear that US technical help was useful. He knew Afghan relations with Pakistan were difficult but was nonetheless hopeful they could resolve their problems and would report to the President that the Afghan attitude was not hostile but rather one of openess and receptivity to dialogue and a peaceful settlement beneficial to both.
- On economic side, the US would like to continue support for Afghan development efforts but USG had serious budget problems and inflationary strains to cope with. He wanted the PM to understand that in terms of the attitude of the American Congress, which had been somewhat unresponsive to date on the aid program, this could best be favorably influenced by evidence that our friends were doing their best to help themselves. Afghanistan would be its own best advocate by demonstrating what it could do on its own intiative. These things were more important in terms of what the US could eventually do in the aid field than what individual congressman might be saying at home.
- Turning again to Afghan-Soviet relations, the VP commented that we were doing our best to improve relations with the Soviets (SALT, NPT, etc), although there are some disturbing attitudes and trends in that country that make this effort difficult. He thought that Afghanistan, as a mutual, respected friend of the Soviet Union and us might well be able to contribute an ameliorating influence on Soviet attitudes. VP gave as an example of what he had in mind the Soviet treatment of his own current trip abroad and he suggested to the PM that he look closely at their treatment of his trip. The USG does not denounce and vilify Soviet leaders but every invective that the human mind could conceive had been cast upon him since the trip started. Perhaps Afghanistan could help in getting across to the Soviets that this kind of abuse and heavy-handed diplomacy would contribute in no way to better relations. Obviously, this applied to China as well. There is no reason to inflame our peoples with invective. Soviets do not talk like this in our direct, private conversations. VP concluded this subject by saying that while he was not charging PM with onerous task of making this point to Soviets, we would welcome Afghanistan’s injection of this thought in whatever way it saw fit.
- VP continued that American admiration for Afghanistan was not a conventional one. Rather we sense in Afghan candor and friendship a kindred spirit growing out of a common heritage where we have both felt adversity in defending our freedom. He and Mrs Agnew would never forget their visit and were anxious someday to return.
- The PM remarked that the VP’s comments well demonstrated the USA’s desire for rapprochement and easing of tensions and that his country would do everything it could in pursuit of this common goal. They would do what they could in their small way to convey to the Soviets the points the VP had made. He wanted to point out, however, the complication that the current Soviet-Chinese ideological quarrel presented in this connection. In effect these two countries were competing with each other in ideological invective. Indeed the effect of this situation was felt in Afghanistan itself. Where the conflict between the differing schools of Communist ideology had affected the youth and had for example contributed to the demonstrations that had taken place during the VP’s arrival in Kabul. PM also felt that level of invective was symptomatic of “old guard” school of thought in USSR asserting itself.
- The VP responded by noting that he was not a long-time participant in international diplomacy but that he thought there was one cardinal truth valid in both diplomacy and in dealing with young people. In his opinion we had too long been skirting the issues that needed to be talked about. Too often we are motivated by a desire not to upset or irritate our young people rather than talking frankly about the problem to be faced. There has not been enough firmness or leadership. The same applies to the international scene. If we want to live together we need to talk in a nonabrasive but frank and candid manner about our problems and we need to accept that there are other points of view not our own. No nation or individual should have the freedom to compartmentalize its own rights and demands while ignoring and denying that the other side might have valid interests and rights as well. As a small country, he hoped that Afghanistan would tell us forthrightly, for example when it thinks we are wrong and do so at the same time with the Soviets and with the Chinese. We would be open to frank suggestion and we hoped the other side would be too.
- On Vietnam, for example, not many people have stopped to consider what President Nixon has really said; namely, that only one thing is non-negotiable in Vietnam and that is the right of the Vietnamese people to determine their own destiny free of outside interference. We have no interest in bases or in prolonging our presence there, but after our heavy sacrifices we cannot simply withdraw and abandon the South Vietnamese. In Paris, we are confronted with invective and adamant demands that we withdraw unilaterally. No solution was feasible in this way. Afghanistan, as an independent country, could help if it could look at the Vietnamese situation and tell us frankly and privately where it thinks we are wrong. It should do the same to the other side. VP concluded that he made these points in utmost seriousness; we need more candor in diplomacy if for no other reason than the fact that safety of our planet is involved.
- The PM concurred warmly in this and with respect to Vietnam expressed his government’s deep hope that America’s new initiatives would lead to peace. PM concluded by saying President Nixon’s Asian policy was a new and healthy approach as compared to five years ago and it was apparent to all to see.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/AGNEW. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Sent with a request to pass to Kabul. Also sent as VIPTO 21. Agnew visited Afghanistan January 6–7, 1970, as part of a 3-week tour of Asia, which included stops in the Philippines, the Republic of China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, South Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand. Additional documentation on Agnew’s visit to Afghanistan can be found ibid., Conference Files, 1966–1972, Entry 3051B, Box 508, Lot 70 D 387, CF 425. Documentation on the entire trip can be found ibid., Boxes 506–510. During Agnew’s visit to Kabul, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the Vice President with an aide-mémoire outlining the effort Afghanistan was making to deal with its development problems, and another which put forward requests for additional funding of the AID program in the Helmand valley. The texts of the two documents were transmitted to Washington on January 17 in airgram A-06 from Kabul. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, E 5 AFG)↩
- Vice President Agnew met with Prime Minister Etemadi in Kabul on January 7 and reviewed U.S.-Afghan relations.↩