8. Telegram 2308 From the Embassy in India to the Department of State and the White House1 2

For Secretary Rogers, Under Secy Richardson and Kissinger, White House, from Amb Bowles


  • Rawalpindi 1439
This mission strongly disagrees with reftel proposal urging additional lethal military equipment for pakistan. under the most favorable circumstances any action to bolster pakistan’s military capability against india would further escalate an already costly arms build-up. to do so at the very moment when an unstable and unpredictable Pak Govt is teetering on the verge of collapse would be folly. However, it is the long-term impact of our military assistance program and the opportunities open to the new administration on which I would like to comment in this message.
The assertion by the USG in congressional hearings and elsewhere that the US sells massive quantities of lethal equipment abroad to quote foster world peace and encourage economic development unquote is regarded by our friends as naive and by our critics as downright dishonest. In the early 1950’s when our military assistance programs were first launched in Asia our rationale was the containment of China and the USSR and in several key situations our assistance no doubt made a significant contribution. However, in later years the justification for these programs has become increasingly political and partly as a consequence they have proliferated in areas [Page 2] irrelevant to the original objective. In actual practice many of our military assistance programs have increased tensions, raised the military budgets of developing countries, identified the US with unpopular dictators and juntas and convinced people who should be our friends that the USG is more interested in peddling arms at a profit or shoring up reactionary status quo regimes than in fostering the cause of peace.
In the Indo-Pak case, the mistrust generated in India by our military aid to Pakistan, which started in 1954, has been compounded by our revamped arms policy announced in April 1967. This policy has led us to abstain from direct lethal weapons supply while making ill-concealed efforts to persuade allies such as the Germans, Italians, Belgians and now the Turks to bear the brunt of India’s reaction by supplying semi-obsolete US-licensed equipment to Pakistan for which it is assumed we later provide Turkey with more modern replacements.
I elaborated my personal view of our Indo-Pak military supply policy in my memorandum of December 26, 1968 to Secretary Rogers and April 25, 1968 to Secretary Rusk. In more general terms I believe that we should refuse to sell or give lethal military equipment to any nation which may choose to use these weapons against non-communist neighbors with whom we are friends. Only when the communist thrust is clear and immediate such as in Taiwan, South Korea, and South Vietnam should we underwrite a military program. At the same time we should make whatever effort may be appropriate to help those non-communist countries which are less immediate targets for overt action by the USSR and/or, China, to become self sufficient in military equipment and supplies.
The new administration has a relatively clean sheet of paper on which to write a fresh searching and comprehensive examination of the record will, I believe, establish the fact-that our military supply policies except in a few situations have not served our national interest. In the meantime I recommend that we hold up on all ad hoc [Page 3] lethal military supply actions until the study has been completed. Right now the GOI is anxiously awaiting a final decision on the proposed sale of tanks by Turkey to Pakistan as an indicator of the new administration’s approach to the complex problems of the subcontinent.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis
  2. Ambassador Bowles took sharp exception to Ambassador Oehlert’s proposal to expedite military assistance to Pakistan.