167. Telegram 5623 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1 2


  • US Arms Policy Toward Subcontinent Following Indian Nuclear Test


  • Ambassador Moynihan’s 7535 From New Delhi.
Indian nuclear blast has created profound shock in Pakistan, has greatly exacerbated chronic feeling of insecurity, and has led to all-out GOP efforts to seek urgent security guarantees and arms aid from major powers. For India to set off nuclear device despite world opposition is seen by Pakistan as proof evident of Indian intransigence and South Asian hegemonic ambitions. GOP belives that now is time for NPT advocates to deal firmly with India in such fashion Pakistan and other non-nuclear nations may feel more secure.
Sense of alarm and urgency apparent in current GOP quest for security guarantee and arms is undoubtedly genuine. We doubt Paks are simply putting on a show in order to advance any such objective as to “devastate” US relations with India, and we question whether this is a fundamental Pak policy objective or whether some adjustment in arms policy (e.g. putting Pakistan and India on same basis as other friends and selling arms for cash) would “devastate” Indo-US relations. While Paks obviously have never relished thought of overly cordial US-India relations, we have seen no evidence whatsoever that Bhutto regime wishes those relations to be “as bad as possible.” Paks have on many occasions sought to have US exert pressure in Delhi on their behalf, and we doubt they consider their interests would be advanced by deterioration of Indo-US relations to point where us loses all influence in Delhi.
With regard arms aid, Paks are under no illusion that additional conventional equipment they may be able secure would in any way provide comparability to Indian military [Page 2] might. Indian nuclear test, however, has further sharpened already painful GOP awareness that most of their military hardware is worn and obsolete in terms of what not only India but Pakistan’s other neighbors possess. While Bhutto has rejected opposition demands that Pakistan embark on its own nuclear weapons program, pressure will be intense for qualitative improvement in the armed forces to create credible deterrent against at least conventional Indian military threat.
It would be a matter of no small interest to learn just how, as stated reftel, US has been manipulated by the small regional power of Pakistan. It may be noted, however, that our aid relations were not established until early 1950’s and our lethal arms program has now been defunct for some ten years. We did and we do believe CENTO was important to the United States. Pakistan has been and continues to be important to the United States vis-à-vis China, Russia, Iran and the Middle East. As regards Pakistan being only small and totally unimportant regional power, this may be so as far as India is concerned, but not all that much so with some others in the geopolitical scheme of things.
If, as stated reftel, the fundamental reason relations with India are improving is that since 1965 we have at least had a policy of not supplying arms in the subcontinent, then it does seem that improved relations were a long time coming about after policy adopted. Relations, in fact, deteriorated seriously for long after the embargo placed on lethal military equipment to Pakistan and India. It does not appear US military supply policy in subcontinent has historically been dominant factor in determining direction of US-Indian relations even though Indians for tactical reasons often have tried to make it appear so. Thus relations were at their best in early 1960’s despite fact USG at that time was still Pakistan’s chief source of military equipment and hit bottom in early 1972, more than six years after we adopted policy of restricting arms sales to subcontinent. If relations have begun to improve once more, it would seem to us [Page 3] that it may be due as much to dissipation of GOI’s go-it-alone resolve and 1972 euphoria, increasing domestic troubles, discovery that massive foreign aid is still necessary, and concern over undue dependence on USSR as it is to present us arms policy.
Financial assistance is off course fungible. This was well understood by India during the 50’s and early 60’s. There are, however, limitations inasmuch as, aside from Russia, certain types of equipment can only be secured from the United States. More important, the introduction of American equipment and techniques provides both a tie and leverage (both from association and from dependency) which record shows we have well understood. US equipment is now moldering away and becoming of increasingly smaller significance to Pakistan as its military becomes more and more China-oriented. Our virtually unchanging policy since 1965 has wrought considerable change in the status quo ante with respect to our military ties and military leverage in Pakistan. This is detrimental of course to our position here, and we question whether loss of influence here is really in best interest of India.
There can be no argument with statement in reftel that vital consideration in wake of Indian nuclear test is not our relations with Pakistan but need to prevent nuclear proliferation. There is no reason why appropriate steps to achieve latter would be incompatible with good relations with Pakistan—quite the contrary. No one should be more pleased than Paks if through US or multilateral efforts GOI were induced to back up its claim that nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes by its placing program under some form of international inspection. This should, however, not be looked upon as long-term goal to be attained through slow process of persuasion and informal monitoring but, rather, as matter of great urgency. While it will no doubt take GOI considerable time to develop sophisticated delivery system for its nuclear device, India—as Paks note—already has the “delivery system” to transport nuclear devices to Pakistan.
It is not that the Indians would use the bomb but only that they “can.” We in the US can appreciate from our own history the feelings of those who have and those who don’t have the big stick to wave. There is a sense of urgency in this that should not be “cooled.” That is one of moving purposefully to save the nonproliferation treaty. India has broken the line, ignoring the postulations of the UN and many who long ago could easily have done what India has now done. Whatever the peaceful protestations, India has produced a nuclear bomb. Whether India will produce a nuclear arsenal is not the vital relevancy for it certainly must be hoped and believed that the same imperatives which have stayed the hands of nuclear club members since Nagasaki will stay India’s. What is relevant is that India has provided an excuse for the many others who can readily duplicate the Indian performance to do so with possible results that can only [Page 5] be imagined.
The current situation requires a thorough and prompt examination of implications indian nuclear test, particularly measures that might be taken to avoid further proliferation and to minimize destabilizing effect of nuclear test on situation in subcontinent. Question of possible changes in US arms supply policy would certainly be a part of this examination. The initiative should be ours; we should not await India’s next moves for with its recent venture in Rajasthan we have already seen more than we would wish to.
Penultimate paragraph reftel suggests Secretary might take opportunity of his impending visit to Pakistan and India to provide suitable “reassurances” to Bhutto. Visit would certainly provide chance to convey whatever policy decisions are derived from our examination of ramifications of nuclear test, including actions re Pakistan if any are decided upon. We don’t, however, see value here of reassurances of type suggested in reftel. Also value of any reassurances would be greatly diminished if Bhutto were required to keep them absolutely secret. Quite apart from Bhutto’s own concerns over Indian intentions, he has serious morale problem both with public as a whole and specifically with armed forces.
A lot of good things have happened in Pakistan in the last two or three years, things that those who concern themselves with affairs in the subcontinent have long wished to see happen. A truncated Pakistan has turned away from military role into parliamentary democracy under civil leadership. It also, all things considered, has been doing pretty well both domestically and in its foreign affairs. Under Bhutto’s leadership, it has been turning from the previous state of almost total bitter preoccupation with India, to an expansion of its interest in the region towards the west and southwest. It has in fact of late been more dynamic in acceleration of improvement of its stature and image than India and we have taken the view that this state of affairs would make it easier, rather than harder, for Bhutto to have public support for moving forward under the Simla process to coexist with india under tolerable relationships.
We would regret very much to see a reversal of all this, which we believe would be no more in the long range interests of India than ourselves. We also believe it very much in the interests of both of us that the present system of government, and indeed Bhutto himself, survive. We hope not, but we must bear in mind that frustrations could reach a point here where both of these things could be in jeopardy.
Dept. may want to repeat this to New Delhi.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 203, Geopolitical File, Pakistan, Chronological File 12 May–31 October 1974. Secret; Nodis. Moynihan’s cable is not printed.
  2. Ambassador Byroade commented on Ambassador Moynihan’s cable to the Department of State of June 6 and noted the reaction of “profound shock” to the Indian nuclear test in Pakistan.