193. Summary Record of Talks1


  • Pakistan

    • President Zia
    • Ghulam Ishaq, Finance Minister
    • Agha Shahi, Foreign Affairs Adviser
    • Shahnawaz, Foreign Secretary
    • General Jilani
    • General Arif
    • Ambassador Sultan Khan
    • Ambassador Yaqub Khan
  • United States

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State
    • David McGiffert, Assistant Secretary of Defense
    • Arthur Hummel, American Ambassador to Pakistan
    • Thomas Thornton, NSC Staff Member
    • Jane Coon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
    • General Graves, Department of Defense
    • Arnold Raphael, Department of State

The meetings began on the morning of February 2, with a briefing of the military situation by the Pakistanis. It followed the customary lines and concentrated heavily on both the Afghan/Soviet and the Indian threats. The main contingencies which the Pakistanis envisioned on their Western border are the following:

(1) Hot pursuit by Soviet or Afghan units pursuing Afghan rebels. The Pakistani objective would be to punish the intruding troops.

(2) A Soviet/Afghan attempt to occupy and hold salients within Pakistan. The Pakistanis would seek to dislodge these salients.

(3) An attack by India as a Soviet proxy. The Pakistanis say they need additional equipment and a stronger commitment from the United States to deal with this.

(4) An attack from east and west with the objective of dismantling Pakistan. Pakistan would require additional equipment to strengthen itself so that it could deter or delay such an attack until the U.S. could come to its assistance. (S)

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In the course of this military briefing, Dr. Brzezinski asked whether it would be helpful to the Pakistanis if the Chinese were to increase their forces along the Indian border, thereby forcing the Indians to pull troops away from the Pakistan border. The Pakistani briefer replied that this would probably not be very useful since the seasons for military operations on one border are quite different from those on the other. (S)

After the military briefing, the two sides gathered in a smaller group for discussions led on the Pakistani side by President Zia, and on the American side by Dr. Brzezinski and Mr. Christopher. Dr. Brzezinski opened by putting out that he had learned much from the briefing and emphasizing the historical significance of the current meetings for U.S. and Pakistan relations. He read Presidential instructions reiterating American support for Pakistani independence and security and said that the U.S. has made an important choice in this regard.2 He outlined our attempt over thirty years to build security and stability in Western Europe and the Far East. We have vital interests there which are inseparable from our own security and our actions have demonstrated our seriousness there. We have made clear the threat of nuclear war in Europe and showed ourselves ready to shed blood in the Far East. The President has, in addition now, indicated that American vital interests are engaged in Southwest Asia.3 (S)

In defending these vital interests we have a choice between a purely maritime strategy on the one hand, and on the other an involvement on the mainland. We have chosen not to adopt a purely maritime strategy because we have faith in Pakistan and in the future of the relationship. We are just at the beginning of a new stage with the relationship, not one that is going back to the 1950’s, but one in which we will stand by you since we believe you are prepared to stand up on your own. (S)

After some discussion of the global threat and Soviet moves in Afghanistan, Dr. Brzezinski returned to the points made in the briefing concerning the threats to Pakistan. He said there are four areas of response to the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan (leaving aside for the time being bilateral U.S.-Pakistani issues):

(1) The first is a broad, strong and continuing international response.

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(2) It is important to keep the Soviets occupied within Afghanistan so as to raise the cost to them and prevent a quick consolidation of an operating base.

(3) There is a need for a multilateral effort with United States participation to strengthen Pakistani capability to withstand especially the lower levels of Soviet aggression. Dr. Brzezinski added that Iran must be included in this at some time and wondered whether Pakistan could help. He noted that the American people were deeply resentful about Iran but were also mature enough to put this matter behind them once the issue is resolved. (S)

(4) We must convince the Soviets of an American response if they impose a challenge beyond Pakistan’s capabilities. (S)

These four considerations in turn define minimum and maximum objectives for Afghanistan itself. The maximum objective would be the establishment of a neutral Afghan government without any Soviet presence. The minimum objective is protracted Soviet involvement in the suppression of the Afghan people. The former of these is harder to obtain; thus it should be made politically and militarily costly for the Soviets to continue on with their actions. On the political front you and other Muslim nations might propose a neutralization by an international Muslim force. This would put the Soviets on the defensive and belie the idea of U.S.-Pakistani collusion. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski went on to discuss the progress which we had made in the four objectives he had mentioned above. He noticed that the Islamabad conference had been remarkably successful in bringing international pressure to bear on the Soviets as had the vote in the United Nations.4 He praised Pakistan for its role in both of these. It is important to insure that there is a more intense and more sustained response in this case than there was at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The United States leadership is determined to make this stick. (S)

On the second point we need to consult more closely. This is a delicate matter that needs to be handled with determination. We have also discussed it with other governments. (S)

On the third issue it is important to strengthen Pakistan’s ability to respond to political intimidation or subversion as well as limited military operations (e.g., the first two threats mentioned in the morning briefing). The Soviets must be forced either to withdraw or to escalate the conflict which would precipitate a U.S. engagement under the 1959 agreement. It is necessary to examine concrete ways for strengthening north-west frontier. Turning to other concerned regional nations, Dr. [Page 542] Brzezinski recounted briefly some of the results of the Brown visit to China. With regard to India he cautioned the Pakistanis not to prejudge that country in a way that would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We, too, were disturbed by the Indian statement in the UN General Assembly, but we do not see India as a partner in the Soviet global design.5 Perhaps we and our allies can encourage them to realize that the strengthening of Pakistan’s security will help them too. We have to be sensitive to India about their concerns in the view of their own role. We do not dispute the dilemma that Pakistan faces, but the United States and Pakistan should not become anti-Indian. With regard to Iran, he reiterated our willingness to re-establish relations and look for a new relationship. (S)

Pakistan and the United States, he went on, are at the beginning of a new relationship which must be based on realistic harmony. It was impossible to satisfy Pakistan’s immediate expectations, but this must be seen as a long-term relationship. Pakistani independence is important to the United States, and we know that you will fight even if you are not supported by outside forces. We think of you as Poles rather than Czechs. (S)

A year ago, what we are proposing to do with Pakistan would have been inconceivable. (S)

If the result of our meeting is that our effort is seen as inadequate, this will impact adversely on our historic relationship. (S)

It is hard to mobilize others, but by all means do not characterize what we are doing as inadequate. We have to convince Congress five years after the Vietnam war to become reengaged. The threat is one of great magnitude and we do not want to have to fall back to a maritime strategy. We cannot expect 100% agreement with you, but we should not leave the impression of a dispute. (S)

President Zia responded by mentioning three additional points: This is the first time that the Soviet Union has expanded into Asia; a buffer state has disappeared from the maps; and Peter the Great’s will is being carried out. (Dr. Brzezinski intervened at this point to say that the so-called will of Peter the Great is a forgery.) Zia continued that the world community’s conscience had been aroused in a way that had not been the case previously. A Russian expansionist movement has engulfed Afghanistan and is threatening Pakistani security and U.S. vital interests. There is a qualitative geopolitical change in Southern Asia. (S)

Pakistan, Zia continued, has a superpower on its western borders and an unfriendly, if not hostile India on the East. Pakistan is looking [Page 543] for durable and permanent guarantees for its security; thus, they are seeking clarification (assumedly of the U.S. commitment). The Soviets resent the activities of which Pakistan is a focal point. The Indian Foreign Minister demanded a regional discussion of the problem, but Zia responded to him that the problem is global. The Islamic Conference was indeed a victory for the United States and Pakistan, but it leads to further Soviet hostility. Thus we need another superpower as an antidote to the hostility of that superpower. The 1959 agreement must be reconfirmed, especially in light of our experiences in 1965 and 1971.6 (Zia at this point went into a fairly lengthy discussion of assurances from Ambassador Oehlert, George Ball, and the quotes in the Kissinger autobiography about 1971.)7 In order to remove these lacunae, Pakistan proposes that the 1959 agreement be turned into a treaty, or else give it a Congressional cover, approval or reaffirmation. To write a new treaty is, of course, lengthy and difficult. (S)

How does the U.S. see implementation of the 1959 agreement now? In case of aggression from the West, will it stand committed to Pakistani security? If the threat is agreed on, military assistance should be commensurate with the appreciation of that threat. We have to assure our own security and half-way measures will not be adequate. Certain items will be needed urgently for dealing with hot pursuit, and these will also help to boost army morale. We have to start development activity in the West, and that means economic assistance. How are we going to be able to overcome our problem in the East? Can the Indian threat be neutralized? Can the U.S. approach China to give guarantees to Pakistan? What if the USSR and India attack jointly? We are seeking to improve our relations with India, but what if we fail? If there is collusion and an attack from both sides will you stand by our side? (S)

Henry Kissinger, in the January 21st Wall Street Journal interview said it is unlikely that the Soviets would attack Pakistan over an Indian objection.8 The danger for us is being dismembered by India. We are trying hard in our relations with India. But don’t forget that during the 1970 visit (to Washington) Mrs. Gandhi talked about the congenital [Page 544] defects of Pakistan, its regional weaknesses, etc. This is all in the Kissinger book.9 (S)

Therefore, a reaffirmation of the 1959 agreement should address first, proxy aggression from India, second, subversion, and third, it should be free from references to all older documents such as the Eisenhower doctrine, since this poses problems with Pakistan’s non-alignment. It should become a purely bilateral agreement against the threat from the West as well as the East. (S)

Our position is similar to that of Poland in 1939, when the Germans and Russians wanted territory and the UK had no power to uphold the guarantees it had given. Agreements and treaties are valid only as long as they can be implemented. (S)

President Carter has said that the United States wants to give Pakistan the ability to repel and deter invasion. Our commitments are permanent, not transitory. We conclude that the United States is serious and will provide the necessary support. If so, you need not be reminded that limitation to any particular armament is not practical. We must assess the needs and find ways to meet them. Dr. Brzezinski has said the U.S. would “become engaged” in case of a hot pursuit. What does that mean in light of the 1959 agreement? Our experiences are bitter. In 1970 and 1971, refugees went to India from East Pakistan and the Soviets accused us of mismanagement. In 1979, the Soviet Ambassador claims that Pakistan is interfering in Afghanistan by accepting refugees. Also in 1970–71, we told Indira Gandhi that if she supports the insurgents it would cause similar problems for India. She agreed, but then did exactly the opposite. The Soviets have a tremendous reinforcement capability. If they can move 50,000 troops into Afghanistan in four weeks, we can imagine what greater things they could do. (S)

Turning to the scope of the Afghan insurgency, when in April 1978, following the coup, we consulted China, we were told that we would get our fingers burned if we became involved. We felt that the United States was not interested in the situation. Even with our meager resources we have alone been helping the freedom fighters. In November 1979, we told Prince Fahd that the Muslims could regain their position if they had help. He, however, said no. But we have been helpful (and with U.S. aid in the last few months). Now the Chinese and Saudis have also agreed in principle. Throughout centuries, the Afghans have never been subjugated. The insurgency will continue, [Page 545] but whether at a high or low level depends on the level of Soviet operations. The Soviets are ruthless. (S)

Since December 27th, up until January 20th, 22,000 refugees have fled to Pakistan, showing Soviet ruthlessness. Therefore, the insurgency has prospects but the freedom fighters need outside support. They will need outside bases, and that means Pakistan and to some extent Iran, and these bases must be secure. An insecure Pakistan would jeopardize the future of the freedom fighters and the situation in Iran is still less favorable. (S)

What is the likely timeframe for the Soviet push further southward? We cannot fix that. It depends on the deterrents at the international level—the United Nations, the Islamic Conference, U.S. resolve and support—and also the strength of Pakistan itself. (S)

U.S. and Pakistan each have interests to watch over. President Carter has talked about vital interests in the Persian Gulf. That is a strong commitment. Is Pakistan included? I gather from Dr. Brzezinski that we are. (S)

There was then some discussion on the exact wording of the President’s State of the Union message, and what the Pakistanis perceived as a difference in strength of commitment between the longer and shorter versions. (S)

This new undertaking has a dynamic which we appreciate. Not only the quick U.S. response including steps already taken, but international efforts as well which we appreciate highly. (S)

We had serious differences over a few months ago, and I was deeply ashamed about these. (President Zia was referring here to the burning of the American Embassy.)10 We have never been ungrateful, we have tried to stand by our friends. We are facing serious decisions and are at a crossroads. No country ever closes its options, and frankly this is the best time for U.S.-Pakistani cooperation. You will find a neglected ally and you will build a dam against the Soviets. Our national interests coincide. We deeply appreciate your visit and hope we will be able to find appropriate answers to all these questions. (S)

Deputy Secretary Christopher then spoke concerning the American security commitment to Pakistan. He noted that the President has recently reaffirmed this commitment publicly, and in a letter to President Zia.11 We are ready to do more. We are ready to make this letter public, and to ask Congress to reaffirm the 1959 agreement. Asking Congress to do this is highly significant. It would define the Soviet threat (at this point Secretary Christopher quoted a sentence beginning [Page 546] “these extraordinary.” Such a reaffirmation would be enacted in both Houses and thus be more binding than an Executive agreement. Secretary Vance and I have discussed this with Congress and they are prepared to move ahead. The contemporary vitality of this agreement will reassure you and educate our people. This is an unprecedented way for us to go about making such a commitment. (S)

It is also unprecedented that the legislation will provide for assistance “notwithstanding any other provision of law”, thus setting aside the Glenn and Symington amendments and any other obstructions. (S)

We need to see this as a beginning of a process. We have to get it enacted. Congress is chary of such things, but at this time it is willing to do it. Proceeding this way is much quicker, cleaner and more decisive than a treaty. You recognize the delay that would be involved in a treaty, and an in-treaty [a new treaty?] would likely incur debate over various conditions such as non-proliferation. (S)

Addressing the contingencies you raised, a Soviet or Soviet/Afghan attack that threatened your independence or integrity would fall under the terms of the 1959 agreement. The President would immediately consult with you under Article I of the agreement, and also consult with Congress. Our response could involve the use of armed force. (S)

In case of a concerted Indian-Soviet attack, the first article of the 1959 agreement would also come into play. (S)

If the Soviets have India attack as a proxy—we see this most unlikely. India is even less willing to do this after the invasion of Afghanistan. The key, though, would be whether the attack was Communist controlled and/or inspired. More important, though, is that the United States and India have good relations. We are pleased that you are consulting with the Indians. To sum up, though, if India attacked as an agent of the Soviet Union, Article I would indeed come into effect. (S)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Afghanistan.]

You have talked about “keeping the insurgency alive” in Afghanistan. The issue is one of motivation. To accept an injection of arms to the refugees would be dangerous for us unless we are able to defend against the first two strategic contingencies we discussed earlier.12 (S)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Afghanistan.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Thornton, Country File, Box 95, Pakistan: Brzezinski/Christopher Mission: 2–10/80. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 187.
  3. An apparent reference to Carter’s January 23 State of the Union address and his enunciation of the Carter Doctrine.
  4. On the Islamic Conference, see footnote 2, Document 184. On the UN vote, see footnote 6, Document 136.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 163.
  6. The dates refer to the previous Indo-Pakistani wars.
  7. The reference to U.S. assurances to Pakistan in 1971 is from Henry Kissinger, White House Years, p. 892. On assurances made by George Ball and Ambassador to Pakistan Benjamin Oehlert, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXV, South Asia, Documents 112, 265, 470, and 524.
  8. For the text of the interview, see Karen Elliot House and Thomas J. Bray, “An Interview with Henry Kissinger,” The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 1980, p. 18. The paraphrase of Kissinger’s remarks is accurate.
  9. Kissinger briefly described Gandhi’s visit in his memoirs. For a fuller record of her visit, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Documents 88 and 89, which document Gandhi’s meeting with Secretary of State Rogers in New York in October 1970 and Rogers’s subsequent phone call with Kissinger in which Rogers summarized his conversation with Gandhi.
  10. See footnote 10, Document 102.
  11. For the letter, see Document 159.
  12. Text of the full record of the talks is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia. Zia called Carter, February 4, to notify the President that he thought the talks were “excellent.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 38, Memcons: President: 2/80)