21. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan1

136041. Paris for Dr. Nye. Subject: Secretary’s Conversation With Agha Shahi, May 25.

Summary: In bilateral discussions with the Secretary on May 25, Pakistan’s de facto Foreign Minister Agha Shahi painted a grim picture of the Soviet/Afghan threat to Pakistan.2 He said pressure is building in Pakistan for accommodation with the Soviet Union and withdrawal from CENTO. The Shah is also perturbed and is urging cooperation among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan remains deeply suspicious of quote Indian designs unquote and feels it now stands alone. Pakistan needs a security guarantee as well as military and economic assistance. The Secretary said Shahi had raised very serious issues and they should get together again, perhaps on June 2 after [Page 50] the Secretary had a chance to consult with the President and others.3 End summary.

1. The Secretary met with Pakistan Foreign Affairs Advisor Agha Shahi in New York on May 25. Shahi was accompanied by Pakistan’s UN Perm Rep Akhund, Ambassador Yaqub-Khan, Additional Foreign Secretary Niaz Niak and Minister-Counselor Hayat Mehdi. Also present were Counselor Matthew Nimetz, Assistant Secretary Saunders, and Ambassador Leonard. PAB Country Director Jane Coon was notetaker.

2. Shahi opened the discussion by noting that there had been an exchange of views in Islamabad with the U.S. Embassy but he was disquieted because our perceptions varied so much.4 Pakistan believes there has been a profound qualitative change in the regional situation; the USSR is on Pakistan’s borders. Pakistan is following a correct policy toward the new regime in Kabul but that government has served notice of its intentions with respect to the Baluch and Pathan problems. In this connection, Shahi cited the Afghan Foreign Minister’s statement in Havana calling for settlement of these problems in light of their quote historic antecedents unquote.5 The new regime says it is non-aligned and it may choose to consolidate its position first, but then it will begin subversion against Pakistan.

3. Pakistan has taken a quote independent attitude unquote toward the Soviets, e.g., the refusal of the overflight permission for Soviet planes to Ethiopia. Now Pakistan faces the external danger of having the Soviets use the Afghan regime as a tool against Pakistan. In addition, there is also the internal danger from leftist elements in Pakistan who may try to follow the Afghan example. He claimed Pakistan already had information on subversion by Afghan/KGB agents in Iran and it may reach as far as Saudi Arabia. If Pakistan’s intelligents see the USSR as the stronger power in the region he fears for the future of Pakistan.

4. Agha Shahi referred to his May 7–10 visit to Iran. The Shah, he said, is perturbed and wants to initiate closer cooperation among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India. Agha Shahi, however, has great reservations about the Iranian tendency to go over Pakistan’s head to India and equal difficulty in accepting the U.S. and Iranian perception that we can loosen Indian ties to the USSR. Indeed, the Delhi-Moscow-Kabul axis has revived. Pakistan, according to Shahi, is a front line [Page 51] state and needs help. But as far as the Paks can understand, the Shah is not prepared to give aid. The Saudis have promised but are slow.

5. In this situation, Pakistan stands alone. It may have to make some gesture to the Soviets such as quitting CENTO. If the people perceive that Soviets can act adventurously and get away with it, then there will be increasing pressure for Pakistan to follow an quote appeasement policy unquote. However, Pakistan has not yet taken this decision.

6. The Secretary, referring to Shahi’s remarks on Pakistan’s standing alone, asked what kind of assistance it needed and from whom. Shahi cited the 1959 bilateral agreement with the U.S. and asserted that the Soviets were threatening Pakistan by proxy as they did in 1971.6 Pakistan thinks there should be a security guarantee. If the Soviets have an alliance with India, the only remedy lies in quote another super power supporting its friends and allies unquote. When CENTO was created, America had the will to act, but today this is questionable. He noted that Pakistan was not getting military or economic aid and claimed that all countries with sole exception of the U.S. were willing to reschedule Pakistan’s debt (sic). He reverted to the Indian threat and said if the Shah wants to take the leadership, he should enlist Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf countries but Pakistani public opinion will not allow any approach to India.

7. Finally Agha Shahi remarked that the Pakistanis had heard that Daoud had wanted to come to the U.S. and that we had turned him down.7 Quote some people unquote thought this was a clear signal that Daoud was expendable and that the U.S. was no longer willing to support Afghanistan as a buffer state. He noted that this was speculation but quote it makes a difference in popular opinion unquote.

8. The Secretary responded that Shahi had raised a number of serious issues. He would like to consult with the President and his colleagues because Shahi is entitled to a clear answer. We will be back in touch and perhaps meet again on June 2 to carry on the discussions.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780225–0373. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Coon, cleared in S, and approved by Saunders. Sent for information Priority to Paris, Kabul, New Delhi, Tehran, Ankara, Moscow, London, Jidda, and USUN.
  2. Vance and Shahi met in New York during the UN Special Session on Disarmament.
  3. Vance and Shahi met again on June 2, as reported in telegram 141229 to Kabul, June 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  4. See Document 18.
  5. The text of Afghan Foreign Minister Hafizullah’s speech in Havana during the Ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement was relayed in telegram 4225 from Kabul, May 24. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780218–0877)
  6. See footnote 5, Document 18. In the agreement, the United States pledged its commitment to the “preservation of the independence and integrity of Pakistan” and to taking “appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon . . . in order to assist the Government of Pakistan at its request.” The full text is in the Department of State Bulletin, March 23, 1959, pp. 417–418. The allegation of Soviet “threats” to Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 may refer to Soviet support for India during that conflict and for the creation of an independent Bangladesh. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Documents 187, 241, 242, and 252.
  7. See Document 6.