18. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State1

12390. PACOM/EURCOM for POLADs. Subject: (S) Pakistan, India, and the Brezhnev Visit to New Delhi. Refs: A) New Delhi 24475;2 B) New Delhi 24682.3

1. (S) Entire text.

2. Summary: As Pakistanis and others in South Asia await the arrival in India on 7 December of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev,4 we feel it important to record the deep sense of concern and foreboding which official Pakistanis have expressed to us, from General Zia and FonMin Agha Shahi on down, about the implications of the visit for South Asia as a whole and for Pakistan in particular.

3. Admittedly, there is an element of ‛knee-jerk’ in this concern about Soviet-Indian co-operation in the region. But these latest Pakistani concerns should be read against the deteriorating fabric of Indo-Pakistan relations since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Indira Gandhi’s return to power in late 1979 and early 1980. Respectively, [Page 64] they should be seen also against Pakistan’s own sense of weakness in the face of continuing Soviet threats and intimidation and the latest round of what the press and others term as “war hysteria” in India, as summarized last week in the Manchester Guardian. End summary.

4. It is a truism in South Asia to say that Pakistanis are pre-occupied with India and that Pakistani anxiety about India—bordering at times on paranoia—is the bedrock concern of Pakistani foreign and security policy. Pakistanis in particular fear the prospect of collusion between India and the Soviet Union, and the 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation is for Pakistan a worst-case come to fruition. They believe, almost to a man, that the events of 1971, including the splitting off of what is now Bangladesh and the fighting between India and Pakistan, were the product of decisions arrived at jointly in the Kremlin in Moscow and the South Block in New Delhi. Many refer anxiously but with conviction to a Kabul-Delhi-Moscow axis in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan last year.

5. Worry about Brezhnev visit: Thus it is that official Pakistanis from President Zia-ul-Haq on down through the senior and middle levels of the Foreign Ministry, have expressed to us (and to our British confreres) a deep sense of concern and foreboding about the planned visit of Soviet President Brezhnev to New Delhi. They fear the Brezhnev-Gandhi get-together will have serious and potentially damaging implications for Pakistan’s security.

6. To appreciate the sense of concern they express, it is necessary to go beyond the normal, almost reflexive, response of Pakistanis to events in India. Just that alone would not account for the strength of the anxiety Pakistanis have expressed to us.

7. Soviet pressures: Rather, as Pakistanis construct it, the Brezhnev visit provides an opportunity for the Soviet Union, with Indian help to bring its campaign of threat, isolation, and intimidation against Pakistan—as a consequence of the situation in Afghanistan—to new and alarming levels. Pakistanis see, in the left and not-so-left press in India, a rather remarkable—to them—series of articles alleging vast military expenditures by their government and a military build-up on the Pakistani side which they know to be untrue. These are combined with an alarmist spate of headline stories in India suggesting that war between Pakistan and India might be possible this fall, that there is a build-up of tension along the Kashmir ceasefire line, etc.

8. Indo-Pak relations: Although Zia has dismissed these instances of “war hysteria” in the Indian press and has again extended the olive branch to the Indian Government, officials remain concerned. They assess all of this activity against the almost year-long decline in relations between the two countries—prompted in part by differing perceptions over the Afghanistan situation but fed also by suspicions about the [Page 65] returned Indira Gandhi and by the essential deadend reached in the Simla peace process without some beginnings of a reconciliation over Kashmir. They fear also—as do Indians on the other side—the benefits that weak leadership on either side might derive from conjuring up foreign devils; they recognize in Gandhi a master of this art, but they see in her as well the tough, unyielding adversary of old, prepared to take hard decisions regardless of world opinion.

9. What Pakistanis fear at the high end of the scale is that either on its own, to curry favor with the Soviets, or as a direct result of Brezhnev’s prodding, India will begin to exert increasing pressure on Pakistan’s “other” border. They foresee even the possibility of clashes between forces along the hoary ceasefire line (CFL) in Kashmir and on the long border which runs from the sea nearly 1000 miles to the south. They see in Indian allegations of border violations the setting of a stage for an Indian riposte.

10. Even those who do not anticipate actual conflict, express their deep concern over the possible pressures of a less violent nature, including propaganda, subversion, troop movements, and exercises, all of which could bring the temperature of Indo-Pakistan relations to or near a boiling point and keep Pakistani military concerns ever more riveted on the Indo-Pakistan border. Although the Paks have not reduced significantly their forces facing India since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, they have thinned out experienced units from those forces to act as the nucleus of units a-raising for service along the Pak-Afghan border. Tension on the CFL or on the border could halt, even reverse, this process.

11. Most Pakistanis would predict Indian/Soviet actions on a lower scale, limited to political pressures alone; they nonetheless fret over the long-term implications of the prospect—as they see it—of the Brezhnev visit’s resulting in a tougher Indian stance vis-a-vis Pakistan, whether by Indo-Soviet collusion or coincidence. This, they fear, could add a Soviet-inspired/directed worsening relations along the Indo-Pakistan border to the Soviet pressures Pakistan is feeling internationally and along its northwest border with Soviet Afghanistan, setting the stage for an erosion of Pakistan’s hard-line policy with regard to the Soviet rape of Afghanistan.

12. These concerns, we believe, have some validity. The Soviets already played a successful role in sparking and/or fanning Iranian propaganda against Pakistan, designed to isolate Pakistan, as well as to tone down Iran’s previously strong criticism of the Soviet invasion. Gandhi’s government has also taken actions designed to isolate Pakistan, such as quietly blocking Pakistan’s efforts to re-join the Commonwealth. It makes little difference whether one accepts the Pak view that India is “playing the Soviet game,” or ascribes such Indian actions [Page 66] to India’s own nationalistic desire to see Pakistan (and all India’s neighbors) in a subordinate position to India; as seen from Islamabad, there is little doubt that Indian policy is to try to diminish external support for Pakistan. Recent wild exaggerations (and fabrications) in the Indian press of Pakistani present and planned military equipment acquisitions, and Gandhi’s statement carried in a wire service account in the Pak press Dec 1 that “Pak activities on the Indian border” will be a subject for discussion during the Brezhnev visit to India will heighten Pak concerns about Indian, and Soviet intentions.

13. Implications for the US: Our concern in this is two-fold.

—First of all, we are and have long been committed to Indo-Pakistan reconciliation as the best guarantor of relative stability in the heart of South Asia. The Simla process, under which that reconciliation from the dark days of 1971 has gone forward, has clearly foundered. The mutual suspicions and hatreds on both sides are such as to ensure that when relations are not positively improving, they must almost inevitably worsen; no middle ground or natural plateau seems possible.

—Second, a secure Pakistan is one of the important pillars of our policy of resisting and highlighting Soviet aggression in Afghanistan; to the degree that [omission in the original] will grow.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800572–1098. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Sent for information to Karachi, Peshawar (pouch), Lahore, USNATO, Moscow, New Delhi, Beijing, CINCEUR, CINCPAC, and London.
  2. Telegram 24475 from New Delhi, November 21, transmitted a report on India’s defense policy in the 1980s, which was prepared in the office of the Embassy’s Defense Attaché. The report found that India would most likely “maintain and perhaps increase the size, mobility, and firepower of her present conventional defense forces,” and would need to decide whether to develop and maintain a nuclear arsenal, as well as grapple with other strategic decisions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800572–0192)
  3. Telegram 24682 from New Delhi, November 25, reported general pessimism among Indian officials that Brezhnev’s December 8–11 visit would result in any significant changes to Indo-Soviet relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800564–1011)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 210.