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

6036. USIAEA. CINCPAC for POLAD. Subject: Reprocessing Issue and the U.S.: Bhutto and Aziz Ahmed Address the National Assembly.

Summary: Addressing the National Assembly on June 10, Prime Minister Bhutto declared that Pakistan will never cancel or postpone its nuclear reprocessing agreement with France. He stated that Pakistan wished to improve its relations with the U.S. and at the same time he criticized America for threatening Pakistan if it went ahead with the purchase, and reiterated his claim of U.S. interference. Asghar Khan was indirectly rapped for being an imperial “stooge”. Emphasizing that the reprocessing plant would only be used for peaceful purposes, Bhutto argued that its acquisition by Pakistan would not contribute to nuclear proliferation. In spite of past differences, he said he did not want to damage Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. and praised the Secretary for looking to the future in his recent talk with Aziz Ahmed. The Foreign Minister, in a speech immediately preceding Bhutto’s disclosed details about the “massive” U.S. pressure put on Pakistan to give up the reprocessing deal. He selectively quoted and misquoted [Page 612] confidential exchanges with former Secretary Kissinger and Ambassador Byroade to bolster his argument. Ahmed said that Pakistan needed the reprocessing plant to ensure that it would have adequate supplies of nuclear fuel, which it could not rely on obtaining from international sources. He recalled his meeting with Secretary Vance in Paris during which it was agreed that both countries would put the past behind them and approach their relations in a positive and constructive manner.2 End summary.

1. Stating formally that his government would never cancel or postpone acquisition of the French nuclear reprocessing plant, Prime Minister Bhutto declared in the National Assembly on June 10 that Pakistan was prepared to open a new chapter of good relations with the US. At the same time he was critical of the United States for being unreasonable and punitive in its approach to the reprocessing issue. In a one and a half hour rambling and disjointed speech on an adjournment motion regarding American pressure on Pakistan to cancel its nuclear agreement with France, Bhutto warned that Pakistan would not tolerate any further U.S. discrimination. If it continued, his government would be forced to reconsider its policy on CENTO. He recalled that this was not the PPP stand, but rather that of the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) which pledged, if elected, to withdraw from CENTO. If the PNA were serious about its pledge, he said, they should publicly call for withdrawal from CENTO and make it a national issue. They should then “leave it up to me.”

2. Referring to the tremendous pressure the US has brought to bear against Pakistan on the reprocessing deal, Bhutto declared that postponement was out of the question. This would merely be a euphemism for calling off the deal, he emphasized, and warned the people to be on guard against any government which tried to hoodwink them by declaring that the deal was intact, but had to be put off for some time.

3. Bhutto told the National Assembly that if any person thought he could rule the country by becoming a stooge (of a foreign power), he is doomed. Indirectly referring to Asghar Khan’s recent statement praising President Carter’s position on human rights,3 Bhutto said only a stooge could praise such a policy after what Pakistan has gone through. He added that he had the utmost respect for the President, but that he could not praise him under the circumstances. He recalled that he had told Foreign Minister Aziz Ahmed to have “quiet and private” talks with Secretary Vance in Paris to close the ugly chapter [Page 613] relating to US interference in Pakistan’s domestic affairs. He said Pakistan would not act “emotionally and temperamentally” in the situation, but noted that the US cancelled the A–7 aircraft deal soon after the Paris talks were concluded.4

4. Bhutto then went into a long rehash of the reprocessing deal and Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear ambitions. He claimed that he did not see any conflict between Pakistan’s decision to acquire a reprocessing plant and its desire to preserve cordial relations with the US. If the US were to conclude otherwise, the dynamics of politics would take over. The Prime Minister pointed out that Pakistan’s decision to acquire the reprocessing plant was not proliferation in any sense of the term because it was for non-military purposes. As far as Pakistan is concerned, he added, formal agreement has been reached with France to acquire the reprocessing plant. France, in turn, has ruled out the supply of similar plants to any country other than Pakistan. Similarly the Prime Minister noted, West Germany has stated that it would not sell any more reprocessing plants after fulfilling its agreement with Brazil. We are not, therefore, contributing to proliferation, he declared. The Canadian DCM, who heard the speech at the National Assembly, later told us Bhutto had said that there are now six nuclear powers. Since France and West Germany have indicated they will not sell any more reprocessing plants after the Pakistani and Brazilian deals go through, there can at most only be eight nuclear powers. Therefore, there should not be cause for concern. (Newspaper coverage of the PM’s speech did not include this statement.)

5. In any event, the PM emphasized, the problem of proliferation could not be solved by discrimination, rather the answer had to be a moral and political one. The real problem, he noted, lay in the destruction of all nuclear weapons. If the nuclear powers declared that they would destroy their atomic arsenals, he said, then Pakistan, as a gesture of goodwill, would cancel or postpone the acquisition of the reprocessing plant from France.

6. Referring to his April 28 speech in the National Assembly when he accused the U.S. of massive interference in Pakistan’s domestic affairs,5 Bhutto said he deliberately chose not to go into details about foreign intervention. Pakistan, he noted, did not want to pursue a [Page 614] course that would undermine its beneficial association with the U.S. He declared that it was an act of statesmanship on the part of Secretary Vance at the Paris talks that he did not want to go into the past, but instead chose to discuss the future. Bhutto observed that Aziz Ahmed had brought with him to the meeting a fifty page file detailing specific instances of American intervention in Pakistan’s [garble]. By now, he added, it may have acquired ten more pages. However, the Secretary fortunately opted for a visionary course choosing to ignore past differences.

7. Foreign Minister Aziz Ahmed, who spoke in a quiet and dispassionate manner for about forty minutes before Bhutto, said he would disclose the details of the “massive” U.S. pressure being brought to bear on Pakistan to abandon the reprocessing deal with France. The Foreign Minister then proceeded to outline the history of our discussions with the GOP on this matter, selectively quoting from private discussions and confidential diplomatic exchanges we have had with the GOP. Through a process of distorting what was said in these exchanges and omitting various items, he painted a picture of a Pakistan wounded by a capricious and willful great power. He declared Pakistan would not submit to the US. Reading carefully from a text, he said pressure had been brought to bear on France as well as Pakistan and paid compliments to the French for “having formally rejected this pressure.”

8. He then recited the history of Pakistan’s negotiations with France, noting that the reprocessing deal was finalized in January, 1976, and until then no objections were raised by the US. The Minister stated that it was August, 1976, when Secretary Kissinger raised the matter with the PM in Lahore and asked him to give up the plant. Kissinger, he asserted, threatened to cut off military supplies and economic aid to Pakistan if it was not abandoned. After that, the Foreign Minister said, there was a rapid escalation of US threats against Pakistan.

9. In September of last year, he noted, Secretary Kissinger warned the Pakistan Ambassador in Washington that the Democratic Party would want to make “a horrible example” of Pakistan if it won the Presidential election. The Secretary noted that Pakistan must weigh the consequences of acquiring the reprocessing plant, which was likely to lead it into trouble.6 In a later meeting he had with Kissinger in October, Ahmed said the Secretary told him that the American Congress would put “punitive” measures in the non-proliferation bill (sic), [Page 615] remarking that it was a pity that the first country to be affected would be Pakistan. When Aziz Ahmed objected that it would be unfair for such legislation to have retroactive effect when the US had not previously objected to the reprocessing deal, Kissinger replied that these facts would not be taken into consideration by Congress which is looking for some country to push around and waiting for a crusade.7

10. The Foreign Minister went on to quote selectively and in a distorted manner subsequent statements made privately by Secretary Kissinger and Ambassador Byroade which he characterized as further warnings to Pakistan about the reprocessing plant. He said the U.S. adopted a threatening attitude on the issue because it feared the plutonium produced by the plant would be used to make atomic bombs. Pakistan, he emphasized, has given repeated assurances that it only wants the plant for peaceful purposes and has already accepted “onerous” safeguards.

11. The Foreign Minister noted that the U.S. had offered to supply nuclear fuel, but said that similar guarantees had proven unreliable in the past. In this connection, he said that before the 1965 war with India, the American President had “semi-officially” informed Pakistan that if it were attacked by India, America would come to Pakistan’s aid. After the war began, and the GOP asked for help, it was told, according to Aziz, to go to the UN. A related example, he said, was Canada’s recent repudiation of its agreement with Pakistan to supply fuel for the KANUPP power reactor in Karachi. That was [garble], he maintained, Pakistan wished to acquire the reprocessing plant to ensure that its future nuclear fuel requirements will be met. Double standards, he said, were being applied on this question, especially where India was involved.

12. The Foreign Minister concluded by recalling his recent meeting with the Secretary in Paris during which it was agreed that whatever had happened in the past should now be treated as closed chapter and both countries instead should approach the question of US/Pakistan relations in a positive and constructive manner.

13. Comment—The Prime Minister had obviously decided that he and the Foreign Minister would take two different approaches to the reprocessing question in the Assembly. Bhutto took the road of the world statesman and Pakistani patriot. Although criticizing the US for its unfair tactics and demands on the reprocessing issue, he did reiterate several times his desire for good relations with the US, his respect for [Page 616] President Carter, and the need to put the past behind us and open a new chapter in US/Pak relations. These protestations of good intentions were in sharp contrast to the repetition of the charge of US interference in Pakistan—in the context of criticizing Asghar Khan and Bhutto’s reference to the “fifty pages of proof”—claims the US had threatened Pakistan if he went ahead with the plant, and veiled hints Pakistan may withdraw from CENTO.

14. Aziz Ahmed played the role of the disinterested observer unemotionally reading the compendium of facts proving massive American pressure on Pakistan to give up the plant. Most disquieting was the practice—recently followed by Bhutto in Rawalpindi in late April when he read to a crowd from the Secretary’s letter to him8—of quoting publicly from records of private discussions and confidential diplomatic exchanges between our two governments. The fact the Foreign Minister did this in a distorted manner and was carefully selective to prove American malafides, is further evidence of the caution with which we must approach discussions with the GOP and the extent to which the government is ready to willfully misrepresent bilateral issues if it believes it will gain some domestic political advantage.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770209–0469. Confidential; Niact Immediate. Sent for information Priority to Ankara, Colombo, Dacca, Kabul, Karachi, Lahore, New Delhi, Ottawa, Paris, Tehran, Vienna, and CINCPAC.
  2. See Document 250.
  3. Asghar Khan praised the administration’s human rights policy in a June 7 press conference in Rawalpindi. (Telegram 5910 from the Islamabad, June 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770204–0189)
  4. On June 3, the New York Times reported that the Carter administration had decided to withhold the sale of A–7 aircraft to Pakistan. (Bernard Weinraub, “U.S. Withholds Sale of Jets to Pakistan,” New York Times, June 3, 1977, p. 18) In a meeting with Habib on June 8, Yaqub Khan protested that the press stories had been a “source of embarassment, disappointment and some dismay to the GOP.” (Telegram 132972 to Islamabad, June 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770205–0240)
  5. See footnote 3, Document 246.
  6. Possibly a reference to Acting Secretary Robinson’s meeting with Yaqub Khan on September 7, 1976, during which they discussed the reprocessing plant. Telegram 222478 to Islamabad, September 8, 1976, reported on the meeting. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840084–0512)
  7. Telegram Secto 30002 from USUN, October 19, 1976, reported on this October 6 meeting between Kissinger and Aziz Ahmed. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840109–2670, N760007–0706)
  8. See footnote 4, Document 246.