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

2553. For Secretary From Ambassador Hummel. White House for Brzezinski. Subject: (S) Pak Nuclear Activities—DepSec Conversation With President Zia.

1. Secret entire text.

2. DepSec Christopher had one and half hour discussion with Pres. Zia before Zia’s dinner evening of Mar 1. General and some bilateral topics will be reported septel.2 This message deals with half-hour talk on nuclear issues. Restricted group included: Pres. Zia, FinMin Ghulam Ishaq, Fon Adviser Agha Shahi on Pak side, and DepSec, Amb Hummel, Miklos and Thornton.

3. DepSec said he was sure Zia knew of USG disappointment that GOP had deferred the visit of the US nuclear team, and he hoped Zia would reconsider. However DepSec said he had a deeper message because USG has information that GOP is moving toward a nuclear weapon through enrichment activities. He said that if the enrichment activities continue, they will trigger US laws that must cut off aid programs DepSec had discussed earlier. The reasons for the cutoff would become known and, as they do, they would likely affect attitudes of other countries. There would also be an obvious effect on the Pak nuclear weapons free zone proposal.

4. DepSec said he hoped GOP would draw back from nuclear weapons program, and convince the USG it had drawn back. If it is not possible to allow a U.S. inspection team, then we hope GOP would receive a visit by Asst. Sec. Pickering for further discussions.3

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5. Zia responded that he had given this subject much thought. He realized that the USG had ways to get information by discreet means but USG information “is not wholly correct” concerning uranium enrichment facilities. However, Zia made no real attempt to deny intention to develop nuclear weapons or to distance himself from the effort.

6. Zia asked for comments from Finance Min Ghulam Ishaq. He thought U.S. laws applied ex post facto to the French reprocessing contract were unfair and contrary to normal international practice. He said it would be a sad day if USG cut off aid, but US aid is already at a low point, where US inputs would total $120 million and Pak repayments on prior loans to USG would total $100 million, giving net increment of only $20 [garble—million] He said no country would sacrifice its future for that amount of aid, and no free country should be forced by an aid cut off to give up its sovereign rights.

7. DepSec said he appreciated hearing GOP views. He said USG purpose was to avoid the spread of nuclear weapons, and the consequences of developing a nuclear weapons capability extended beyond any US aid cutoff. He closed by hoping that the GOP would keep matters under review, would continue discussions with Ambassador Hummel, and would receive Pickering for technical discussions. The talks adjourned to join a larger group at the dining table.

8. Comment: The Paks left little to ambiguity or nuance, and obviously we have a lot to think about. The Pak side made no real attempt to deny the validity of our information. There was an attempt to suggest a tradeoff of enrichment activity for USG agreement on a safeguarded French reprocessing plant, but we doubt this is serious from the Pak side, much less acceptable to US. Ishaq’s complaints that US aid magnitude is insufficient inducement for abandoning nuclear program does not seem to be an opening because Ishaq has been a strong proponent of Pak nuclear ambitions from the beginning. Follow-on discussions by DepSec on morning of March 2 will be reported shortly.4 DepSec has reviewed and edited this message.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Secret; Flash; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 2569 from Islamabad, March 2, the Embassy reported the portions of Christopher’s conversation with Zia that did not relate directly to nuclear non-proliferation issues. During this part of the meeting, Christopher “assured Zia of USG desire to strengthen U.S.-Pak ties, said U.S. was considering additional economic assistance for Pakistan, and indicated willingness to sell limited military equipment subject to U.S. military supply policy constraints. Zia emphasized disappointment over U.S. support in recent years. He said Pakistan is anxious to remain in free world, but is now faced with difficult problems that could move it out of CENTO and into NAM. He implied that Pakistan may also have to seek accommodation with Soviet Union, which is now ‛at our border,’ if greater Western support is not forthcoming. Zia made no specific requests.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790095–0655) Christopher also visited New Delhi. See Documents 129131.
  3. Telegram 57015 to Islamabad, March 8, instructed Hummel not to raise a possible Pickering visit unless otherwise authorized. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850027–2680)
  4. See Document 326.
  5. In a March 2 memorandum to Carter, Vance summarized Christopher’s March 1 discussions with Zia. Carter initialed Vance’s memorandum. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 21, Evening Reports (State): 3/79)