When Pakistan emerged as an independent country, the world was still engaged in dealing with the consequences of the devastating Second World War. The birth of the country on 14thof August 1947 was underscored by daunting questions as how to preserve the security, independence and sovereignty of the small, weak and insecure Pakistan in the face of the hostility of her bigger, secure and confident neighbour. This was the foremost concern of the Pakistani leadership. The hostility of the Indian leaders towards Pakistan was clearly reflected by their arbitrary withholding of her share from the common military hardware and the common pool of financial resources, the forcible annexation of the states of Hyderabad and Junagarh, and their underhand deal with Raja Hari Singh for the accession to India of his Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The post Second World War era was emerging as two clearly defined spheres of influence between the capitalist USA-led Western world and the communist Soviet Union. The foreign policy of a country endeavours to guarantee its security, independence and its vital national interests. The smaller states of the time seeking financial assistance and security aid had a limited choice to join either of the above two camps. The West was obsessed to stem the tide of the communism and the Soviet Union had embarked on a path to expand Marxist ideology. Pakistan emerged as a Muslim state and naturally felt part of the Muslim bloc of nations which was preponderantly under the influence of the Western world. Therefore, Pakistan could not resist the temptation of moving to the Western camp to meet her needs for urgent financial and security aid.
Though Jawaharlal Nehru was ideologically a socialist and a great protagonist of planned economy, his nationalist approach in the domestic and non-aligned posturing in the regional and international politics was gradually earning him acceptability in both the camps. The Soviet leaders initially were not so happy with the prevalent bonhomie between China and India with all those slogans of close friendship. The process of the Indian tilt towards the Soviet Union received a fillip after the military tension with China in 1962 and Nehru’s disillusionment with the USA during the war with communist China in which the US administration did not measure up to the high expectations of the Indian leader, primarily roused by the US Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith’s exaggerated assurances.
Whilst the secular India under Nehru had no ideological reservations to have a close relationship with the Soviet Union, Pakistan as a Muslim country and a purported member of the Muslim bloc of nations had serious spiritual constraints. By 1955, India had already started receiving Soviet leaders for official visits. This was a big year for India to have received the Soviet Secretary General Nikita Khrushchev and the Prime Minister Nicolai Bulganin for a four-day visit. While visiting Srinagar, Khrushchev had publicly supported the Indian position on Kashmir. This coincided with the evolving ideological rivalry between the two communist countries – the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan is often criticized that he decided to ignore the invitation extended to him by the Kremlin for a state visit. And that he promptly accepted a similar invitation from Washington. Some foreign policy experts believed that Liaqat Ali Khan’s cold shouldering of the Soviet gesture earned Pakistan the recurring hostility of the Kremlin and later cleared the deck for India to establish a well-structured and multi-dimensional relationship with the Soviet Union. Thus, Liaqat Ali Khan’s first visit to Washington has been the subject of persistent conjectures on the foreign policy of Pakistan. This needs to be put in right perspective.
It is customary for countries to greet the newly born states. The Soviet Union did not send a felicitation message on the birth of Pakistan. The Soviet leaders were rather unhappy over the division of the Subcontinent into two independent states which would remain dominions of the British Kingdom. To them, this was a political and strategic move by the former British imperialists to keep their control intact on the Subcontinent. The Soviets were also slow in establishing their Embassy in Pakistan, though we had already nominated our Ambassador to the Soviet Union. The Kremlin also took a long time to accord agreement for the appointment of our Ambassador. These were not encouraging factors for a new state with perennial financial and security constraints.
As contrasted with above, the US President, Harry Truman, sent a warm message of greetings to Pakistani leadership on 14thAugust saying ‘I wish to assure you that the new dominion embarks on its course with the firm friendship and goodwill of the United States of America’. This was followed by the visit of a senior official of the State Department, Phillips Talbot, to Karachi. As recorded by Abdul Sattar, the former Foreign Minister, in the following month, the US President responded sympathetically to Ambassador Ispahani’s statement about Pakistan’s need to ‘balance our economy, to industrialize our country, to improve health and education and raise the standard of living’.
Even earlier, the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt had fully supported self-rule for India. However, it was difficult for the American leadership to understand the rationale of the Indian Muslims’ demand for a separate state on the basis of religious ideology. Therefore, the Qaid-e-Azam had to send Mr. M.A.H Ispahani to Washington to explain the rationale behind the Muslim demand for a separate country in the Subcontinent. In a way, the interaction between the Pakistani leadership and the USA leaders had even preceded the creation of the new Muslim state. Following the creation of Pakistan, Mr. Ispahani took over as our first Ambassador to the USA.
These were the conditions surrounding our move to seek an invitation from Moscow for the visit of the Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan. What actually happened was that the United States had extended an invitation to Jawaharlal Nehru for a state visit. The visit was announced in May 1949. Liaqat Ali Khan was on an official visit to Tehran. During the reception held in his honour by the Iranian hosts, Ambassador Ghazanfar Ali, either at the promptings of the Prime Minister or at his own initiative, sounded the Soviet Ambassador about the Prime Minister’s desire to pay an official visit to the USSR. The motive was to balance Nehru’s visit to the US. The Kremlin responded swiftly extending invitation to Liaqat Ali for a visit. The invitation was duly delivered to our Ambassador in Tehran on 4thJune. Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan promptly accepted the invitation.
In the follow up process, both the sides proposed dates for the visit in August which were not convenient to either side. By mutual consent, the visit was deferred for two months. Ambassador Late Sajjad Hyder, as quoted by Mr. Abdul Sattar, claimed in his Memoirs “neither side acted with any sense of urgency to follow up the proposal”. Nevertheless, it is intriguing why Liaqat Ali Khan’s visit to Moscow did not materialize in time, though both the sides had strong motives for it. The American invitation to Nehru piqued the Pakistani leader to solicit an invitation from Moscow. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin was quick to balance the visit of Nehru to Washington by hosting the Pakistani leader in the Kremlin. Despite all this, both the sides did not show any keen interest in the visit and it was finally deferred for two months. However, this prompted the American leadership to invite Liaqat Ali Khan for a visit. There were some obvious factors impacting the priorities of the Pakistani leadership.
The Pakistani leadership was educated in British institutions. They were well influenced by the Western political thought and liberal and democratic traditions. Thus, they felt more comfortable with the Western world, its political institutions and constitutional practices. This inherent ideological closeness to the West was increasing their hesitation to align themselves with the Communist bloc of the nations under the monolithic control of the Soviet Union. In my view, our leadership was also being bothered by a question from the mid-19thcentury when the Tsarist Russia had forcibly annexed the Muslim Khanates of Central Asia beyond the Oxus River. Some informed accounts refer to the Pakistani religious parties’ growing criticism of the Soviet political system founded on atheism with a Marxist economic structure that purported to be in contravention of the tenets of Islam as the leading factors for the Kremlin’s disinterest in the visit or its lack of enthusiasm to establish close relations with Pakistan.
We recall in our domestic politics, our ruling leadership was caving in before the mounting pressure of the religious parties for the adoption of Islamic polity in the country. These parties had already coined divisive, rather dangerous phrases such as ‘Laa-Din anasir’ (secularists) and ‘Islam pasands’ (Islamic minded) leading to an ideological polarization between the left wingers and rightists in the country. This ideological divide and antagonism were progressively intensifying and delaying the framing of the Constitution of the country. In March 1949, after the death of the Qaid-e-Azam, under pressure from the religion-based political parties, the Objectives Resolution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of the country as the preamble of the Constitution yet to be adopted by it.
The leaders of the Communist Party of Pakistan including the world-known Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer and other stalwarts had come under microscopic scrutiny and were finally implicated in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in 1950. The ideological hostility towards Socialist bloc in Pakistan was bound to impact the progress of our bilateral relations with the Soviet Union. Our ideological affinity with the conservative Muslim bloc combined with the sympathetic response from the USA towards our urgent financial and security needs drove us into the Western alliances with the first visit of Liaqat Ali Khan to Washington in 1950.
(To be concluded)