Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan undertook his first ever visit to Washington in May 1950. We may recall that Jawaharlal Nehru had already been invited for a state visit to USA in 1949. It seemed clear to us that the USA was going to maintain equally good relations with both the countries. The visit of the Pakistani leader laid the foundation of a highly beneficial relationship with the USA. The overriding need of Pakistan was to seek military and economic assistance. We were particularly encouraged by the USA President Harry Truman’s ‘Four Point Announcement’ made in his address to the Congress seeking authorization for economic assistance to the small and poor states to wean them away from Communism.
After the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan, the enthusiastically pro-western duo of Iskander Mirza and General Muhammad Ayub Khan ascended to power. President Mirza was more pro-American than his Defence Minister, General Ayub Khan. He behaved and breathed as an American pet and looked at things from the American prism. The American Ambassador moved in and out of the presidency like a Viceroy. However, the relationship was fully serving our basic purpose of fortifying our economic and industrial base and equipping and modernizing our Armed Forces.
The years 1952-54 witnessed great upheavals in South East Asia and the Middle East. The rise of Communist China, the subsequent Korean wars and the overthrow of pro-Western monarchies in the Middle East (Egypt, Iraq and later Libya) had created the specter of the rapid spread of Communism in these regions making it imperative for the Western leaders to review their policy. The State Department produced a paper suggesting that Pakistan would be effective as an ally to stem the tide of Communism in the region and would largely contribute to the defence of the Middle East if her capability was further enhanced though the Arab nationalist leaders including Gamal Abdel Nasser were opposed to any foreign sponsored proposal for Middle East defence.
President Eisenhower, concerned with the wobbling region, dispatched his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles for a tour of the regional countries in 1953. Mr. Dulles visited Pakistan and India. He had meetings with Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra, Foreign Minister Sir Zafarullah Khan and Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan. Air Marshall Asghar Khan writes in his ‘First Round’ that General Ayub Khan convinced Foster Dulles that Pakistan could fill in the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the British from the region and could stem the thrust of Soviet Union to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. He returned to Washington with a feeling that Pakistani leadership had the moral courage to resist Communism. Earlier, President Eisenhower had sanctioned $74 million for supply of wheat to avert food crisis in Pakistan.
On his return to Washington, Foster Dulles publicly aired a proposal for welding Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and some Arab countries in a defence arrangement of ‘Northern Tier’. His proposal outraged the Indian leaders. Jawaharlal Nehru mounted a campaign against the proposal. He tried to convince the USA leaders that building Pakistan as a potential military power would disturb the natural strategic balance in South Asia. The USA Ambassador to India Chester Bowles endorsed Nehru’s apprehensions and termed the supply of arms to Pakistan as catastrophic. Dulles proposal did not make headway. The USA leaders were not ready to anger India.
President Eisenhower sent Vice President Richard Nixon, to Karachi and New Delhi in December 1953. Richard Nixon, as he wrote in his Memoirs later, ‘found General Ayub Khan seriously concerned about the Communist threat to South Asia’. He recommended full economic and military aid to Pakistan. This increased the irritation of the Indian leader. President Eisenhower directed the State Department to explain to India that the supply of arms to Pakistan was part of a regional package as offered to India also. However, the Indian leader’s tirade against Pakistan continued unabated.
The two countries signed a Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement in May 1954. According to Abdul Sattar, the former Foreign Secretary, the USA undertook to provide defence equipment to Pakistan ‘exclusively to maintain its internal security, its legitimate self defence or to permit it to participate in defence of the area’. Pakistan undertook to cooperate with the USA in measures to restrict trade with nations which ‘threaten the maintenance of world peace’. The Agreement opened the way for enhanced military assistance and economic aid and the training of our military and civil officials in the American institutes. We came to wholly depend on the USA supplied military equipment. We never thought of diversifying the sources of our arm supplies. Frankly, we did not have any other viable option. We had already distanced ourselves from the alternative source of the Soviet Union. China was struggling to overcome its domestic problems. We were also constrained to remain at a distance from China due to our alliance with the USA.
We also joined the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). The Treaty, inked in September 1954, included the USA, UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan. At the heels of the SEATO, came the Baghdad Pact in 1955 which we joined along with UK, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. This was later renamed as Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Our accession to this Treaty angered some of our Arab friends particularly the nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser and the conservative Saudi Arabia. They were outraged by the inclusion of an Arab country, Iraq, in the Treaty. We also signed another agreement with the USA in 1959 which clearly laid down that the ‘USA regards as vital to its national interests and to the world peace the preservation of independence and integrity of Pakistan’. The USA helped establish a consortium to fund our Five Year Development Plans.
Actually, President Iskander Mirza and General Ayub Khan’s policy of placing all our eggs in the USA basket was tying our hands for independent action. These constraints were clearly reflected in our acquiescence in the American demand for USA Intelligence Base at Badaber, located in the close vicinity of Peshawar, in 1956. The decision for the American base might have come from President Iskander Mirza and General Ayub Khan not the liberal Prime Minister Suharwardy. Nevertheless, this was a highly dangerous move on the part of the Pakistani leaders. The reaction of the Soviet leaders was intense. Nikita Khrushchev had threatened to bomb Peshawar out of the world map if the base was not closed forthwith. We also angered Arab countries by endorsing the Western proposal to constitute a Board of International Supervisors to monitor navigation in the Suez Canal in the conference held in London in August 1956. After the outrage in the Arab world, we stepped back and supported the sovereignty of Egypt over the canal.
The USA began showing ambivalence towards Pakistan from 1959 onwards due partly to our reluctance to increase our distance from China. More than this, the USA was mainly distracted from her alliance with Pakistan by the rising border tension between India and China. The border skirmishes between the two countries kept escalating. Nehru’s diatribe against China was a pleasant music to the Western leaders. John F. Kennedy took over as the President of the USA in January 1961. He appointed Kenneth Galbraith as the USA Ambassador to Delhi. His predecessors had advised against military and economic aid to Pakistan. To them, it was a bad arithmetic to alienate 360 million Indians in order to aid 100 million Pakistanis.
Kenneth Galbraith was totally taken in by the charm of Pandit Nehru. He gave him false hopes for unqualified support from the new USA Administration. He urged the USA to give full support to India. The border conflict escalated into war between India and China in 1962. The Indian forces were routed. After chasing the Indians deep in their territory, the Chinese announced ceasefire in November 1962 and withdrew to the Mac Mahon line demonstrating to the world that they were not aggressors. During the war, Pandit Nehru had even called upon the USA leaders to come to India’s aid by attacking Communist China. The humiliation was too much to bear by Nehru.
Earlier, General Ayub Khan, responding to an invitation by President John F. Kennedy visited Washington DC in July 1961. He was received at the airport by President Kennedy personally. In his address to the American Congress, General Ayub Khan made it clear that ‘whatever be the dictates of your worldwide commitment, you will, I hope, not take steps that might aggravate our problems or in any fashion jeopardize our security. As long as you remember that, I have no doubt in my mind that our friendship will grow in strength’. However, the pleadings of Ayub Khan did not convince the USA leaders about Pakistan’s perception of security threat from India. The USA policy in the South East Asia continued to be China and India-centric.
The USA leaders called upon General Ayub Khan to avoid creating hardships for India during the war with China by opening a front in the Kashmir valley. Ayub did so and wrote a long letter to President Kennedy afterwards seeking his help in resolving the Kashmir dispute. The USA leaders did not bring the needed pressure on Nehru to start a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan to find a negotiated solution to the Kashmir dispute. On the contrary, following the cessation of war, the USA leaders sanctioned $120 million in military assistance to India. This was followed by another assistance of $60 million while it withdrew the funds promised to Pakistan for the construction of Dhaka airport when Pakistan signed an Air Agreement with China in 1963.
Nevertheless, the alliance served us well in overcoming our initial financial, economic and security problems and modernizing our armed forces. By 1957, General Ayub Khan had claimed that the Pakistan Army then was the sharpest instrument of peace or war and the greatest deterrent against aggression. Years later, Z.A. Bhutto admitted in his ‘Myth of Independence’ that while it was true that military assistance was not made available for use against India, nevertheless its possession did act as a deterrent against India. From 1951 to 1967, Pakistan received in economic and military aid an estimated amount of $3.5 billion, while the USA military and economic assistance to India during this period far exceeded this amount. It was estimated within the range of $6 billion. The American officials claimed that the USA assistance to both Pakistan and India in the above period had reached to $12 billion.
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