Department of State






TO       : Department of State

FROM : Amembassy NEW DELHI

DATE  : December 23, 1970


SUB     : Indian Reaction to Arms to Pakistan: Soviet vs U.S.


INTRODUCTION: Since arms to Pakistan will figure in January's bilateral talks­with the U.S. side likely to claim disparity between Indian reaction to our arms and to Soviet arms, followed by an Indian disclaimer-the Embassy has reviewed Indian official and public reaction in the summer of 1968 to reports of Soviet arms to Pakistan. This review reveals that we can make a case, but it is full of subtleties and vulnerable to Indian reinterpretations.


REACTION TO SOVIET ARMS OFFER: There are similarities and disparities in the Indian responses to the great power offers to Pakistan. The similarities appeared most prominently and expectedly in press, Parliamentary and popular indignation that either Washington or Moscow would provide military equipment to Pakistan. The differences arose markedly in the Indian Government's handling of the respective cases. With respect to Moscow, the Indian Government protested and reflected genuine concern; at the same time there was a notable effort by Prime Minister Gandhi to control Parliamentary and public reaction by recalling the many positive facets of Indo-Soviet relations. In the U.S. case, the Government initially made no effort to dampen critical reaction - there is some evidence the more extravagant and inaccurate criticism had some Government inspiration - while making a belated effort several days later to exercise some restraint.


Whatever the ideological content of the official reaction, the Indian Government clearly gave more weight to overall relations with Moscow in 1968 than to bilateral tie with the U.S. in 1970. Mrs. Gandhi and her Government reminded listeners repeatedly in 1968 of other aspects of Indo-Soviet relations, such as Soviet economic and military assistance, mutually bad relations with China and Soviet support on political issues such as Kashmir and Goa. It was not so much a glossing over of the Soviet decision as a reminder that there were overriding security and political interests in the totality of relations with Moscow. Thus, Mrs. Gandhi could say during the

debate on Soviet arms during the 1968 Monsoon Session of Parliament that, "We do not question either the motives or the good faith of the Soviet Union, but we are convinced that this development cannot promote the cause of peace and stability in the sub-continent." There was a conscious striving by Mrs. Gandhi and her supporters to find reassurance in Soviet responses to Indian protests, while masking in public their concern over the arms development, not only in terms of Indo-Pakistani relations but also of Sino-Indian relations.


Much of the Government's practical effort at the time were devoted to heading off resolutions or statements in Parliament condemning the Soviet action. The Opposition worked hard to trip up Mrs. Gandhi - with the tacit support of some members of the then undivided Congress Party. But she was equal to the occasion; so successful indeed that by the time the Rajya Sabha debated the issue, there was general surprise at the mildness of the exchanges. The issue did not come up at all during the following session that year.


There was little difference in media reaction between 1968 and 1970 except for the pro-Government and leftist press which tended to minimize the impact of the Soviet decision. The pro-Communist Partiot, with difficulty first tried to ignore, and then to explain away the Soviet action. The Nehru family mouthpiece, National Herald, echoed the

Government's efforts to keep the Soviet arms decision "in context." As in the U.S. case, Indian public opinion and non-Communist politicians were outraged that a foreign power would provide arms to a country which they felt harbored aggressive designs against India.


Thoughts for the Bilateral Talks


Another way of looking at the differences in Indian reaction is to remember that countries tend to put more weight on security and political consideration than on economic, though, as with India, the latter maybe more important to the country's long-term interests. Indian leaders were immediately sensitive, despite their chagrin and concern, to the ramifications of a major anti-Soviet campaign. In the more recent U.S. case, they performed a classic Hollywood-type double take, seemingly remembering the value of good relations with the U.S. almost as an afterthought.


This review suggests that we ought to handle arms comparisons during the bilateral talks with special care. However, we might usefully make the following points during the discussion:


1. While India was undoubtedly deeply concerned over the Soviet decision to provide arms to Pakistan, there seemed to be a much greater effort on the Government's part to put the Soviet decision in the context of overall relations than in the U.S. case. (For specifics, if needed, see the enclosure.) This disparity takes on added emphasis in U.S. eyes because we believe that India is well-informed regarding the greater magnitude of Soviet arms shipments in comparison with the U.S. offer.


2. In this connection, we would be interested in reports, apparently from Government sources, that the Soviet Union has decided not to ship additional arms to Pakistan. Does this apply to new agreements only, or also to the remaining arms to be shipped under the 1968 agreement? (We understand that the remainder is quite substantial).


3. We readily agree that Indian leaders were deeply concerned in 1968 and made their views known to Soviet leaders, as they were in 1970 and did to U.S. officials. We also agree that there was a spontaneous and profound public reaction to both decisions. We appreciate that U.S. arms are bound evoke memories of 1965 and previous U.S. shipments to Pakistan. However, we regret that the Indian Government, in full possession of the facts, did not correct some of the more misleading stories which appeared in the Indian press regarding the U.S. arms offer to Pakistan.


4. We recall that the Prime Minister in 1968 did not question either the motives or good faith of the USSR, while critical of their arms offer. We trust that this is also the view of the Indian Government regarding U.S. motives and good faith, supported by detailed descriptions of the types and quantities of arms involved and high-level assurances that the offer is a one-time exception.


5. While not expecting India to welcome our decision on arms to Pakistan, we hope that India, as in 1968 with respect to much larger Soviet offers, will remember other aspects of Indo-U.S. relations, including such matters as shared adherence to democratic practices, mutual respect for the integrity of other nations, the many economic and cultural ties which bind us and the absence of any basic conflict of interests of aspirations. Against this background, the arms offer should take on a better perspective.






April, 1968 - Indians somewhat concerned that Kosygin visit to Pakistan might include arms discussions. Kosygin stopped in Delhi on return. GOI took position, following stop, that USSR would provide spares for Chinese equipment only. GOI concluded Paks had been rebuffed on arms.


May, 1968 - Report from Peshawar that Paks would receive SU-7's. Dayal told Bowles May 21 that Pak shopping list included tanks, artillery and spares. Ambassador Hilaly told Spain in Washington that USSR prepared to be responsive. Indians probably aware at this time that USSR prepared to offer major arms to Pakistan.


June, 1968 - After Yahya's visit to Moscow in June, Dinesh Singh went to the USSR and was told that USSR was considering arms to Pakistan. Mrs. Gandhi protested privately to Soviet Charge on June 7. GOI decided not to cancel President Zakir Husain's visit to Moscow.


July 1968 - Indian press erupted July 8, apparently instigated to some degree by Government, USSR officially informed GOI and latter protested. Non­government papers urged change in Indian foreign policy. AIR reported Mrs. Gandhi's concern. She reportedly told politicians and newsmen that Soviet arms would consist of small items only, but something more than token supply. Husain expressed concern in Moscow. Letter from Kosygin on arms reported by press on July 12. GOI said it satisfied with letter but puzzled by absence of reference to arms to Pakistan. Press continued highly critical. Mrs. Gandhi kept urging, publicly and privately, that Indians take the "long view" of this development, in the face of her critics who termed Soviet decision a failure of Indian foreign policy. Husain returned on July 18 but made no reference to arms in his public discussion of his "successful" trip. Embassy analysed Mrs. Gandhi's reaction and her efforts to control situation as: (1) taking initiative in criticizing Soviet move; while (2) seeking to head off resolutions and statements in Parliament which might sour relations with Moscow. In Calling Attention period in Monsoon Session of Parliament, Mrs. Gandhi injected reference to U.S. arms to Pakistan; said that she did not question either motives or good faith of USSR while disagreeing with decision; and stated they should remember that Indo-Soviet relations had many facets, that this development "should therefore be seen in the context of the totality of these relations". The reaction from the Opposition and from many in the undivided Congress was critical; they much preferred a stronger statement made by Morarji Desai. Even Soviets were surprised at subsequent mildness of debate in Rajya Sabha. Subject did not come

up in winter session.



Source: The American Papers- Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1965-1973, The University Press Limited, p.441-444