Department of State
TO : Department of State
: 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
INDIAN GOVERNMENT ATTITUDES AND ACTIONS REGARDING SOVIET ARM TO PAKISTAN
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
in winter session.
The American Papers- Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh
Documents 1965-1973, The University Press Limited, p.441-444