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HomeNewsAmerican bases and Pak-US relations... Barrister Hameed Bashani

American bases and Pak-US relations… Barrister Hameed Bashani

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It was stated in the previous column that the situation had been smoothed in favor of Pakistan in the early fifties for the Pakistan-US military agreement. According to Pakistani policy makers, after years of hard work, the crop was ready, now the problem was to harvest it on time. But that decisive hour was not coming.

Due to various reasons, the affairs were getting stuck again and again. The biggest question was whether Pakistani forces would need huge resources to play a significant role in a defense deal with the US. And it was necessary for the US to get Congressional approval to provide the requested resources to Pakistan, which had a limit.

There was no dearth of people in the Congress who were in favor of the Indian approach on this question, and were against a military agreement with Pakistan. But the real vexing question for the US was how strong India’s reaction to Pakistan’s inclusion in the arrangement would be, and how the damage could be contained. It was a question on which American public opinion and decision-makers themselves were divided.

There was a strong lobby in the US policy-making establishment, which was strongly against including Pakistan in any such package at the expense of India. In this regard, there were several strong voices in the powerful circles of America, which were raised from time to time. A strong voice among them was Chester’s. Chester Ball was the US ambassador to India at the time, and had considerable influence in Washington. Chester Ball believed that in case of such an agreement with Pakistan, the Indian government and the people here would react very strongly.

These people firmly believe that whatever weapons America gives to Pakistan, they will ultimately be used against India. Chester Ball believes that including Pakistan in any such military agreement would set off a chain of events that could ultimately lead to heightened tensions and an endless arms race in South Asia. And above all, the Soviet Union will take this very seriously, and will provide much more military aid to India, which will worsen the peace situation in the region instead of improving it.

The whole process will not help our desired goals in the Middle East. Despite these hostile voices raised by America, Pakistani decision-makers were optimistic about their success, and they accelerated their efforts.

In this regard, Ayub Khan visited Washington in September. He told State Department officials that his visit had only one purpose, and that was to procure American weapons for the Pakistan Army. When the State Department told him that even if a decision was taken to hand over arms, it would require a lengthy process. Any such package of military aid requires the approval of the President, but before such approval a report by the Department of Defense is required, which is a time-consuming matter. Ayub Khan was surprised at this answer. Their impatience was palpable, and they were disappointed by the American response.

However, Dulles assured Ayub Khan that Pakistan would be given aid regardless of India’s reaction. Ayub Khan returned home after these assurances. But efforts continued, Malik Ghulam Muhammad arrived in Washington only a month later. Upon the arrival of Ghulam Mohammad, the Pakistani officials used the local press with great whip. Even the New York Times wrote a long piece on it on November 5.

The newspaper wrote that the purpose of Ghulam Muhammad’s visit was to examine the possibility of a military agreement between the United States and Pakistan. Due to this act, there was a stir in the diplomatic and political circles. The State Department immediately issued a denial. He said that there is no truth in the rumors that America is giving arms to Pakistan in exchange for military bases. The harshest of the reactionaries was Pandit Nehru.

He called the White House and said they were foolish to bring the Cold War to South Asia. He said that Pak America Maida will change everything. On Nehru’s instructions, GL Mehta, the Indian ambassador in Washington, became active, and actively lobbied against any such agreement. US officials assured Mehta that US weapons would not be used against India under any circumstances. And there is no discussion with Pakistan regarding the establishment of American bases in Pakistan.

Apart from India, Moscow’s reaction was also very strong. Moscow asked Pakistan to clarify reports that Pakistan was becoming part of an aggressive bloc in the Middle East against the Soviet Union. And Pakistan giving military bases to the US in Pakistani territory so close to the Soviet borders would be an act that the Soviet Union could not ignore. This is a question of the security of the Soviet Union. Pakistan replied bluntly that there is no question of giving US military bases in Pakistan.

Rather, the Foreign Ministry even said that Pakistan has no intention of taking any unfriendly step against a country like the Soviet Union, with which it has friendly relations. Along with this, voices started coming from within Pakistan against giving bases to America, among which the nationalist leaders of Pakistan were in the forefront. Officials believed that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was behind such noises, to prevent the US from entering into an agreement with Pakistan. In this situation, US Vice President Richard Nixon visited Karachi. In Karachi, Nixon expressed his views and said that Pakistan’s leaders are ready to be a part of the Cold War.

He praised Ayub Khan and said that Ayub Khan’s problem is not anti-India, but cold war. He is not anti-India but anti-communist. He is rightly aware of the Communist threat, and is a “pro-American” man. If needed, America can be provided with facilities and bases in Pakistan against Soviet Union and socialism. The course of events that followed will be described in a future column.

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