Foreign policy of Military Dictator General Ayub Khan

The set of principles shaped by a country’s government to establish relations with the outer world is referred as foreign policy. The Foreign policy of any country is based on its national and international interests. It is the need of every country to select its friends with respect to its interests, ideology, threats, and benefits. The Same is the case with Pakistan. After independence, it could not remain isolated with outer world activities. Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan stressed on foreign policy to maintain peace with world. This paper is going to discuss the foreign policy of Pakistan during the Ayub Khan era. The focus of this paper is to explore the foreign relation of Pakistan with reference to the United States. This paper will highlight the important events between Pakistan and the United States from 1958 to 1968. There was political instability after the assassination of Liaqat Ali khan. The Governor of the country failed to handle the political chaos. This offered as opportunity to General Ayub Khan to declare Martial Law. In the political history of Pakistan, the first Martial law was imposed in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. All the political parties were banned by chief martial law administrator and imprisoned many political leaders. The national assembly and provincial assembly were dismissed, and the cabinet was dissolved. The constitution of 1956 was also abolished. However, Ayub controlled newspapers and banned any political gatherings. The basic plan of Ayub government was to maintain the political issues, try to solve the Kashmir issue, internal issues and resolving the issues between East and West Pakistan.

Pakistan was declared as an independent state on 14 August 1947. Pakistan economic conditions were not good as compared to other countries and had many other emerging problems. After the death of Quaid Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan), all the powers came under Liaquat Ali khan, he appointed the new Governor-General of Pakistan, Iskandar Mirza. Moreover, Mohammad Zafarullah khan was the first foreign minister of Pakistan. The foreign policy of Pakistan based on maintaining peace within the country and with the neighbor’s country. Pakistan wanted to establish peaceful relation with all other countries. Pakistan in its initial years needed economy and had security issue. So, it moved to get help from wealthy countries for economic loans like Canada, USA, and other western countries. The foreign policy was neutral in the starting years. But gradually, there came shift in foreign policy of Pakistan. It became inclined more toward western countries as they agreed to provide economic and military assistance to Pakistan. After the assassination of Liaquat Ali khan in 1951, Pakistan joined defense alliances with United States. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement was signed in May 1954. After signing the agreement, Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Bogra said that “both countries have a great deal in common”. Around $700 million military aid was provided to Pakistan from America between 1954-1964. Economic assistance worth $3.5 billion was given to Pakistan. In addition, the United States provided $1.3 billion for defense support and the purchase of equipment.

At first, it was United States who wanted to establish relations with Pakistan. But Pakistan policy of neutrality at international level was obstacle in Pak-US relation. After the assassination of Liaqat Ali khan, M. Ali Bogra became new prime minister of the country. The assembly of former prime minister was dissolved, and new assembly was made which was headed by Mohammad Ali Bogra. United States and Pakistan established diplomatic relations in 1947. United States made agreement to provide economic and military assistance to Pakistan. After imposing martial law and taking over the government of Pakistan in 1958, Ayub Khan announced his foreign policy. His foreign policy was inclined toward the west, especially United States. He mentioned “Pakistan had become America’s most allied ally in Asia”. His foreign policy showed Pakistan as a pro-western country. At that juncture, Pakistan was facing two problems First was a security threat from the neighbor country India, and the other was unresolved Kashmir issue. Pakistan was looking forward to United States for resolving the Kashmir issue. He believed that Pakistan could not solve Kashmir issue without the support of USA. So, Ayub Khan went for the assistance of United State.

The bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed between Pakistan and United States on 5th March 1959. This was the first agreement of Ayub regime with Dwight D. Eisenhower government. United States agreed to cooperate with Pakistan to deal with defense requirements and help in security threats. It agreed to provide aid in defense issues and economic development. After this alliance, United States declared that if any country attack on Pakistan, then it would be considered as attack on America and that country will face American aggression. This agreement was presented to the foreign minister of Pakistan Manzoor Qadir by Ambassador James Langley in a formal note on 15 April 1959. This agreement showed strong mutual support and strengthened the already existing alliance. USA also contributed to resolve the issue of Indus River water with India by arranging a meeting on 30 April 1959. This meeting was held under the secretary of state Douglas Dillon. In May, America provided military aid but not as much as desired. It also provided a lot of economic assistance to Pakistan in 1960. In return, United States asked for US military base in the NWFP province of Pakistan which was used against Soviet Union. Pakistan was agreed to provide base in pay back of military and economic aids.

The President of United States Eisenhower visited Pakistan on 7th December 1959. Ayub khan warmly welcomed him. Ayub khan was very happy when president of United States reached Pakistan. During his visit to Pakistan, Ayub khan discussed with Eisenhower about Kashmir issue. He also discussed with him about military assistance to India from America. He added that aid could become a threat to Pakistan security. American President considered his concern and promised that he would think about it. Eisenhower himself went to India after visiting Kabul as he wanted to resolve the Kashmir issue as soon as possible. He discussed with Nehru on the issue of Kashmir, but Nehru was not ready to resolve the Kashmir issue. After completing his visits with no productive outcome, President Eisenhower warned both countries to solve the problem of Kashmir and avoid any war. During Eisenhower period the relation between two countries flourished and Ayub khan was able to develop strong relations with the United States. Pakistan got aid from America during Eisenhower period for Strengthening Pakistan’s armed forces. America wanted to make Pakistan’s military strength in the region.

Furthermore, Kennedy became the 35th president of America in 1961. With the change of government of United States, the foreign policy of United States also changed toward Pakistan. John F. Kennedy adopted a new approach in his foreign policy, which was more inclined toward India. His nature and foreign policy transformed from Pakistan to India. He ignored interest of Pakistan which as president Ayub khan said that Pakistan was “America’s most allied ally in Asia”. Pakistan was also “the only (Asian) country,” Ayub said “which was a member of both SEATO and CENTO.” Kennedy proclaimed the “soaring idealism” of Jawaharlal Nehru, he lauded Nehru as the great leader of the 20th century. 

On the advice of Eisenhower, Kennedy had to secure the area of Laos against communist takeover and for this purpose Kennedy seek help from SEATO and American allied countries. Thus, to keep control over Laos, Kennedy asked support for Pakistan. Kennedy ordered to vice president for going to Asia. The purpose of this visit was to strengthen SENTO, and it also needed help from Asian countries to fight against communism. China was considered as an indirect threat to USA. United States feared from the rise of communism in China in the region of South Asia. In May 1961, the vice president Lyndon Johnson reached at Karachi. President Ayub met with L. Johnson. There had a long meeting between them. Ayub khan highlighted the Kashmir issue again. After the end of this meeting, Johnson concluded that United States would try to solve Kashmir issue and try to achieve modernization in the military of Pakistan.

Before he visited United States, Ayub khan said to President of United States that Pakistan was upset and disappointed with the policy of the United States. He argued that America sent aid to India and increase it day by day that is direct threat to Pakistan. He also revealed the purchase of 350 Tanks and non-recoil guns. He warned if United States sent more aid to India in future, Pakistan might withdraw from the treaty of SEATO and CENTO.  American president Kennedy invited the president of Pakistan to visit United States. The visit was planned in November 1961. Later it was scheduled earlier, and Ayub khan reached America for official visit in July 1961. He hosted a glittering dinner for Ayub at Mount Vernon George Washington’s home. It had been used for foreign president in the first time of the history of America. Kennedy praised Pakistan for its help in Korean war and cherished the friendship with Pakistan. Ayub khan discussed internal problems of country with USA President. He mentioned the issue of drainage system in West Pakistan, and he asked assistance of United States in improving the irrigation system in West Pakistan. The poor irrigation system was causing damage and decreasing agricultural production. Kennedy sent a high-level team to Pakistan, which solved the irrigation problem. Ayub khan wanted aid from America. Kennedy ready to increase aid. The USA agency for International Development Offered $500 million over a two-year period. After that, he requested more aid from $500 million to $945 million, but Kennedy disregarded his request and said that Pakistan would have to increase its own missionary work in this field. Ayub Khan criticized the aid to India from America. He also expressed his concern and disappointed over the change in US policy toward Pakistan.

Ayub khan visited US to attend the UN session. He met with Kennedy for the second time on 24th September 1962. He again highlighted the United States aid delivered to India that is a security threat to Pakistan. Kennedy said that the United States provides economic aid to India. This aid would also work as a force to press India to negotiate on the Kashmir issue. Kennedy sent a message to Ayub khan on 27th October 1962 about the US military aid and assistance to India and wanted Pakistan help in Sino Indian war of 1962. But Ayub khan was already upset and rejected his wish to help in Sino Indian War. He replied that Pakistan would not attack the Chinese border to help India as Pakistan itself had security issues. During these days, Ayub khan called the emergency session of the National assembly of Pakistan. He discussed Pakistan had to be grateful to the United States for economic and military aids. He criticized SEATO and CENTO Pacts. He said that if we withdraw from these pacts, we will be deprived of western aid for the construction of Tarbella dam Project. During the session, He said that we have two options to solve Kashmir issue through war or negotiation, but later he proffered negotiations. However, Kennedy agreed to support Pakistan on Kashmir dispute at the General Assembly of United Nations, during Ayub khan’s second visit to United States. President of Pakistan returned to his country after completed his official visit to United States. He addressed in a news conference in Karachi. He said that his visit was successful. He said, “Kennedy assured me to solve the Kashmir issue and also promise to provide military aid to Pakistan”.  On 15th January 1962 Kennedy addressed a press conference in Washington. He said that “We want that both countries India and Pakistan to live in peace and improve their economy. And we want Kashmir settlement and not want to blame both countries”.

Harriman and Sandy’s met Ayub khan on 28 November 1962. Both are representatives of United States. They went to New Delhi to talk with Nehru. Ayub khan agreed to solve Kashmir issue through negotiation. But Nehru did not agree to solve Kashmir dispute. After Sino Indian war, Kennedy again put pressure on India to solve Kashmir problem. In those days Kennedy also arranged six rounds of talks between both countries, but the discussions ended with no solution. The United States could not succeed in solving the Kashmir issue. Pakistan was finally decided to change its policies and make a good relationship with China. On 29th March 1963, Pakistan signed the border agreement with China along with many other contracts. Same year on 29th August after Sino-Pak Agreement, Kennedy Administration imposed restriction on Pakistan for the first time. United States was upset with Pakistan’s strengthening relations with China. Meeting was held between two secretaries Pakistani and American from 3rd Sept to 6th sept 1963. After these meetings, Ayub khan delivered a speech in which he said, “America aid to India is the main root cause to increase Indian threat to Pakistan. Pakistan wants to normalize her relations with neighboring countries India, China and USSR.”

After the assassination of Kennedy in 1963, Ayub khan decided himself that he would not go to America at Kennedy’s funeral. He sent foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at Kennedy’s funeral. Lyndon Johnson assumed the office as President. After the death of the former President. Johnson became the new President of United States. Johnson continued Kennedy’s policy of maintaining economic and military cooperation with India, which further deteriorated relations with Pakistan.  Chairman of United States joint chiefs of Staff General Taylor Maxwell visited Pakistan in 1963. He met Ayub khan and asked that Pakistan promised to be with United States, but now your policy diverted towards China. Ayub khan replied change in our policy is due to different reasons and especially this is the result of United States changed policy toward Pakistan. Tylor showed United States disappointment upon Ayub policy with China. Ayub khan said that change in foreign policy of United States towards India as giving them more and more aid created a lot of problems for Pakistan. Then Pakistan decided to seek help from China. America imposed arm embargo on both India and Pakistan in September 1965. The war broke out between India and Pakistan in 1965. Pakistan was looking forward to US intervention to stop Indo-Pak war as a member of SEATO and CENTO. But US adopted a neutral approach during this war which was considered as betrayal from US. This made Pakistan toward China assistance and China provided economic and military aid to Pakistan. United States only called the UN session to stop Indo-Pak war of 1965. After the war ended in December 1965, Ayub khan visited Washington to meet with Johnson as he wanted help in solving the Kashmir issue, but he did not get good response. Due to the threat of Soviet communism, United States wanted to collaborate with Pakistan, but it was deeply upset by Pak-China relations. On 15 February 1966, Johnson sent vice president H. Humphrey on visit to Asia. He gave a message of Johnson to Ayub Khan that United States is ready to negotiate and provide aid and to lift the ban on arm transport. There was restoration of military aid from the United States to Pakistan. US agreed to sell spare parts to both Pakistan and India, but there were some limitations. Secretary of state Dean Rusk asked for Pakistan to arrange a meeting to negotiate with China’s foreign minister on the Vietnam war issue. But this wish was not fulfilled by Pakistan’s then foreign minister Z. A. Bhutto who then resigned from foreign ministry.

After Johnson, in 1968, Richard Nixon won the presidential elections and became the president of United States. He was a good friend of Ayub Khan. Ayub khan’s regime was crumbling at that time and in 1969 Ayub resigned from the government.

To conclude the Pak-US relation in the time of Ayub Khan, there was a shift in policies of both countries. In the start of Ayub era, the relation between Ayub Khan and president J. F. Eisenhower was good and smooth. Pakistan got economic aids from US for different development projects in country. Eisenhower also showed his concern on solving the issue of Kashmir with India but remained unsuccessful. During the reign of President Kennedy and Johnson, US foreign policy is marked with a shift toward India. And with Pakistan, its relations dramatically worsened. Despite this US remained a source of large economic aid for Pakistan. United States and Pakistan signed different defense pacts and agreements for mutual benefits. United States needed Pakistan in combating communism in the South Asia region. Both countries wanted to maintain peace in the region. But with the time passed the policies changed. The change in foreign policy of US urged Pakistan to diverge its policies as well. The reliance of Pakistan on US in the matter of Kashmir issue remained useless. America tried to resolve Kashmir issue but failed due to irresponsible attitude of Indian government. The accepting of US assistance in case of Kashmir issue was futile. United States also promised to provide defense and security, but it failed in this regard as well. This could be shown in neutral approach adopted by US during 1965 war. Every event has both negative and positive effects left. It seemed that US for its own interests exploited the weakness of Pakistan. It made Pakistan dependent on US economic aids. US wanted Pakistan help to counter the spread of communism. The large number of defense aid and military equipment was delivered to India from US. Despite of knowing the fact that Pakistan has security threats from India, US provided them military weapons. This proved that US had only interest in its own benefits. The US-Pak relations also proved significant in some scenario and non-productive in some other. This relation proved fruitful in case of economic aid and military aid, but it failed in Kashmir dispute.

Saqib Hussain Mugheri
Saqib Hussain Mugheri
I am graduate Student at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. My area of research is related to historical events and personalities of Pakistan.