The attitude towards India has been and remains the fulcrum around which Pakistan’s foreign policy revolves. At the time of the conclusion of the Indus Waters Agreement in September 1960, President Ayub Khan had the opportunity and power to bury the legacy of hate and distrust. He chose the other alternative and destroyed the considerable reservoir of goodwill he had built in India. Like his predecessors he has also denied himself room for manoeuvre in his dealings with India, particularly on the Kashmir issue.
The Field Marshal faces a worse dilemma than most of his predecessors. Unlike them he cannot depend on western, particularly British and American, support in his cold war against India. His efforts to coerce the Kennedy Administration to return to the Dullesian posture in the sub-continent have proved futile. Indirectly through the publicists at his beck and call he has been threatening to make a common cause with China, which constitutes a permanent threat to India’s security in the north.
Diplomatic and political observers in Karachi hold divergent views on the question of how far President Ayub Khan is prepared to go in befriending China. The Chinese themselves appear uncertain and that may be one reason why they have been rather evasive in responding to the Field Marshal’s repeated offers to negotiate the border between Sinkiang and Pakistan-occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir State.
One opinion is that President Ayub Khan went to Washington last July in the hope of converting President Kennedy to his view that as America’s ally Pakistan had the right to expect support in her disputes with India. What was claimed to be a “meeting of minds” and a “most successful visit’’ was in fact nothing of the kind.
Those who hold this view add that President Ayub Khan returned home convinced that the new Administration was determined to woo India. From this point onward, according to them, he has felt himself free to reshape Pakistan’s foreign policy without regard to American susceptibilities. Three foreign policy decisions are quoted in support of this contention – recognition of the Provisional Algerian Government, closure of consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar leading to the rupture of diplomatic and trade relations with Afghanistan and decision to revive the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council. They conclude that he would do his best to befriend China whether Washington likes it or not.
The exponents of the other view disagree with only the conclusion. They believe that Pakistan’s dependence on American aid is so great that it has not much room for manoeuvre in her relations with China. Pakistan gets all her military hardware free of cost from America which also meets nearly 50 per cent of the defence budget of Rs. 98 crores through the defence support grants. Fifty per cent of Pakistan’s development expenditure is met from foreign aid against 20 per cent in the case of India. All this aid comes from America and her allies.
Their explanation for the rupture of diplomatic and trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in spite of America’s known interests in Afghanistan is that President Ayub Khan was able to queer the pitch in a surprise move. It was then a question of face as much for President Ayub Khan as for the Afghan Prime Minister, Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan. Apparently the possibility of a similar move in the case of China is strictly limited. It is more or less out of the question. Dr. Henry A Kissinger, Special Assistant to President Kennedy, has given notice that America’s reaction to any such move will be fairly sharp.
Whatever the validity of these viewpoints, they do not take into account China’s possible response to overtures by Pakistan. On the face of it, it is an incalculable factor. Up to date, however, the Pakistan and Chinese approaches are different.
Pakistan wants a beginning to be made with an agreement on the demarcation of the border of northern areas of the Kashmir State held by her. China emphasises that overall friendship is more important than a specific agreement on the border. Peking earlier followed the same line with New Delhi. It produced “Panchshila” as a substitute for acceptance of the McMahon Line as India’s border with Tibet.
The Chinese may not always be fastidious about legality, but they must have good “revolutionary” reasons to disregard it openly. In the case of Gilgit and Baltistan, they will have to disregard the fact of India’s de jure sovereignty in order to work out a border agreement with Pakistan. There are good reasons why they might not consider it fruitful to do so.
The Chinese have a marked preference for weak and ill-organised States on their border. They, for instance, prefer to deal with Bhutan and Sikkim rather than India on the question of their border with Tibet. On the same analogy, they might like to deal with the President of Azad Kashmir, Mr. K.H. Khurshid, rather than President Ayub Khan. An independent Azad Kashmir with jurisdiction over the northern territories would suit China from every point of view.
There is a ready-made strategy for China. She would like to draw Pakistan into a general agreement of friendship. That would serve two purposes. First, it would imply repudiation by Pakistan of her membership of the SEATO. Secondly, it would make it easier for China to concentrate her efforts on East Pakistan.
Unlike in the western wing, a communist party exists in East Pakistan. It is said to have close links with the Indian communists in Calcutta, who are openly pro-China in the current dispute in the international communist movement. The communists provided the backbone of the Awami Party which swept the Muslim League out of office in East Bengal in 1954. They would certainly benefit from the sense of grievance East Pakistan’s intelligentsia nurses against the Central Government controlled and run by the West Pakistanis.
There must be some realisation in Rawalpindi that to seek friendship with China is to encourage a separatist movement in East Pakistan. The lesson of the welcome, unparalleled in the history of Pakistan, Mr. Chou En-lai received in Dacca in 1956 might not have been wholly forgotten. In the result Pakistan may stay where she is – the West-sponsored alliances – in spite of all the bluff and bluster. The danger is the leaders may unwittingly promote forces, particularly in East Bengal, which they may later find difficult to control.
The Times of India, 16 February 1962