110. Telegram 1608 From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State 1 2

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  • State 032342


  • Pakistan/Soviet Relations: Comments on INR Assessment of Soviet Activities Directed Against Iran and Pakistan
Embassy generally agrees with conclusions drawn in INR paper: Bhutto’s current strategy regarding Soviet “threat” directed towards obtaining military equipment from the US and towards discrediting his domestic political opposition. However, Embassy differs with some INR judgements leading to above conclusions our comments on specific statements in paper follow:
Re Iraqi arms affair, as reported in several of our messages during past week, senior GOP officials in various Ministries (Defense, Intelligence Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are unable to explain satisfactorily several key aspects of destination of arms, purpose behind arms deliveries, third-country involvement. Until, more facts are ascertained, [Page 2] Embassy is not prepared to dismiss possiblity that Soviets were not only aware of Iraqi arms smuggling but that Soviets may in fact have been acting in complicity with Iraqis.
We do agree that Bhutto has seized opportunity presented by arms discovery to discredit his political opposition. However, GOP trod softly in publicly linking Soviets with political opposition on arms affair. For example, Bhutto’s remarked as recently as Feb 2 that relations with USSR “will further improve.” Rather, GOP has invoked past indiscretions of National Awami Party and Amaat-i-Islam leaders in transparent effort to pin secessionist label on former and anti-Pakistan label on latter.
Embassy also cannot subscribe to thesis that Bhutto has placed all blame on Soviets for 1971 debacle, thus exonerating Yahya regime. Yahya clique has been repeatedly and bitterly denounced by Bhutto for gross mismanagement of nation’s affairs including relations with East Pakistan and conduct of December war. This was particularly emphasized during early months of Bhutto government, as Bhutto retired or exiled most senior service officers associated with “political” generals. In recent months, conspiracy theory has gained ground. Reversion to conspiracy approach is probably, in part, due to Pak perception of events in 1971 and additionally reflects reproaches to Bhutto from the military resentful of continued adverse publicity.
Whether the Shah has simply bought Bhutto’s view of Soviet intentions in South Asia is uncertain in our view. We think the reverse is more likely.
Soviet military relationship with Pakistan was fleeting (1968–69) and has become matter of ancient history to Paks following events of past two years. Without reviewing history of this episode in Soviet-Pak reations, we suspect that cessation of arms relationship somewhat more complex than that offered in para 7, reftel.
Further comments this subject contained Islamabad 1603 on “Pakistani perception of Soviet intentions”.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL PAK USSR. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. It was drafted by Sober and repeated to Kabul, Karachi, Lahore, London, Moscow, New Delhi, and Tehran.
  2. The Embassy commented on previous assessments of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research that cast doubt on Prime Minister Bhutto’s allegations of Soviet arms being smuggled into Pakistan. While it agreed that Bhutto had definitely used the crisis as an opportunity to request U.S. support and to discredit domestic opposition, the Embassy was reluctant to dismiss outright the possibility of Soviet involvement.