59. Telegram 123406 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Turkey1 2


  • CENTO: Debate on Pakistan Membership in CENTO

1. Following is cleared summary of part of CENTO Ministerial Council discussion in Tehran relating to Pak membership.

2. In reply to Secretary Rogers’ review of international situation Pakistan Foreign Minister repeated Pakistan charge that CENTO had failed as military alliance by failing to help Pakistan when attacked by India. His description of GOP “soul-searching” on decision whether to remain in CENTO seemed strong indication Pakistan seriously considering leaving alliance unless, of course, other partners revised views of CENTO’s role. He conceded value of CENTO as forum, as catalyst for RCD, and source of other development aid, and as “factor” in relations with non-regional members. Why not, he asked, abolish “military wing” of CENTO, which is only “provocative” and does nothing. Make CENTO an economic/political grouping for development activity.

3. Secretary Rogers replied that he found this discussion very useful; it reveals what was on each members’ mind in this very frank exchange. He said he could understand Pak Minister’s concern, but asked that he look at this organization and our relations with Pakistan from US point of view. One value of the organization was to try to understand each other.

4. Secretary pointed out Pak Minister admitted CENTO played role in preventing major power conflict in Aja, although he had not rpt not come back to this point in rest of his explanation. But it is true, and if there were no CENTO, Pakistan might not rpt not have its present troubles. Pakistan might not rpt not exist. The kind of alliances being discussed have prevented World War III, the ultimate horror. Isn’t that important, SecState asked, of utmost rpt utmost importance?

5. Secretary reiterated: Our role in CENTO must be part of our relationship with alliance members. Such an alliance was never intended to prevent regional conflict. Important point is alliance prevented WW III as US fought two wars.

6. Active participation in alliances does rpt does keep conflict from region. If Soviets understand we want to prevent dismemberment of Pakistan, they are deterred. It does not rpt not solve all Pakistan’s problems with India but still has deterrent effect. If there were no CENTO, and Pakistan faced its present problems, had someone come with this treaty idea, Pakistanis would be delighted.

7. As Pakistan makes its assessment, especially publicly, GOP must remember the American public and especially the US Congress are also assessing. With deliberate emphasis, Secretary said that if Pakistan should leave CENTO, it would have very serious effect on US opinion—it could feed isolationism.

8. The Secretary cited NATO. In Iceland US is criticized because we won’t attack Great Britain. That is silly. NATO was not created to settle differences between Iceland and Britain.

9. Alliance has more than regional importance, Secretary continued. We must take into account US public opinion. Bilateral relations cannot help but be damaged by public criticism of CENTO—and of other alliances, for it is true of Europe and NATO, of SEATO.

10. Secretary urged Pakistan Minister to keep in mind that Presidents Nixon and Bhutto will consider this matter in their forthcoming talks, but he wanted all men gathered in present meeting to understand US position.

Ensuing general discussion reported septel.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Exdis. It was drafted on June 21 by Robert Chase (NEA/RA); cleared by NEA, NEA/RA, NEA/IRN, and NEA/PAB; and approved by S. It was repeated to Islamabad, London, Moscow, New Delhi, and Tehran. Pakistan’s continuing threats to leave the alliance because of its inaction during the 1971 war with India occupied much of agenda in Tehran. In telegram 5319 the Embassy discussed a subsequent meeting on July 2 between Deputy Chief of Mission Sydney Sober and Pakistani Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs Aziz Ahmed, who asserted that the threat to Pakistan from the USSR was not direct, but continued to come from India. Thus, if the United States did not reconsider its refusal to give military aid to Pakistan, Islamabad would “probably not” remain part of CENTO. (Ibid.)
  2. Secretary of State Rogers led a discussion of Pakistan’s role in the CENTO alliance at the ministerial meeting that took place June 10–11 in Tehran. Pakistan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Aziz Ahmed repeated charges that CENTO had failed as a military alliance and raised the question of Pakistan leaving the organization. Rogers countered that CENTO, like NATO, existed to prevent war with the Soviet Union, not mediate regional conflicts.