In response to India’s claims to nonalignment, Pakistan needed to adopt an opposing ideology in order to continue the perception that Pakistan was different from India, and to therefore validate its original justification for existence. Particularly useful to this end was the emphasis on Islam whenever Pakistan needed to advance its security interest. As indicated above, for example, parallels were drawn between the ideology of Pakistani Islam and American democratic ideals when Pakistan sought American military aid. (By extension, religion is also the main proffered reason for which Pakistan has been fighting for control of Kashmir, which is also of strategic interest to it.)
Based on a history of foreign invasions into South Asia, suspicions of India’s intentions, claims to similarities between Islamic ideals and American ideals of democracy, and India’s claim to being a nonaligned, secular homeland for South Asians without regard to race, caste or creed, Pakistan adopted a Realist policy that would extend Cold War bipolarity to South Asia. As Kenneth Waltz argues in favor of a neo-Realist worldview, “[t]he threat of violence and the recurrent use of force are said to distinguish international from national affairs“ in that “[c]itizens need not prepare to defend themselves. Public agencies do that. A national system is not one of self-help. The international system is.” Such a view would seem to favor international involvement in such a conflict as Kashmir in the form both of an extension of the Cold War to South Asia as well as the Pakistani acceptance of American military aid.
On the other hand, Siddiqi calls into question the actual need for Pakistani military assistance from the United States. After its independence, the first Pakistani security tie was the Agreement for Friendly Co-operation between Pakistan and Turkey, which “allied Pakistan with the strongest country in the Middle East and one which could meet to a certain extent its requirements in arms and ammunition.”
Whether or not it was needed in Pakistan, American military aid illustrated Pakistan’s Realist acceptance of international power struggles.
II. American Military Aid to Pakistan in 1954: The Historical Evidence
The Pakistani request for American military aid made history in 1954 when it was met with American acceptance. This specific extension of American military aid is best understood in the context of American military aid to India. Instrumental in determining Pakistan’s request and America’s acceptance were early impressions that American and Indian leaders developed of each other. Prior to, during, and after this request was made, the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke against such an involvement of foreign forces in the Indian Subcontinent. His vision of a future for the region was based on a combination of idealism and Realism, as well as on his own background as a native Kashmiri. And it is such a vision that influenced him in reacting to the invasion of Kashmir in 1947 and in deciding in favor of a conditional accession of Kashmir by India. With the seeming uncertainty in the latter decision, however, Pakistan could strengthen its argument in favor of acquiring this predominantly-Muslim province. Moreover, Pakistani policy regarding Kashmir and foreign military aid followed a decisively Realist approach, despite the Islamic ideals which it sought to exemplify domestically. Indian external policy, on the other hand, was based on a combination of both Realism (regionally) and idealism (globally) with a uniquely secular domestic counterpart, especially because Indian regional policy was largely determined by Nehru. It is the disparity between Indian and Pakistani bases of global policy that served to make Pakistan’s 1954 weapons procurement a bittersweet fact.
A. The Pakistani Request
First, we turn to Pakistan’s actual request to the United States for military aid. After looking at stated reasons for this aid, we will look at Pakistani interests that fostered a request for aid. We will note that such interests follow naturally from Pakistani ideology.
As early as 1951, Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan requested assistance from former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan M. Ikramullah in obtaining American military aid to meet Pakistan’s defense requirements. For his part, Ikramullah, in discussions with Assistant Secretary of State McGhee, made it clear that such military aid would not be used for internal security and also gave McGhee the impression that Pakistan did not need protection from outside aggression. He referred to a worsening of the situation in Kashmir, to “a hostile neighbor,” and recalled Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s prediction after the Subcontinent’s 1947 Partition “that Pakistan would have to fight for Kashmir.” Quite unmistakably, Ikramullah gave the impression that Pakistan would use American military aid to further its struggle, admittedly not internal, in Kashmir. Specifically, Ikramullah wanted a total of 320 tanks for Pakistan, of which 70 were already on order.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Ali in 1954 attempted to clarify the purpose of his nation’s request for military aid: “Hitherto, Pakistan has striven to build up her defenses (sic) with her own unaided resources. But under rapidly changing requirements of modern warfare, the demands of adequate defense (sic) are . . . imposing an increasingly burdensome strain on the country’s economy.” As such, Pakistan had to divert resources intended for economic development in favor of maintaining her political status — that is, regional security and the preservation of her Independence. Only after solving this defense dilemma, according to Mohammad Ali, would Pakistan “be able to devote its resources increasingly to the development of its human and material wealth” because only then would it be “secure [in its] ideological and economic freedom.”
Mohammad Ali also attempted to downplay any notion that Pakistani aggression might be furthered by American military aid: “It must be emphasized that the decision to obtain military aid from the United States is not aimed against any country whatsoever. Pakistan has never entertained, and does not entertain, any aggressive intentions.”
By contrast, as Dan Haendel pointed out in observing Pakistan’s raising of the Kashmir issue at a March 1956 SEATO meeting in Karachi, such behavior demonstrated that Pakistan had entered into an “alliance with the US primarily in order to arm itself against India and to secure its support over Kashmir.” Even Ali himself hinted at not simply defending Pakistan against Indian encroachments, but actually needing Kashmir to be a whole. “Pakistan came into being as a result of the struggle of the Muslims of this [Subcontinent] for the establishment of an independent homeland in which they may be able to lead their lives in accordance with the ideals of Islam. That struggle is not yet over. Kashmir was and continues to be an essential part of the concept of Pakistan.”
To understand why Pakistan was so determined to fortify its military defense with outside help at this time, we must look to the historic and ideological interest in safeguarding the territorial integrity of Pakistan. According to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950, the last thing that the people of Pakistan will agree to would be that “the slightest dent should be made in the territorial integrity of their country.” Since Independence, the perception has existed in Pakistan that India would not give up its attempts to reunite the Subcontinent. Further, with the grounds for Pakistan’s existence as a nation resting on the perceived threat to Muslims by a Hindu majority, any strategic maneuver by India would naturally be closely monitored by Pakistan.
Another Pakistani interest that is relevant in explaining the 1954 request for military aid is the preservation of Pakistani culture. In arguing for economic aid for Pakistan in 1950 (relevant here due to Mohammad Ali’s claim that economic advancement is the ultimate goal of receiving military aid from the United States), Liaquat Ali Khan clarified what he believed to be foreign misconceptions of Pakistani Islamic culture before describing what the United States had in common with his nation: “The phrase ‘Islamic way of life’ has on many occasions been … misconstrued … as religious intolerance, theocratic rule, return to mediaevalism (sic) and so on.” A theocracy, however, was not intended, as “we abhor the idea of applying any religious or cultural coercion to our non-Muslim nationals.” This made Pakistan appear to be an all-accepting society, an idea certain to appeal to a secular United States.
Further, Liaquat Ali Khan paralleled American ideals of democracy to Pakistan’s domestic ideals based on Islam. For example, he claimed that Pakistan fostered the Islamic belief of private ownership to promote economic equilibrium and advance human welfare generally. In referring to an American marble tablet in Pakistan which read, “Except the lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”, he stated that Pakistani ideology similarly meant a belief in democracy: fundamental human rights, private ownership, the people’s right to be governed by representatives whom they vote into office themselves, equal citizenship for all, equal opportunity, equality before the law. These ideals, however, cannot be realized without economic aid—without “resources at the greatest possible speed. For this we need your goodwill and cooperation.” Similarly, American military aid to Pakistan’s Army, Navy, and Air Force in 1954 might have improved Pakistan’s economic dilemma, as we imply from Mohammad Ali’s link between economic success and military aid.
B. The American Response
Certainly, as B.M. Jain points out, “President Eisenhower’s decision to furnish military aid to Pakistan in February 1954 created a ‘new situation’ in South Asia.” Ideologically, though, it was quite consistent with the events surrounding it.
The American response to this request for military aid varied. For example, Chester Bowles, US Ambassador to India, discussed “creeping militarism” in the context of the debate over whether to send military aid to Pakistan. He defined the former as “the process by which our foreign policy is determined in bits and pieces by decisions which are largely based on military thinking which ignores the political, economic, and social forces which are shaping tomorrow’s world.” Bowles traced patterns of military strength in the region, relying on an argument in Sir Olaf Caroe’s “Wells of Power.” During colonial times, as Caroe understood it, the stability of the area depended on British diplomacy, the British Navy, and the Indian Army. After the British left India, Nehru neutralized the Indian Army by declaring India’s non-involvement. “[H]ence . . . a substitute must be found, and Pakistan was the most likely possibility.” Bowles warned, though, that “[t]he proposed arms agreement with Pakistan, far from furthering our national objectives in the Middle East and South Asia, will add dangerously to the grave instability that already exists there” because India would react unfavorably to a military program to build up the Pakistani Army that might be used against it. After America agreed to extend military aid to Pakistan, Senator Fullbright made a similar observation, concluding in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that America “should have been extremely careful in our relations with” India and Pakistan.
Further, in National Security Council paper NSC 5409, we find the United States still thinking of South Asia in terms of the international struggle against Communism. This document lists American interests in the region: “Seek greater participation of Pakistan in a common front against communism … seek to insure that in the event of general war Pakistan will make available manpower, resources and strategic facilities for mutual defense effort with the West . . . give special consideration to Pakistan in providing military assistance.” This theme of allying with powers that did not welcome Communism exists in many American foreign policy documents of the time. It is this preoccupation which led Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to say as a side note in his address on his visit to the Subcontinent that “[t]he strong spiritual faith and martial spirit of the people [Pakistanis] make them a dependable bulwark against communism.” Military assistance would ally America with Pakistan, ensuring that potential Communist activities that are “spearheading an agrarian revolt which could well be led into revolutionary channels and shake the stability” of the regime be thwarted.
Meanwhile, the United States officially made it clear that the use of military weapons for non-defensive—that is, aggressive—purposes would not be tolerated. It accepted “assurances on the part of the recipient country that it will not use such aid for aggressive purposes.” Instead, Eisenhower indicated “an improvement in Pakistan’s defensive capabilities will serve the defensive interests of the Middle East. It is for this reason that our aid will be given.” As Secretary of State John Foster Dulles points out, the President indicated that America ought to emphasize its willingness to extend similar military aid to India as well, in order to allay the latter’s fears that the US was uniting with Pakistan against it.
With America preoccupied with creating a united front against Communism and with assurances by Mohammad Ali, the United States was ready to respond to Pakistan’s request in the affirmative. This is codified in the “US-Pakistan Mutual Defense (sic) Agreement”: “The Government of the United States will make available to the Government of Pakistan such equipment, materials, services or other assistance … as may be agreed…. The two Governments will, from time to time, negotiate detailed arrangements necessary to carry out the provisions” of military aid.
Further, the “US-Pakistan joint communiqué on defense (sic) support aid to Pakistan” gives us a basis for understanding the American military aid to Pakistan. First, expecting an American preoccupation with Communism, we are surprised to find an official admission that the United States has indeed recognized that regional complexities should be and have been considered in America’s military aid to Pakistan. Next, we see that American aid is being extended in response to a perceived economic need in Pakistan. For this, “the United States Government will make available to Pakistan in the current fiscal year  about $105 million in economic aid, part … in the form of loans” for “technical assistance, flood relief … and funds for developmental purposes.” The belief was that the main reason for Pakistan’s request for military aid was to help its economy. This funding was intended to aid the economy directly, to get at the root of the problem.
Especially convincing is the fact that “[t]he poverty of the region and the developmental problems associated with the societies tend to make them dependent on American largesse. Nowhere in the region is there a sustained threat that may allow for an unacceptable gain for the adversary.” Not only was Pakistan free of Communism, it could also serve as a perfect puppet state advancing American democratic ideals through Pakistani Islam. In fact, according to Dulles, an injection of American culture would be appropriate: “The area is too vast to depend upon just a military line. You have to build on something which is far more important than that, which is along the tradition of religion and culture.”
Further, regarding military aid itself, “the United States will endeavor to accelerate the substantial military aid programs for Pakistan, which are beginning this year…. [T]he United States cannot make commitments beyond the limits of existing and current appropriations.” Through the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, the United States had launched in 1954 its military assistance program to Pakistan. The specific amounts of military aid would be specified later, at times when Pakistan appeared to need specific military aid. This is seen, for example, in the January 11, 1955 “US-Pakistan agreement on US aid under Chapter 3—Defense Support—of Title I in the Mutual Security Act of 1951.” In Article II, $60 Million was made available for Pakistan in military aid until June 30, 1955, of which $20 Million would be loans. In the period 1954-1965, arms to Pakistan totaled $3 to $4 billion.