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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
Press Statement

December 4, 2000

Release of  Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXV, South Asia

President Lyndon B. Johnson, despite his preoccupation with the war in Southeast Asia, was intensely involved in the problems of South Asia during his administration. His concerns and those of U.S. policymakers are recounted in a documentary collection, Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXV, South Asia, which the Department of State released today. Unlike his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson had no particular interest in South Asia, nor in foreign policy in general. John Kennedy came to office determined to reorient U.S. policy toward South Asia, but for Lyndon Johnson South Asia was another of those foreign policy problems that distracted him from focusing on his goal of creating a great society in the United States. Nonetheless, the published documents demonstrate that, except for Vietnam, the South Asian regional problems and conflicts probably occupied more of Johnson's time and attention than any other foreign policy issue during his administration.

During the Johnson administration, relations between the United States and Pakistan steadily worsened, even though Johnson was predisposed to value the alliance between the two countries and held a favorable view of Pakistani President Ayub Khan. Johnson told former President Eisenhower in 1967 that Ayub was one of the ablest men he had ever met, a man of great appeal with whom he got along famously. The Kashmir dispute, which embittered relations between Pakistan and India, and flamed into war in 1965, compromised Johnson's good will. Along with many members of Congress, Johnson felt that the U.S. economic and military assistance being funneled into the subcontinent was wasted in the conflict, and for a time the spigot of assistance was turned off. The failure of Indian and Pakistani agricultural programs to meet the food needs of their people, a failure sharply exacerbated by successive droughts also frustrated Johnson.

The volume extensively documents military assistance policies toward both India and Pakistan, a major component of U.S. relations with both nations. U.S. policymakers tried to respond to the needs of both countries, forestall Soviet and Communist Chinese inroads into the area, as well as balance the military capabilities of both nations. In early September 1965 the United States backed up its calls for a ceasefire after war broke out over Kashmir by announcing the suspension of all military assistance shipments to India and Pakistan. On September 22, India and Pakistan accepted a UN ceasefire proposal, followed by a meeting at Tashkent where they signed an agreement ending the conflict.

The focus of U.S. policy thereafter was on persuading India and Pakistan to limit military expenditures and on ensuring that economic assistance was not diverted into military budgets. Until receiving assurances that such constraints would be exercised, the United States maintained a moratorium on military supplies and economic assistance.

A food crisis on the subcontinent in 1965 and 1966 and recurring drought in 1966 and 1967 in India forced the governments of the subcontinent to re-evaluate their inefficient methods of agricultural production and distribution. The threat of famine on the subcontinent was a crisis that the United States with its surplus food capability was under domestic and international pressure to address. Johnson used grudging, month-by-month allocations, which he personally approved, to press for agricultural reform while meeting the minimum food needs of the subcontinent, in consultation with Congress, and he orchestrated an international effort to match the largess of the United States. In all, the United States sent some 8.5 million tons of grain to India in 1965-1966 and over 5 million tons in 1967. Proportionate amounts of grain were also sent to Pakistan. Without question, the assistance authorized and organized by Johnson saved the subcontinent from disaster. With international support and advice and the introduction of new high-yielding grains, the subcontinent ultimately emerged from the prolonged food crisis in a much better position to meet its food needs.

The documents on Afghanistan published in the volume illuminate U.S. efforts to use limited economic assistance to promote development and to limit Soviet influence. The Pushtunistan dispute over the Pathan tribal homeland along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which had concerned U.S. policymakers in the past, stayed on a slow simmer throughout this time period.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: [email protected]. The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office's Web site: http://state.gov/www/about_state/history/index.html. Copies of volume XXV can be purchased from the Government Printing Office. Please use the form below or order from http://bookstore.gpo.gov/sb/sb-210.html.

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