• U.S.

Pakistan: How to Be Friendly Without Getting Seduced

4 minute read

In Karachi last week, the gold-starred red flag of Communist China fluttered in the streets, even in front of the ultramodern U.S. embassy. Overhead were strung banners hailing “Chinese-Pakistani Friendship” and welcoming joyfully, if inaccurately, “Chaw En-lai.”

The poker-faced object of these salutations, China’s Premier Chou Enlai, 65, arrived by chartered KLM plane for an eight-day visit to Pakistan, a nation of 100 million people that was once solidly pro-Western and is still a member of both CENTO and SEATO, which were set up for the purpose of containing Communism. Yet since 1962, Pakistan and Red China have 1) settled their border problems, 2) signed a trade agreement, and 3) made an air treaty under which Pakistan International Airlines will begin flights to Canton and Shanghai this summer, with reciprocal rights for Chinese aircraft at Dacca and Karachi.

Playing Footsie. Both on and off the record, Pakistan’s Dictator-President Mohammed Ayub Khan has tried to soothe U.S. feelings by insisting that his country stands firmly by its Western alliances and intends no military or non-aggression pacts with China. Then why is Pakistan playing footsie with Peking? The answer seems to be that Ayub Khan has long shared with his countrymen the conviction that Pakistan is surrounded by enemies: huge India, which still keeps the major portion of its army on the cease-fire line in divided Kashmir; hostile Afghanistan, which wants to carve a new Pathan nation out of northern Pakistan; pro-Indian Russia; and dangerous, expansion-minded Communist China.

Until last year, Pakistan relied entirely on its U.S. alliance, confident that with Washington’s backing it could safely resist any foe. But when U.S. and British military aid poured into India after the shattering reverses of the 1962 Himalayan war, Pakistan panicked. Ayub Khan and other top officials hold as an article of faith the belief that India will never use its rebuilt army against the Chinese, but may well employ it against archfoe Pakistan. Given this state of mind, it seemed only logical to break through the “encirclement” by reaching an understanding with one of its big neighbors also on bad terms with India, namely, China.

84¢ a Day. As for Chou Enlai, he seemed happy enough just to be the invited guest of a U.S. ally. He went dutifully through his official tour, from laying a wreath at the tomb of Pakistan’s founder, Ali Jinnah, to trudging through a large textile plant, where he smiled with satisfaction on discovering that a white-haired employee earned 84¢ a day. At week’s end Chou flew up to Rawalpindi and was warmly greeted by handsome Ayub Khan, wearing a jaunty astrakhan hat. Here the street banners read DOWN WITH INDIAN IMPERIALISM IN KASHMIR, but if they were intended to prod Chou into a public expression of support against India, they failed. The two leaders toasted each other with gold-edged crystal goblets, were served by a retinue of turbaned, white-clad waiters, and exchanged platitudes about peace, friendship and Afro-Asian unity.

Ironically, Chou was everywhere surrounded by evidence of massive U.S. aid. When he landed at Rawalpindi airport, Pakistan’s new, U.S.-supplied C-130 transport planes hulked on the runways, and the trim honor guard presented arms with U.S. rifles. After a 3¢-hour private discussion with his Red visitor, Ayub Khan suddenly called a press conference.

Very Frank Truth. Chou was merely making a friendly visit, he insisted. “The whole world today visits each other. The world is on the move—it is the pattern of life.” He again maintained there was no conflict between friendship with China and Pakistan’s membership in CENTO and SEATO. Reminded that the pacts had been organized to provide defense against Red aggression, Ayub Khan said amiably and ambiguously: “Well, that’s the way our friends, the Americans and the British, like to see it.” Obviously referring to India, he added: “Our complaint against CENTO and SEATO—to tell the very frank truth—is that our friends have never realized that we are also under constant threat from another direction.” And finally, Ayub Khan offered his “good offices” to bring about “some sort of agreement” between the U.S. and Red China. In his talks with Chou, said Ayub Khan, one thing had emerged very clearly: “That the Chinese are prepared to be reasonable with anyone who is prepared to be reasonable with them.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com