Rise to National Prominence

Bhutto in the Ayub Regime

As much as Bhutto was involved in domestic policy early in the Ayub years, foreign policy remained his first interest and the Foreign Ministry the focus of his driving ambition for a future cabinet appointment. Bhutto was not inactive in foreign matters during these years. He led the Pakistan delegation to several sessions of the United Nations and represented his nation abroad on a number of important missions. His holding of the Kashmir portfolio regarded as a stepping-stone to the Foreign Ministership, put him in the centre of the most crucial issue where Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policies coincide. There is little question that Bhutto had a part in the inner foreign policy deliberations of the Pakistan Government long before he took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the death of Muhammad Ali Bogra in January 1963. As he has written:

On my return from the famous General Assembly Session of 1960 which was attended by Premier Khruschev, Presidents Nasser and Sukarno, Mr. Macmillan, Pandit Nehru, Señor Fidel Castro, and many other eminent statesmen, I was convinced that the time had arrived for the Government of Pakistan to review and revise its foreign policy. I accordingly offered suggestions to my Government, all of which were finally accepted.

What these specific suggestions were we can only surmise from Bhutto’s speeches and later writings on foreign policy. Fitted under a broader notion of a historic struggle for equality, Bhutto’s foreign policy prescriptions begin from the assertion that the achievement by post-colonial nation-states is only a half-way house to the more untrammeled state of sovereign equality. As he wrote in The Myth of Independence:

Twenty years of independence have revealed to the people o Pakistan and India the sharp difference that really exists between independence and sovereign equality. The struggle to attain sovereign equality continues undiminished. Foreign domination has been replaced by foreign intervention, and the power to make decisions radically affecting the lives of our people’s had been curtailed by the cannons of neo-colonialism.

In an age when conflicts between ‘Global Powers’ set the conditions for world politics, the basic question for smaller nations like Pakistan was ‘how they should conduct their affairs in such a manner as to safeguard their basic interests; to retain their territorial integrity and to continue to exercise independence in their relationship with the Global Powers as well as with the smaller nations.’ Bhutto was a realist in that he recognized that states have no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. The Global Powers he noted are not activated in their foreign policies by the ‘rightness’ or ‘virtue’ of a cause, but only by their own ‘cold self interest.’ Further, because relations between the Global Powers and smaller nations are on an ‘unequal footing,’ it is the self- interest of the former that has a better chance of prevailing in ‘an endless and unequal confrontation’ between them. In the long run, a Global Power is not likely to be outwitted.’ In response to this situation, Bhutto advised the ‘small nation to take a realistic attitude and evolve both policy and strategy on rational rather than subjective lines.’ This emphatically does not mean giving in to the dictates of Global Powers in return of some material  gain, but rather, the implementing of ‘preventive diplomacy to avoid Global Power interventions which subject the weaker nations to suffer from punitive diplomacy.’ The crux of this notion of preventive diplomacy is that it is inexpedient, even dangerous, for the smaller nation to identify itself ‘completely with the total interests of one Global Power to the exclusion of the others.’  Granted, ‘common interest and the pattern of events may make it necessary for a small nation to be more closely associated with one Global Power than with another, but even so, it is not impossible for it to maintain normal relations with the others on the basis of honorable bilateral relations. Conflicts between small states and Global Power should be isolated and dealt with separately from the issues on which there can be cooperative and friendly relations. Thus, ‘a workable equilibrium should be sought independent of the point on which vital interests differ, provided of course, that the segregation of conflicts is not only possible but is scrupulously reciprocal. Implicit in Bhutto’s argument was the notion that preventive diplomacy can only work outside multilateral relationships. Bhutto also  advised that small powers should avoid, as much as possible, taking stands on conflicts between Global Powers, should unequivocally resist direct pressure from any Global Power, and should not be afraid to utilize the applications of indirect pressure exerted by the collective voice and solidarity of the smaller nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America ( now known as (‘the Third World’), together with diplomatic pressure from those Global Powers and quasi-Global Powers whose interests are in accord. By combining the support of such Powers as can give it with the support of the underdeveloped nations, the state concerned can bring about situations which make it imperative for the Global Power in question to modify its position in its own independent interest.
Given these perspectives and the actual conditions of Pakistan’s foreign policy, it is not surprising to find that Bhutto believed his nation, as a consequence of the United States-Pakistan Mutual Defense Agreement (1954) and the Baghdad Pact (1955), had tied its interests too closely to those of the United States and its allies. This had brought Pakistan unduly under American perspectives on world issues, had closed off potentially beneficial relations with other Global Powers, and had alienated important Third World states such as Egypt, that otherwise might have supported Pakistan on crucial issues like Kashmir. Those on the Pakistan side who had negotiated Pakistan’s adherence to the Western Bloc no doubt had done so because ‘those alliances offered a prospect of advancing her own standing and interests.’ Nor had the Western connection been unfruitful in bringing Pakistan badly- needed military and economic aid or allies who ‘reaffirmed Pakistan’s western frontier along the Durand Line and urged ‘an early settlement of the Kashmir question.’ Thus, Bhutto may not have counseled a dissolution of the western connection as much as its down-grading as the centrepiece of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Having spent some time at the United Nations, he was not unaware of major changes in world politics- of the ending of the coldest phase of the Cold War and the potential for super- power detente, of the growing assertion of the Third World Bloc and the rise of China, symbolically at least, as a world power. Certainly, then, Bhutto pressed for an opening up of more positive relations between Pakistan on the one hand, and China, the Soviet Union and Third World states on the other.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was not the only the supporter of these views. The alliance had never been accepted by important sections of opinion in Pakistan — the left ulama of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam and much of the urban intelligentsia. Indeed, in the period preceding the coup, a reappraisal of Pakistan’s foreign policy was underway in government and political circles. The military leadership, however, was not immediately inclined to re-orient the nation’s foreign policy. ‘As one of the chief architects of friendship with America’  Ayub’s first effort was to ‘mend the deteriorating alliance.’ thus in 1959 the U.S. Pakistan Mutual Defence Agreement was renewed and CENTO erected on the ruins of the Baghdad Pact, while the decision to vote on the China question with the U.S. in the U.N. (1959), and U-2 incident(1960) carried Pakistan’s relations with communist powers to their lowest ebb. There is little question Ayub Khan would have preferred that Pakistan remains, as he told the U.S. Congress in 1961, ‘the most allied ally,’ and appeared somewhat bemused at the Kennedy Administration’s adoption of India as the pivotal nation of Asia. It was perhaps more out of necessity than inclination that Ayub, disturbed at the ‘uneven course’ of U.S. Pakistan relations, ‘agreed to explore the possibilities of more positive relations with two of the three major Asian states proximate to, or touching her borders. Tentative efforts in this direction were begun as early as 1959, when late in that year, Pakistan offered to begin negotiations to demarcate the Sinkiang-Azad Kashmir boundary; and a few months later opened talks with the Soviet Union on a joint oil exploration agreement. After the U-2 interlude, these talks led on the Pakistan side by Z.A. Bhutto (Minister for Fuel, Power and National Resources), resulted in the Pakistan-Soviet Agreement of 4 March 1961.
Pakistan’s reappraisal of its foreign policy gained much impetus from the growing conflict between China and India, played out against a background of shifting relationships between the great powers. As is well known, Sino-Indian relations, after reaching a euphoric high during Chou En-lai’s post Bandung visit to India, slowly began to founder on territorial and political issues associated with their common boundary along the Himalaya Mountains and in the high plateaus of Ladakh. After several years of sterile negotiations and increasingly serious border clashes, this dispute flared into a cross border war in October 1962. The Sino-Indian war was fundamentally altered international power relationships in South Asia as the Anglo-American powers moved to concert with India in what amounted to a tacit military alliance against China. Having correctly perceived the limited nature of China’s objectives in the border fighting and having noted the continued stationing of the bulk of India’s armed forces along her own borders, Pakistan vigorously protested the decision by her own allies to aid India with massive infusion of arms. In an emergency session in the National Assembly of Pakistan, Foreign Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra called the arms aid ‘a hostile act,’ and Z.A. Bhutto, Acting Foreign Minister at Bogra’s death, shortly thereafter declared:

The real purpose of India wanting to augment its forces recklessly is to build up an army for two fronts, to face the People’s Republic of China and to face Pakistan . . . the arms aid must inevitably pose a very serious threat to the entire subcontinent.

The linking of China and Pakistan as the objects of India’s hostility by Bhutto was no mistake and a portent of things to come. Not wishing to lose Pakistan, the Anglo-American powers pressed for a joint defence of the subcontinent. Aware that only movement on the Kashmir issue would make possible Pakistan’s adherence to such a plan, the Sandys–Harriman mission persuaded Nehru to open direct talks with Pakistan, which deadlocked almost immediately and remained so during six rounds in the late 1962 and early 1963. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that Pakistan’s China demarche prospered. Negotiations on the Sinkiang-Kashmir boundary went underway even before the China-Indian border war, and the agreement on the provisional boundary was signed by Foreign Minister Bhutto in Peking on 2 March 1963. After this important negotiation, a series of significant agreements followed on air, land and electronic communications, and on trade, aid and cultural exchange. By the middle of 1963, Sino-Pakistan relations had advanced to such a degree that speculation on the existence of a secret Sino-Pakistan alliance began to circulate. Bhutto did nothing to dispel these rumours when he told the National Assembly on 17 July 1963:

. . .if India were in her frustration to turn  her guns against Pakistan, the internal situation is such today that Pakistan would not be alone in that conflict. A conflict does not involve Pakistan alone. Attack from India on Pakistan today is no longer confined to the security and territorial integrity of Pakistan. An attack by India on Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest state in Asia.

The emergence of Z.A, Bhutto as the spokesman for the China policy, his elevation to the Foreign Ministership, together with the interplay of events in South Asia, all combined to propel the young Sindhi into national prominence as the most visible advocate of an essentially nationalist and progressive foreign policy. Energetic, articulate, and able to mix the right proportion of fervour and anti-India nationalism, Bhutto gave voice to the sentiments of a new and assertive generation of Pakistanis. Inevitably, he began to acquire a political following of his own among students, lawyers, civil servants and intellectuals. Conscious of future political prospects, Bhutto nurtured these support groups and patronized their informal and formal associations, among the latter being the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, the  Afro-Asian Society and the  Pakistan Thinkers’ Forum. Bhutto represented the cutting edge of Pakistan’s emerging policy of bilateral-ism, often speaking out in criticism of the Western allies when it would have been impolitic for Ayub, still intent on keeping up the aid and military relationship with the United States, to have done so. Beyond his roles as spokesman and lightning rod for the Ayub Regime, Bhutto was pressing for a more active confrontational policy towards India. He was Pakistan’s angry young man in a hurry, and on no issue was he in more of a hurry than on Kashmir.

By courtesy: The Pakistan People’s Party by Philip E. Jones, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York 2003

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