Friday, November 22, 2013

When Ayub Met JFK 50 Years Ago..

I was a little child growing up in Karachi when the news of JFK's assassination was received with great shock and extreme sorrow in Pakistan. That was 50 years ago today. Just a couple years earlier in 1961, Pakistan's President Mohammad Ayub Khan had  made a successful state visit to the United States. He was warmly received at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington DC by US President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy. 
President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy receiving President Ayub Khan
I saw the pictures of President Ayub Khan meeting with the US President John F. Kennedy as did other Pakistanis. There were also many photographs of young JFK and his beautiful family splashed across the front pages of major Pakistani newspapers during and after the visit. The sudden loss of the young American president in 1963 was deeply felt as Pakistanis viewed images of his beautiful young widow and two little children mourning for their loved one at his funeral.

President Ayub Khan, his daughter Nasim Aurangzeb with President and Mrs Kennedy

US-Pakistan ties were extremely close in 1960s. President Ayub was extended the rare honor of being welcomed by the US President and the First Lady at the airport when the PIA airplane carrying him landed in the United States. He was also given the privilege of addressing a special Joint Session of the US Congress where he received standing ovation. Later, he rode an open top car in a ticker-tape parade in New York City with tens of thousands of Americans lining the parade route and cheering him.

US followed up the visit with a massive assistance program which helped bring about the Green Revolution in Pakistan. The world's largest continuous irrigation system was built along with huge dams with US aid in 1960s. In addition, there was a major industrialization program started under state-owned Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) with US help.

Here's how Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain recalls Pakistan of 1960s:

"The manufacturing sector expanded by 9 percent annually and various new industries were set up. Agriculture grew at a respectable rate of 4 percent with the introduction of Green Revolution technology. Governance improved with a major expansion in the government’s capacity for policy analysis, design and implementation, as well as the far-reaching process of institution building. The Pakistani polity evolved from what political scientists called a “soft state” to a “developmental” one that had acquired the semblance of political legitimacy. By 1969, Pakistan’s manufactured exports were higher than the exports of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Though speculative, it is possible that, had the economic policies and programs of the Ayub regime continued over the next two decades, Pakistan would have emerged as another miracle economy."

The decade of 1960s is called by economists as Pakistan's Golden Sixties. It was the result of good governance and significant help from the United States at the height of Cold War.

Both US and Pakistan still have close ties but these are marked by significant mutual distrust. People of goodwill on both sides can help reduce some of this mistrust to improve relations. President Kennedy said  in his 1961 inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country". It is still as applicable to both US and Pakistan today as it was when he said it.

Here's a video of President Ayub Khan's 1961 visit to the United States:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings 

US-Pakistan Ties and New Silk Route

Can Pakistan Say No to US Aid?

Obama's Pakistan Connections

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

China's Investment and Trade in South Asia

China Signs Power Plant Deals with Pakistan

Soaring Imports from China Worry India

China's Checkbook Diplomacy

Yuan to Replace Dollar in World Trade?

China Sees Opportunities Where Others See Risk

Chinese Do Good and Do Well in Developing World

Can Chimerica Rescue the World Economy?


Shiraz said...

What about aid as %age of GNI in Pakistan data for period of 2002-2012 ? Could you please share that data as well ?


Anonymous said...

not bad but India managed to do the same with BOTH the US and the USSR at the height of the cold war.

Pakistan's 'extremely close' relations didn't stop the US from putting sanctions in 1965 and then in 1971 when US help was needed the most.Or stop the US from giving many times as much and arguably better aid(helping set up IIT Kanpur ,Heavy industrial plants,Nuclear reactors etc) to India.

Lets face it diplomatically speaking the Indian diplomatic corps eats their Pakistani counterpart for breakfast!

Riaz Haq said...

Shiraz: "What about aid as %age of GNI in Pakistan data for period of 2002-2012 ? Could you please share that data as well ?"

US aid less than 1% of Pakistan's GDP in the period since 911 vs 8% during 1960s.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "not bad but India managed to do the same with BOTH the US and the USSR at the height of the cold war."

Pakistan's economy grew at or above 7-8% vs India economy's "Hindu growth rate" of 2-3% in those years.

Recent growth spurt in India owes itself mainly to the massive FDI flow from the West and growing trade with the West after the end of Cold War.

Roland said...

the info on foreign aid as a percentage of GNI reinforces my question as to why pakistan allows their policy to be influenced by
others who are giving us such a low level of help.

for instance, if someone told me that he would give me and my family aid equivalent to 10% of our current family income on the condition that he be allowed to dictate, to some extent, what we do --- i would tell him to go to hell!

why doesn't pakistan do this?

Riaz Haq said...

Roland: "why doesn't pakistan do this?"

I wrote a post on this very subject titled: "Take This Aid and Shove it".

Here's the link:

Although refusing US aid will hurt the anti-poverty efforts, higher education and infrastructure development programs to some extent unless made up by raising greater tax revenues to replace it, it is theoretically possible to say No to the US aid without a big negative short-term impact on Pakistan's economy.

However, Pakistan would be well advised to not seek confrontation with Washington even after refusing US aid. Why? The reason is simply that the United States is the architect and the unquestioned leader of the international order that emerged after the WW II and this system still remains largely intact. Not only is the US currency the main reserve and trade currency of the world, the US also dominates world institutions like the UN and its agencies, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All foreign aid, regardless of its source, comes with strings attached. And those in Pakistan who think that China, undoubtedly a rapidly rising power, can replace US as a powerful friend in helping Pakistan now are deluding themselves. Today, China's power and influence in the world are not at all comparable to the dominant role of the United States. Chinese currency is neither a trade nor a reserve currency. Chinese themselves depended on the US agreement to be allowed to join the WTO after accepting terms essentially dictated by the United States in a bilateral agreement. Most of China's trade is still with the United States and its European allies. And the Chinese military power does not extend much beyond its region because it, unlike the United States, lacks the means to project it in other parts of the world.

Rather than alienate the United States and risk being subjected to international isolation and crippling sanctions like North Korea (a Chinese ally), Pakistanis must swallow their pride now and choose better ways of becoming more self-reliant in the long run.

Here are some of my recommendations for Pakistanis to move toward greater self-reliance:

1. They must all pay their fair share of taxes to reduce dependence on foreign aid and loans.

2. They must save more, a lot more than the current 10% of GDP, to have more money for investment in the future.

3. They must spend more on education and heath care and human development to develop the workforce for the 21st century.

4. They must invest in the necessary infrastructure in terms of energy, water, sanitation, communications, roads, ports, rail networks, etc, to enable serious industrial and trade development.

5. They must develop industries and offer higher value products and services for exports to earn the US dollars and Euros to buy what they need from the world without getting into debt as the Chinese have done.

No amount of empty rhetoric of the "ghairat brigade" can get Pakistanis to reclaim their pride unless they do the hard work as suggested above.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Rather than alienate the United States and risk being subjected to international isolation and crippling sanctions like North Korea (a Chinese ally), Pakistanis must swallow their pride now and choose better ways of becoming more self-reliant in the long run."

Iran has been under US sanctions since 1979. Why have they not been "crippled"?

Here is the evolution of per capita incomes over that time:


Looks like Iran did just as well as we did, despite having suffered a million dead from the 10-year war with Iraq, and did so under severe US sanctions.

In fact, they just put a small satellite into space on their own, which is way ahead of the balloons and kites that SUPARCO is still fiddling around with.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Iran has been under US sanctions since 1979. Why have they not been "crippled"?"

Iran's economy and income are a function of oil price which has soared since 1979.

Iran is among the fastest shrinking economies today. They are in a heap of trouble forcing them to the table to agree to freeze their nuclear program.

Pakistan would be foolish to emulate Iran.

Riaz Haq said...

#JFK hosted Pak President Ayub Khan at Mount Vernon when #Pakistan was an important partner for #UnitedStates in 1961. In 1962, #Kennedy asked Ayub to stay out of #India-#China war. In 2021, #Biden has yet to speak with #ImranKhan via @BrookingsInst

It was First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy who conceived of the summit at Mount Vernon between her husband John F. Kennedy and Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan. She was inspired by the Kennedys’ visit to the Habsburgs’ Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna earlier in the year. She quietly approached the managers of the Mount Vernon estate, who eagerly agreed to host the Pakistanis. She also arranged for the jewelry store Tiffany’s to provide the flowers and decorations for the dinner.

Pakistan was an important partner for the United States in 1961, linked by treaty to the containment of the Soviet Union and China. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flew U2 surveillance flights from Pakistani bases to monitor China’s emerging nuclear arsenal. The CIA also secretly supported Tibetan rebels fighting for independence from an airbase in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Ayub Khan had just suspended Pakistani cooperation with the Tibet covert operation because Kennedy had promised India a large economic aid package and signaled that a closer relationship with New Delhi was coming. The Pakistani dictator was against a closer American relationship with India. Shutting down the Tibet operation was a quiet behind the scenes way of expressing unease with Kennedy’s tilting towards India.

At the request of Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, JFK took Ayub Khan for a private one-on-one stroll in the mansion garden and asked the Pakistani leader to reopen the airbase for secret resupply flights to the rebels in Tibet. Ayub Khan agreed but asked for a commitment that no American military equipment would ever be provided to India without prior consultation with Pakistan. Kennedy agreed.

The dinner was a great success. The best and brightest of the new administration were there. The main course was poulet chasseur made in the White House and then reheated in a portable army kitchen in the grounds of the mansion.

The next spring Mrs. Kennedy traveled to India and Pakistan. It was the first trip abroad alone by a first lady in the television age. She dazzled viewers everywhere, including back home.


The 1962 crisis set in train the dynamics that would lead decades later to the geopolitics of today with the United States aligned with India and Pakistan aligned with China. It helped spark the nuclear arms race in Asia. The crisis resonates throughout Asia today.

Today Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with one of the most active nuclear weapons programs. It is China’s closest and most important ally. Relations with India remain tense. Most immediately, Pakistan is supporting the Taliban offensive designed to topple the Afghan government in Kabul after the American withdrawal, though it publicly says it wants a political solution, not a Taliban military victory. The Pakistani army gives the Taliban safe haven, arms, training, and logistical support which are crucial to their ability to operate.

President Joe Biden has yet to talk to Prime Minister Imran Khan once since taking office. Imran Khan has recently spoken publicly about Islamabad’s close ties to Beijing, praising it as a role model and defending its oppression of its Uyghur Muslims. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has spoken with Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa more than once but has yet to meet with him in person. For the Afghan withdrawal, it is probably too late to change Pakistan’s policy to back the Taliban. The puzzle is why the administration is not engaging more actively with this important country.