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‘Scared’ Pakistan refused Indira Gandhi’s offer to join regional strategy to counter Soviet 'occupation': CIA

Indira Gandhi had tried to persuade then Pak President Zia-ul-Haq in 1980 to join an Indian-sponsored regional strategy to effectively deal with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, a recently declassified CIA report says.

India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: January 26, 2017 19:08 IST ]
Indira Gandhi had tried to persuade then Pakistan President
Indira Gandhi had tried to persuade then Pakistan President Zia-ul-HaqPhoto:FILE PIC

Soon after her return to power, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had tried to persuade then Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq in 1980 to join an Indian-sponsored regional strategy to effectively deal with the Soviet "occupation" of Afghanistan, a recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report has revealed.  

The report said that she sought to form a regional grouping to exert diplomatic pressure on the Soviets to confine their "activities" to Afghanistan.  

The Pakistani establishment, however, was concerned that India might take advantage of the tension along the Afghan-Pak border to intimidate Pakistan or that India might launch a preemptive strike against its nuclear facilities. 

According to the report declassified last week, in the wake of the invasion, Pakistani leadership was also apprehensive about the potential for Soviet and Indian efforts -- separate or joint-- to undermine Pakistan's stability. 

"Immediately after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Indira Gandhi -- who had just returned to power-- tried to persuade President Zia's government to adopt an Indian-sponsored regional approach to the Soviet occupation," the report said. 

Rejecting India's proposal, the Pakistani officials characterised the plan to the US diplomats as "hegemonistic" and instead accepted American offers of arms to counter the Soviet threat from Afghanistan. 

On its part, India feared that the revival of any US-Pakistani military ties and the expanded US naval presence in the Indian Ocean will increase super-power competition in a region where India aspired to have unchallenged dominance. 

"Senior Indian officials believed the extent of the threat posed to India and the region by the Soviet invasion would depend on whether Pakistan became a 'buffer state' or whether it became a 'confrontation state' by accepting major military help from outside powers, allowing foreign bases on its soil," the CIA assessed. 

In response to Indian arguments that Pakistan's acquisitions of US arms threatened India, Zia in 1981 had proposed a non-aggression pact with New Delhi. 

The report said New Delhi continued to parry Pakistani initiatives on the pact. 

Talking about various issues involving Indo-Pak ties, the CIA said Islamabad feared that India's desire for "regional pre-eminence threatens Pakistan's survival".

(With PTI inputs)

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