The road to Tashkent

On way to Washington, Ayub stopped over in New York to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly. He devoted it almost entirely to Kashmir and ended his oration with the demand: "Let India honour her agreement as we would, to let all the people of Kashmir settle their own future through self-determination, in accordance with past pledges." In Washington the next day, at his prolonged meeting with Johnson, he returned to this theme and said with some emotion that the Kashmir problem must be resolved. "If India could not comply with the UN resolutions then arbitration by an independent body was the only peaceful way to settle the dispute."

According to Gauhar's account, Johnson said little about Kashmir but dilated at some length on America's problems in Vietnam, where both the Soviet Union and China were helping North Vietnam. The US president then told his guest that he was "praying for the success of the Tashkent meeting". Whereupon Ayub "regretted" that US and Soviet policy "had come to coincide in India, and that was why the Soviet Union was helping India, and the US, too, had allowed itself to be 'suckered' by the Indians".

While the two presidents were engaged in one-to-one talks, Pakistan officials told their American opposite numbers that throughout the "crisis", the feeling in Pakistan was that the US "had let down Pakistan and equated it with the aggressor". Ayub said the same thing somewhat politely at his final meeting with Johnson: "Let us hope we get more comfort in future out of our alliance with the US."

As was perhaps to be expected, China acted promptly to vindicate Johnson's apprehension that it would "fish in troubled waters" in both South Asia and Indochina. No sooner had Pakistan announced its willingness to partake in the Tashkent talks under Soviet auspices, that the Chinese tried to throw a spanner in the works by suddenly opening fire on two Indian posts on the Sikkim-China border and making repeated intrusions across this frontier. What added to Indian worries was a report by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies that China had "massed 15 divisions in Tibet, of which at least six were stationed near the borders of Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal". However, New Delhi's assessment was that Beijing was only trying to create tensions and wasn't paving the way to a renewed invasion.

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