Big US aid package to Pakistan likely to draw Soviets closer to India
Moscow — The announced accord on a large US economic and military aid package for Pakistan could further fuel superpower tension over Southwest Asia, diplomats here suggest.
The Soviets already have an estimated 85,000 troops in Afghanistan, on one side of Pakistan, and are now seen as likely to try to consolidate their influence in India, on the other side.
India, like its neighbor Pakistan, claims "nonalignment," but Delhi is linked to Moscow by generally friendly ties and a formal 1971 cooperation treaty.
The two countries signed a large arms deal in May 1980 and sealed various commercial accords, including one on increased oil deliveries, late last year when Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev visited Delhi.
On the heels of the announcement of the US-Pakistani accord, the Soviet news agency Tass quoted US news reports as suggesting that "Islamabad, with Washington's tacit approval and backing, is finalizing work to create nuclear weapons."
India tested a nuclear device in 1974, and Western analysts maintain that even the modernization of Pakistan's conventional forces implied in the US-Pakistani accord would not seriously challenge India's strategic superiority in the region.
The official Soviet news agency said that the agreement, which still must be approved by the US Congress, "will lead to an aggravation of the situation in Southwest Asia." In a separate dispatch June 15, the agency quoted "international observers" as saying the agreement came as the US and Pakistan "are stepping up the militarization of Pakistan with a view toward escalating joint subversive activities against the countries of this region."
Having suggested for months that Washington was intent on beefing up its military presence in Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean region, the Soviets in effect took the US-Pakistani accord as proof that they had been right all along.
Soviet analysts have focused on what they see as dangers for India in the US-Pakistani relationship, an approach seen by some foreign analysts here as consistent with a Soviet desire to further strengthen ties with the Indians. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars in the past 34 years.
Long-range Soviet policy in South Asia will at least partly depend on external factors: relations with Washington, other foreign policy pressures such as the Polish crisis, and, of course, India's own response to the announcement June 15 of the US-Pakistani accord.
But the initial feeling among foreign analysts in Moscow was that the Kremlin would now further emphasize ties with the Indians and conceivably further delay any eventual move to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
Diplomats suggest that relations with Afghanistan are probably a less immediate issue for Soviet policymakers. Soviet troops, after all, are already there. It is presumed that Moscow, far more than Kabul, will determine when or whether they go or stay. The Americans and Pakistanis, Moscow is suggesting, now threaten India's other flank.
At this writing, the Soviets have yet to mention the US- Pakistani insistence that the announced accord does not include plans for US bases, nor prejudice Pakistani claims to nonalignment. It seems safe to assume this will be dismissed by officials here as mere subterfuge.
"Why is Pakistan arming itself?" a Soviet news agency dispatch asked rhetorically June 15.
The agency said it is impossible to argue that events in Afghanistan threaten the Pakistanis, and quoted a Delhi newspaper as reporting that "18 out of 20 Pakistani [troop] divisions are now deployed along the Indian border."
"It is quite evident," the Soviet agency said, "that concentration of Pakistani troops is indicative of th e thrust of Pakistan's military preparations."