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Liaquat Ali Khan`s visit to US

November 28, 2008

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I could not agree more with Mr Hamid Ali Qureshi's letter, published in your esteemed daily on Nov 23 pertaining to Liaquat Ali Khan's visit to the United States in May, 1950.

Ironically, a lot of mud slinging has gone on over the years by a select group of “intelligentsia” against the first Prime Minister of Pakistan that by ignoring the USSR government's invitation and opting for the US instead, Liaquat Ali is chiefly responsible for throwing Pakistan into the US camp.

I would like to quote from a number of books about the real situation. Ex-Ambassador Shahid Amin has rightly pointed out in his worthwhile book 'Pakistan's Foreign Policy A Reappraisal' (published by Oxford University Press in 2000) that “It should be noted that in international diplomacy, invitations are often extended but not always availed. Failure to visit a country in response to its invitation has hardly ever become the cause of long-term estrangement” (p42, chapter 2).

Author Muhammad Reza Kazmi has dealt with this subject in admirable detail in his lucid work titled Liaquat Ali Khan His Life and Work (Second impression published by OUP in 2004). Chapter 10 of the mentioned work researches this episode in immaculate detail. To quote from the book “During his first press conference in America, when he was questioned about his proposed visit to the USSR, Liaquat replied 'No date for my visit has yet been fixed. As soon as it is, I shall certainly not fail to inform the United States Press...During a press conference on 23 August 1950, the following exchange took place

Q. Is the Moscow invitation also under your active consideration?

A. I cannot go until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such a date.

Q. They look to your convenience?

A. Evidently not. They look to their own convenience. The invitation came. Later on, they suggested 14 August 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day. I can come on any date after that. After that they have not replied.”

This in Liaquat's own words was the story of the Soviet invitation.

Considering this scenario I would like to point out that relationships between countries have their ups and downs during course of time and any one incident cannot be blamed for continued animosity between countries. Jawaharlal Nehru visited the US in 1949, nearly six years before making his first trip to the Soviet Union.

Pakistan and China have had the best of relationships over the years. The two states established diplomatic relations in 1949, but the first summit level visits were exchanged between Suhurwardy and Chou-En-Lai in 1956. The boundary and aviation agreements were signed in 1963. People who accuse one of our founding fathers for this “diplomatic blunder” must remember that the Soviet Union did not display any feeling of bitterness towards Pakistan at any international forum from 1947 to 1953.

The relationship came under cloud only after Pakistan's joining of SEATO and CENTO in 1954 and 1955 respectively.

Still the ice started melting after President Ayub Khan's landmark visit to Moscow in 1965. The relations improved to such an extent that USSR not only sponsored the Tashkent Agreement between India and Pakistan, but also helped finance the founding of our largest industrial complex i.e. Pakistan Steel.

The ties then understandably deteriorated after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

UMAR M. MAKHDUMI

Karachi