Tanks to India and Pakistan, 1967

George Thomson, Commonwealth Secretary, to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, 19 October 1967

Since March 1966 UK policy is to supply arms to both India and Pakistan. The Pakistani government wants the UK to approve a proposal to establish a factory in either Pakistan or Iran to manufacture Vickers tanks for the armies of Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan is considering placing an order for 100 Vickers tanks worth £11-12 million. “Neither proposal conflicts with our agreed policy that we should continue to supply arms either to India or Pakistan on commercial terms”. The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has pointed out that the Vickers factory at which the tanks would be made is in Newcastle. “Work has been falling off at the factory and a fresh order would therefore be a valuable stimulus to economic activity in this area”. Memo recommends that both go ahead though says the UK should consult with the US since “you will remember that the Americans are trying to persuade both India and Pakistan to limit their arms purchases and they hope we will cooperate in this”. The UK will get a “hostile reaction” in India but India is buying military equipment from the UK including Hunter aircraft and showing an interest in 23 Canberra bombers. “We are now processing this latter request and if it proves possible to meet it, it might go some way to mollify the Indians”.


James Callaghan, Chancellor to George Thomson, 15 September 1967

“I have no objection” to the export of the tanks.

Minute [illegible], Defence Intelligence to Director General of Intelligence, MOD, 1 August 1967

“You will know that, since the India/Pakistan war, relations between India and Pakistan have not been good”. Notes Pakistan’s interest in Vickers tanks. “Although there may be reasons against supplying this tank, in view of the fact that it has already been supplied to India under certain conditions, it would appear that there is a significant opportunity of influencing Anglo-Pakistan relations if the tanks can be supplied”. Notes President Ayub’s conversations with the Prime Minister on 24 November 1966 which concerned acquiring of Centurion tanks “when they were phased out on replacement by the Chieftain”. In January 1967 the Pakistan High Commission in London informed the Commonwealth Secretary of their interest in 300 Chieftains. A reply was sent in February giving dates for when some of those could be supplied in 1970 and completed for 300 by the end of 1973. “If you think it worthwhile you may wish to put some pressure behind both the request for tanks and for funds in the general interests of improving mutual relations between UK and Pakistan”.


National Archives: DEFE31/29

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