Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Calvin H. Oakes of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

The Afghan Minister17 spoke again to me today regarding the arrangement under which the Afghan representatives in this country are compelled to secure permission from the Indian Supply Mission for the shipment of each and every item from the United States to Afghanistan. I explained to him, as had been explained on sundry previous occasions, that the Department had taken cognizance of the objections of the Afghan Legation to the arrangements now in force and that an endeavor was being made to work out some new arrangement satisfactory to the Afghans. I reiterated that as it was contemplated that shortly there would be on the India–United States run for purposes of general cargo only British flag vessels, it was not within our power unilaterally to allocate on vessels bound to India a specific tonnage quota for Afghan requirements over a period of, say, the next year.

The Minister replied that there were still American flag vessels on the route and that he could not see why the American authorities [Page 28] could not themselves authorize that a small amount of space be allocated on these remaining vessels for certain items which the Afghan Trade Agent was now ready to ship and of which his Government had urgent need. Efforts to secure space from the Indian Supply Mission had been only very partially successful.

I answered that the Minister must understand that in view of the war the United States and Great Britain had pooled certain of their resources; that in view of our common interest in the supply of India it had seemed appropriate that the British or Government of India authorities control space for India and hence arrangements had been made whereby the Indian Supply Mission would control all space for India both in so far as were concerned goods for India and goods for those countries whose imports must pass through India. This had seemed a reasonable arrangement at the time, particularly as the tonnage of goods simply passing through India was relatively very small.

The Minister replied that the amount was small but that the goods were of great importance to his country and that even if the British were facilitating their dispatch—which they were not—the principle involved was of even greater importance. He remarked that perhaps when the arrangement was made Afghanistan was viewed somewhat in the same light as Egypt, Iraq, or Iran. He continued with some warmth that while he had the friendliest feeling for his Moslem brothers, the attitude of the peoples of the countries just mentioned was not one which would ever be emulated by the Afghans. I assured him that Afghanistan had never been viewed in any light other than as justified by her independence and history.

The Minister prefaced his subsequent remarks by the observation that perhaps he should not make them in view of the fact that the United States, where he now had the pleasure of residing, was allied with Great Britain and in view of the fact that he did not wish to say anything which might appear unfriendly. I told him that I much preferred that when speaking with me he express such emotions or thoughts as he might have. He thereupon continued that the British were being deliberately unhelpful in the present case, and that an employee in the Indian Supply Mission had even informed Omar Khan18—as an explanation of his inability to be more obliging—that since Symon’s19 recent return from England it had been especially difficult to facilitate the shipment of Afghan items. The Minister continued that the unfriendliness and hostility of England had been evident all during the past hundred years of Afghanistan’s history; otherwise why should thousands of Afghans be kept against their will under alien domination? (He was referring to those tribesmen who [Page 29] consider themselves Afghans and who live in the area along the northwest frontier of India claimed by the Government of India.) There would come a day, he maintained, when Afghanistan would take back unto itself the Afghans in question and their lands, and when his country would take back also those Afghans and their lands now unjustifiably ruled by the Russians.

I attempted no comment on these latter remarks other than to mention that members of the British Embassy had indicated complete sympathy towards efforts to assist the internal economy of Afghanistan, and I repeated my assertion that efforts were being made to work out some arrangement regarding shipping space which would be more satisfactory to the Minister than the existing one. We parted on very good terms.

The Minister is becoming less reticent in his conversation and much more amiable in his manner than was the case for the first few weeks after his arrival. He appears now to feel definitely that the State Department is sympathetic to him and to his wishes. I infer, however, that he finds somewhat incomprehensible our failure simply to issue instructions rectifying any matter in which we wish to be helpful.

  1. Mohamed Ayoub Aziz.
  2. Mohammad Omar Khan, president of the Afghan American Trading Co., New York City.
  3. A. C. B. Symon, Secretary, India Supply Mission, Washington.