845.24/373a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt in India

131. The following message8 has been sent to Harriman9 for whatever informal action may be appropriate in London:

  • “1. We have recently learned that the arrangements for providing reciprocal lend-lease in India are not working satisfactorily in several respects, and that the United States Army is purchasing a very considerable part of the supplies it obtains locally. It is, for example, [Page 256] hiring 70% of all labor, it is paying for 20% of all construction, it has purchased all the cars it has obtained, and it is hiring its own office personnel. Our officers in charge are discouraged, and they report a disposition on the part of our Army establishment in India to discount the availability of reciprocal lend-lease, and to prefer purchase as a method of procurement.
  • “2. Major General Packingham-Walsh is reported to be assigned by the British Government to India to work on lend-lease in reverse. It would be desirable to discuss the general problem of reverse lend-lease with him informally but at length before his departure to be sure that he is thoroughly familiar with the satisfactory arrangements now in effect in the United Kingdom.
  • “3. You may take up informally with appropriate officials the general problem of improved organization in India and the possibility of changes in reverse lend-lease policy. There would be a good chance for real improvement if British officers thoroughly familiar with the system as it has been working in Great Britain were sent out fully instructed to reorganize the Indian lend-lease establishment.
  • “4. These specific suggestions are advanced:
    that appropriate United States military and civilian officials be represented on committees allocating and assigning supplies as the British are represented in Washington, and as we are represented in the United Kingdom;
    that reciprocal lend-lease be available even when supplies are not in stock, and procurement is therefore necessary. It is felt that Government of India procurement would be cheaper and more satisfactory than competitive purchases by the U. S. Army in the open market;
    that differences in standard as between the British and the TT. S. Army be not regarded as an automatic bar to reciprocal lend-lease aid;
    that the possibility be explored of establishing financial arrangements such as those which exist in the United Kingdom for task funds or other means of direct procurement by U. S. officers for the account of the Government of India.
  • “5. Our report on the Indian reciprocal lend-lease situation was such as to indicate the need for vigorous action by the Government of India. The experience of the U. S. Army with this problem in India is disturbing both from the substantive point of view and from the point of view of psychological reaction.
  • “6. For your confidential information, the Indian Agent General has recently proposed a reciprocal aid agreement, and in the course of discussion pointed out that in their view the Government of India has provided aid to our forces greater in value than the value of the lend-lease aid sent by us to India. Our response was that this point, if it were true, is irrelevant in the light of the basic purposes of our mutual aid arrangements.”

You may pursue parallel informal enquiries with appropriate officers of the Government of India, particularly with Treasury officials. General Wheeler has not made any official complaint in this matter. [Page 257] Ecker, who will be in charge of the Lend-Lease Mission, will be arriving soon, accompanied by Winthrop Brown.10 They are both familiar with this problem.

  1. Sent as telegram No. 1350, March 3, to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  2. W. Averell Harriman, President Roosevelt’s Special Representative in London, with the rank of Minister, in regard to all matters relating to the facilitation of material aid to the British Empire.
  3. Member of the staff of Minister Harriman’s Mission in London.