845.24/398: Airgram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

A–218. From Harriman. Refer my cable of March 23.22 I quote below paraphrases of (1) cable sent by Secretary of State for India to Government of India, dated March 13, on subject of reciprocal aid to U. S. Forces in India, and (2) reply of Indian Government received March 20.

(1) “Jenkins23 from Croft.24 You probably know that Ecker, accompanied by Winthrop Brown of Harriman Mission in London, is [Page 264] now on his way to India by air. When passing through London he called on me and mentioned that his people in Washington were not altogether satisfied with way in which reciprocal aid was working in India. We told him what we could of general background, but naturally extent of our knowledge did not enable us to go into detail, and conclusion was reached that he had better discuss the whole problem with you and Coates,25 and so straighten things out so far as possible on the spot.

“Since then Harriman has mentioned matter here at request of Washington. It has not been possible to establish the facts very definitely, but we gather, for example, that they think there may not be the same readiness to provide reciprocal aid in cases where supplies have to be freshly procured as in those where supplies are already available in a depot. Another point that seems to be worrying them is the restriction of issues to British scales in cases where American standards are higher. They have also got the idea that, in connection with the provision of personnel and in carrying out of construction works, the reciprocal aid given has been less than might have been expected. In addition, there seems to be some question whether actual machinery for procurement works smoothly and swiftly enough. It is suggested that their people are having to go out and buy supplies on this account, quite apart from the question of eligibility.

“Above points are not to be regarded as precisely formulated complaints, but rather as illustrations of way in which Americans are thinking of these matters. It has never been held here that others should be bound by practice of U. K. But no doubt it is your desire to preserve a general conformity and if in cases such as above you have adopted a less generous scale of treatment than obtains in U. K. differentiation has not been deliberate.

“We have been promised a note by the people most closely concerned here, setting out more fully, and with more attention to the spirit of the matter than in previous communications to India on this subject, way in which system has come to be worked in U. K. We will send this on as soon as possible. Before it arrives, however, no doubt Ecker will be seeing you. I am, therefore, sending this to give you and Coates a preliminary idea of what is likely to arise. We are also anxious that you should realise the political importance, as we see it, of clearing up any doubts that exist on American side. Harriman has been particularly concerned to emphasize the unfortunate effect that would be produced if American Army personnel spread impression that the administration in India have been less prompt and forthcoming. We feel sure you will appreciate the point and that within reason you will do all you can to establish a satisfactory understanding. For our part we shall be glad to give any assistance that may be possible if you will indicate what is wanted.”

(2) “We shall be glad to discuss these matters with Ecker when he arrives. We have realised that difficulties were arising with Americans on points mentioned and while our arrangements are not perfect we feel that we ought to have more cooperation than we are now getting.

[Page 265]

“Following procedure agreed by us with General Wheeler. Works dealt with directly by U. S. Army and Q. M. G. In other cases U. S. Army apply to special section of M. G. O. Branch, Brigadier in charge who passes them to Reciprocal Aid Committee consisting of Joint Secretary to Supply Department, Brigadier referred to and Finance Department officer. Committee scrutinises applications for eligibility only. Following demands with agreement of Americans, are not eligible for reciprocal aid: (i) raw materials or commercial supplies commonly exported from India to U. S. A., (ii) demands in excess of British scales, (iii) imported items supply of which by India will be difficult or impossible. No trouble arises over first class. Lend/Lease Committee exercises discretion in second class, but many difficulties have arisen in determining what American scales are and how far to go in meeting them, as Americans do not seem to have scales in same way and to same extent as we do. Committee in third class merely determine eligibility and leave it to Provision Sections of G. H. Q. to decide whether demand can be met or not. When committee decides application is eligible Brigadier passes to appropriate Provision Section of G. H. Q. for issue from depots or procurement through Supply Department.

“Number of applications handled to date is 643. Of which 613 were accepted by Committee, 15 rejected as ineligible and 15 returned for local purchase by Americans. Of 613 applications accepted by Committee, 44 inacceptable by Provision Sections on ground of nonavailability. Applications to Committee may be for specific quantities, for limited quantities to be delivered over a period or for whole classes of goods to be delivered regularly under standing arrangements; for example, Committee approved blanket application for rations. This procedure seems to be suitable and Americans have not complained about it.

“You mention four complaints. As regards first Americans have, made requests impossible to meet, for example for fresh fish, ice cream, fresh chicken, special bread and many imported items for rations. We have explained that we are prepared to consider every fresh procurement case on its merits but some trouble arises from the fact that such cases are not brought to high enough level. Whenever case has been brought to notice no difficulty has occurred in settling with Wheeler. Only three cases have come to Government level, viz: special rations, special fittings in local barracks and woollen clothing. All were quickly settled. P. S. O.s of G. H. Q. state that any case of difficulty brought to notice has been quickly settled and no general complaints have been made.

“Second complaint. Americans have asked for equipment which is not available here and most of which must be imported, viz: hot and cold water laid on, refrigerators in barracks accommodation and water-borne sewage. They ask for air conditioning units for which we have greatest difficulty in procurement from U. S. A. for urgent operational R. A. F. requirements. A demand for electric fans for barracks was placed when U. S. Government refused to sanction fans for U. S. use here and had refused our indent on Lend/Lease except for hospital use only. Our line probably will be that reciprocal aid must be confined, subject to certain exceptions, to goods of indigenous supply, that we cannot supply imported items against our small allotment of shipping for civil needs nor can we agree to U. S. buying or [Page 266] asking us to buy small civil stocks of imported goods which cannot be replaced.

“Third complaint. Difficult to understand. We have a huge military capital works program vastly beyond our engineering resources for a considerable time ahead. All major works go to Works Priority Committee of General Headquarters for determination priority of construction in competition with other works of urgent operational importance. By agreement with Americans each of their works costing over one lakh goes to this committee and below one lakh to Command Priority Committees. G. H. Q. have received no complaint that American work has been postponed or rejected on priority grounds or delayed. Fourth complaint. I have had only one complaint which concerned not centralized procurement system on reciprocal aid but alleged lack of interest by office of the Controller of Supplies Bombay for help in purchases by Americans. Complaint reached me indirectly. Controller was instructed to contact American officer concerned. He was told that there was nothing wrong. Two letters addressed to General Wheeler but no reply. Fundamental trouble is that though we have pressed Americans for over 8 months for forward program they failed to send us any until a week ago. Sudden demands requiring immediate satisfaction are embarrassing both to Provision Offices and Supply Department. In view of insistence of U. S. administration in Washington on forward programs American machinery here is hard to understand.

“American practice of contacting junior officers on our side, leads to delay and additional work. For example, if an American sees something wrong in the handling of incoming lend/lease goods he does not write or speak to me but telegraphs to Washington. The result arrives through the diplomatic channels perhaps 6 weeks later. Everyone here is genuinely anxious to help and so cannot understand why Americans do not talk frankly with us.”

Suggest you pass copy this cable to Stettinius. [Harriman.]

  1. Telegram No. 2054, p. 260.
  2. E. M. Jenkins, Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Supply.
  3. W. D. Croft, Deputy Under Secretary in the India Office, London.
  4. E. T. Coates, Financial Adviser and Ex-officio Additional Secretary to the Government of India in the Finance Department.