Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt in India, to the Secretary of State
[Received April 10—7:58 p.m.]
275. Your 131 of March 3 and 181 of April 1.28 Ecker and Brown have discussed reciprocal aid by India with Government of India and in General Wheeler’s absence with General Holcombe and his staff. Preliminary report follows:
- Two major obstacles to effective operation of reciprocal aid in India have been (a) that British standards have been accepted as governing scale of aid to be rendered and (b) that working of reciprocal aid machinery has often been very slow.
- Acceptance of British standards has been based upon letter of June 4, 1942 agreed between Wheeler and Wavell,29 which provided that British standards should govern. This letter was drawn prior to United Kingdom–United States reciprocal aid agreement30 and consequently without knowledge of procedures developed therefrom. This letter has hitherto been followed quite literally by British at lower levels though exceptions have been made in important cases brought to attention of top officials. For example, waterborne sanitation, showers, et cetera, have been provided for United States barracks.
- Government of India has now reviewed its policy with respect to reciprocal aid and formally advises that it will meet United States requests if material is available or can be made in India regardless of relative United States or British standards. Thus one major difficulty has been removed. In return it requests the United States Forces as a general policy not to ask for or buy material in substantial quantities that has to be imported unless replacement is undertaken by our Army and included in the Army’s shipping program.
- United States Forces advised that procurement under reciprocal aid has generally proved to be a slow process. Much time has often lapsed before even a decision could be obtained as to whether the aid would be provided. This has created a disposition among some United States officers to prefer to buy or hire for themselves.
- Delays have been due to a combination of circumstances, among them (a) delays inherent in local Indian conditions which are not immediately understood by our officers who are used to the efficiency of the United States or United Kingdom, (b) inability or failure of United States Forces to present programs of their requirements sufficiently in advance to permit orderly procurement, (c) reluctance by British officers to pay the exorbitant prices usually demanded for sudden action, (d) the fact that Indian public opinion is in general not keen about the war, suspicious of lend-lease and very much worried about the cost of reciprocal aid.
- Top officials on both sides however recognize undesirability of United States Forces buying at high prices, often in competition with the British; and want to channel maximum of United States procurement through British as reciprocal aid. United States Forces have now presented forward programs for large proportion of their requirements and at a meeting yesterday with top British officials and member of Wheeler’s staff we agreed several changes in organization and procedure which should materially expedite reciprocal aid [Page 268] machinery. Will continue to work on this in collaboration with Wheeler’s staff.
- Believe British responsible are sincerely anxious to put reciprocal aid from India on same generous basis as prevails in the United Kingdom. This attitude has, however, not yet fully permeated lower echelons nor received general public backing. In addition top British officials view with concern our army’s absorption of imported material in view of replacement difficulties due to limited shipping.
- With respect to specific difficulties reported your 131 United
States Army state:
- United States Forces here [hire] only about 30 per cent of their local labor and this percentage is decreasing. British have provided labor and material and undertaken construction work for United States Forces when requested to do so. There have, however, sometimes been delays when job has been requested as reciprocal aid and in some cases the United States Forces have gone ahead without waiting when they have considered haste imperative. This should happen less often under new procedure. United States Forces have also hired substantial number of skilled workers also sweepers, odd workers about barracks and offices and pay their own office personnel. They have not yet requested these services as reciprocal aid but the method of handling them as such on mutually satisfactory basis is now under discussion. At first United States Forces paid stevedores unloading ships allocated to them. This service is now being provided as reciprocal aid.
- United States Forces do their own construction work in occasional cases of urgency or where jobs are small. This amounts in total to about 20 percent of such work.
- United States Forces have received some autos as reciprocal aid but have purchased a larger number after refusal under reciprocal aid. This was error by British and they have agreed to pay bills. Supply position for autos here is tight and this is under special discussion.
- With respect to specific suggestions made your 131:
- British are entirely prepared to procure supplies for United States Forces when they are not in stock. Major difficulty so far has been lack of forward program for United States requirements and lack of authority to local British officers to make minor purchases for United States Forces. Both conditions are being corrected.
- We had thought that it was an accepted principle of reciprocal aid, operative in the United Kingdom, that there should be no procurement by United States officer for British account except in exceptional circumstances. The only task funds we know of are the two special funds in Egypt, which are limited to strictly British aid projects and are, therefore, not truly reciprocal aid.
- Arrangement has been made for consultation with Wheeler representative before any major United States requirements is finally declined and for informal advance consultation on supply position where article needed is in short supply. As you know the United [Page 269] States Army will be represented on the Munitions Assignment Committee here.
- Repeated to Harriman.
- Please pass to Stettinius, Office of Lend-Lease Administration.
- Latter not printed.↩
- Field Marshal Sir Archibald P. Wavell, British Commander in Chief, India.↩
- Agreement on principles applying to the reciprocal provision of aid in the prosecution of the war, effected by exchange of notes signed at Washington, September 3, 1942, Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 270, or 56 Stat. (pt. 2) 1605; for correspondence, see Foreign Relations, 1942, Vol. i, pp. 537 ff.↩