The British Minister ( Campbell ) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: With reference to Lord Halifax’s68 letter to you of May 1,67 enclosing a copy of a message from the Prime Minister [Page 274] to the President, I write to let you know that we have now received a further telegram from London about the food situation in India.
You will no doubt have seen the Viceroy’s announcement that His Majesty’s Government have made arrangements to ship 400,000 tons of wheat (a larger figure than had been previously promised) to Indian ports before the end of September 1944, in addition to 400,000 tons arranged since October 1943. You may like to know how this has been achieved.
In his reply to the Prime Minister of June 1,69 the President said that he regretted exceedingly the necessity of giving Mr. Churchill an unfavourable reply to his request. Meanwhile the Viceroy’s demands were increased by the poor wheat harvest and he emphasised more strongly than ever that without the imports he asked for he could not feed the fighting services and feared a breakdown in civil supplies for the provinces. Further careful consideration in London made it abundantly clear that no British controlled shipping could be made available unless corresponding reductions were made in military programmes. The matter was accordingly considered afresh by the military authorities who accepted the great strategic importance of the provision of wheat for India, drawing attention to the military consequence of a second famine, both on the morale of the Indian Army and on the security of India as a base. No other source of supply being available they agreed to cancel sailings on military maintenance programs for all theatres over the next three months, so as to provide ships for another 200,000 tons of wheat to India in the third quarter of the year, and advised further consideration in August and again in November.
Mr. Eden70 wishes me to explain the above for your confidential information. The amount of shipping which it is hoped will be released in this way is still much less than was asked for by the Viceroy but the latter’s announcement by taking into account all that we have sent to India since last October puts the most favourable possible complexion on the situation with the object of promoting confidence and so preventing wheat prices from soaring and hoarding from developing.
Yours very sincerely,