891.231/1–2851: Telegram

The Ambassador in India ( Henderson ) to the Secretary of State


1849. 1. We assume recent Indian pronouncement and actions re Korea have raised doubts in both executive and legislative branches of our government re advisability endeavoring effect favorable action on Indian request 2,000,000 tons food grain. Questions probably being asked: why should we give food grain to those who appear defending, at least excusing, action aggressors engaged in killing American soldiers? Would not it be better give them to our needy friends various other parts of world? What advantage to US to give food grains to country which seems be working against us international field? Are we not strengthening hands those opposed to us in India by making gifts this kind et cetera?

2. We unable of course to judge advisability from point view of problem in US of proceeding with project granting GOI request. From Delhi viewpoint we are of opinion that leaving aside humanitarian and economic considerations it is more important now for political reasons that we proceed than it was at time request was submitted. Furnishing this food in face of present uncooperative attitude GOI would, particularly if done generously and ungrudgingly, provide definite answer to charges made constantly by forces in Asia hostile to US that we use our economic power merely to forward our international policies and have no genuine interest in welfare of Asian peoples. Our numerous friends in India who are dejected just now [Page 2093] would be encouraged; and in uncertain years ahead they and we could produce concrete evidence of our friendship for Indian people. Surprising what effect relatively small gift of Red Cross medicines and blankets has had in stricken areas. Every family given blanket knows it was gift of US people and feels glow friendship. Failure to furnish food grain promptly would be exploited in full by our enemies. Their slogans would be along following lines: “US withholds food from starving Indians in order force India to toe its line”; “US vents resentment against Nehru by permitting millions Indians to starve”; “hypocrisy of US pronouncement of interest in welfare Asian peoples revealed” et cetera.

Our friends in India would be hard put and India would be almost certain, unless internal communism should undertake adventures clearly aimed at its direction, to drift still farther away from us. It seems to us here that in spite of recent Indian attitudes India’s friendship in years to come would still be valuable and it would be mistake for us “write India off”. Despite unpleasant statements by Indian leaders and generally unfriendly press there remains hard core friendship in India for US which should be cultivated and strengthened.

3. We shall not in this telegram go deeply into economic and humanitarian considerations. We should point out however that we are convinced that India’s economic position is such that it cannot afford buy sufficient food grain abroad to meet its vital needs in 1951. We are also convinced that if we do not assist India in obtaining food grains requested by it there will be much suffering as result malnutrition and even starvation.

4. We venture suggest that approach problem should be not so much assistance GOI, although that factor should not be ignored, as aid to Indian people for whom people US have feelings deep friendship and whom people US wish to assist in overcoming crisis brought about by natural calamities. Another factor might be importance to US of stable democratic government and law and order in India.