Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President


Memorandum for the President

Subject: Indian Request for Food Grains

On December 16, 1950, the Indian Ambassador officially requested the assistance of the United States Government in overcoming a food crisis which had developed in India as a consequence of an extraordinary sequence of floods and droughts. She stated that in order to prevent serious and extensive suffering among the Indian people, her Government would have to import six million tons of food grains during 1951. It had sufficient foreign exchange resources to pay for four million tons, but would need help, in the form of a long-term credit or some other special arrangement, to procure the remaining two million tons. Her Government had turned to this Government for assistance as the requisite quantity of grain was available only in the United States.

The Department of State has since been studying, in consultation with other interested departments and agencies, the problem posed by the Indian request. The following general conclusions have been reached:

In order to prevent mass suffering from food shortages resulting from an extraordinary sequence of natural disasters, India must import food grains in the order of six million tons during 1951.
India would face very serious difficulties in financing the purchase of six million tons of food grains during 1951.
The United States can spare two million tons of food grains, in addition to the quantities which India will acquire in this country within its purchase program of some four million tons, without jeopardizing the United States supply position.
Inland transport facilities, both in the United States and in India, and ocean transport can be made available to move the two million tons of grain.
The cost of two million tons of food grains is in the order of $180 million.
In view of the relief character of the Indian need and India’s relatively low debt servicing capacity, assistance in meeting India’s food crisis should be on a grant basis.
Few or no funds for this program will be available from previously appropriated ECA funds. Congressional action for new funds will almost certainly be required for the two million tons program.
It is in the United States national interest to assist India in its present food crisis. United States assistance will increase the influence of pro-Western elements with the masses and with Nehru and his Government. A refusal to assist would in itself strengthen elements inimical to the United States, and in its consequences permit the development of conditions of distress and disorder which would play into the hands of those elements.
To refuse assistance to India in its time of critical need would run counter to American traditions.

The last factor has already engaged the interest of a small bipartisan group in the Congress which wrote to you on January 30 soliciting your support of food aid to India. This group has become increasingly eager to initiate legislation. Its sense of urgency derives from the fact that some of the two million tons of food grains must begin to move to India by April if a breakdown of the rationing system and possible starvation are to be averted.

I therefore recommend:

That you inform the signers of the congressional letter of January 30 that you will be able to see them at an early date and that at your meeting with them, you indicate that you are considering this matter carefully and authorize them to release their letter to the press and to give out interviews saying that you are giving the matter careful consideration and appreciate their bipartisan interest.
That you subsequently inform the House and Senate leadership, together with Chairman Connally of the Foreign Relations Committee and Acting Chairman James P. Richards of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of your support of the program and the urgent need for immediate action. A suggested memorandum for use at this meeting is attached.1
That at the first suitable opportunity thereafter you address a message to the Congress requesting food aid to India. A draft message is attached for your consideration.2 The principal points of this message are:
That the Congress provide for emergency food aid to India for two million tons of food grains at a cost of $180 million, one-half of which should be appropriated for use in fiscal 1951. In order that procurement, loading and shipment may begin as soon as possible, the authorizing legislation should also authorize the RFC to make available $50 million, pending appropriation of funds for the first one million tons. Funds for the balance of the program would be subject to appropriation for use early in fiscal 1952.
That an aid agreement be negotiated with the Government of India, which will specify that distribution of the food grains should assure optimum benefits to the people of India, and that India maximize her effort to produce more food grains and to increase the procurement of food grains from other sources. The agreement should also specify that proceeds of the program in India be deposited as counterpart funds which will be used in Indian programs: (i) to maximize Indian food production, (ii) to provide for educational exchanges of the Fulbright type, (iii) to establish technical and welfare institutes and (iv) to develop health, sanitation and other similar projects for the benefit of the people of India.
That you appoint your Personal Representative for Indian Food Aid who will observe India’s fulfillment of the terms of the aid agreement and exercise United States supervision of the joint Indian-United States control over the deposit and use of the counterpart funds.
That the appropriation of funds for the last half of the program will present an opportunity for final evaluation of (i) India’s additional food grain import requirement on the basis of Indian crop-yields and domestic procurement in the first half of 1951, (ii) India’s capacity to finance additional imports of food grains on the basis of trade developments in the first half of 1951, (iii) our supply situation in the light of other requirements which may develop, and (iv) the availability of shipping and United States inland transport.

Dean Acheson
  1. Not printed.
  2. For the text of the President’s message to Congress as delivered on February 12 recommending that assistance be provided to India to enable her to meet her food crisis, see Congressional Record, vol. 97, pt. 1, p. 1243; Department of State Bulletin, February 26, 1951, p. 349, or Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1951 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1965), p. 149.