891.03/3–2451: Telegram

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

secret
priority

2550. 1. Congressional consideration food grain grant being watched tensely by GOI officials and press though few public statements being made. Friends US some who have staked their polit fortunes on favorable US reception GOI request extremely anxious; elements fundamentally hostile or suspicious US becoming more triumphantly cynical; propagandists for Moscow Peking actively criticizing Munshi and other Indian officials (but not Nehru) for looking US rather than Soviet Union and Commie Chi for food: some oversensitive [Page 2131]govt officials suggesting request for US food grain aid be withdrawn; other officials worried re Indian loss prestige involved and state India never asked for anything more than long term loan anyway.

2. High official Ministry Agriculture told Taylor several days ago in utmost confidence members Soviet Embassy several times hinted possibility GOI could get Soviet wheat on barter basis. Official said Indian stooges for Soviets have been charging GOI officials preferred let people starve rather than import wheat from Russia. One stooge insisted 500,000 tons Soviet wheat available although no figures advanced through official Soviet channels. This official also stated Commie Chi approaches had been similarly vague until Mar 19 when Commie “Chi official offered 200,000 tons rice and 200,000 tons corn on barter basis. This offer has embarrassed food officials who fearful if they begin negot Commie Chi will demand commodities useful in war. They worried lest after opening negots they refuse Chi (or Soviet) offers they will be subj criticism grounds they responsible starvation Indian people and if they accept there wld be deterioration relations US. They say that if Congress passes food grain bill within few weeks Commies offers can be harmlessly disposed of by counter offers purchase for cash on terms uninteresting to Commies.

3. Munshi, Food Agriculture Minister, Mar 21 replying question in Parliament said GOI has inquired USSR regarding quantity and terms it could supply food grains but no reply yet reed.

4. Munshi broached subject US food grains the evening Mar 23. He said deeply disturbed at congressional delay. Situation Bihar and other areas deteriorating rapidly. Heavy shipments must reach India from US early May. Could not US use ships taken from moth balls to move food grain already purchased by India and awaiting shipment in US rather than withhold them pending congressional decision re grant. GOI must meet great food grain emergency May, June and July. Especially important that sufficient food grain for rationing purposes reach more remote deficiency areas before monsoons beginning middle June close roads. Munshi declared 2 million tons requested US absolutely necessary prevent disaster.

5. In confidential conversation with Edgar Mowrer1 Mar 22 Nehru, according Mowrer, momentarily irritated by remark Mowrer re other aspect US–Indian relations brought up question food grain in fol words: “We too have our pride. Way which you handling our request for grain insulting and outrageous. If we go through centuries poverty and millions our people die hunger we shall never submit outside [Page 2132]pressure.” Nehru, however, has not recently mentioned food grain problem to me although during recent days I have had several chats with him.

6. I realize Dept has done and is doing all possible assist Congress understanding urgency action on food grain situation. Further delay may well eliminate much of good will for US which still persists in India and damage our good name for years to come. I am increasingly anxious, as crisis reports multiply, lest serious famine strike various parts India and that regardless subsequent action our part we shall be held responsible because of our present delays. Congressional decision some kind to get more grain moving of utmost urgency so India can have free hand if necessary turn China or Russia.

Henderson
  1. Edgar Ansel Mowrer, American writer. A summary of the interview was dictated by Mr. Mowrer at the request of Ambassador Henderson, who forwarded it to Mr. McGhee under cover of a letter dated March 26, not printed (McGhee files, lot 53D468, “H” letters).