222. Message From President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Nehru1

Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I have read with interest and appreciation your messages of September 8 and 112 on the Suez Canal situation. I have also had the opportunity to study the text of the statement you made on September 13 in Lok Sabha.

I consider it a privilege to receive the benefit of your views on this important and difficult problem, satisfactory solution of which is so vital to the peace and well-being of the nations of the world. I am in complete agreement with you that a peaceful approach must be made to this issue, and I have so indicated in several public statements recently. You may be certain that the United States Government will not abandon its belief that, given good will and the realization of the vast implications of the matter, a peaceful solution can be achieved.

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I shall not conceal from you my deep disappointment that President Nasser saw fit to reject the proposals of the 18 nations which were so ably set before him by Prime Minister Menzies and the members of the 5–nation committee which went to Cairo. I believed, and continue to believe, that these proposals show the way to a peaceful and constructive arrangement which would benefit all parties concerned.

You have mentioned the Egyptian memorandum of September 10 setting forth a proposal for the formation of a negotiating body to consider the solution of questions involving the Canal and to review the Constantinople Convention of 1888. My preliminary reaction to this runs along the following lines:

It is doubtful that it would be practical to negotiate simultaneously with all countries which are parties to or beneficiaries of the Suez Canal. Such a group would embrace practically all nations of the world and, it seems to me, could not be an effective negotiating body. It is also doubtful that these nations would delegate discretionary negotiating authority to a small group, as such delegation of authority would not be compatible with the normal exercise of sovereign rights.

The procedure followed at the London Conference seems to me the only practical one. The conference drew together all indisputably surviving parties of the 1888 Convention, the nations representing over ninety percent of the traffic through the Canal and also those nations whose pattern of foreign trade has shown significant dependence upon the Canal. To my great regret the Government of Egypt was not represented, but that was entirely due to its own preference to be absent.

At the London Conference there was found to be a large measure of agreement with regard to the conditions necessary to assure that the Canal would be operated in accordance with the principles of the 1888 Convention. This judgment, shared by 18 nations, was carried to Cairo and carefully explained to the Government of Egypt which unfortunately did not accept the viewpoint thus expressed even as a basis for negotiation.

It is my belief at the moment that the views of the 18 nations as presented and explained to the Government of Egypt by the 5– nation Committee furnished the basis for further discussions and negotiations looking toward a fair and equitable settlement of the Suez Canal problem, and that the convening of a new conference on the basis suggested by the Government of Egypt would not be a development helpful in the solution of this difficult issue.

A conference is planned for September 19 in London to enable the 18 nations which joined in the proposals to President Nasser to discuss the Menzies report and various other matters relating to the [Page 504]Suez question. It is planned that this group will discuss the response to the Egyptian memorandum. The final position of the United States on this particular point will not be determined until after the consultation afforded by the new London meeting.

Another subject which will be discussed at London is the proposed association of Canal users, to which the United States has given its support. This step, while it can only be an interim measure might, I think, if accepted by Egypt in the spirit in which we join in it, permit of some practical progress toward an acceptable operation of the Canal.

Please allow me to say how much I appreciate receiving your views. Your messages have given me a clear understanding of the position of the Indian Government, and convince me all the more that there is harmony of purpose in this matter between our two countries.

With kind regard,

Sincerely,

Dwight D. Eisenhower3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1556. Secret. Transmitted to New Delhi Priority in telegram 705, September 15, 11:53 a.m., which is the source text, with the instruction: “Deliver promptly following message from President to Nehru. Confirm time delivery. Signed original to follow.” Telegram 705 indicates the message was drafted by Howe and cleared with Goodpaster.
  2. Neither printed. In the September 8 message, Nehru emphasized the need to establish a basis for negotiation which would bring Egypt into the discussions and he expressed the hope that the United States would use its great influence toward a peaceful approach and settlement of the Suez Canal problem and would discourage and deter all talk of solving the problem by force. In the September 11 message, Nehru spoke in behalf of the Egyptian proposal of September 10 (see footnote 4, Document 200), noting that it offered ways for a peaceful solution which should be explored. Copies of these and several other messages between Eisenhower and Nehru concerning the Suez situation are in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File and in Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204.
  3. Telegram 705 bears this typed signature.