415. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1

119084. Please deliver following message from the President to Prime Minister Gandhi as soon as possible: “Dear Mrs. Gandhi: Your message to me conveying New Year’s greetings was most welcome.2 We certainly face grave problems in the months ahead. But I fully share your hope and expectation that we shall overcome them, and that cooperation between our two governments and peoples will grow still closer.

We continue to give serious thought to your government’s problems in providing enough food for your people. We see your difficulty this year as reflecting a larger fact: quite apart from your particular problems of drought, the developing regions of the world are losing the ability to feed themselves. We foresee a somber future if the world fails to reverse this trend by concerted and determined action.

I profoundly hope that India will take the lead in inspiring and urging all nations—rich and poor alike—to join a truly world wide effort to bring population and food production back into balance. We believe you realize the day is past when the United States can bear this burden alone. We count on the Government of India to become [Page 809] an example of what a determined people can do for themselves. We count on your government also to dramatize to all nations of the world the depth of this problem.

It is my earnest hope that your own representatives in other capitals will press your case with their host governments—an effort we will support but for which your government will, of course, wish to take responsibility.

At the same time I realize with the utmost understanding that the problems you face in the months ahead cannot be solved entirely by your own efforts. Joint effort of all nations able to help will be required to avert what you rightly describe as a human tragedy; and they will be needed equally to hasten the day when Indian agriculture can meet India’s requirements.

I wish you to know that I am deeply concerned that this aid be forthcoming in as sufficient and timely a fashion as we can justify to our people. However, as I said in my recent State of the Union message, I am convinced that this problem is a responsibility of the international community, and will have to be met by a truly international effort.

To explain my thoughts more fully, I am sending Mr. Eugene V. Rostow our Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs as my personal representative to discuss this problem with you and with the leaders of other friendly and interested countries. He will be arriving in New Delhi shortly after you receive this letter.

In closing, may I again express my hopes that 1967 will see progress on this and the many other grave problems we face.

With warm personal regards. Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson

We do not intend to release this letter, and we assume GOI will not.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17–4 US. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Coon; cleared by Macomber, Wriggins, and Mary S. Olmstead (NEA/INC); and approved by Handley. Repeated to Tokyo for Rostow.
  2. In her New Year’s message to President Johnson, December 31, Prime Minister Gandhi expressed her thanks for the assistance rendered by the United States in helping India to deal with the critical situation caused by a second successive year of drought. The message was conveyed to the White House under cover of a note from Ambassador Nehru on December 31. (Ibid.)
  3. Gandhi responded on January 23 in a letter to Johnson that she regretted not being able to meet with Rostow during his visit to India because of her campaign schedule. She applauded the effort he was making to help enlist additional assistance for India, and stated that India would do all it could to second that effort. She reiterated the commitment of her government to increase food production and to control population growth. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, India, 1/1/67–4/30/67)