453. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1


  • Wheat for India

At Tab A, Messrs. Katzenbach and Gaud restate for you the options on India food.2 In addition to the three choices presented at last Saturday’s meeting (no food now; 1 million tons; and 1.5 million tons), this memorandum adds two more variants:

  • —Do a million tons, but announce it as a cut in the 3 million ton target established in the Congressional Resolution. That is, the emphasis in our announcement would be that budgetary problems had forced us to cut back from the 3 million tons set out in the Resolution to 2.5 million tons. Since we have already supplied 1.5 million tons, this leaves 1 million.
  • —Authorize no new agreement now, but allow the Indians to buy wheat in the United States on the understanding that the bill will be paid either through a new PL 480 agreement later, or from Indian foreign exchange.

The first variant reflects the only way we have been able to devise whereby this decision could be presented as consistent with your cuts in domestic spending. A 500,000 ton cut in the wheat target we announced in the Message and the Resolution might compare favorably with the cuts you must make in domestic food programs. On the debit side, it would make it impossible for you to come up with more wheat later in the year if the Indian situation gets desperate, and it would probably subject you to international criticism that we had committed ourselves to go to 3 million tons if matched and then gone back on our word.

The second new option is a stopgap designed to get the food into India while we decide the terms. But you should know that if you approve this it will be very difficult to avoid picking up the tab for whatever the Indians have contracted for between now and whenever we decide what more we are willing to do through PL 480. In any event, the 600,000 tons your advisers suggest would buy us only about a month before the question would come up again.

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At Tab B is a short discussion of debt relief3—what it is and how it relates to other forms of aid.

At Tab C is a paper you asked Ed Hamilton to do outlining how we might go at the others for more matching funds,4 assuming we are unwilling to accept debt relief. Hamilton emphatically does not recommend this. He has supplied it at your request.

The Katzenbach/Gaud memo ends with a recommendation of a flat 1.5 million tons now. That is, and has always been, the State/AID preference. Fowler and Freeman support 1 million tons now, and are strongly opposed to going any further. Katzenbach and Gaud would not strongly object to this solution.

In my bones, I think we should do the 1.5 million tons now if we are going to have to do that much by the end of the year. If the domestic politics of the budget problem simply won’t permit that amount, I think you should approve 1 million tons now, covering it in a public announcement by slamming the door on the last 500,000 tons mentioned in the Congressional Resolution.


1. Go ahead with 1.5 million tons now.

2. Go ahead with 1 million tons now. Our public posture should be that further authorizations will be considered as necessary.

3. Go ahead with the 1 million tons, but slam the door in public on the last half-million tons in the Congressional Resolution.

4. Tell the Indians to go ahead on the reimbursable basis. We will decide later what we can do through PL 480.

5. I want to have another go at the other donors. Give me a detailed proposal filling out the scenario at Tab B.

6. Tell the Indians we can do nothing more for them now.

7. See me.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, India, India’s Food Problem, Vol. IV. Confidential. A handwritten note on the memorandum reads, “Rec’d 2:15 pm.”
  2. Reference is to an August 9 memorandum from Katzenbach and Gaud to the President. (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to an undated memorandum drafted by Eugene Rostow entitled “Debt Relief as Matching.” (Ibid., NSC Histories, Indian Famine, August 1966–February 1967, Vol. IV)
  4. Reference is to an August 10 memorandum from Hamilton to the President. (Ibid., Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 37, August 1–10, 1967)
  5. Johnson checked this option and added the following handwritten note: “We must get State and Gaud nearer to our problem. They are in the sky.”