172. Briefing Prepared for President Nixon1
PRESIDENTʼS THURSDAY BRIEF
For the President
Widespread Famine Averted for Now in East Pakistan: Maury Williams, after an on-the-spot review,2 has concluded that the widespread famine—with associated deaths and an accelerated refugee flow to India— predicted by many last summer will not occur in East Pakistan this winter. The next critical period is March. He cites the following reasons:
- —U.S. efforts in dramatizing the problem and in providing two-thirds of needed transport from ocean ports to river ports, plus continuing shipment of one million tons of grain, have been a major factor.
- —Reduction of the East Pakistani population by the nine million (13%) more or less who have moved to India.
- —The end of a black market flow of rice, normally one million tons annually, from East Pakistan into India as a result of border tension.
- —The UN role in making food distribution neutral in the civil conflict.
- —The prospect of the winter crop beginning in late November.
Williams cautions, however, that the situation in East Pakistan is still grim and that continuing relief assistance will be needed. There is still the likelihood that increased guerrilla activity will make food distribution more difficult. Serious pockets of need will continue to exist. A buildup of stocks will have to continue against the next critical period in March, and a further strengthening of the UN field staff remains important.
Beyond the humanitarian aspect, this is also a major U.S. contribution to peace in South Asia since the avoidance of famine at this critical juncture will mean that many millions more Bengalis will not flee to India. This will be a point worth making to Mrs. Gandhi when she asks how our relationship with Yahya has contributed to peace. It is hard to prove, but the situation could have been a great deal worse by now.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 575, Indo-Pak War, South Asian Relief, 8/1/71–11/23/71. Confidential. Prepared by Hoskinson and Saunders for an October 28 briefing of the President. The memorandum does not indicate who was scheduled to do the briefing, but it was customarily done by Kissinger.↩
- The briefing was based upon telegram 4614 from Dacca, October 26, a report from Deputy AID Administrator Maurice Williams, who was investigating the danger of famine in East Pakistan in his capacity as coordinator of relief assistance. A copy of telegram 4614 was attached to the briefing memorandum.↩