197. Telegram 232870 From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1 2


  • UN Humanitarian Assistance for the East
We have reviewed the question of humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the war and in context of the present situation that exists in the East. In discussing this matter with Bhutto on Saturday, latter indicated to Secretary that he understood why US would wish to provide humanitarian assistance in East, but he expressed hope that it be done in such a way that there be no implication of recognition of Bangla Desh.
UN seems to be regrouping itself, and there is hope that they will get on with task of humanitarian relief in East in a reasonably effective way as many of refugees start back. We will want to continue to support humanitarian relief effort in the East, but timing and amounts of our support will have to be carefully reviewed in light of developments in South [Page 2] Asia. We do not want assumption made, either by international community or by Indians, that US will more or less automatically pick up a substantial part of tab.
Whatever we do at least in foreseeable future, will want be through UN, in kind rather than dollars, and to assure that our assistance goes to East directly and not to or through India. In this connection, for example, there is considerable amount of US grain already in pipeline ready for distribution in East as soon as UN can take hold and get it to refugees and others in need. There are also certain administrative costs which UN has and will in future incur. We will not want to make any commitments at this time on such costs, pending results of any appeal which UN makes to UN membership generally to provide help in East. In addition to mandate which UN High Commissioner for Refugees has resulting from Third Committee action, there is also resolution adopted by Security Council on Tuesday evening which calls for international assistance and gives SYG a specific role in [Page 3] dealing with such humanitarian problems.
There are definite policy advantages for US to be both positive and helpful with respect to humanitarian assistance in East. However, in view of changed situation in Subcontinent resulting from war, we believe that others should be required to contribute very substantially. We will want to do enough to demonstrate our deep concern and concrete desire to relieve suffering by substantial material support of a UN relief assistance program, but we do not want UN or others to make assumption that they can more or less automatically expect that US is going to share a disproportionate part of the burden.
We already have a case in point before us. UN has made an informal request for US to finance coastal vessels. We understand that UN wishes grant to cover costs of chartering ten minibulkers to carry food and other relief supplies into interior of East Bengal. We are fully prepared to participate in internationally supported effort of UN as [Page 4] is evidenced by fact that there is a substantial amount of American grain in pipeline which UN should utilize as needed. We find it noteworthy that UN automatically has come to US unilaterally, to finance such things as minibulkers or provide UN with funds to take care of administrative costs, (our assumption is that in early January UN will need such money). We do not want to respond overeagerly; whether and what we contribute in this regard will depend on how generous others are willing to be in response to an appeal from UN for assistance.
In short, UN should understand that US will be willing to share in international effort generally but they should not assume more or less automatically that we intend to play a leading role in this regard and assume preponderant share of costs.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 10 BANGLADESH. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Sisco and C. Herbert Rees, Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs (AID/NESA) on December 23; cleared in AID/NESA by Williams and in the White House by Saunders; and approved by Rogers. Repeated to Islamabad, New Delhi, Dacca, and Calcutta.
  2. The Department’s initial decision was that U.S. humanitarian assistance to the successor state in East Pakistan would be channeled through the United Nations