23. Letter From President Carter to Bangladeshi President Zia1

Dear President Zia:

Thank you very much for the good wishes conveyed in your letter of May 212 which Ambassador Siddiqi delivered to the White House on June 10.3 I was pleased to hear about the steps that you have taken to streamline your Administration and increase productivity. I particularly welcome your wise choice of the crucial areas of population control and agricultural production for special attention, for I fully share the belief that economic development must in the first instance help those whose needs are greatest. I take great satisfaction in the role that the United States has been able to play in helping you meet these important goals.

[Page 81]

The United States will certainly continue to give sympathetic consideration to your request for food, and we will do all that we can to help in your drive for self-sufficiency.4

As you know, on April 1 our governments signed a PL 480 Title I agreement for 200,000 metric tons of foodgrain. This grain has now begun to arrive, only ten weeks after the signing. Currently, we are negotiating an amendment to the April agreement for an additional 150,000 tons. As soon as this is concluded, we will coordinate with your government to ensure as prompt arrival as Bangladeshi port conditions will allow. We hope to begin negotiations very soon on a second amendment to provide some of the vegetable oil which you have requested.

This is not as much grain and oil as you have asked for, partly because of considerations of price and availability in the United States. As you know, I do rely very heavily on the estimates and recommendations that Ambassador Masters provides to me from Dacca. If there are areas where you disagree with our assessments, it would be most useful if your officials discussed these further with the Ambassador. I do want to assure you that the needs of Bangladesh are very much in our mind. If it should become necessary to provide additional food in response to changed circumstances, I assure you that we will be able to move rapidly to help.

I have followed with great interest the recent political developments in Bangladesh and am pleased to hear of your recently announced plans to hold further local elections and to have general elections before the end of 1978.5 The cause of democracy is an important one to Americans, and I am pleased that we share it with nations such as yours.

I have also been pleased by the progressive normalization of relations among the nations of South Asia. All parties have shown truly impressive statesmanship at a time when there is much talk of peace in the world but the talk is seldom followed up by action. I have pledged myself and my Administration to the pursuit of peace through action. I look forward to working together with you in our varying ways to achieve the imperative goal of peace. As you know, I have made far-reaching proposals in such areas as the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons as our contribution to this process.

[Page 82]

The problem of meeting the world’s legitimate energy needs without adding to the risk of nuclear proliferation is one of particular concern to me.

Ambassador Siddiqi also restated your desire to purchase an atomic research reactor. It will certainly be much easier for us, however, to deal on nuclear matters with nations that have adhered to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. A decision on this matter is, of course, one that you must make in terms of your own national interests. I hope, however, that you can see your way clear to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a contribution to our common goal of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons that can only be harmful to all of us.

Once again, thank you for your letter. You can be sure that this Administration will continue to accord high priority to helping you and your government in your efforts to improve the human condition in Bangladesh.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 2, Bangladesh: President Ziaur Rahman, 4/77–12/80. No classification marking. Brzezinski sent the letter to Carter for his signature under a June 23 covering memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 22.
  3. In his June 23 memorandum to Carter (see footnote 1 above), Brzezinski noted that Siddiqi had delivered the letter to him to deliver to Carter. In a June 10 memorandum, Brzezinski informed Vance that during their June 10 meeting, Siddiqi conveyed to Brzezinski the Bangladeshi “desire that we go ahead with the research reactor. They are unwilling to sign the NPT as a condition but hinted strongly that they would sign it if there were no linkage. I raised the question of full-scope safeguards as a possible alternative to the NPT and said that we would look into the question. Siddiqi made the customary pitch for military assistance. I was unresponsive. Finally, he reiterated General Zia’s desire for a visit to the United States. I pointed out that we were trying to space visits so that they would be more meaningful. When my staff member showed Siddiqi out, he told him unofficially that there was no prospect for any state visit this calendar year.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770144–0652)
  4. In his June 23 memorandum to Carter (see footnote 1 above), Brzezinski noted that “State has reaffirmed its strong belief that shipping more food to Bangladesh now would not only risk it being wasted but would also have a negative effect on Bangladeshi self-help in the agricultural field. The approach to you is an attempt to end-run our Ambassador in Dacca.”
  5. See footnote 8, Document 21.