39. Letter From Bangladeshi President Zia to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

I was glad to have received your letter of September 4, 1978.2 I am deeply grateful for the keen interest expressed by you in our endeavour to establish a democratic system of Government in Bangladesh. We are having general elections to the Parliament on 12 February 1979. It is our belief that representative government is the sine qua non for the active participation of the people at large in the process of economic and social development.

Our economic plans are primarily aimed at providing maximum benefits to the poorer section of the society mostly located in the rural areas of Bangladesh. I am encouraged to note your understanding of the priorities attached by us to agriculture, family planning and rural development. With the continued co-operation and assistance of friendly countries we hope to be able to achieve our social and economic goals of ensuring food, security, shelter and adequate health care for our people.

I deeply appreciate the increased level of assistance received from your great country.3 Particular mention should be made of the much needed and valued food assistance received from the United States. We are now working on a plan to gradually reduce our food gap. This will however take some time and possibilities of a sudden crisis cannot be ruled out. From this point of view firm and advance commitment of food aid including supply of edible oil is of great importance to us. I am hopeful that we shall continue to enjoy your understanding in this respect. We hope the quality and quantity of assistance from the United States would continue to improve as our ability to make better and effective use of such assistance keeps on increasing.

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The development of the Ganges water basin is a key to the development of the concept of regional co-operation in the area. Nepal has indicated her willingness to participate in the development of the Ganges basin covering Nepal, India and Bangladesh.4 India still does not seem to admit the logic of our proposal. In this we see a pragmatic role for our mutual friends and well-wishers.

Bangladesh feels honoured that the international community has reposed its trust and confidence in her by electing her to the non-permanent Asian seat in the Security Council. It is indeed a heavy responsibility but we are looking forward to playing our role in the Security Council in promoting the cause of global peace, stability and progress.5

Warmest personal regards.

Yours Sincerely,6

Ziaur Rahman
  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. Zia handwrote the salutation.
  2. See Document 36.
  3. It is unclear to what increase Zia referred. Telegram 7027 from Dacca, November 24, transmitted the text of an aide-mémoire from the Bangladeshi Ministry of Food that requested an additional 100,000 tons of rice. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780487–1160) No response to the request was found. Telegram 321650 to Dacca, December 22, reported that, at a December 19 meeting with Bergland, Tabarak Husain did not raise the issue. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780529–0447)
  4. Telegram 7489 from Dacca, December 15, reported that the Indian and Bangladeshi delegations to the Joint Rivers Commission met December 9 and considered the Bangladeshi proposal to include Nepal in arrangements to share the Ganges waters. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780520–1030
  5. On November 30, the General Assembly elected Bangladesh to a 2-year term on the Security Council.
  6. Zia handwrote the two closing paragraphs.