41. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Bangladesh1

148757. For the Ambassador. Subject: Presidential Message to President Zia—Food Aid. Ref: Dacca 3200.2

1. C–Entire text)

2. Following is Presidential message which responds to the letter from President Zia3 that was delivered by Finance Minister Huda during his visit to Washington in May.

3. Begin Presidential message: To President Ziaur Rahman: Thank you for informing me of the foodgrain situation in Bangladesh and its relationship to your great task of restoring democracy.

Your special envoy, Dr. Huda, recently discussed this subject in detail with officials of my administration. He indicated the importance that you attach to the maintenance of an adequate reserve of food and to Bangladesh’s efforts to increase food production.4

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As soon as we learned that your foodgrain stocks might be unusually low during the summer, we took steps to accelerate negotiation of the second agreement in our three-year food-for-development program and to expedite shipments of the 400,000 tons of wheat provided in that agreement.

In response to your request, we have once again reviewed our food aid program. We have reluctantly concluded that budget constraints and earlier commitments preclude our provision of additional assistance this fiscal year.

We will continue to follow closely the food situation in Bangladesh and your government’s food and development policy decisions. It is in the context of these decisions that we—and I assume others—will consider participation in your plan for a larger grain reserve.5

Meanwhile, we will stand ready to use our aid programs, not limited to PL 480, to help your government meet any food emergencies that may develop.

Thank you very much for the lovely jute carpet which you recently sent me. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sharing with me the fine artistry of your people. With warmest personal regards, Sincerely, Jimmy Carter. End Presidential message.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790262–0373. Confidential; Niact Immediate. Drafted by Hallock R. Lucius (NEA/PAB); cleared in S/S and S/S–O and by Thornton; approved by Lucius.
  2. In telegram 3200 from Dacca, May 31, Schneider reported: “On my return to Dacca, I find a justifiable atmosphere of crisis due to the drought induced shortfall in domestic food grain production and virtual shutdown of hydroelectric power from Kaptal. To the food shortfalls caused by drought and other factors in the Aman (November–December) and Boro (April–May) harvests has now been added the prospect of a substantial additional shortfall in the aus harvest (August) because of a 50 percent drop in precipitation during the spring (April–May) rains upon which the aus and jute crops are dependent. One returning to Dacca becomes immediately aware of drought conditions from the brownness of the countryside and the searing dry heat which has replaced the normally humid thunder showery weather of this season.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790245–1040)
  3. In his May 3 letter to Carter, Zia indicated that he was sending Huda to Washington to brief Carter on the situation in Bangladesh and to “explain to you the objective of his visit which has a crucial economic and political bearing.” Zia ended his brief letter with the comment: “The return of democracy to Bangladesh is a matter to which I personally attach the greatest importance. However, it is essential that the successful development of democratic institutions in Bangladesh receives the full support of our friends.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 2, Bangladesh: President Ziaur Rahman, 4/77–12/80)
  4. Telegram 127683 to Dacca, May 19, summarized Huda’s May 11 meeting with Christopher and Schneider. The discussion focused on Huda’s report of food shortages in Bangladesh and his request for additional food aid. Christopher “noted steps we have taken to ease food problem in the short term i.e., call forward of 97,000 tons of Title II wheat and signing of Title III (May 11) agreement for 400,000 tons of wheat.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790228–0269)
  5. Telegram 2545 from Dacca, May 1, reported Zia’s plan to build up a reserve of grain stocks. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790204–0044)