Letter to Four Members of the Advisory Panel on South Asian Relief Assistance.
I DEEPLY appreciate the time and thought that you and the other members of the Advisory Panel on South Asian Relief Assistance have devoted over the past year to our emergency economic assistance programs in South Asia. The perspective and insight which all of you have brought to your continuing review of these programs have been of great value to us.
Your reflections concerning your firsthand observations in Bangladesh are most gratifying. It has been my objective throughout this difficult period in South Asia to assure that, at a minimum, the absence of the essentials of life would not further heighten the tension that already existed there. I recognized in 1972 and I recognize now that making available the economic necessities cannot by itself assure peace or peaceful development. These objectives can ultimately be achieved only in a stable political environment and only when neighbors have enough confidence in one another so that normal relationships can be established across their borders.
At the same time, the United States could not and cannot ignore the needs and the aspirations of the more than 700 million South Asians. Our effort to join other nations in meeting the most urgent needs of those who live in this area has reflected not only our compassion for them in their distress but also our recognition that an orderly society depends on the capacity of governments to "promote the general welfare."
Again, my warmest thanks for your help.
Note: The letter, dated October 5, 1972, and released October 6, was sent to each of the four members of the Panel who had made the visit to Bangladesh. They reported to the President in a joint letter dated September 8, which was released with the President's letter and read as follows:
Dear Mr. President:
The undersigned members of your Advisory Panel on South Asian Relief Assistance have recently completed an intensive visit to Bangladesh. We hereby submit our views and conclusions derived from many visits and conversations. We have met with Ministers, officials and private citizens of Bangladesh, with United Nations officials, with representatives of American voluntary agencies and with members of the U.S. Mission. These conversations were supplemented by field trips.
The emergency aid to Bangladesh since its independence struck us forcefully as a truly superb example of the traditional American response to the need of people in deep distress. The American people, in giving through the Government, the United Nations and voluntary agencies, one-third of a total world-wide relief effort of approximately $800 million to rescue a new country half way around the world-more than any other country--have once again been true to their inheritance.
This humanitarian effort has contributed significantly toward helping this new, war-torn country and its Government under Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to make the painful transition to independence. We believe that the Prime Minister and his colleagues are aware of that fact.
We should like to record our conviction that the mobilized efforts and resources of the world have forestalled a major famine. The United Nations, through the Secretary General's appeals last year and this and through its operations in the field, has played a major role in this achievement. The performance of the UN has justified the United States in deciding, after we had seen the danger, that the UN could play such a role and our determination to help it do so effectively.
The newly emerging nation of Bangladesh is facing an extremely complex range of human problems. Certainly the potential for catastrophic suffering is unparalleled in modern history. But the end of the present crisis appears to be approaching. Unless another natural disaster should strike, Bangladesh should, by the spring of 1973, be emerging from the relief stage and launched upon a period of reconstruction and development. The United Nations coordinating organization, UNROD (United National Relief Operation, Dacca), is expecting to turn over its major responsibilities to the Government of Bangladesh next spring and to leave to the regular UN agencies tasks such as they have traditionally undertaken in this and other developing countries.
Bangladesh is now turning to a new task in a new set of circumstances. Serious problems will unquestionably arise and there will be many hard decisions to make. We believe that the United States can contribute to this difficult-even dangerous--transition in a number of useful ways. We shall spell out our suggestions in some detail in a report to Mr. Maurice J. Williams, your Coordinator for U.S. Humanitarian Assistance for South Asia.
Our visit has underlined for us the importance of your request for $100 million of grant aid for Bangladesh for the current fiscal year and the necessity that the Congress act favorably upon that request. We urge that, in addition, appropriate amounts of PL-480 foodstuffs be earmarked for Bangladesh.
From the observation of the performance of the remarkably vigorous staff--all in their early thirties--of the A.I.D. office in Dacca, we are confident that these funds will be imaginatively and effectively used.
We believe on the bash of preliminary projections we have seen that the proposals for fiscal 1974 will set forth the basis for an effective development program for Bangladesh.
We wish to express our appreciation of the opportunity you have given us to serve you in an endeavor that reflects great credit on our country and its humanitarian traditions.
JEANNE R. FERST
JOSEPH E. JOHNSON
Richard Nixon, Letter to Four Members of the Advisory Panel on South Asian Relief Assistance. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/255146