Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Maiwandwal.

March 28, 1967

Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

Among the last state visitors that our beloved President John Kennedy received in this White House were Their Majesties King Zahir and Queen Homaira of Afghanistan. They won our hearts during that visit. They reminded us that, although their country and ours are half a world apart, we are neighbors in thought and we are kindred in spirit.

Today it is our good fortune to welcome the distinguished diplomat, the professor and the journalist who heads the Government of Afghanistan.

You, sir, are no stranger here with us. You are, rather, an old and very honored friend of many in this room, and of many more elsewhere in this city and in this Nation.

There was a time, Mr. Prime Minister, when we knew little of your country, except that it was a land of adventure, a romantic land where cultures met, rich history was written, a place where spirited and sturdy men fought with pride to maintain and to keep their independence.

We know this still, but now we know a great deal more about your land.

We know today that you and your countrymen, under the leadership of His Majesty King Zahir, have set as your high goal Afghanistan's "experiment in democracy."

We know today what you are doing to develop your country. We know what you are doing to enrich the lives of all of your people.

Mr. Prime Minister, we here in America, all of us, are very proud to be associated with you in that effort.

If it would be useful to you, Mr. Prime Minister, if you think it would be helpful, we are prepared to send to your country a team of this Nation's best agricultural experts, directed by Secretary Freeman, who would be delighted to work with your specialists in the vital achievement of agricultural self-sufficiency that we both know is so very important to this and to future generations.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have come to visit with us just after the festival of the New Year in your country. That season, like the coming of spring for us, is a time of reaffirmation and rededication. It is a time when we can, together, rededicate ourselves to the great tasks that each of us, in our own way, in our own land, are trying so hard to do:

--to build a better framework of social justice for all of our people;

--to devote our energies and our resources to better lives for all of our .people;

--to strengthen the strong roots of freedom and the spirit of independence that has motivated us both throughout our histories;

--and, most important of all, to make a contribution, individually and collectively, to a lasting peace among men throughout the world.

This morning as we were talking, the Secretary General of the United Nations made public the main lines of his new proposal for a general truce and cessation of hostilities in Vietnam. He presented that proposal to our honored and most distinguished Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, who is privileged to be with us here today, in New York first on March 14th.

On March 15th, under Secretary Rusk's and Ambassador Goldberg's direction, we promptly replied, welcoming the .proposal and noting that it contains "constructive and positive elements toward bringing a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam conflict."

We promptly told the Secretary General that we would be consulting immediately with the Government of South Vietnam and with our other allies, and that we would provide him with a full and very prompt reply. On March 15th we said that.

On March 18th Ambassador Goldberg delivered that reply. It was positive. It was definitive. It was affirmative.

The Government of Vietnam also responded constructively.

Yesterday we regretfully learned from Radio Hanoi that they were informing the world that they apparently were not prepared to accept the Secretary General's proposal. As they stated through their radio, "The Vietnam problem has no concern with the United Nations, and the United Nations has absolutely no right to interfere in any way with the Vietnam question."

We respectfully disagree. War and peace are concerns of the United Nations. They are concerns of all people.

We welcome the efforts of not only the United Nations but any nation, large or small, if they have any suggestion or any contribution they are prepared to make.

I would hope that the Secretary General was correct this morning when he said that none of the parties has categorically--categorically-turned his plan down.

We have seen over the past several years-and, yes, recently in the past several months--one effort after another to bring peace to Southeast Asia fail because Hanoi rejected it.

But, Mr. Prime Minister and honored guests, I want everyone who can hear my voice or see my words to know that this Nation will continue to persist. Deep in our history is the memory of what President Abraham Lincoln said to his countrymen in the dark days of 1861:

"Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you." In Southeast Asia the terms for the relations among states were set in 1954 and 1962 by international accords. In the end they must be honored. In the end the people of South Vietnam must be given the chance to determine their destiny without external interference.

So all of our power, our intelligence, and our imagination will be devoted in the future, as in the past, to bringing that day nearer.

As we meet here in this spring, in this period of dedication, this spring of 1967, let us together pledge anew our dedication to the achievement of the objectives of social justice, devoting our energy and resources to better lives; to strengthen the roots of freedom and independence, and to making a contribution, individually and collectively, to peace among men.

Mr. Prime Minister, I have no doubt after our extended visit today, that we are joined in these objectives and in this resolve.

Now I should like to ask our friends who have come here from other parts of the Nation out of friendship and respect for the distinguished Prime Minister to join me in a toast to His Majesty King Zahir and to the great Nation of Afghanistan.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 2:17 p.m. at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Maiwandwal responded as follows:

President Johnson, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

I wish to thank you again, Mr. President, as I had the occasion to do on my arrival earlier this morning, for your very kind words of welcome to me personally, and your expressions of friendship for my country and the people of Afghanistan.

It is gratifying to know that the visit of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Afghanistan, in 1963, is still so fondly remembered in this country.

I can assure you that the friendly sentiments you have expressed are warmly reciprocated by them.

I am pleased to be here and to visit the United States again.

Mr. President, the experiment of Afghanistan in democracy, I am proud to confirm, is a noble endeavor and is in full swing under the wise and benevolent leadership and guidance of His Majesty, our King.

When he visited the United States in autumn 1963, this experiment was merely a new seed planted in our ancient soil, but it has been carefully nurtured since then and now has grown into a sturdy young plant.

Its blossoms include a liberal new constitution which appeared in 1964, free nationwide parliamentary elections by universal suffrage and secret ballot in 1965; establishment of an independent parliament representative of their Nation, and the adoption of a host of progressive new laws designed to reform and modernize our society and political institutions.

Our experiment, in short, has had a healthy start and is beginning to bear fruit. But we have chosen to modernize not on merely one but on several fronts at once-- economic as well as political and social--and in some of this we highly value the great assistance which friends like the United States of America have been giving us in developing our economy.

We appreciate your help in building our infrastructure, especially the construction of roads like the magnificent Kabul-Kandahar highway, a gift of the American people dedicated only last August in a ceremony attended by Secretary Freeman.

And the highway between Herat and the Iranian border currently under construction.

Similar cooperation between our two countries is, to a considerable extent, helping to develop our educational system, our agriculture, our water resources, and our transportation system.

All of this will pay repeated dividends for the future lives of our people.

May I assure you, Mr. President, that our prime aim and driving ambition is to reach self-sustained economic growth in as short a time as possible so as to free ourselves from the need for foreign assistance.

Still, we continue to need your help in many ways in order to accelerate our growth and reach our national goals in the shortest possible time.

Your kind offer of assistance by a special team of experts to advise us on ways and means of achieving agricultural self-sufficiency would indeed be useful, and we look forward to discussing this, as well as other aspects of cooperation, with the responsible officials of your Government.

Mr. President, Afghanistan is a real example of a country in which the sincere efforts of the people and friendly assistance of foreign countries have combined to create an area of peace and stability in an all too often turbulent and insecure world.

We firmly believe in the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including the necessity of solving international problems by peaceful means.

In this spirit, we continue to pursue our efforts aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Pakhtunistan problem which constitutes the major issue in our relationships with Pakistan.

As a living example of international cooperation in peace, our policy of active and positive nonalignment, and of coexistence, has worked for the advantage of our country, our region, and, we hope, the world.

This is not a new policy for us, but rather one we have pursued throughout this century as a national struggle and a consequence of our geographic position and historical experience.

You have aptly referred, Mr. President, to the present season of the Afghan New Year, which falls also in the beginning of spring, as a time of rededication. In our case it marks this year the beginning of our third 5-year plan through which we hope to make further substantial progress in improving the life of our people.

The Government and the Nation of Afghanistan axe grateful for the friendship, understanding, and interest manifested by the Government and people of the United States in our struggle for economic and social betterment.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, I invite you to join me in a toast to the health and prosperity of the President of the United States and to the great American people.

[As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.]

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Maiwandwal. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237807

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