106. Conversation Between President Nixon and Ambassador Moynihan1 2

[Omitted here are opening remarks, an unintelligible section, and conversation on Indira Gandhi, Lakshimi Jha, India, U.S.-Indian relations, and Pakistan]

Moynihan: Henry says we want to resume that aid that was frozen, and in time I’ll get the word from here and just go in there and say it’s ok. There are two other things, which is—

Nixon: Well, they’ll get some of that, too.

Moynihan: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And in fact if we keep our tough line, Mr. President, if we [unclear] two years [unclear].

Nixon: Yeah.

Moynihan: I’ve got two crises now. First, they had been asked—They have made the ridiculous assertion that they want to get rid of all foreign aid by the year 1979. Well, Ion my instructions, say, oh go in to them and say, “Ok, fine. What do you say we work it out, phasing down our aid operations so that it doesn’t come as a sudden lurch, you know.” Let them in the end they’ll have to come to us and say, “Look, as a matter of fact we can’t”—that they can’t. I mean—

Nixon: I wouldn’t think so—

Moynihan:—they’re heading for starvation again—

Nixon: Are they?

Moynihan: [unclear] this month [unclear] they expect a 6% bond exchange in Chicago in December, buying wheat at twice the price the Russians buy, and not say a word to us. They may have to spend another third of their foreign exchange before June. [Unclear] They’re simply that broke and there’s only one place in the world to buy wheat, and that’s here. And we haven’t got any surplus wheat that we can get rid of, plus we have no place to put it in the market.

Nixon: Yeah?

Moynihan: Any wheat we give them is dollar wheat we could sell to get—we could sell it to China, sell it to Russia with no problems. Now, but Earl Butz is being very decent about this. He says, “Look…”

Nixon: Um-hmmm

Moynihan: “…we will”—At least that he wants early returns from us, and if it looks like they’re going to need a lot of wheat next year they can work out a gentlemen’s agreement with the Russians not to take so much that there’s nothing left. The price reduction goes to hell here, and there’s nothing left for the Indians and then we have to pay really much more. And he mentioned it to them. If we have to come to help them then, well then a decision is going to have to be made. That ain’t good. [Unclear] if we didn’t think about it, but there’s no more surplus wheat to give them.

Nixon: Hmmm.

Moynihan: It’s [unclear]. The other thing is in these instructions which generally follow the statement of your message last year and so. We have a billion dollars worth of rupees over there from this law—

Nixon: PL480—?

Moynihan: [PL480] and you sent—I think Bill Rogers sent Raymond Saulnier out there in ’69 to say, “What about this?” And he came out and he made a very sensible review of things. He said, “Look, this is a billion dollars and maturation in the year 2010 is 5 billion dollars. At the rate it’s going—

Nixon: Yeah?

Moynihan:—by the year 2040 we own India.”

Nixon: Wow!

Moynihan: [laughs] Who wants to own India?

Nixon: God no! Please!

[unclear exchange]

Moynihan: But in a funny way it’s something in between us and them. We own a third of their currency in effect. And we have people, our people are always scurrying out there, picking up land to build a dam here, or save the tiger, or do some birth control—

Nixon: What do you think?

Moynihan: Uh, well, I think that Saulnier is right that what we should do is work out an agreement that over the next 5, 15 years, somewhere in between, they will continue to pay full expenses of American activities in view of which they now do. Now, right this year it’s about 50 million dollars a year and at the end of this agreed-on period, cancel the whole thing, create a small foundation that will do certain things in memory of American aid, but not make it run by the Americans. Have the Indians run it just like the Germans that set up this Marshall Fund—Foundation here except having Americans run it, you know, but then get out of the way if they tell us. We’re never going to get the rupees. They [unclear]. They fuss around.

Nixon: That’s right.

Moynihan: I think the idea of getting rid of this [unclear]

[Stephen B. Bull entered at an unknown time after 2:34 p.m.]

Bull: [unclear] helicopter [unclear]

Nixon: [aside to Bull] Fine.

[Bull left at an unknown time before 3:07 p.m.]

Moynihan: Does that make essential sense to you?

Nixon: You know I—It has never come up to me. I don’t know what it is. It seems to me, it seems what you’re saying that we, uh—Why don’t we get it when we try to get a decision on it? I mean, why don’t you, uh…?

Moynihan: All right. I’ll tell [unclear]. It’s in these papers.

Nixon: Get it to Scowcroft.

Moynihan: Henry has got it.

Nixon: Yeah?

Moynihan: And Henry passed on it, and I’ll tell—

Nixon: He thinks—He thinks we should do it that way?

Moynihan: Yeah. I mean it wouldn’t have any effect—

Nixon: That would be my feeling on this is somebody that doesn’t—Basically, it’s like the forgiveness of the World War One debts. Who the hell’s—we’re never got—we should have done it earlier. As it was it was a hell of a problem and may have contributed to what happened with Hitler and all the rest.

Moynihan: Yeah.

Nixon: Who knows? [unclear] And—And this one I might—I think it does make sense, yeah. I think it does.

Moynihan: It included the [unclear]—

Nixon: If you don’t mind, you know, quite substantial attrition. Let me ask you this, the—one of the important things: In talking to Bill this morning he thought that maybe you could go there for a while. When do you plan to go?

Moynihan: Well, my wife packed up and took the kids to Rome…

Nixon: Yeah?

Moynihan: …to meet me there…

[Additional conversation on Moynihan’s arrival in India, Indian bureaucrats, the president’s letter to Indira Gandhi, and an unintelligible portion omitted here]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 853–16. No classification marking. The meeting took place in the Oval Office of the White House.
  2. Ambassador Moynihan spoke to President Nixon on the day the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment as Ambassador to India.