The Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the British Ambassador (Halifax)

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I refer to your confidential communication No. 1736/7/41 of June 28, 1941, in which you confirm our conversation on June 26, when you stated that the Government of India gladly agrees to the Department’s proposal that an American Foreign Service Officer should reside at Delhi or Simla. It is noted, however, that the Government of India prefers that this officer bear the title of “agent general” rather than that of “commissioner” or “diplomatic agent”, as suggested in the Department’s note of May 28, 1941, because the constitutional position does not permit the reception of a diplomatic minister in India, or the establishment of direct diplomatic representation between India and the United States at the present time.

The title of “commissioner” or “diplomatic agent” was suggested in view of the provisions of section 24 of the Act of February 23, 1931,2 constituting a part of basic legislation relating to the establishment and organization of the American Foreign Service, which is quoted as follows:

“Sec. 24. That within the discretion of the President, any Foreign Service Officer may be assigned to act as commissioner, chargé d’affaires, minister resident, or diplomatic agent for such period as [Page 173] the public interests may require without loss of grade, class, or salary: Provided, however, That no such officer shall receive more than one salary.”

Under the provisions of this section the President is empowered, without additional legislative authorization, to appoint a Foreign Service officer to act in the capacities enumerated therein, including those of “commissioner” or “diplomatic agent”. It may be noted, however, that this section does not provide for the assignment of a Foreign Service officer as “agent general”. To obtain authority, therefore, for the appointment of an agent general, it would be necessary to seek Congressional legislation either creating such an office or appropriately amending section 24 of the Act of February 23, 1931. In order that the proposed appointment of an American representative to Delhi might be made within the framework of existing legislation and in order to avoid delay in seeking additional legislative authority, the titles of “commissioner” and “diplomatic agent” were suggested. It was not the Department’s intention that a representative designated by a title other than that of “agent general” should in fact enjoy a status or perform duties other than those he would perform if designated as “agent general”. It would be appreciated, therefore, if His Majesty’s Government would indicate whether, in view of the foregoing statements, the constitutional position would permit the Government of India to reconsider the Department’s suggestion that an American Foreign Service officer assigned to Delhi bear the title of “commissioner”.

In accordance with the desires of the Government of India, the Government of the United States, in announcing the appointment of a representative to Delhi, will make no reference to the personal rank of minister to be accorded to such officer.

The Department concurs with the suggestion of the Government of India that the appointments of an Indian agent general at Washington and of an American representative at Delhi be made the subject of a provision in the draft treaty between India and the United States now under negotiation, it being understood that the exchange of representatives would occur forthwith in advance of the conclusion of the treaty negotiations and that the appointments Would be announced simultaneously as being reciprocal in character.

The Government of the United States desires to assure the Government of India of its intention of maintaining its consular establishment at Calcutta after the opening of ah office in Delhi.

The Government of the United States perceives no objection to the appointment by the Government of India of Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, K. B. E., C. I. E., as Agent General for India in the United States and will be pleased to receive him in that capacity.

Very sincerely yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. 46 Stat. 1210.