Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

The Indian Diplomatic Agent came in to see me today at his request. He made three observations, all of them of considerable interest.

(1) He adverted to the formation of the British-American Materials Supply Boards and noted that Clive Baillieu was chairman of one of them. Sir Girja suggested that Clive Baillieu might not be able to act as the sole channel of communication with all the material producing agencies and presumably would want a consultative committee of some kind which would include a competent Indian representative. Since the United States was largely involved as supplier, he had rather assumed the United States would want reciprocal treatment from the British material producing agencies, including India.

I said that naturally we did not intervene in the British side of the organization but I noted his suggestion, which was interesting.

(2) He said that he considered that the entire problem of the Indian supply organization ought now to come to the fore with very great speed. Confidentially, the Chinese had already been inquiring of him whether an alternative route could not be worked out through Calcutta or elsewhere now that Rangoon was closed—the closing, he said, had occurred two days ago through the operation of enemy submarines. [Page 598] He had pointed out that if Burma was in danger Calcutta was too, and that probably the only way to work this out would be through Bombay or Madras. He pointed out that the British were under considerable pressure. The Australians had been saying in no uncertain tones that they were being betrayed; that their troops were defending other posts and were not defending those posts which made for the defense of Australia. He said he stated this personally because there was no point in increasing the area of the discussions; but it was said that there would be a very great push for greater regional representation in respect of economic and military operations arrangements out of those regions.

He observed that it was obvious even from a casual scrutiny of the matter, that India was squarely in line as a crucial region and he personally had been urging that they get to work on it. In this respect he said that he had written the Viceroy saying he thought that an American mission there would be very useful, though he had had no reply.

I said that I had noted his earlier suggestion looking towards this which was made to Mr. Wallace Murray;6 and that while I could not speak for the Government, my personal view was that some such measure might be of considerable use. I said I would look about a little and see what could be done if the Government were to take up his suggestion; we had some men here, like Henry Grady, who were more or less familiar with the subject matter. Naturally, I could not say what the Government would ultimately do.

(3) Sir Girja then said that there had been consideration of military matters. He fully approved of the principle of the single high command. But he thought such a command would have to maintain the closest contact with the representatives of all regions, especially those providing and equipping military contingents so as to get the maximum effect. For this reason he had written recommending that a high military officer be sent to Washington, attached to his mission, available to give and to obtain technical information, and generally to represent the Indian point of view. He said that this, of course, was primarily an internal matter for India to determine but he thought we might be interested. I confined myself to saying I thought this might prove useful.

Sir Girja concluded by pushing his idea of an American mission to assist Indian production.

I said that particularly in view of the Report of India’s War Effort which he had been good enough to leave with me, it seemed to me there were distinct possibilities in the idea.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.