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

The British Minister25 came in to see me at my request.

I asked him if he would be courteous enough to inform the British Embassy of the status of the proposed Indian Supply Mission. I said that the matter had been first raised informally by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai; that we had considered the matter and brought it to the point where the proposal seemed to be in order; that we had then taken the matter up with the Supply Council, headed by Sir Clive Baillieu and Mr. Batt; that Sir Clive Baillieu had cabled to London; and that the answer had come to us in the form of a message from the Government of India to Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, formally inviting this Government to send such a mission. It had thus apparently been fully discussed in London, and I gathered that no further formalization was needed. Indeed, I said, I presumed that Sir Girja had probably kept Lord Halifax fully informed.

The Minister said that he was not sure on the point but he assumed that this had been done. He seemed to think it was an excellent idea to have taken it up through Sir Clive Baillieu. He said that, in any case, Sir Girja was of course a Minister on the staff of the British Ambassador, and therefore when he spoke he spoke for the Ambassador.

I said that as to this last, I hoped the Minister would guide me in the complexities of the British constitution. We were, frankly, a little unclear on the point. Sir Girja had come here with letters accrediting him to this Government, directly from the King. When he spoke to us he spoke by instructions of the Government of India, apparently transmitted through the Viceroy. Further, he had signed the Declaration by United Nations as a representative of India and under instructions of that Government. This appeared to be a line of authority extending, of course, from the British Empire, but distinct from the line of authority of the British Embassy.

I said we had not the slightest desire to enter into a matter which was plainly an internal British matter; but it was obvious that a constitutional development in India was now going forward with some rapidity, and I should be glad to have some guidance on the subject from the British Minister.

Mr. Hall said that, speaking frankly, he was not too clear about the [Page 612] situation himself. They had a kind of compromise arrangement by which despatches in respect of India came to Sir Girja, but he understood that they came to Lord Halifax for the guidance of Sir Girja. He said the status of India was obviously changing pretty rapidly and that the present arrangement was one of those compromises which settled nothing but which worked for the time being.

I said that Sir Girja had raised the question, which, of course, we were unable to answer. In practice, we were dealing with Sir Girja on Indian affairs much as we should deal with a representative of any of the dominions, and on the same basis as that maintained between our own diplomatic agent and the authorities in India. Mr. Hall said that was entirely right and proper.

I asked whether the newspaper accounts of possible clarification of the status of India were accurate, and he said that they were in the sense that some step clarifying the situation was expected. He seemed entirely sympathetic to a liberalization of the position of India.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Noel Hall.