845.01/149: Telegram

The Personal Representative of the President in India ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

145. For the President and Acting Secretary. I have had two long sessions with Stafford Cripps today. He is advising London that the hour has arrived for a final effort to settle the differences here.

Despite Nehru’s insistence Cripps is unwilling to modify the provision in the draft declaration regarding non-acceding provinces. Situation in Muslim Provinces, particularly Bengal, appears to justify Cripps in this position.
Cripps recognizes principle of self-determination generally but in states where succession to rulership is guaranteed by treaty he insists that in the first instance treaty rights must be respected and negotiations carried on through treaty recognized rulers. Nehru as president of the All India States Peoples Conference is desperately insistent that treaties be disregarded and peoples, not rulers, be represented in Constituent Assembly.
Muslims and Sikhs fear that any outright agreement to give India Defense Minister as demanded by Congress would result in a Hindu Minister of Defense. Cripps and Wavell (with whom I have also conferred today) believe that the appointment of an Indian Minister of Defense would lead to chaos and loss of all army morale.

Cripps has already offered India a seat in the War Cabinet and in the Pacific War Council and has promised a place at the Peace Conference. He regards himself solely as a mediator to set up a plan whereby Indians may solve their problems after the British withdraw so that one group may not play the British against others.

Cripps is today advising the Prime Minister that the final decision must be based on one of three possible courses: (a) No further changes or concessions; (b) modify draft declaration by granting India Defense Minister if protected by agreement in writing that the Minister could take no action contrary to Empire war policy as exercised by the Commander-in-Chief who would remain; (c) convert [Page 627] the present Defense Ministry into War Ministry which would be left under the Commander in Chief and then create a new office of Minister of Coordinator of Defense placing in it relatively innocuous matters such as defense, public relations and appointing an Indian thereto.

Cripps violently opposes (a), prefers (b) but believes that War Cabinet, Commander in Chief, and Viceroy will all oppose both (b) and (c). Unless the President feels that he can intercede with Churchill, it would seem that Cripps’ efforts are doomed to failure. Cripps so believes too. Such failure will adversely affect war effort. I respectfully urge therefore that the President, without disclosing he is advised of Cripps’ cable, consider further effort with Churchill.

There is a small group in Congress which is pro-Japanese. The majority is anti-British and will not support the present draft declaration or any scheme that does not avoid placing Indians in the position of being mercenaries of the British. Nehru sought and had a conference with General Brereton before my arrival and expressed the view that there can be no improvement in essential production as long as production is regarded as for the British. Nehru felt that improvement could only be accomplished if requested by the United States for the United States, China, and India.

Industrial, military and political situation here much more serious than I was advised before arrival. Calcutta being partially evacuated and this has occasioned fear and large scale immigration by necessary industrial labor. The Advisory Mission already here is devoting its efforts to establishing necessary priority suggestions to be forwarded in next few days. Long term planning and studies must give way to urgencies [apparent omission] sought without more planes immediately but that somehow he47 will get through. We shall probably forward in next few days a direct appeal from him to the President for planes he regards as required immediately.48

  1. Apparently General Wavell.
  2. General Wa veil’s letter was transmitted by Colonel Johnson to the Department for the President and the Acting Secretary in telegram No. 155, April 6, 5 p.m., not printed (841.248/1190).