845.01/163: Telegram

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

170. For the President and Acting Secretary. The Congress delivered its rejection of Cripps’ proposals at 7:00 o’clock Friday night, Nehru sending me a copy. The rejection is a masterpiece and will appeal to free men everywhere.

My substitute defense amendment was informally agreed to at conference between Cripps, Nehru, and Congress President Thursday night but then after they disagreed on giving any authority to new Nationalist Government proposed by Cripps, Cripps said my formula meant same thing as his original amendment which was quite untrue and denied his earlier press remarks that Nationalist Government any more real self government now.

Cripps is sincere, knows this matter should be solved. He and Nehru could solve it in 5 minutes if Cripps had any freedom or authority. To my amazement when satisfactory solution seemed certain, with unimportant concession, Cripps with embarrassment told me that he could not change original draft declaration without Churchill’s approval and that Churchill has cabled him that he will give no approval unless Wavell and Viceroy separately send their own code cables unqualifiedly endorsing any change Cripps wants.

I never lost confidence until then. London wanted a Congress refusal. Why? Cripps’ original offer contained little more than the unkept promise of the First World War. Does England prefer to lose India to enemy retaining claim of title at peace table rather than lose it by giving freedom now? I have my own opinion about it.

The Indian Ocean is controlled by enemy; British shipping from India has been suspended; according to plan determined many days ago, British are retiring from Burma going north while fighting Chinese go south; Wavell is worn out and defeated; the hour has arrived when we should consider a replotting of our policy in this section of the world. Association with British here is bound to adversely affect morale of our own officers. Only the best should be sent and those who have failed elsewhere should not be dumped here as many have been in recent past. …

Nehru has been magnificent in his cooperation with me. The President would like him and on most things they agree. I have his personal promise to proceed to Calcutta immediately in effort to allay fear, settle General Motors and steel strikes, and keep industry operating there. I shall have his complete help; he is our hope here. I trust him.

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Of the 1,350,000 kilowatts of installed electric generator capacity in all India, 1,100,000 kilowatts is located east of the line Bombay–Cawnpore. In the area west of this line, the only area in which additional industrial capacity may be located with reasonable safety, electric power supply is limited to 250,000 kilowatts of which no surplus is available. Therefore landing or bombing in present industrial area will mean the end of India’s ability to aid herself materially industrialwise. America’s effort therefore must be toward direct aid. There is little opportunity for India to aid herself—particularly since Cripps, through no fault of his own, has failed.

Halifax’s speech53 added the finishing touch to the sabotaging of Cripps. It is believed here it was so intended and timed and I am told pleased Wavell and the Viceroy greatly.

  1. Apparently a reference to Lord Halifax’s radio address before Town Hall in New York on April 7; text printed in New York Times, April 8, 1942, p. 4.