845.01/163½: Telegram

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

180. For the President and Acting Secretary Welles. The following is the text of a letter dated New Delhi, April 12, 1942, addressed to the President by Jawaharlal Nehru:

“Dear Mr. President, I am venturing to write to you as I know that you are deeply interested in the Indian situation today and its reactions on the war. The failure of Sir Stafford Cripps’ mission to bring about a settlement between the British Government and the Indian people must have distressed you, as it has distressed us. As you know we have struggled for long years for the independence of India, but the peril of today made us desire above everything else that an opportunity should be given to us to organize a real national and popular [Page 636] resistance to the aggressor and invader. We were convinced that the right way to do this would have been to give freedom and independence to our people and ask them to defend it. That would have lighted a spark in millions of hearts which would have developed into a blazing fire of resistance which no aggressor could have faced successfully.

If that was not to be as we wished it and considered necessary for the purposes of the war, the least that we considered essential was the formation of a truly national government today with power and responsibility to organize resistance on a popular basis. Unfortunately even that was not considered feasible or desirable by the British Government. I do not wish to trouble you with the details of what took place during the negotiations that have unfortunately failed for the present. You have no doubt been kept informed about them by your representatives here. I only wish to say how anxious and eager we were, and still are, to do our utmost for the defence of India and to associate ourselves with the larger causes of freedom and democracy. To us it is a tragedy that we cannot do so in the way and in the measure we would like to. We would have liked to stake everything in the defence of our country, to fight with all the strength and vitality that we possess, to count no cost and no sacrifice as too great for repelling the invader and securing freedom and independence for our country.

Our present resources may be limited for the industrialization of our country has been hindered by the policy pursued in the past by the British Government in India. We are an unarmed people. But our war potential is very great, our man power vast and our great spaces as in China would have helped us. Our production can be speeded up greatly with the cooperation of capital and labor. But all this war potential can only be utilized fully when the government of the country is intimately associated with and representative of the people. A government divorced from the people cannot get a popular response which is so essential; much less can a foreign government which is inevitably disliked and distrusted do so.

Danger and peril envelop United States [us] and the immediate future is darkened by the shadows of possible invasion and the horrors that would follow, as they have followed Japanese aggression in China. The failure of Sir Stafford Cripps’ mission has added to the difficulties of the situation and reacted unfavorably on our people. But whatever the difficulties we shall face them with all our courage and will to resist. Though the way of our choice may be closed to us, and we are unable to associate ourselves with the activities of the British authorities in India, still we shall do our utmost not to submit to Japanese or any other aggression and invasion. We, who have struggled for so long for freedom and against an old aggression, would prefer to perish rather than submit to a new invader.

Our sympathies, as we have so often declared, are with the forces fighting against fascism and for democracy and freedom. With freedom in our own country those sympathies could have been translated into dynamic action.

To your great country, of which you are the honored head, we send greetings and good wishes for success. And to you, Mr. President, on whom so many all over the world look for leadership in the cause of [Page 637] freedom we would add our assurances of our high regard and esteem. Sincerely yours (signed) Jawaharlal Nehru. [”]