Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
The Agent General for India, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, called at his request. I inquired about the general trend of world affairs as they affected his country. He replied that the United States’ victories in the Coral Sea and at Midway had very much heartened the people of his country and that the morale had definitely improved. I then proceeded to make several inquiries of him. First, I asked him the size of the Indian Army. He replied that there were 750,000 men in the Army, of which 250,000 were well trained and good fighting troops. He added that they were without airplanes and sufficient [Page 671] tanks, et cetera, et cetera, leaving the impression that they were not in a state of military preparedness to fight effectively. I then inquired as to how soon they could get ready to make a real fight if they were so disposed. He parried the question by falling back on the 250,000 men who he said could fight almost any time and by referring also to the fact that his country had sent some twenty odd divisions abroad to fight in Africa, Syria, Iran, Iraq and one division to defend Singapore.
I asked him pointblank as to what were the real points on which Cripps and the Indian officials and leaders clashed with the resultant collapse of the Mission.88 He said that one point was that political leaders said that since Great Britain had assumed responsibility for the protection of India and since they were looking forward to freedom at no distant date, they felt that it was Britain’s responsibility to furnish protection. The second point that governed the situation was that the British, while proposing at the end of the war to place India on all fours with other self-governing dominions in the British Empire, insisted that all treaties existing between States in India and the Central Government should not be breached unilaterally. This was understood to be in deference to the Indian Princes who had supported the British Government in carrying on the war. He said this latter was the biggest cause of the breakdown of the Cripps Mission. I inquired whether a difference of opinion about who should dominate the military operations of India against the Axis nations was not another controlling factor. He replied that in his judgment it was not; that the British agreed that the Indian officials could have complete control of all military forces and supplies, et cetera, so far as the internal situation was concerned, but that when it came to directing military forces externally against the Axis powers the British were to have supreme command in the person of General Wavell. To the objection of the Indian leaders that India should have a greater voice in the conduct of the war the British reply was that an Indian official was on their Supreme War Council exactly as were an Australian, a Canadian and a South African official.
I inquired about the future situation and stated that Gandhi is evidently doing all in his power to play into the hands of the Japanese by preaching non-resistance and that no practical steps of resistance were being advocated by the other leaders, including Nehru. He said that the first step would be to supply India with tanks and airplanes and that this would take care of the situation against a possible Japanese attack which he did not anticipate within the next few months. I inquired as to what strength and influence Gandhi is exercising [Page 672] to lead the Indian people on the wrong course at this stage. He said that Gandhi did not have great influence in spreading his doctrines but it was only when he would go to a given city, such as Calcutta, and Bombay, and call on the people to adopt his policy of non-resistance that his influence would be heavy. To this I replied that he could within a short time go to the center of many of the most populous areas and get in deadly results by his preachments. To this nothing was said in reply.