The Officer in Charge at New Delhi ( Merrell ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 7:34 p.m.]
497. The following is a summary of Berry’s interview with Nehru this morning (reference my 495, July 17, 10 a.m.):
“I saw Nehru this morning for just over one hour. The main purpose of this interview was to ascertain, if I could, that there was really no basis of negotiation with the British Government under the Wardha resolution. After among series of questions Nehru finally stated that negotiations could be opened along the following lines. Let the British Government make a declaration acknowledging the independence of India here and now and requesting all the various; parties in India to get together and form a Provisional Government. This Provisional Government would for practical reasons involve only the immediate displacement of high British officials at the top. The Provisional Government after its formation would then negotiate with the British Government in the best of good will as to how together they could best organize and promote the war effort to the greatest possible extent. Nehru emphasized that the proposed declaration should be brief and in general terms suggested above in order that the chances of its success should not be jeopardized by details at the very beginning. Pie added that the declaration should not concern itself with communal questions as these by their very nature must of necessity be settled by the Indian leaders themselves. I inquired whether he thought such a declaration would be acceptable to Jinnah. He replied that Jinnah’s interests were fully protected in the proposed declaration inasmuch as if the Indian leaders themselves failed to [Page 689] form a Provisional Government to take over from the British that would be an end of the matter. Accordingly if Jinnah were not satisfied he could decline to join such a government and the British would then be fully justified in saying that the Indian leaders themselves could not agree on a government to displace the present one. Nehru informed me in the most earnest and categorical manner imaginable that the Congress could come to terms with Jinnah within 2 days after the promulgation of the declaration mentioned above provided the British Government kept hands off.
It went without saying, Nehru said, that the United Nations would receive the very fullest cooperation from the Provisional Government and that the Commander-in-Chief would be left full discretion as to military strategy and dispositions. The Commander-in-Chief according to Nehru would be surprised at the complete support he would receive. From my two recent interviews with Nehru it would appear, if he is to be believed, that the foregoing is the minimum formula under which a settlement with the Congress can be effected and civil disobedience movement thwarted.
I reopened the question of the anticipated briefness of the movement (reference my telegram referred to above) and learned that I was wrong in my inference that Nehru foresaw a brief movement because of his expectation that the Congress leaders would be jailed immediately. He said that the movement would go on no matter how many leaders were placed under arrest. He pointed out that it would only take a short time to tell whether the movement was meeting with success. If events showed that it was not attracting sufficient popular support it would of course be abandoned; if it attracted mass support but did not accomplish its purpose, it would likewise be abandoned. He added that in case of Japanese invasion of India or immediate threat of invasion before or during movement it would of course be necessary for the Congress to reconsider its position. He considers the movement has a fair chance of success.
I then questioned him as to the form the movement would take. He said that he could not say as this was entirely up to Gandhi and that the movement might and probably would take different forms as it progressed depending upon developments and British representative [repressive?] measures. He pointed out, however, that since the movement would be based upon non-recognition of British authority in India it would probably take the form of ignoring all British laws and orders.
He confirmed that Gandhi, after meeting of All India Congress Committee, would probably follow his practice of forwarding resolution to Viceroy for submission to London. It was also quite likely he said that further time would be consumed by waiting for provincial Congress Committees to confirm action of All Suclia [India] Congress Committee.”
Viceroy’s Executive Council has decided to do nothing until after meeting of All India Congress Committees. I am also reliably informed that Viceroy “has passed the buck” to London.