Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to President Roosevelt12

With both sides remaining adamant in their views, the Indian situation has reached an extremely tense and critical stage. Its development in fact constitutes the most important factor in determining the outcome of the United Nations War and especially the war in the East. The war aims which the anti-aggression nations have proclaimed to the world are twofold, first to crush brute force and second to secure freedom for all mankind. If India should start a movement against Britain or against the United Nations, this will cause deterioration in the Indian situation from which the Axis powers will surely reap benefit. Such an eventuality will seriously affect the whole course of the war and at the same time the world might entertain doubts as to the sincerity of the lofty war aims of the United Nations. This will not only prove a great disadvantage to Britain but will also reflect discredit to the democratic front.

At this juncture the United Nations should do their best, when there is yet time, to prevent the occurrence of such an unfortunate state of affairs. Your country is the leader in this war of right against might and Your Excellency’s views have always received serious attention in Britain. Furthermore for a long time the Indian people have been expecting the United States to come out and take a stand [Page 696] on the side of justice and equality. I therefore venture to lay before you my personal views on this question.

Inevitably Britain will regard the Indian National Congress’ recent demand as an attempt to take advantage of her present predicament. The step contemplated by the resolution of the Congress Working Committee, however, still leaves sufficient time and opportunity for the reaching of an agreement. During my recent visit to India, I earnestly advised the Indian people to consider their primary duty to join the anti-aggression front in a common struggle for mankind.

From the point of view of the Indian people, their consistent purpose is to secure national freedom. With this object in view the Indian National Congress, in seeking national independence, is dominated by sentiment rather than by reason. Consequently I believe attempts at repression in the form of either public censure or force, whether military or police with a view to compelling the Indian people to capitulate, will have the opposite result.

From the psychological point of view of the Indian, he considers that India before attaining her national freedom is not the master of her own vast territory and abundant resources. Just because he owns nothing, he has nothing to be afraid of. Moreover beyond national independence and freedom he demands nothing of the world. Likewise the Indian people as a whole only desire freedom for their country and their only expectation is that the United Nations would sympathize with them in their aspiration.

The Indian people are by nature of a passive disposition but are apt to go to extremes. I think that in launching its freedom movement today when Axis aggression is a pressing reality, the Indian Congress must have felt in their hearts a certain amount of anguish. If however the United Nations should show them no sympathy and pursue a laissez-faire policy and thereby cause them to despair, I greatly fear that following the National Congress meeting in August there is danger of the situation getting out of control. In case an anti-British movement or some other unfortunate incident occurs in India, the United Nations war in the East will be adversely affected immediately. For the sake of our common victory the United Nations must seek to stabilize the Indian situation and to secure the Indian people’s participation in the joint war effort.

The United Nations depend upon India for her to contribute to the war whereas the Indian people have little need to depend upon the outside world. From their own point of view their movement for independence and freedom is not something new that has come into existence after the outbreak of war. Hence they do not stop to think whether their movement will have any harmful effect on the world situation. This being the case they have no hesitation in taking whatever [Page 697] steps they may think necessary in furtherance of their national movement. Whether they are right or wrong is immaterial. The fact remains they have now already become irresponsive to even well-considered public opinion or a realistic analysis of India’s real interests. Once they abandon hope of an amicable settlement, they are liable to take any risk without hesitation even to the extent of sacrificing themselves and others.

The only way to make them reconsider their course of action is for the United Nations, and especially the United States which they have always admired, to come forth as third parties and to offer them sympathy and consolation. This will help them to regain their sense of proportion and strengthen their faith that there is justice in this world. Once the situation is eased it can be stabilized and the Indian people, grateful to the United Nations for what they have done, will willingly participate in the war. Otherwise the Indian people in despair will have the same feeling towards other members of the United Nations as towards Britain and when this comes to pass it will be the world’s greatest tragedy in which Britain is not the only loser.

So far as Britain is concerned she is a great country and in recent years she has been pursuing an enlightened policy towards her colonial possessions. She is one of the principals in this war against aggression. On the other hand India is a weak country. With this unprecedentedly extensive war in progress, naturally things cannot be handled in the ordinary manner. It is my opinion that in order to uphold the British Empire’s prestige and safeguard her real interests, the British should unhesitatingly show extraordinary courage, forbearance, farsightedness and resolution by removing the causes which tend to aggravate the situation. In this way the deceptive Axis propagandists will have no occasion to take advantage of these causes.

Should however the situation be allowed to drift until an anti-British movement breaks out in India, any attempt on the part of the British to cope with the crisis by enforcing existing colonial laws or by resorting to military and police force, will only help to spread disturbances and turmoil. The greater the oppression, the greater the reaction. Even if such measures should prove effective in curbing the non-violence movement, the spiritual loss and blow to the United Nations will far exceed that resulting from any reverse in the field. Such a situation will particularly be detrimental to Britain’s interests.

There is no doubt a section of the Indian people which, having lost their sense of proportion, is asking if India will never attain freedom, what choice does she have between Britain and Axis Powers. This mistaken idea the United Nations should of course do everything possible to correct. On the other hand the wisest and most [Page 698] enlightened policy for Britain to pursue would be to restore to India her complete freedom and thus to prevent Axis troops from setting foot on Indian soil. If Britain would reorientate her present attitude and spirit, I firmly believe that not only will Indian sentiment towards Britain undergo a radical change for the better but Britain’s action will have an ameliorating effect on the whole situation. Therefore I earnestly hope that the United States would advise both Britain and India in the name of justice and righteousness to seek a reasonable and satisfactory solution, for this affects vitally the welfare of mankind and has a direct bearing on the good faith and good name of the United Nations. The United States as the acknowledged leader of democracy has a natural and vital role to play in bringing about a successful solution of the problem.

In saying so I have not the slightest intention to arouse attention by exaggerated statements. The war aims of the United Nations and our common interests at stake make it impossible for me to remain silent. An ancient Chinese proverb says: “Good medicine, though bitter, cures one’s illness; words of sincere advice, though unpleasant, should guide one’s conduct.” I sincerely hope that Britain will magnanimously and resolutely accept my words of disinterested advice, however unpleasant they may be, and believe that they are voiced in the common interests of the United Nations.

In view of the critical situation and in view of China’s responsibilities as a member of the United Nations, I have ventured to offer you my views. This despatch is strictly confidential. It is only for Your Excellency’s personal reference. I hope Your Excellency will give the minutest consideration to such practical measures as will break the existing deadlock and avert a crisis. I shall persevere in my efforts. My only feeling is that the United Nations should lose no time in adopting a correct policy towards the Indian situation and in striving for its realization, so that our entire war effort will not suffer a major setback. I ardently hope Your Excellency will favor me with your sound judgment.

Chiang Kai-shek
  1. Copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.