740.0011 Pacific War/2718: Telegram

The Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

591. To the President from Currie.36 There are disturbing evidences of a tendency on the part of Congress supporters to identify American forces and attitudes in India with the British. Gandhi has stated “You (Americans) have made common cause with Great Britain. [Page 713] You cannot, therefore, disown responsibility for anything that her representatives do in India.” Harijan August 9. There has already been minor incidents involving American troops. This tendency endangers your moral leadership in Asia and therefore America’s ability to exert its influence for acceptable and just settlements in postwar Asia. It is to Britain’s own long-term interest that Asiatic belief in American disinterestedness be preserved.

This position must, of course, be preserved in a way that will not unduly embarrass the British. I believe this could be done by making public a communication from you to Stilwell37 through Marshall38 defining our position in India and instructing troops on behavior and attitudes along lines of secret order dated August 8, with certain modifications.

Widespread belief prevails here that nonviolence phase is rapidly passing into violence. The thing to be avoided at all costs is the shedding of Indian blood by American troops. The ability of American troops to prevent this possibility arising would be greatly improved by public knowledge of instructions given them. This consideration also suggests the desirability of modifying point 4 in War Department instructions to Stilwell. In view of larger political interests involved, it is less important to protect property than to avoid shedding Indian blood. I am certain Chinese would concur in this view so far as their property is concerned. Defense of personal safety in point 4 below would actually in practice permit defense of vital military equipment. Clarification of our status here is of great importance in assuring the Chinese that we are not a party to British actions in India.

Racial problems of paramount importance might be minimized by stressing that the fundamental reason for our presence in India is to help the Chinese. It may be possible to persuade the Generalissimo to issue similar instructions to his forces in India. For all these reasons, I suggest a statement along the following lines:

“To Commanding General, American forces in India:

The President appreciates the difficult position in which American forces may be placed because of current developments in India. For your guidance in governing the conduct of American forces, he has directed me to communicate to you the following general statements of policy:

The sole purpose of the American forces in India is to prosecute the war of the United Nations against the Axis Powers. In the prosecution of the war in that area, the primary aim is to aid and support China in her war of resistance against Japan. Another aim is to aid in the defense of India in case of attack.
In the successful prosecution of the war, the American Government believes that the closest and most harmonious relations must be preserved between the Governments and peoples of all the United Nations.
In pursuance of this principle it is important that American forces in India should take scrupulous care to avoid any appearance of participation in India’s internal political problems.
It is recognized that the sole responsibility for the protection of American property and Chinese property entrusted to the care of American forces from acts of civil violence rests on the Government of India. American forces will resort to defensive measures only in the event that their own personal safety is endangered.”

Merrell concurs in this statement. Am unable to consult Stilwell as he is in Karachi but am communicating this message to him with the request that he inform General Marshall of his reaction. I shall proceed with plan to depart for Karachi tomorrow unless advised by you to the contrary. [Currie.]

  1. Lauchlin Currie, Administrative Assistant to President Roosevelt; he had been on special mission to China for the President.
  2. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, Commander of U. S. forces in India, China, and Burma.
  3. Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U. S. Army.