740.0011 Pacific War/2714½

President Roosevelt to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek39

All countries and peoples seeking to defeat the Axis powers will doubtless agree, without reference to the merits, that the unsettled controversy between those forces in India led by Mr. Gandhi and the British Government is unfortunate—equally unfortunate for all concerned. You and I naturally deplore this situation. The United Nations are especially interested in it by reason of its relation to the war situation. We have every desire to contribute to its adjustment.

It is scarcely necessary to reiterate the deep interest of this Government both under its longstanding policy and especially under the provisions of the Atlantic Charter, in independence for those who aspire to independence. This policy has been stated and reiterated over a long period and up to this hour by the official spokesmen of the American Government. It has been put into practical application in such cases as that of the Philippines. No one can misinterpret or misunderstand these crystal-clear acts and utterances of the Government of the United States.

It seems clear that despite all efforts on your part and on my part, without becoming actual parties to the internal controversy existing between the British Government and Mr. Gandhi speaking for himself and his followers, to aid in bringing about an amicable adjustment of this serious disagreement and controversy, it has thus far been impossible to do so. The Government of the United States has thus far been of the opinion that it could exert its influence and efforts more effectively in this matter by refraining from offering active mediation to both sides in the controversy which seems to be a combination of many facts and factors.

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You and I realize that irrespective of the merits of the case, any action which slows up the war effort in India results not in theoretical assistance, but in actual assistance to the armed forces of Japan.

We have sought in every consistent way to promote an adjustment which would tide over the war period in order that we may win a victory against barbarism.

We need India’s help in this and I wish Mr. Gandhi could see more clearly the need for this immediate help, and also that he could understand that the very worst thing that could happen to the people of India would be victory by the Axis powers.

I told the Pacific War Council today, including Mr. Soong, that I think your position and mine should be to make it clear to the British Government and to Mr. Gandhi and his followers that we have not the moral right to force ourselves upon the British or the Congress Party; but that we should make it clear to both sides that you and I stand in the position of friends who will gladly help if we are called on by both sides.

At the same time I think we should intimate to both sides that because both of them and China and the United States and all the other United Nations are in a struggle for existence, the assistance of India is vital to the common cause, including the cause of the people of India themselves.

I have in mind the history of the Thirteen American Colonies in 1775. Each Colony was a separate sovereignty. They set up differing republican forms of government. They had a loose Confederation, but when their independence was acknowledged in 1783 they realized they must have a breathing spell before they could set up a permanent constitutional form of federal government. They, therefore, went through a six year period of trial and error and discussion. Finally, they adopted a Federal Constitution which is in existence today—one hundred and fifty-three years later.

I think that you and I can best serve the people of India at this stage by making no open or public appeal or pronouncement but by letting the simple fact be known that we stand ready as friends to heed any appeal for help if that appeal comes from both sides. It is my thought that this simple fact need not even be put on paper because it should be obvious to all.

If we both pursue the policy above recommended we can later consult together as to the desirability and feasibility of making available our friendly offices should they be desired by the parties to the controversy.

For your information the following orders have been given to the American forces in India:

“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 of the Government [Page 717] of the United States is to aid China. American forces are not to indulge to the slightest degree in activities of any other nature unless India should be attacked by the Axis powers, in which event American troops would aid in defending India. American forces in India will exercise scrupulous care to avoid the slightest participation in India’s internal political problems, or even the appearance of so doing. American forces will resort to defensive measures only in the event that their own personal safety or that of other American citizens is endangered.”

I send you my very warm personal regards.

  1. Handed to the Chinese Ambassador (Hu Shih) by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton) on August 13, 1942.