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Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray)

During a call from the Indian Agent General this morning he discussed in some detail his relations with Lord Halifax and the efforts [Page 741]which he had been making to establish contact with the editors and publishers of outstanding American newspapers as well as weekly publications. He mentioned in this connection the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun, the Nation, and the New Republic.

After his recent return to Washington, Sir Girja said he had discussed with Lord Halifax and Harold Butler58a the impressions he had gained in various parts of the country as to the present American attitude with regard to the Indian problem. He said he concurred fully with the views expressed in a recent editorial in the London Times to the effect that the favorable attitude towards Great Britain which had followed the Cripps negotiations in India early this year had now been completely dissipated and that American irritation and dissatisfaction with British policy regarding India were steadily rising.

It appears that as a result of the above discussion of the situation a telegram to the Foreign Office was drafted in the British Embassy setting forth in a rather complacent manner the present American viewpoint on the Indian question as seen by the higher-ups in the Embassy. When the draft was sent to Sir Girja he insisted upon including a sentence at the end to the effect that “the increase in critical American opinion on the Indian question has been so great that it threatens seriously to affect Anglo-American relations”. This sentence was allowed to go through to London but, so far as Sir Girja was able to estimate, had no appreciable effect on Government opinion.

Sir Girja then related to me the story which he had told Mr. Berle recently, of Lord Halifax’s telegram to Lord Linlithgow expressing sincere concern over the situation in India and asking guidance from the Viceroy. According to Sir Girja, Lord Linlithgow showed considerable irritation in his reply to Lord Halifax; pointed out that the situation in India had radically changed since Lord Halifax’s time there; that it would be impossible at this time to open negotiations with the Congress Party; and, finally, that it was high time that Lord Halifax, instead of resting on the defensive in America on the Indian question, should pass sharply to the offensive and defend the policy of the British Government and the Government of India.

It was revealed further in my conversation with Sir Girja that before Lord Halifax made his last trip to London he discussed the Indian situation with Sir Girja and confided to him the proposals which he intended to make while in London. Lord Halifax said he would press for a complete Indianization of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and, in the all-important question of the Viceroy’s veto, would insist that the Viceroy agree to refrain from exercising his veto except after referring the matter at issue to London and receiving the approval of the British Parliament. Sir Girja, according [Page 742]to his story, countered this suggestion by stating that it would be in no way satisfactory to Indian public opinion, which had no confidence in the good faith of the British Parliament in dealing with India. He, on the other hand, suggested that Lord Halifax should press for the transfer of the Viceroy’s veto powers to a defense council in India made up of an Indian member sitting together with military representatives from the United Nations. Nothing short of this, he felt, would be acceptable.

After Lord Halifax’s return from London, Sir Girja questioned him as to what had happened and he was informed that nothing was decided upon beyond a “shifting about” of the Viceroy’s council and that he (Lord Halifax) was sure that nothing further could be done, granted the present attitude of the Prime Minister and Mr. Amery.

In conclusion Sir Girja said he had become discouraged in trying to defend Great Britain’s policy towards India, particularly after the deplorable impression made in this country by Mr. Churchill in his most recent pronouncement early in September on this subject. He has, consequently, refused to continue his earlier efforts as an apologist of British policy and has informed the Ambassador that if a defense of the British position is now in order in this country it would be well for him or his Embassy to undertake it.

In departing, the Agent General observed that he had purposely refrained from seeking appointments to see the President, the Secretary, or the Under Secretary, in view of these latest developments. He emphasized, however, that he stood entirely ready to be called upon by the President or any of the higher Department officials if they wished to consult him. He said he would accept without hesitation any such request. And, finally, Sir Girja referred again to the still unfilled position of American diplomatic representative at New Delhi. He added that suspicion was arising that perhaps the British did not want the post filled; that if such was the case he hoped we would immediately reply that we saw no reason for the continuance of an Indian Agent General in Washington, and in that case he would gladly relinquish his post.

  1. British Minister in Washington.