123 P 54/565

Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to India, to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: Now that my final instructions2 and the letter from the President to the Viceroy3 have arrived, I am arranging with all speed for my departure. The Pan American have promised me accommodation from Foynes to Lagos on the 23rd, and if all goes well, I may pull into Nigeria on the afternoon of Christmas. Yesterday came the news that an Army plane was to be put at my disposal to transport me from Lagos to Delhi via Cairo, Karachi, etc. And so the great adventure is about to begin.

The appointment seems to have made a favorable impression over here in the press, among members of the Government and Indian experts. All have been most cordial from the Prime Minister4 down, although of course there are some of the old diehards who presumably feel otherwise. For instance, a caller this morning who has spent much of his life in India, regarded the Mission as not only highly significant, but as though happy events might automatically follow from it.

This attitude of mind, while of course pleasant, leaves me somewhat overwhelmed, and certainly dubious as to my own capacity to fulfill expectations. As I come into more personal contact with the problems, [Page 179] let us hope there will be some new light. There are two little trial balloons which I passed on to John Winant5 and which he is carrying back with him to Washington today. One is a suggestion emanating from Cripps,6 another from a highly intelligent Indian, a friend of Nehru,7 and I have asked John, if possible, to let me know to Delhi, in a cryptic message, how they are regarded by you and the President.

After arrival in Delhi my first job, as I see it, will be to come into personal touch with the members of the Governor General’s Council, in other words with the Government of India. After that, I think it may be good policy for me to visit at least some of the Provinces, notably the Punjab, where constitutional government is actually under way, and then I may find opportunities to visit the leading Hindu and Moslem Universities, and in this way show an interest in education.

As I see it, my job is first to secure, if possible, respect and confidence, not merely among those at the top, but as far down the line as I can go. Probably it would be wise to keep as far removed as possible from political subjects until I have achieved some success in gaining confidence. As one well-informed Englishman told me the other day, once that I had secured this, I would find myself a “center”. This in itself, however, creates problems and difficulties, through which I shall have to move warily.

I hope, Mr. Secretary, that you do not expect too much of me. I will do my best, but the more I learn of actual conditions, the more I appreciate the bitter divisions among the Indians themselves. One authority here interprets this increased bitterness as a struggle for party power resulting from the impending Dominion status promised by the British Government after the war. Each party therefore wishes to occupy a dominant position in the constitution-making power, and this is especially noticeable in the attitude of the Moslem League, which is gaining day by day in strength. The same authority admits that while the Indians declare they do not believe the British assurances, actually they do believe them, and are alarmed at the problem which is about to be put up to them, of creating out of so much internal discord a united nation.

I have been learning much during the last few weeks and I think the delay in getting under way has not been lost opportunity. I feel that I have the confidence of the British and their hope that out of my Mission will develop some light; that is at least one side of the picture which is of importance.

[Page 180]

I hope that you will give me all the advice you can in addition to the instructions that have already been sent to me, for I shall indeed need from time to time whatever guidance you and the President feel able to send me.

With best wishes, Mr. Secretary,

Sincerely yours,

William Phillips
  1. The Department’s basic instruction to Ambassador Phillips was sent in the Secretary of State’s telegram No. 5839, to London, November 20, 1942, ibid., p. 746. In a subsequent instruction, No. 5986, November 27, 1942, dealing principally with personnel and housing problems at the New Delhi Mission, the Secretary of State said in part: “The Department is concerned with the coordination, under the supervision of the Mission, of the work of the various civilian agencies of this Government now operating in India. Consideration has been given to the designation of a senior Foreign Service officer who would, under the chief of mission, supervise and direct, in so far as circumstances warrant, the work of the other agencies. Recommendations on the subject are requested after your arrival in India.” (123 P 54/534)
  2. The Marquess of Linlithgow.
  3. Winston S. Churchill.
  4. Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  5. Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production and formerly Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons; for correspondence on the Cripps Mission to India in 1942, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, pp. 619 ff.
  6. Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress Party.