845.00/1805: Telegram

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

158. I called this afternoon upon the Viceroy and read and left with him a paraphrase of your telegraphic instruction number 96 dated February 17, 7 p.m. He asked whether a similar communication had been made through Halifax, to which I replied that this would be possible but that I had no reason to think so. He reminded me that the final decision with regard to all such matters as Gandhi’s fast remained with London but this [that?] he was keeping the British Government daily advised of developments.

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I explained how anxious we were in view of the importance of India as a war base and the unfortunate consequences which might follow any widespread unrest should Gandhi die. Linlithgow replied that he and the British Government were united in the firm conviction that their present policy was right. All of his Governors, members of the British Indian Civil Service and his police were unanimous in feeling that they had the situation well in hand. They faced with equanimity the possibility of Gandhi’s death, although personally, he believed that Gandhi would survive the 21 days. Should he die, however, the Viceroy recognizes that there will be certain amount of trouble to cope with, but at the end of 6 months he believes this would pass and the atmosphere would become cleared and progress made easier. Gandhi he said had always sabotaged all efforts made by the British Government.

I left with the impression that he feels the importance of maintaining the prestige and power of the Government here and that the release of Gandhi would be interpreted by the Indian public as weakness and therefore to be avoided. The question of giving publicity to my visit did not arise during the conversation and I believe it is best to keep it strictly confidential for the present.