845.00/1804: Telegram

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

161. The pressure on me as the President’s representative to do something to save Gandhi’s life is increasing hourly. Our own press as well as the Indian press and constant visitors show impatience at what is regarded by them as failure on our part to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Indians seem to feel that pressure by the United States is their last hope.

The Viceroy is again confined to his bed but I telephoned to his private secretary this morning, who is one of his closest advisers and informed him of the difficulty in which I find myself. I said that I was particularly embarrassed with regard to my own American correspondents and would like to be able to say merely that I had called on the Viceroy yesterday (reference my 158, February 18, 7 p.m.) he replied that he considered any mention at this time, either here or in Washington, of my visit would be “disastrous” but he promised to refer the matter to the Viceroy. He later telephoned that the Viceroy likewise disapproved of any mention of it but suggested a statement to be made by me to the effect that the Viceroy was keeping me in the [Page 197] closest possible touch with the matter. This I considered would be worse than saying nothing at all as it might be construed as concurrence with the Viceroy’s policy. I informed the private secretary that I could only report the situation to Washington.

I had an interview for one hour this morning with Rajagopalachari who emphasized the importance of the American Government making its position known in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable conclusion in the Asiatic mind that the United States was collaborating with Great Britain in the present crisis and had formed a sort of white bloc.

Rajagopalachari said the time for the United States to make its position clear is now but that at all events it must do so later in order that white prestige in Asia may be maintained and to prevent Indians from drifting ideologically towards Japan. He emphasized over and over again the extreme importance of averting a white against colored complex in the East. He declared that bitter anti-British and, he feared, anti-white feelings would be the result of Gandhi’s death. He also said there would be a recurrence of disturbances throughout the country which the Government, however, would be able to put down by force. He put great pressure on me to do something to prevent this catastrophe. He is convinced that Gandhi cannot last more than 3 or 4 more days.

As I see it, the immediate problem has two sides; (1) that of the so-called [white?] prestige in India, and (2) the safeguarding of our own position in India as a military base against Japan, as well as our future relations with all colored races.

I suggest that if the President could exert friendly pressure on the British Government through Halifax as former Viceroy, I believe our record would be strengthened. But there is no time to be lost.