701.0645/4

The Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

No. 218

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s airmail instruction No. 5 dated February 1, 1943,85 in which the various exemptions from taxes enjoyed by the Agent General for India and the members of his staff were outlined, and in which the Mission was instructed to request exemption from similar taxes in India for the members of its staff.

The Mission addressed a formal communication to the Secretary to the Government of India in the External Affairs Department on May 18, 1943, a copy of which is enclosed,86 noting that the Office of the Indian Agent General is granted all the privileges and immunities accorded to any other diplomatic establishment in Washington, outlining the various exemptions from taxes enjoyed by the Indian Agent General and his staff, and requesting that exemption from similar taxes in India be granted to the members of this Mission.

In reply to this communication a letter has been received from the Under Secretary87 to the Government of India in the External Affairs Department dated July 9, 1943, of which a copy is enclosed.86 The Under Secretary notes in his reply that the Government of India does not know the nature or financial implications of some of the taxes under reference, and requests to be informed what the taxes are, what payments they entail, and to be provided with an indication of the corresponding Indian taxes where such exist.

The Mission does not have at hand the detailed information requested by the Government of India, The implications of the Under Secretary’s letter reach much further, however, than his request for further data, and are explained below in order that the background of the subject may be clarified.

In the experience and relations of this Mission with the External Affairs Department it has been made abundantly clear that the Government of India is not disposed to grant more than a modicum of privileges of a diplomatic character to the members of this staff. The Department is well aware of the unsatisfactory situation that has prevailed in India for a considerable period of years with regard to the status of our consular officers; in a broad sense the present attitude of the Government of India in the matter of diplomatic privileges reflects an extension to this office of the traditional policy of the Government of India vis-à-vis foreign representation. Although it is not [Page 243]within the purview of this despatch to discuss the question in detail, this brief reference to its broader aspects is essential to an understanding of the problem under present consideration.

The Government of India has manifested no interest in, nor expressed any appreciation for, the various privileges accorded to the Indian Agent General in Washington and the members of his staff. The Government’s narrow attitude is reflected in the observation contained in the last paragraph of the Under Secretary’s letter of July 9, 1943, wherein he states, “We note that the staff of the Indian Agent Greneral are not exempt, as are the staff of the U. S. Mission, from obtaining licenses to possess certain small arms and ammunition.” Thus, in response to the Mission’s note outlining the numerous material privileges and exemptions enjoyed by the Indian Agent General and his staff, the Government of India singles out an item of small consequence which it believes to be unreciprocated. Further, the Under Secretary has in private and informal conversation intimated that there is hardly a fair basis for reciprocity in matters of this nature in view of the fact that there are many more American officials in India, who would be benefited thereby, than Indian officials in the United States.

Underlying the attitude of the Government of India are various factors which may be summed up briefly as follows: (1) This office is not considered by the Government of India, for constitutional reasons, to be a diplomatic Mission; (2) As India is not an independent country, the External Affairs Department has limited experience in, or knowledge of, the personal prerogatives of accredited diplomatic representatives; (3) As the association between the Indian representatives in Washington and the English officials of the External Affairs Department lacks personal interest and service spirit which ordinarily characterize the Foreign Services of independent countries, there is ample substantiation for the suspicion that it is of little moment to the Government of India whether the Indian representatives in Washington are accorded the broad courtesies and exemptions under discussion.

In view of the above the Department’s instructions as to what further steps should be taken would be appreciated.

Respectfully yours,

George R. Merrell
  1. Addressed to Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt in India, p. 233.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Capt. L. A. O. Fry.
  4. Not printed.