740.0011 Stettinius Mission/146

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Foy D. Kohler of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs20

Participants: Sir David Monteath, Under Secretary of State for India,
Mr. Eric E. Crowe, Foreign Office,
Mr. P. J. Patrick, India Office,
Mr. A. H. Joyce, India Office,
Mr. Wallace Murray, Director, Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, Department of State,
Mr. Foy D. Kohler, Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, Department of State,
Mr. Robert D. Coe, American Embassy.

Sir David and Mr. Murray reviewed the correspondence regarding the request of the United Press for communications facilities in India which has taken place between the Embassy and the Foreign Office during the past year, based on the Department’s telegram number 2009, March 31, 12 noon [midnight], to London; London’s number 5650, August 27, 7 p.m., to the Department, and the Department’s number 5684, September 12 [16], 12 midnight to London.21

Sir David said that he thought that it had been accepted that land line facilities were simply unavailable and mentioned that the Government of India had recently asked for 20,000 miles of telephone [Page 298] and telegraph circuits which were badly needed for the Indian railroads and regarded as indispensable to the war effort.

As regards the proposed wireless circuits he said that the Government of India felt that were such equipment available it should be used for official purposes. Elaborating as regards the security aspects of this question, Mr. Patrick begged us to believe that the Government of India was perfectly sincere in saying that the proposed use of radio circuits was quite out of the question. He pointed out that much foreign news even though passed by British or American censorship was not necessarily suitable for publication in India; and that such news, as well as the domestic news transmitted by this method, would be heard by the Japs. He added that there was, of course, always danger of the improper use of wireless equipment or of its use by unauthorized persons, and that the Government of India was simply unable to provide enough control personnel to assure safety.

Mr. Murray said that he appreciated the reasoning of the Government of India but that frankly he could not say that we were satisfied with it. He emphasized that there was no discrimination whatsoever against Reuters22 in the United States and that that company had absolutely equal access to all available American facilities for the transmission of its news service both within the country and abroad. He continued that it was difficult to understand why, if the Government of India was so short on communications facilities desperately needed for war purposes, it had not long since taken over for its own use the land line system now leased to Reuters and placed all news services, both Reuters and others, on the same basis as regards the use of any facilities which might still be available after official needs have been met. He said that the matter would certainly have been handled this way in the United States, if a similar situation existed. He continued that he was concerned over the possible effect of this matter of apparent discrimination on the good relations which must prevail between the British and ourselves, pointing out that the United Press could have a widespread influence on public opinion in the United States if it felt that it had been deliberately discriminated against by the Government of India. He went on to say that the attitude of the Government of India had been completely negative in this matter being limited to a flat refusal, with unconvincing explanations, of the proposals which had been made to it by the United Press and supported by the American Government. He suggested that it would be quite possible for the Government of India to take a positive rather than a negative approach: that if it were absolutely necessary for them to say “no” to the specific proposals which had been advanced they might [Page 299] say what they could offer instead in the way of facilities for the. United Press.

In reply to this exposition Mr. Patrick and Mr. Joyce claimed that Reuters facilities were in fact placed at the disposition of the Government of India and used rather generously by the latter; that Reuters had simply been in the field first and made the contracts, both with the Government of India and with the newspapers it serves under which it is now operating; that under normal circumstances any competing company would have full opportunity to secure the same facilities; and that the cancellation of the Reuters contract by the Government, aside from being legally impracticable, would result in a complete disruption of news service facilities in India, since no agency would then be in a position adequately to serve the Indian press.

The British representatives agreed, however, that they were anxious to avoid any disturbance of Anglo-American relations because of this matter and that they would examine the question carefully again with a view to recommending to the Government of India that it make every effort to make existing facilities available to the United Press to the fullest extent compatible with war needs.

  1. Mr. Kohler and Mr. Wallace Murray, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, were in London to discuss Near Eastern subjects in connection with general talks inaugurated on April 7 between the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius) and officials of the British Foreign Office; for report to the Secretary of State by the Under Secretary on his mission to London, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, pp. 289, 292, and 294, respectively.
  3. British news agency.