Memorandum by Mr. William Phillips, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, to the Secretary of State

The Atlantic Charter2 and statements by the late President Roosevelt on behalf of dependent peoples have led India to expect that she would have the sympathy of this country in her aspirations for eventual self-government. Our policy in the past has been not to disturb our relations with Churchill by unduly pressing upon him our concern with respect to India, because he is known to be sensitive on any subject pertaining to that country. In brief, Churchill regards India as “Britain’s backyard” and does not welcome any new approach.

Although responsible Indians realize that they cannot achieve immediate self-government, they do insist that the British Government should take some step now leading up to it. The Congress Party3 [Page 250]also insists that Nehru4 and other leaders should be released from prison and permitted to discuss the future of India with representatives of other parties.

The Viceroy5 is now in London on a short visit. The American Mission, New Delhi, advises us that his visit is “primarily political”. Our Embassy in London states that the Viceroy’s discussions with the India Office “are continuing and that some progress is being made toward the formulation of proposals for attenuating the present and past in the Indian political situation although little can be expected from the outcome”. It may be assumed therefore that Wavell is trying to persuade Churchill to reach a solution.

If only for purposes of record, it seems to me highly important that we should take advantage of this moment to informally express our interest and our hope for an amelioration of the unhappy conditions throughout India.

Consequently I venture to suggest that the Secretary of State be authorized to say informally to Mr. Eden6 that the President is disturbed by the reports of an increasing resentment among the Indian people against both Anglo-Saxon powers, and that he hopes, in the interest of our joint military effort and for the prestige of the white races in Asia, that advantage may be taken of Lord Wavell’s presence in London to make another effort to break the Indian deadlock.

William Phillips
  1. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.
  2. Leading Indian Nationalist Party and predominantly Hindu.
  3. Jawaharlal Nehru, “heir” in the Congress Party leadership to the Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Nationalist leader and proponent of non-violence. In August 1942 Nehru, with others, including Gandhi, and Maulana Azad, Congress Party president, had been imprisoned by the British Indian Government, following the evoking of mass civil disobedience by the Congress Party leadership. For documentation regarding interest of the United States in the Indian political and economic situation following the arrest of Gandhi and other Congress leaders, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, pp. 711 ff. Gandhi had been released on May 6, 1944.
  4. Field Marshal Sir Archibald P. Wavell, Viscount Wavell, Viceroy of India since October 1943.
  5. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at this time in the United States for the meeting of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held at San Francisco April 25–June 26; for documentation on this Conference, see vol. i, pp. 1 ff.