The Commissioner in India (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

No. 304

Sir: I have the honor to refer to despatch No. 2385 [2383] of October 11, 1945, from the Consulate General at Bombay entitled “Possible Consulate at Lahore, Punjab.”34

I agree with the opinion expressed in the despatch under reference that Lahore plus Amritsar together are of importance both commercially and politically. The attitude of the Government of India, however, remains one of opposition to normal consular representation [Page 260]of any kind except at the principal ports; this attitude will, of course, change when India takes another step or two towards self government, and it is possible that a change might be effected now should the United States wish to request it.

In this connection there is enclosed a copy of a memorandum of a conversation between Mills of this office and the Secretary of External Affairs35 regarding the attitude of the Government of India towards the establishment of a consular section in the Mission.

Respectfully yours,

George R. Merrell

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of Mission at New Delhi (Mills)

During a call on Col. Burnett on October 4, 1945, I asked him if he could tell me, for my information, the present situation with regard to the establishment of consular representation in New Delhi. I pointed out that two officers of the Mission, Mr. Flood36 and Miss Monroe,37 were accredited as consular officers at Calcutta, but that the present arrangement appeared to me to result in much lost motion and unnecessary red tape. As an example, I mentioned the necessity when performing notarial services to send the documents, together with rupees to cover the fees, to Calcutta for completion resulting in considerable delay. A few days before, I told him, Lt. General Wheeler38 was put to considerable inconvenience with respect to Miss Wheeler, his daughter, who is a civilian employee of the Army. General Wheeler wished to have his daughter accompany him in his plane on his return to the United States. Her passport, however, had expired and only a consular office could renew it. In this case General Wheeler sent a special courier by plane to Calcutta with his daughter’s passport and extension forms so it could be extended, and the Mission had to telephone Calcutta by long distance so the Consulate General would be sure to be prepared rapidly to take care of this service. I also pointed out the great inconvenience to British and Indians residing in New Delhi who wished to travel to the United States by air. If they were travelling in a private capacity they could only be granted American visas by a consular office and this often meant that they had to spend a day in Karachi, for example, in order [Page 261]to obtain a visa, or make a special trip from Delhi to one of the cities where there are consular offices prior to embarking on their journey.

Col. Burnett stated that he quite realized that the absence of a consular section in the Mission resulted in considerable extra effort. He stated, however, that the policy of the Government of India remained that of refusing to permit the establishment of foreign consular officers at any interior point in India, the one exception being the Consul Generals of Iran, Afghanistan and Nepal who are established in New Delhi, this being provided for by special treaty arrangements between India and the three countries in question. When I asked why the Government of India objected to foreign consuls at interior points he stated that the policy dated back to Company days39 when there was a question of protection and also of intervention in Indian political affairs by foreign agents. He added that obviously if India advanced on the road to self-government the policy would be changed. I asked whether the policy of excluding foreign consuls from interior points was brought up for reexamination from time to time. Col. Burnett replied that he thought it was and asked whether the American Mission wished to raise the question now so that there could be a reexamination at this time. To this I replied that at the moment I was merely making inquiry as to the situation on my own initiative and without having been able to consult the Commissioner: but that on the latter’s return I would tell him of the conversation and he might consider it advisable to request instructions from the Department of State.

I gathered the impression that if the Mission presented a request to establish a consular section in New Delhi with vigor, it might receive favorable consideration from the Government of India. Upon return from his consultations in London in June 1945 the Viceroy40 spoke of a plan of the British Government to accredit a diplomatic representative to the Government of India. Moreover in September 1945 the Office of the Chief Representative of the British Board of Trade (British Trade Commissioner) moved his office from Calcutta to Delhi. In view of this precedent it is believed that the Government of India could not, with logic, continue to oppose the initiation of trade promotion activities in the Delhi area by a consular branch of the Mission, if one were established. This particular aspect of the case, however, has not yet been discussed with the Government of India.

[Page 262]

There are in British India nine cities at interior points having a population of over 200,000, namely: Delhi, Lahore, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Amritsar, Poona, Cawnpore, Agra, and Nagpur, their importance from the standpoint of population being in the order listed. Lahore plus Amritsar, however, is much more important than any of the others taken singly, although almost equalled in importance by Delhi plus Agra. The Indian States41 are prohibited from carrying on relations with any foreign countries except through the Crown Representative (i.e. the Viceroy and the Political Department), although there are at least three cities in the Indian States which are of sufficient importance so that, except for this situation, the establishment of consular offices might be considered, namely Hyderabad, Bangalore and Benares.

I am of the opinion that at an early date the Department should be requested to instruct the Mission to take up with the Government of India the establishment of consular offices at both Delhi and Lahore, the former to be a consular section of the Mission.

Sheldon T. Mills
  1. Not printed.
  2. Lt. Col. R. R. Burnett, Joint and Acting Secretary to the Government of India in the External Affairs Department.
  3. Douglas Flood, Secretary of Mission at New Delhi; also Consul at Calcutta.
  4. Mildred I. Monroe, Attaché at New Delhi, also Vice Consul at Calcutta.
  5. Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler, Commanding General, India–Burma Theater.
  6. The East India Company period, 1765–1857, when the Company directly controlled the administration of government in India, under charter grant from the British Parliament.
  7. Field Marshal Sir Archibald P. Wavell, Viscount Wavell, Viceroy of India since October 1943.
  8. The 560 or so separate states ruled by local princes or princely governments, whose only constitutional bond was their common direct relationship with the British King-Emperor who, through the Crown Representative in India (always the Governor-General and Viceroy), wielded paramount power; this was in contrast to the centrally governed provinces of British India whose administration in India was headed by the Governor-General-in-Council, in turn responsible to a British Cabinet officer in London, the Secretary of State for India.