Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Henderson)

Participants: Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, Indian Agent General
Mr. Henderson–NEA
Mr. Berry–ME45

The Indian Agent General called this morning at our request. Mr. Henderson opened the conversation by saying that we simply wished to advise him informally of the nature of and the reasons for our [Page 264]desire to postpone a decision on the above British proposal pending the results of the constitutional steps about to be taken in India. Mr. Henderson added that a note to this effect had gone to the British Ambassador this morning. Mr. Henderson emphasized our great desire to exchange fully accredited diplomatic representatives with India and that we only wished to postpone a decision pending developments.

Mr. Berry reminded Sir Girja that it was felt in 1941 that the type of representation then exchanged between the Governments of the United States and India was the type most appropriate to India’s constitutional status at that time and that no basic change in India’s constitutional status had occurred since that date. He added, therefore, that it would seem premature, especially in the light of impending events in India, to make an important change at this time.

Sir Girja replied that our position was legally and constitutionally unassailable but that he felt we might bear in mind that the Government of India has since 1941 been granted a wider scope in the conduct of its own affairs. He referred in this connection to India’s membership in the United Nations Organization and its participation in the Far Eastern Advisory Commission. Mr. Berry replied that this did not alter the fact that the Viceroy still possesses the veto power and that basic policies, both political and economic, are formulated in London. He added that only recently our Commissioner in New Delhi had reported that one of the highest Indian officials of the Government of India had told him that he could do nothing in the way of ameliorating India’s import restrictions with regard to American firms46 as all policies in connection with such matters were dictated from London.

Mr. Berry then expressed the fear that, were we to accede to the British Government’s proposals at this time, such action might very well be used by one party or other as campaign material during the forthcoming elections. Sir Girja replied that he perceived little likelihood of this.

Mr. Henderson here re-emphasized our desire to exchange full diplomatic representation with India and that we simply wished to postpone a decision for a few months pending developments. Sir Girja replied that even after the elections were over about April 1, 1946, the actual constitutional position would not be changed until a constituent assembly had drafted a new constitution for a self-governing India which might require several months or even years so that postponement at this time in effect meant postponement indefinitely. Mr. Berry replied that there was something more to a constitution than the written word and that no country was more familiar with conventions than [Page 265]the United Kingdom. He added, therefore, that it was quite possible that the Viceroy would succeed in forming an interim national government after April 1, 1946 by means of informal assurances to the representative Indian leaders that the veto would be used sparingly. If such leaders were convinced that India was in effect self-governing under such an arrangement, there would be a new situation.

Sir Girja stated that he believed that exchange of fully accredited Ministers at this time would be of assistance to India on the road to self-government. Mr. Berry replied that such a step would be strongly resented by every representative Indian because it would publicly put this Government on record as believing that India is already self-governing when such in fact is not the case.

[Here follows expression of personal views by Sir Girja.]

  1. J. Lampton Berry, Assistant Chief of the Division of Middle Eastern Affairs.
  2. For documentation regarding this subject, see pp. 269 ff.