845.00/2–2146: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State


2179. In discussing Cabinet Mission to India,7 Patrick8 Under Secretary of India Office observed to us that essential point was emphasis on urgency in implementing announced policy as soon as elections are completed and he said that no change in basic policy was involved nor would Mission affect position of Viceroy who had been previously consulted and fully approved. Reason for handling matter in this way was to avoid loss of time such as had characterized Cripps’ negotiations9 by enabling Mission to make decisions on spot within scope of its terms of reference and at same time to give clear evidence of earnestness of British intentions. Patrick said he personally entertained misgivings regarding “throwing in all our reserves” at one time and observed that it would be difficult in circumstances to determine next step if Mission failed. Govt higher ups, however, had thought otherwise and in addition it had been necessary to take weather conditions into account since it might be difficult for man of Pethick-Lawrence’s advanced years to make journey later in season. Asked whether famine and riots had been motivating causes for decision to send Cabinet Mission Patrick replied in negative.

Regarding work of Mission Patrick said its main task would be to get representative Indian leaders to work together in setting up constitution making body and new executive council. If that could be achieved Mission could pack and come home and leave actual constitution making to Indians but if it failed job of attempting to carry through plan with only partial Indian support would have ominous implications. Stumbling block was of course Pakistan and Patrick observed that whereas lie had felt at the time that Jinnah10 might be using this demand primarily for bargaining purposes it was obvious that movement had now gained such momentum that doubtful if Jinnah or anyone else could apply the brakes. It was on this point [Page 80]that talks between Gandhi11 and Jinnah had broken down last year when in reply to Gandhi’s question re possible integration of Pakistan in common defense plan for India Jinnah had replied that “his people” looked to linking up with the Arab states.

Referring to persistent allegations particularly in US that British exploiting communal and native state issues to prolong British control Patrick said that irrespective of degree to which such considerations may or may not have figured in British official thinking in past there was no question regarding complete sincerity of present Govt’s desire to fulfill its pledges in respect of India. Such difference of opinion as does exist is largely between those who feel that Britain has certain responsibility to be discharged and others usually the inexperienced who would be willing to cut India loose without further ado.

Re Parliamentary group which recently returned from visit to India Patrick said that Mission had not been productive of any constructive result because views of members had been so widely divergent. He did not think that group would prepare depart [report] but assumed that members would use floor of Parliament as means for ventilating their views.

Sent Dept. as 2179; repeated New Delhi as 2.

  1. British Prime Minister Clement Attlee had announced on February 19 that a special mission of Cabinet members would be sent to discuss with Indian leaders and the Viceroy an agreement on constitutional issues with the object of preparing India for independence. The mission was to be composed of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and Mr. A. V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty.
  2. Sir Paul J. Patrick, Acting Assistant Under Secretary of State, India Office.
  3. Sir Stafford Cripps, then Lord Privy Seal, had headed a mission to India in 1942. For documentation on efforts by the United States to prevent failure of the Cripps Mission to India, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, pp. 619 ff.
  4. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, President of the Muslim League.
  5. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian nationalist leader, formerly President of the Indian National Congress.