845.00/12–1146: Telegram

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


1200. 1. When I called on Patel to discuss Acting Secretary’s statement (reference Department’s telegram 915, December 1056) and reiterated points therein Patel said he appreciated Department’s concern over possible effect of conditions in India on rest of world but felt US Government unduly influenced by British. He recited familiar story of how British had created communal electorates for purpose of dividing Indians and said India was now reaping results. Nowhere else in world said Patel had a constitutional plan been set up on basis of communal divisions. He said Congress had been ready to believe in sincerity of Labor Government’s offer of independence but that Labor Government was not living up to promises.

He went on to say Churchill57 “had won the war” but still had “a finger in India”; that Jinnah had gone to London to solicit Churchill’s help and to some extent had gained it. Patel said he had been opposed to sending Congress representatives to London and had asked Nehru not to go; that Congress could never accept HMG’s statement in which British had altered original cabinet mission plan; that Congress had been tricked but was “bearing it patiently”; and that Indians were peace loving people and Congress policy had always been one of nonviolence but that if Labor Government persisted in deception it would be “bad” for British in India.

Patel remarked that US Government seemed to follow policy of favoring the “strong”; that vote of US Delegation at UN against Indian proposal re South Africa was an example.58 He went on to say that if US Government had been in “full possession of facts” he was sure it would not have adopted attitude parallel to that of HMG re cabinet mission plan. When asked by Weil, who accompanied me, what facts he thought might not have been brought to attention of US Government he reiterated Congress view that Congress had been [Page 102]brought into interim government under false pretenses and that neither Viceroy nor League had lived up to respective promises. It was pointed out to Patel that US Government was familiar with Congress views as expressed by him and that it was Embassy’s impression that attitude expressed in Acting Secretary’s statement was influenced not by question of whether US wished to support British but entirely by considerations affecting future of Indian people and people of world. Patel, however, did not seem inclined to accept view that US Government’s attitude was not determined by policy of supporting British whenever possible. Since Patel seems obsessed with idea British are insincere in their independence offer I felt no useful purpose would be served by pursuing this point further.

Toward end of conversation Patel with reference US Government’s concern over peace in India and throughout world repeated Congress argument that if they made “concession” currently requested by British they would be putting a “premium on violence” and he remarked that in course of American revolution there was period when fighting became necessary.

While Patel showed considerable animation when stating his case his manner throughout conversation was cordial.

2. Rajagopalachari told me last night at dinner [apparent omission] at my house he had read my message to Nehru59 and thought it “very good”; said I should “not waste my time” talking to him (implication being that he agreed) but should talk with other Congressmen—particularly Patel. He said Congress had made concessions to Sikhs, untouchables and Hindu Mahasabha as well as to League and if it continued making concessions would itself “become a minority”.

He went on to say US view as presented in approach to Nehru was strong endeavor to support British; that Jinnah should be persuaded to accept HMG’s latest statement.60 When asked if Congress would accept it if League did he replied Congress could not commit itself in advance.

Rajagopalachari made the surprising statement that US had been first to introduce idea of ten year experiment—that British had not [Page 103]recommended this. I told him I was under impression this had been envisaged in original cabinet mission proposal and [apparent garble] called upon by Rajagopalachari to verify his belief confirmed my statement.

Later in evening Rajagopalachari said Congress could not possibly agree to interpretation of cabinet proposals which would inevitably place millions of Hindus under Muslim rule particularly in Bengal-Assam group. When asked how basis for a democratic government could be established as long as mutual distrust between Hindus and Muslims exemplified by this view persisted, Rajagopalachari evaded the issue.

For report on my brief interview with Nehru see my telegram 1196, December 10.61

Please repeat to London.

  1. Not printed; it requested reports on the reactions of Nehru and Patel to the statement by Mr. Acheson (845.00/12–1046).
  2. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister, 1940–1945.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 126 ff.
  4. Telegram 1196, December 10 (not printed) reported on a brief conversation in which Nehru invited Merrell to dine with him on Friday, December 13. At the time, Merrell had given Nehru a personal and confidential communication on the U.S. view on the Indian situation which, Merrell said, Nehru “had undoubtedly introduced into thus far inconclusive deliberations of Working Committee.” (845.00/12–1046)
  5. Reference is to a statement of December 6 by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom supporting the Muslim League’s contention that decisions by simple majority vote should prevail in the inter-provincial groups of the regional areas. The Congress Party had contended that each province should be allowed to vote separately on whether or not to join the groups. The position of the Department of State was given in telegram 7979 to London, November 30, p. 97.
  6. See footnote 59, p. 102.