The Chargé in India (Merrell) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 28—1:15 a.m.]
1228. From Weil. In conversation lasting hour and 50 minutes yesterday, I discussed with Liaquat Ali Khan points indicated in Deptel 939, December 19. With reference to Acheson December 3 statement, Liaquat said he agreed chaos in India would have repercussions throughout world and added he felt statement had been timely and was appreciated since in past he had felt perhaps Muslim League position had not been fully understood in Washington. He stressed “sacrifice” made by League in accepting Cabinet Mission plan June 6 even though it had not provided fully for realization of Muslim aspirations.
Liaquat said that under circumstances it was not likely a “miracle” would occur to bring about Congress-League agreement. He then discussed at length communal warfare in Bihar; said official estimates of 5,000 Muslims killed and 60,000 driven out of province were incorrect—that [Page 107]figures being collected by League indicated 30,000 Muslims killed and 100,000 Muslim refugees. He said his proposals to govt that rural Muslim population in Bihar be concentrated in villages of their own, that arms be issued to limited number of “responsible” persons for self defense and that Muslim personnel in Bihar police force be increased had been turned down. When I asked if these proposals presupposed impossibility of restoring communal harmony Liaquat said not necessarily but that even if conditions remained quiet for a while there was no telling when Hindus might again attack Muslims.
I asked whether Jinnah’s renewed references to Pakistan indicated League had abandoned idea of trying to work Cabinet Mission plan. Liaquat said not necessarily but that as result of Congress behavior League was beginning to feel that perhaps outright Pakistan would be only means of obtaining their objectives—namely to give Muslims scope for development culturally, educationally and economically. Liaquat said the next move was up to Congress; that League could do nothing until AICC announced decision regarding Dec 6 statement;65 that if Congress accepted statement unconditionally, League Council would decide whether to reverse July 29 resolution to stay out of Constituent Assembly.
I said that while logic of League position was understandable it had occurred to Dept that if some sort of assurance were given to Congress that League was willing to cooperate within framework of Indian Federal Union doubts and fears now affecting Congress attitude might be reduced and chances of unconditional acceptance of Dec 6 statement by Congress correspondingly increased. Liaquat said he did not see why Jinnah should give any assurances of this sort; that Congress with its “brutal” majority in Constituent Assembly was unjustified in entertaining fears; that if any party had cause to fear it was League; that if League intended to join Constituent Assembly merely for purpose of making false gesture of cooperation it could have done this long ago; that fact that League was waiting for Congress decision regarding Dec 6 statement was in itself evidence of League’s sincerity vis-à-vis Constituent Assembly. When I referred to Congress fears regarding group constitutions in sections with majority of Muslim members Liaquat said Muslim members would not be so stupid as to formulate constitutions which would be unfair to non-Muslim population.
When I inquired whether he thought that in spite of bitterness now prevailing there was any sort of move, however dramatic, which either Gandhi or Jinnah might make in effort to avoid disaster Liaquat said he doubted it; that declarations seemed to have little value and that [Page 108]Congress would have to prove by deeds whether it really desired to cooperate with League. When I asked if unconditional acceptance of Dec 6 statement would be regarded as evidence of Congress sincerity Liaquat said that this might be a beginning.
Liaquat discussed at some length his suspicion that Congress had no intention of trying to work the Cabinet Mission plan; that their aim was to establish a “Hindu Raj”; and that they felt strong enough to succeed. Liaquat said HMG had made two major mistakes: (a) they should never have regarded Congress acceptance of Cabinet Mission plan as genuine but Cabinet Mission was so eager to make negotiations appear successful that it recognized Congress acceptance even though Congress interpretation of plan was contrary to Cabinet Mission’s; (b) HMG should never have allowed interim govt to be formed in first instance without League participation.
Liaquat cited, as examples of Congress lack of desire to cooperate, its refusal to adopt Viceroy’s suggestion of coalition govts in all provinces. He said that when he and Nehru discussed this proposal with Viceroy he maintained that if Congress-League coalition were formed in Bengal Congress-League coalitions should be formed in all provinces with a view to establishing a basis for Congress-League cooperation at center. Liaquat said that Nehru flatly refused to consider Congress-League coalitions in Hindu majority provinces. As further evidence of Congress’ lack of sincerity Liaquat also cited Nehru’s speech at Meerut and referred with some bitterness to Patel’s Meerut speech in which he reportedly referred to “balance sheet” of communal riots.
Liaquat said in London he had told HMG that if they intended to withdraw from India within two or three years whether conditions at that time were peaceful or not they should withdraw immediately since after two or three years Hindus would have most of administrative machinery in their hands and Muslims fight for survival would be more difficult than it would be in immediate future. Liaquat also stated he had said in London that if chaos developed in India, USSR would move in but that officials in London had merely stated they hoped Cabinet Mission plan would work and a peaceful transfer of power would be possible.
I gathered from Liaquat’s remarks that he is not convinced British will withdraw from India regardless of conditions but probably believes and hopes they will remain indefinitely in hope of managing peaceful transfer of power.
With reference to Assam which is causing so much concern in Congress circles Liaquat said Muslim majority in section would not lay themselves open to charges of unfairness by formulating a group constitution which would ignore rights of non-Muslim population. [Page 109]He reiterated familiar League contention that large proportion of Assam population—particularly hill people—claimed by Congress as Hindus are merely non-Muslims; that having gained control of their votes Congress fears possibility of losing this control and therefore opposes grouping system which might result in their changing their political loyalties.
In accordance Deptel 939, I told Liaquat Dept felt acceptance by Congress of British and League interpretation of Cabinet Mission plan would be desirable and that this view had been conveyed to Congress leaders.
Throughout conversation Liaquat’s manner was cordial and he seemed anxious to explain every angle of League position. His bitterness against Congress however is so strong that he seems unable to recognize merits of League’s volunteering assurances of cooperation at this time.
Please repeat London. Paraphrase sent Moscow. [Weil.]