845.00/12–2946: Telegram

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

secret

1231. From Weil. In accordance Deptel 947, December 2666 I asked Liaquat Ali Khan yesterday to convey Department’s views to Jinnah. In course of an hour’s conversation Liaquat undertook to explain why he felt Jinnah would not be receptive at this time. Liaquat expressed opinion that if Congress accepted December 6 statement and prior to League Council meeting which Jinnah would call to consider Congress decision we conveyed to him our views on importance of League cooperation within framework of Indian Union establishment in accordance Cabinet mission plan he believed expression of our views might have its effect on Jinnah but seemed convinced Jinnah could not be persuaded to offer assurances of any sort until such time as Congress might accept December 6 statement.

In support of his position Liaquat reviewed and expanded on points brought out in conversation December 26 (Embtel 1228, December 27): He said Congress fears regarding grouping were quite unjustified; that he felt that if assurances concerning treatment of minorities under grouping plan were to be given by any one they should come from Congress—in regard to Muslims living in Hindu majority provincial group; that in any case His Majesty’s Government had declared they [Page 110]would not agree to independence unless adequate safeguards for minorities were provided. With framework provided by Cabinet mission plan—if League agreed to participate—Liaquat said League position was that Congress had never officially raised this question and that it would be difficult for Jinnah to give Congress assurances on this point when Congress had not actually accused League of not intending to work within framework of Cabinet plan once it accepted it.

I said I appreciated his point of view re Congress fears about grouping but that these fears were a potential obstacle to acceptance by Congress of December 6 statement; and that regardless of whether Congress had made any definite accusations concerning League’s intentions vis-à-vis working Cabinet mission plan there seemed to be considerable doubt on this point in Congress circles—increased possibly by Mr. Jinnah’s recent references to Pakistan. I said that while I understood logic of Liaquat attitude question arose as to whether in view of gravity of situation assurances to Congress that League would cooperate within framework laid down by Cabinet mission in [if?] Congress accepted December 6 statement might not encourage him to accept statement.

Liaquat said Jinnah could not commit himself until such time as League Council might meet; that since Bihar massacres feeling against Hindus had been running so high that if Jinnah gave Congress assurances without consulting Council many of his followers might think they were being betrayed and chances of Council members following Jinnah’s lead when they met would be reduced accordingly. Liaquat said he could tell me frankly that when Council met in June to consider Cabinet mission plan Jinnah had brought pressure on various members to gain their support for acceptance of plan but that now situation was different; if Jinnah appeared to prejudice issue he might be faced with rebellious Council. Liaquat added he felt it would be better to allow League followers as long a time as possible in which to “blow off steam” (re Bihar riots) after which they would be more likely to accept Jinnah’s lead at a Council meeting.

I asked Liaquat whether he thought same argument would apply if Jinnah merely said he would recommend to Council that it accept and work Cabinet mission plan in toto if Congress accepted December 6 statement. Liaquat said for my private information Attlee had asked Jinnah this question in London and Jinnah had said he could make no commitment but that if Congress accepted December 6 statement he would call meeting of Council.

I remarked it was my impression that US public who had long taken friendly and lively interest in Indian independence were now somewhat puzzled by events in India; that they seemed to feel Indian leaders [Page 111]were moving toward an abyss with their eyes wide open to danger ahead; and that observers interested in peace in India and world at large wonder whether it was not in the power of one Indian leader or another to make a move at this time—however “illogical” from a partisan point of view—which might clear atmosphere and lead to a peaceful settlement. Liaquat said he could understand these views but did not see how Jinnah could be expected to volunteer assurances to Congress when League was minority party merely trying to defend itself against Hindu majority.

Liaquat then discussed at length his conviction that Congress leaders have no intention of trying to work Cabinet mission plan conscientiously but are determined to seize power without regard for Muslim rights. As evidence of Nehru’s lack of interest in Congress—League cooperation he said for my “private information” Asaf Ali was appointed Ambassador67 without any consultation with League members of interim government—that first he (Liaquat) had known of appointment was when he read press report in London. Asaf Ali he added did not command respect or confidence of Muslim Indians. Liaquat said that as soon as League joined interim government he proposed two League representatives—Begum Shah Nawaz and Ispahani—be appointed to UN delegation but that Nehru refused on ground that number was limited to five and appointment of these two would mean replacing two who have already prepared themselves for work at UN meeting. Liaquat also said when League joined interim government he proposed that in interest of efficiency and cooperation questions concerning more than one department be discussed by Ministers concerned prior to full Cabinet meetings regardless of whether these Ministers were Congress or League members but that Nehru refused to agree on ground it was preferable to thrash out all questions in full Cabinet meetings. When I asked whether all votes in Cabinet meetings were along party lines Liaquat answered in affirmative.

In reply to my question Liaquat said he was convinced Gandhi had no desire for Hindu–Muslim cooperation but was working for Hindu domination of India—to be attained through violence if necessary. When I asked Liaquat whether he believed Gandhi’s activities in East Bengal were deliberate attempt to embarrass Bengal govt and to divert attention from Bihar he said there was no question about it.

Liaquat’s suggestion that Jinnah might be receptive to an expression of our views if Congress accepts December 6 statement is clear indication that he (Liaquat) does not resent our present approach and would seem to indicate he is quite sincere in belief that Jinnah would not respond if approached at this time. Incidentally Liaquat told me [Page 112]December 26 Jinnah was fatigued by London trip and has not been well since return which may mean he is currently in one of his touchier moods.

There is no doubt in my mind that a “statesmanlike” declaration by Jinnah at this time even though it involved risk of loss of prestige among his followers might make Congress leaders feel they would be placed “in wrong” if they did not accept December 6 statement but partisan bitterness on both sides is so great that I am afraid it may be too much to hope for “statesmanlike” behavior on part of any of the leaders involved. None of them has yet demonstrated clearly that he has the vision or courage to rise effectively above party and communal considerations.

If Gandhi advises Congress leaders to turn down December 6 statement it will be difficult to believe he is more interested in preventing suffering among Indian people than he is in preserving power of Congress Party.

With reference to possibility of approaching Jinnah in event that Congress does accept December 6 statement it occurs to me that if Jinnah is in Bombay at time there might be some advantage in conveying views through Consulate General and copying telegram to Delhi so that Embassy can inform Liaquat. If message were given to Liaquat in Delhi for transmission to Jinnah in Bombay time might be lost and security involved since Liaquat does not appear to have any regular means of direct secret communication with Jinnah.68

Please repeat to London. [Weil.]

Merrell
  1. Not printed.
  2. To the United States.
  3. In answer to this point, the first paragraph of Department telegram 953, December 31, to New Delhi, reads as follows: “Since Liaquat Ali Khan obviously reluctant convey our views to Jinnah (urtel 1231 Dec. 29) suggest you request Bombay discuss US position with Jinnah. Question of timing left yours and Bombay’s discretion.” (845.00/12–2946)