845.00/6–247: Telegram

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

top secret
us urgent

3001.1. When I called on Prime Minister Attlee this afternoon at his request he said he desired to extend to US the courtesy of advance information regarding the announcement1 which, with brief introduction by Prime Minister, the Viceroy will broadcast to the Indian people and to UK tomorrow, and which he himself will lay before Parliament tomorrow afternoon (Embassy’s 2979, May 29, paragraph 3).2

2. In sober mood, at times tinged with sorrow, because in his own words he has been working on the Indian problem “for 21 years”, Attlee explained that Viceroy is to make one last attempt to secure [Page 156] acceptance of Cabinet mission’s plan. Failing such acceptance, which Attlee believed most unlikely, Viceroy would lay before Indian leaders a procedure for the partition of India into a Hindustan dominion and a Pakistan dominion. Power might be transferred to Hindustan sometime in August. Pakistan being without administrative machinery, power transfer to it might be delayed until this is available. As regards Punjab and Bengal, plan envisages a decision by their own elected representatives as to which of the two major dominions these provinces will adhere and failing agreement, the partition of these provinces between the two. Attlee himself thought a division of Punjab likely, but said that there was a distinct possibility that Bengal might decide against partition and against joining either Hindustan or Pakistan. In this event Bengal might form a separate dominion (Embassy’s 2979, May 29, paragraph 9) an alternative also open to Punjab which he thought it improbable that it would elect to do.

3. In event India is divided, Attlee indicated that such problems as the partition of gold holdings, army, etc. would be carried out by joint commissions of Indians representing the several Indian dominions.

4. Attlee was hopeful that there would be no bloodshed but feared that there would be. In its efforts to restore order Indian Army would be acting under orders of Defense Minister of interim Government of India.

5. Prime Minister thought opposition in Parliament would not object to appropriate legislation and that it would therefore go through promptly. (Embassy’s 2979 May 29, paragraph 11).

6. I thanked the Prime Minister warmly for his courtesy in providing the US with this advance information, courtesy which so far as I know has not been extended to any other power.

Sent Department 3001, repeated New Delhi 46.

  1. For text of the Prime Minister’s statement, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 438, pp. 35–40, or Menon, The Transfer of Power in India, pp. 510–515. For text of the Viceroy’s broadcast, see Lord Louis Mountbatten, Time Only to Look Forward (London, 1949), pp. 10–13, or Poplai, Select Documents on Asian Affairs: India 1947–50, vol. i, pp. 18–21.
  2. In telegram 2979 from Ambassador Douglas at London, May 29, it was explained that only the American representative, among the several whose countries had missions in India, would receive the courtesy of advance briefing on the proposed statement. This, he was told, was because only the United States had closely followed the situation and had expressed its interest by helpful statements. (845.00/5–2947)