The Chargé in India (Steere) to the Department of State

No. 708

Subject: How Government of India decided not to attend San Francisco Conference

The Embassy is pleased to report to the Department a resume of how the Government of India reached its decision not to attend the San Francisco Conference for the signing of the Japanese Peace Treaty. The account comes from a member of the GOI Cabinet through an employee of the Embassy, whose information in the past generally has proved accurate and authentic. His report follows:

The Foreign Affairs Sub-committee of the Indian Cabinet, shortly after receipt of the final Anglo-American draft of the proposed Japanese Peace Treaty, discussed the question of attending the San Francisco Peace Conference. The first two sittings were inconclusive, with the participants arguing for and against attending the conference.

The third meeting reached the decision that India should not go to the conference. It was attended by the Prime Minister, Home Minister Rajagopalachari, Secretary General of External Affairs Bajpai, States and Transport Minister Ayyangar and External Affairs Deputy Secretary K. P. S. Menon,1 who is in charge of American and European affairs in the ministry.

Throughout the discussions Ayyangar and Rajagopalachari stood out not merely for attending the conference but insisted that India should sign the peace treaty. Bajpai was neutral, in that he stated he would agree with the majority view though personally he favored attending the conference even if India was not going to sign. Menon and the Prime Minister were against attending, not to speak of signing.

K. P. S. Menon enlisted his experience in China to sway the opinion. He said he could better read the Chinese mind than the others, and [Page 1357] if India made a friendly gesture toward Red China by refusal to attend because Red China was not being permitted to participate, and because of the Formosa issue, India would build up considerable good will with Peking.

Menon, citing talks with the Burmese Foreign Minister in New Delhi recently, said the whole of South Asia and the Far East would acclaim India if she refused to attend, and though there might be some transitional regret by the Japanese at this attitude, in the long run the Japanese would feel that India was working for their interests.

Rajagopalachari and Ayyangar insisted that India could sign the treaty with a rider of dissent on certain matters. After all, they said, the fate of Formosa could not be decided at San Francisco and it would be “foolish” to rake up this question. They supported Nehru’s stand on the Bonins and the Ryukyus but they differed on the stationing of American troops in Japan. They said if Communism was to be checked, defenseless Japan must either be allowed to rearm itself, or alternatively American troops must be allowed to stay there for a “definite stipulated period” and that “America and Japan must be made to put this period at not more than three years.”

Both of them agreed that the way America is bringing about the Defense arrangement with Japan was not desirable but it was “absolutely necessary.”

Nehru supported Menon, and in the end it was his own decision which had to be agreed to by the other members of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee.

Nehru explained that at first he was definitely in favor of attending the conference but then changed his mind because of fear that the presence of the Indian delegation might be utilized by the Russians for their own purposes. He asked: “Tell me, what would be the position of the Indian delegation if a Russian arose and said: ‘Look here, our stand is correct; even India is not signing. Why? Because it feels the treaty is hopeless’.” Nehru said such embarrassment must be avoided, and since India was not signing, it should not attend the conference.

When the matter went before the Cabinet, it was a divided house. About half the members were lined up on the side of attending the conference, the other half on the other side. About five members even favored signing. They included Labor Minister Jagjivan Ram; Works, Production and Supply Minister Cadgil, Rajagopalachari, Food and Agriculture Minister Munshi and Ayyangar. Defense Minister Baldev Singh and Finance Minister Deshmukh were absolutely neutral.

As a sidelight to the events, Madame Pandit did not know about India’s decision not to sign the treaty until she reached New Delhi. She had advocated the signing and was reliably reported as believing India not only was going to the conference but would sign. When she [Page 1358] learned that India was not going to sign, but also was considering going to San Francisco, she discussed the matter with Supreme Court Justice Douglas, who had just returned to Delhi from his mountain climbing expedition, and Douglas agreed with her that India would give the mistaken impression that she was lining up in the Soviet Russian bloc if she attended the conference and did not sign. Madame Pandit’s support of this position was reported to have had considerable influence on her brother’s decision that India should not attend.

For the Chargé d’affaires, a.i.:

Clare H. Timberlake
Chief Public Affairs Officer
  1. Mr. Menon was Secretary of the Ministry.