Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry)1



  • Request of Indian Government that the United States make representations to the South African Government regarding South African racial policies.

The aide-mémoire which the Indian Ambassador left with us on April 7, 1952 asks that the United States use its influence with the South African Government (1) to insure that civil resistance is handled so as not to intensify antagonism and conflict between the races, and (2) to bring about some change in South African racial policies.

I am fully mindful that racial tension has been building up in South Africa and that the racial policies which the present government is pursuing are intensifying this development. At the same time it is unfortunately clear that these policies have the general support of the white population in South Africa, notwithstanding the position taken by the Opposition on the Separate Representation of Voters Act.2 The Nationalist Government now in power is extremely sensitive to what it regards as unwarranted interference by the United Nations in its internal affairs. In the present strained political atmosphere in South Africa, no representations which we might make would result in the slightest alteration in basic South African racial policies. It is equally certain that such representations would be deeply resented and would adversely affect United States-South African relations. This would be particularly true if the United States’ representations were made at the request of the Indian Government or, for that matter, at the request of any third government.

It is extremely doubtful whether any outside influences are likely to be helpful at this time in bringing about a change in South African racial attitudes. In fact outside pressure is much more likely to exacerbate the situation. Whatever influence for good the United States can exert on South Africa cannot be applied effectively through formal representations. Rather it must be exerted subtly, by indirection and over a period of time. Our Embassy at Cape Town has been giving earnest consideration to ways in which we might further the development of more enlightened racial attitudes in South Africa. I am fully convinced, however, that formal representations, far from accomplishing their purpose, would make it more difficult, if not impossible, for this government to exert a constructive influence in the future.

In view of the considerations outlined above, EUR is strongly [Page 908] opposed to making any representations to the South African Government in response to the Indian request. Furthermore, EUR does not believe that even as an independent act, without Indian prompting, such representations would be helpful or desirable at this time. In the circumstances I would suggest that the Indian Ambassador be told we appreciate the concern of his Government at developments in South Africa but that we do not believe any representations by us to the South African Government would be helpful. In fact, such representations might worsen the situation.

I am sending a copy of the Indian aide-mémoire and a copy of this memorandum to Ambassador Gallman for his information and comments. Upon receipt of those comments, we will give consideration to a general instruction to the Ambassador on means by which he can indirectly influence South African attitudes on racial questions. This problem was covered in his briefing sessions in the Department and has figured in his correspondence with officers of the Department since his arrival in South Africa.

Since dictating the above Cape Town’s telegram 58 of April 103 has been received which confirms the views expressed herein, that representations to the South African Government would only exacerbate the situation.

  1. This memorandum was drafted by J. Harold Shullaw (BNA).
  2. See editorial note, p. 905.
  3. Not printed. In this message, the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Waldemar J. Gallman, noted: “I have felt right along that about all that can be done here on this issue is for me to be on so friendly and informal basis with Malan and members of his Cabinet that whenever atmosphere shld appear propitious, when I am with them, I can inject a word of caution and make some suggestions. In my contacts with these officials, I am finding them daily more approachable, open and friendly. I wld advise against any formal approach to them here now on this issue, under specific instructions. I think we can only bide our time and as occasion arises make some friendly suggestions.” (Telegram 58 from Capetown, Apr. 10, 1952; 745A.00/4–1052)