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Indian Independence: Partition Source 2

Extract from the Viceroy Lord Wavell's letter to Leopold Amery, the Secretary of State for India, 3 October 1944 concerning the breakdown of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks.

[IOR: L/PO/10/21]

This letter concerns the breakdown of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks held in September 1944. The talks were based on the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. They ended without agreement, as explained in this extract. The Rajagopalachari formula mentioned was put forward by Chakravarty Rajagopalachari in 1943. It stated that the Muslim League was to back the Indian demand for independence and to co-operate with Congress in the formation of a provisional interim government for a transitional period. Once the Second World War had ended, a commission was to be appointed for demarcating districts in the Northwest and east of India where the Muslim population was in the majority. A vote would then be taken of all the inhabitants in the said areas to decide the issue of separation from Hindustan.

28th September 1944

P.S. - Gandhi and Jinnah announced yesterday evening that their talks had broken down. I am sending by this bag a copy of today's special edition of the Hindustan Times giving the text of the announcement, and of the letters exchanged between the two. I will try to let you have my comments by Sunday's bag.

(signed: Wavell)

To the Right Honourable L. S. Amery, M.P., His Majesty's Secretary of State for India.

The Viceroy's House, New Delhi October 3rd, 1944

[Private & Secret] There was no letter from you in the last bag. In the postscript to my letter of 27th September I said I would try to let you have by the bag of 1st October my comments on the breakdown of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks. The examination of the correspondence took rather longer than I expected and I sent you nothing on 1st October. I telegraphed some general comments on 2nd October for use in connection with a question in Parliament. I shall not be able to tell you for some days what I think the effect of the breakdown on the general political situation will be. But my comments on the differences between Gandhi and Jinnah, and the immediate Indian reactions to the breakdown are as follows.

(2) Jinnah based himself on the "two nations" theory, according to which the Muslims and Hindus in India, however they may be distributed over the country, are entirely foreign to each other. He pressed Gandhi to accept this theory and the Muslim League's Lahore Resolution of March 1940 which he regarded as an expression of it. He made it clear that his sovereign Muslim States must be composed substantially of the British Indian Provinces now regarded as Muslim (e.g., in the north-west; Sind, Baluchistan, the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab, and in the north-east, Assam and Bengal). The right of these areas to self-determination and separate sovereignty was to be exercised by their Muslim residents alone. Jinnah declined to answer awkward questions about economic stability and the fate of minorities. He told Gandhi that he was dealing only with British India and was not considering the Indian States. Arguing from the "two nations" theory, he could not agree to any alliance between the Hindus and the Muslims in order to achieve independence, or to any provisional Government before the Muslin claim had been finally settled. Relations between Muslim India and Hindu India would be settled by treaty as between independent and sovereign States, and there could be no question of any Central Government or constitutional link.

Gandhi propounded the Rajagopalachari formula, but made it clear that he did not really believe in it, and that what he wanted was some form of self-determination for Muslims within a united India. His immediate aim was a provisional Government responsible to the present Central Assembly or to a new Assembly elected under the existing franchise. During the war, military operations would be controlled by the Commander-in-Chief, but after the war his provisional Government would be completely independent. The matters requiring settlement under the Rajagopalachari formula would be dealt with by the provisional Government, though at a late stage in the correspondence he agreed to some kind of settlement between the Congress and the League, which the provisional Government would apparently implement.

In short, the negotiations broke down because Gandhi and Jinnah differed completely as to the nature and scope of Pakistan, and as to the order in which they placed the events necessary to Indian independence. Jinnah wants Pakistan first and independence afterwards, while Gandhi wants independence first with some kind of self-determination for Muslims to be granted by a provisional Government which would be predominantly Hindu.

It is difficult to believe that Jinnah who, whatever his faults, is a highly intelligent man, is sincere about the "two nations" theory. His refusal to answer awkward questions also shows that he has not thought out the implications of Pakistan, or anyway will not disclose his views on them. To take only one example, the north-eastern Muslim State would amount to very little without Calcutta, but Calcutta is in the main a Hindu city. On the other hand. Jinnah's suspicion of Gandhi is justified. Gandhi's ideal, though he is careful not to express it, is a united India in which the Hindus, given a free run, would inevitably dominate the Muslims. Jinnah was arguing for something which he has not worked out fully, and Gandhi was putting forward counter proposals in which he did not really believe at all. ...