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Indian Independence: World War II Source 3

Telegram from the President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt
To Harry Hopkins (11 April 1942)


Kindly give the following message immediately to the Former Naval Person (implying Churchill): every effort must be made by us to prevent a break-down.

(Quote) I hope most earnestly that you may be able to postpone the departure from India of Cripps until one more effort has finally been made to prevent break-down of the negotiations.

I regret to say that I am unable to agree with the point of view contained in your message to me, that public opinion in the United States believes that negotiations have broken down on general broad issues. Here the general impression is quite the contrary. The feeling is held almost universally that the deadlock had been due to the British Government's unwillingness to concede the right of self-government to the Indians notwithstanding the willingness of the Indians to entrust to the competent British authorities technical military and naval defence control. It is impossible for American public opinion to understand why if there is willingness on the part of the British Government to permit the component parts of India to secede after the war from the British Empire, it is unwilling to permit them to enjoy during the war what is tantamount to self-government.

I feel that I am compelled to place before you this issue very frankly, and I know you will understand my reasons for doing this. Should the current negotiations be allowed to collapse because of the issues as presented to the people of America and should India subsequently be invaded successfully by Japan with attendant serious defeats of a military or naval character for our side, it would be hard to over-estimate the prejudicial reaction on American public opinion. Would it not be possible, therefore, for you to have Cripps' departure postponed on the ground that you personally transmitted instructions to him to make a final effort to find a common ground of understanding? According to my reading, an agreement appeared very near last Thursday night. If you could authorize him to say that he was personally empowered by you to resume negotiations as at that point with the understanding that both sides would make minor doncessions, it appears to me that an agreement might be yet found.

As I expressed to you in an earlier message, I still feel that if the component groups in India could be given now the opportunity to set up a Nationalist Government in essence similar to our own form of government under the Articles of Confederation with the understanding that following the termination of a period of trial and error they would be enabled then to determine upon their own form of constitution and to determine, as you have promised them already, their future relationship with the British Empire, probably a solution could be found. If you were to make such an effort and if Cripps were still unable then to find an agreement, at least you would on that issue have public opinion in the United States be satisfied that the British Government had made a fair and real offer to the Indian people and that the responsibility for such failure must be placed clearly, not upon the British Government, but upon the Indian people. (Ends)