Unidad documental simple 72 - Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

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PETH/1/72

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Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

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  • 7 Apr. 1946 (Creación)

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7 sheets

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Reports on the progress of the Cabinet Mission, and alludes to the possible arrest of Aung San in Burma.

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Transcript

7th April, 1946.

Secret and Personal

My dear Clem,

I expect you will like me from time to time to send you a letter reviewing the situation.

As I think you know, we have arranged a programme of interviews covering the 1st–15th April. The representatives include the Premiers and Leaders of Oppositions from all Provinces and also representatives of the principal political parties. By giving an additional two or three days to these interviews and by allowing some of the minor parties to come and be heard by Cripps and Alexander only, we have managed to meet all claims to be heard which have any reasonable substance. This is a lengthy process, but I think it is proving of value even though all we are doing at this stage is to hear the statement of existing views.

This week our interviews have included Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Jinnah, and the Sikhs, and also a meeting with a deputation of the Chamber of Princes.

There is, I am afraid, no sign of any accommodation at present as between the Congress and the Muslim League. The Congress are, however, prepared to consider the widest provincial autonomy. Their proposal is that there should be a minimum list of compulsory federal subjects which might be foreign affairs, defence, communications and probably customs. There would then also be an optional list of federal subjects which in practice only the Hindu provinces would be likely to adopt, but they appear to set great store on immediately setting up an Interim Government which will be responsible for bringing into being a constitution-making body charged with making a constitution on these broad principles. Their proposal is that this Interim Government should be formed by inviting the eleven Provincial Governments to nominate one person each. These nominees need not be drawn from the Province itself, or be members of legislatures. In reply to a question, Azad said that he thought that if it were desired, more than one nominee could be put forward by each Province and that he personally would not be opposed to a panel of nominees being put forward. The Minorities would be represented by selection to the extent of three seats in a total of fifteen.

I put it to Azad that, in view of the results of the elections, the Muslim League would under this procedure not have more than two or possibly three representatives in a Council of fifteen. Azad seemed to admit the force of this and thought, speaking personally, that arrangements may be made whereby four Muslim League representatives would be included. He said definitely that Congress would not under the present constitution agree to parity with the Muslim League. Cripps asked Azad whether, in view of the fact that the Hindu Provinces only would in fact take optional federal subjects, the Congress would agree to a separate list of optional subjects for the Muslim Provinces which would enable them to come into closer co-operation among themselves for subjects within the special list. At first Azad seemed wholly opposed to this idea but subsequently said that it was a matter which might be considered.

Jinnah, on the other hand, in a three-hour interview insisted that eastern and western Pakistan must be sovereign States and that there could be no relations between those States and Hindustan except by way of treaty or agreement. Anything else would be a surrender of sovereignty. On the question of areas, he made it clear that he was willing that substantial Hindu areas in Bengal and the Punjab should go into Hindustan, but he insisted that limitation of Pakistan to the areas in which Muslims constitute 50 per cent or more would be quite unacceptable since such a Pakistan would not be economically viable. In particular, he said that Calcutta must be in Pakistan. We put to him the possibility that Calcutta might be a free port and, while he did not reject this positively, he raised no objections to it. Jinnah made a fairly good case for Pakistan on cultural and religious grounds, but he was completely unyielding and showed no signs of any intention of making a proposition to meet the Congress. We went for him on the question of defence and, although Cripps made a strong attempt to pin him down as to what he contemplated should be the subject matter of a treaty between Hindustan and Pakistan, we got very little out of him.

The Sikhs were, of course, opposed both to Hindustan and Pakistan. They wanted a united India but in the event of a divided India a separate autonomous state for Sikhs. They based their case for that on the high proportion of land revenue paid by the Sikhs in a substantial area of the Punjab even though nowhere are they in a majority of the population.

We also had a satisfactory meeting with the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes and four other members of the Standing Committee of the Chamber. I gave them full replies to a series of questions they had put to me and in the course of doing so I made it clear that Paramountcy was coming to an end when a fully self-governing constitution came into operation in British India. I also made it clear that in those circumstances we should not be able to provide troops for the internal protection of the States and that therefore the States on their part would be liberated from their obligations under the treaties. They took this quite well. I was a good deal impressed with Bhopal and I think he may be a helpful factor though there is no sign of the States showing any desire to take an initiative which might ease the British Indian situation.

You will see from this that so far as interviews go we are getting on, but from the point of view of reaching any solution we have not really yet got started. In addition to the official interviews we have had a number of private talks including Gandhi, Jinnah, Vallabhai Patel, Nehru and many others, but these have only served to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s of the official discussions. Gandhi is at the moment inclined to be generally helpful but I never feel sure what line he may adopt. The Indian Press has ceased to be actively hostile.

We shall probably be seeing the main parties again in about 8 or 9 days time and may lay before them some suggestions for agreement but I think that the critical phase will come in the week after Easter {1} and we may then formulate some definite course of action, and lay it before you.

I am keeping very well in spite of the heat, and the doctor here gives me a clean bill of health. Alexander has been slightly indisposed but is now fully recovered. We have decided definitely not to go to Simla though we may go away for the Easter week-end to Kashmir.

With all personal wishes,

Sincerely yours,
PETHICK.

From telegrams I have received I am afraid Burma is giving you anxiety especially on the question of the possible arrest of Aung San on a murder charge. My personal feeling is that if we start probing into what happened during the Japanese occupation we shall stir up mud which may well give us a lot of trouble.

The Rt. Hon. The Prime Minister. {2}

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{1} 21 April.

{2} This direction is at the foot of the first sheet.

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