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Pethick-Lawrence Papers Nehru, Jawaharlal (1889–1964), Prime Minister of India Image Avec objets numériques
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Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

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.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Indira Gandhi

11 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London, W.C.2.—Has returned to England, and Helen is on the way to America to see her children. Thanks her and her father (Nehru) for their hospitality. His interview with Miss Naidu at Calcutta was brief, as she was recovering from influenza. Has sent a letter of thanks for Miss Rao (see 2/112).

Letter from V. K. Krishna Menon to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

India House, Aldwych, London, W.C.2.—Explains why Nehru has decided not to become a candidate for the chancellorship of the University of Cambridge. Encloses a copy of his letter to the Vice-Chancellor (1/350).

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Transcript

India House, | Aldwych, | London, W.C.2.
5th November, 1950.

My dear Lord Pethick-Lawrence,

After the interview which you were kind enough to afford me, and our long talk, I sent a very full telegram to Panditji setting out all the facts. I had a reply from him which reveals both his concern for advice and his own embarrassment. He has asked me to say that he was very grateful to you for thinking of him in this connection and the discussions with me. He has told me in confidence, and I think it is right to tell you this for your own information, that there is very strong feeling in India about the whole business of a contest at all in which Panditji is involved. Indian public opinion has to be taken into account. It would be very resentful of a contest, and would be even more so if it went wrong in results! Panditji feels that the whole business may even have a bad effect on Indo-British relations and he says we cannot take that risk. He has, therefore, asked me to convey to you all this, and also to take such immediate steps as are possible to establish contact with the people concerned, in Cambridge, and to tell them that they should in whatever form possible, effect a withdrawal of his name. If necessary, I was to tell them in confidence of our difficulty in the matter. He has also authorised me to say to them that they could announce that the decision to have his name withdrawn was taken at his request. Also he is very conscious of the honour done to him by you and the rest of his supporters, and that no discourtesy to the University is intended in his decision.

I am glad to say that I was able to meet the Cambridge people last Friday. Mr. Gold and others, who came here to see me. I persuaded them after nearly an hour and a half’s talk to take the necessary steps for effecting a withdrawal. They were, however, most upset and resentful of the intervention of the Vice-Chancellor which they thought had spoilt the issue for them, but appreciated the Prime Minister’s difficulty. They have made a communication to the Vice-Chancellor, to whom I have also written. I enclose a copy of the letter for your personal information.

Being the weekend I was not able to get in touch with you. I spoke to the Observer people myself and I think they have dealt with the matter sympathetically.

Very kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
Krishna

Lord Pethick Lawrence of Peaslake, P.C.,
11, Old Square,
Lincoln’s Inn, W.C.2.

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Typed, except the signature.

Carbon copy of a letter from V. K. Krishna Menon to S. C. Roberts

Advises him of Nehru’s decision not to become a candidate for the chancellorship of the University of Cambridge.

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Transcript

4th November, 1950

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

I have now had the opportunity of ascertaining the views of my Prime Minister about the nomination of his name for the Chancellorship of University of Cambridge. I am to say, that Pandit Nehru is deeply conscious of the honour sought to be done to him and is very grateful to those who were good enough to think of him in this connection.

Pandit Nehru, however, does not wish to enter into any contest and therefore asked me to convey a request to those who have done him this honour to nominate him, to take such steps as they may consider suitable to effect its withdrawal. I have conveyed Pandit Nehru’s request to those concerned, and I have no doubt that in view of the high esteem in which they hold Pandit Nehru they would respect his wishes and accede to his request.

The Prime Minister is most anxious that you and the members of the University should not feel that any discourtesy whatsoever either to the University or to its Senators is intended or implied in the decision which he has made.

Yours sincerely,
[blank]

S. C. Roberts Esq.,
Vice-Chancellor of the University,
The Lodge, Pembroke College,
CAMBRIDGE.

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