July 26, 1942
Columbia Broadcasting System.
I've always been a firm friend of India, and I've done my best in the past to work for the freedom of India. When I joined the British War Cabinet and found the British government anxious and willing to put forward a proposal for Indian self-government, I volunteered to travel the twenty thousand miles to India and back, to put the case directly to the Indian political leaders on behalf of the British government and people. We offered to the Indian people complete liberty, the moment the war was over, to devise and set up their own form of government. We suggested the broad outlines of how they should proceed, but there was no rigidity in those suggestions. It was left open to the various religions and races to agree upon some other method. But, to my regret, they neither accepted nor put forward any agreed alternative.
It was not these future arrangements, however, but the immediate situation which caused the Congress Party in India to reject the proposals. We offered the representative Indian political leaders immediate office in the Viceroy's executive council-a body of Ministers like those who advise your President. Mr. Gandhi has demanded that we should walk out of India, leaving the country filled with deep-rooted religious division and without any constitutional form of government or organized administration. No responsible government could take such a step, least of all in the midst of war.
The Moslems, of whom there are at least 80 million, are deeply opposed to Congress Party domination, as are also the tens of millions of depressed classes. To have agreed to the Congress Party's or Mr. Gandhi's demands would have meant inevitable chaos and disorder. This is not merely my assertion. It has been stated by Mr. Gandhi himself. Quite recently he has said: "Anarchy is the only way. Someone asked me if there would be anarchy after British rule. Yes, it will be there. But I tell the British to give us chaos."
India is now an essential and vital part of the world front against the Axis powers. There are British, American and Chinese forces, as well as Indians, fighting side by side to defend India against Japan. If the obligations of the British government to their American and Chinese allies are to be observed, we must insure that India remains a safe base in and from which to operate against the Japanese enemy. We cannot allow conditions to be created by any political party or leader in India which will jeopardize the safety of the United Nations' army and air forces or open the door to the advance of our enemies into this new and dangerous theatre of war. That is an obligation, not only to the British and American forces in India; it is our obligation to the Indian peoples. That's why your country and my country find themselves both intimately concerned with the condition of India at this moment. Your sons, as well as our sons, are helping to defend India and to wage war against the Japanese. Your policy, as well as our policy, is to defend India.
But Mr. Gandhi and the Congress Party have other views. Mr. Gandhi, I have always regarded with respect, as a great nationalist and religious leader, but I'm bound to say that in the present circumstances he is not showing himself to be practical or realistic. Certainly the action which he is now threatening-mass civil disobedience by his followers-is calculated to endanger both your war effort and our own and to bring the greatest aid and comfort to our common enemies. Mr. Gandhi's views are not always easy to follow or very consistent. Let me read you two of his recent statements:
"We do not want these Allied troops for our defense or protection. If luck favors us, the Japanese may see no reason to hold the country after the Allies are withdrawn." China would hardly appreciate that. Again Mr. Gandhi has said: "American aid amounts in the end to American influence, if not to American rule. Add it to the British. If the British left India to her fate, probably the Japanese would not leave India alone." These are solemn words. What do they amount to? Mr. Gandhi is not prepared to wait. He would rather jeopardize the freedom and the whole cause of the United Nations. He threatened the extremes of pressure in this most difficult hour to win political power for his own Party. There is not the slightest doubt that other large and powerful political parties in India are opposed to Mr. Gandhi's demands. I regret profoundly that he has adopted this attitude and I am sure that the Indian people as a whole do not support it. He may gain a measure of support from mass disobedience, but for the sake of India, as well as for the cause of the United Nations, it will be our duty to insist upon keeping India as a safe, orderly base for our joint operations against the Japanese. Whatever steps are necessary to that end, we must take them fearlessly.
Once victory is gained, India has been offered complete freedom to provide in whatever way she chooses for her own self-government. But that victory must first be gained. We cannot allow the actions of a visionary, however distinguished in his fight for freedom in the past, to thwart the United Nations' drive for victory in the East. The issues are too grave and too great for the whole world. American, Chinese, Indian, and British soldiers must not be sacrificed in their gallant struggle for the liberty of the world by political party maneuvering in India or in any other country. It is the interest of India that is at stake, as well as that of China, Britain and the United States.
I am sure that we in this country can rely on you to give us your understanding, your help and your support in doing whatever is necessary to maintain intact the front of the United Nations in India and to reopen the lifeline of our gallant allies, the Chinese.