India and the War

November 24, 1942

Report Outline
Indian Self-Government and Indian Security
Basic Factors in the Problem of India
Great Britain and the Government of India
Cripps Mission and Its Aftermath

Indian Self-Government and Indian Security

When the Japanese last spring were advancing into Burma, and appeared to be headed for an invasion of India, Allied concern was heightened by collapse at that moment of the negotiations which a mission headed by Sir Stafford Cripps had been conducting on the thorny question of self-government for India. Although it was not thought that Indian nationalists would welcome Japanese domination of their country, there was fear that failure of the leaders of the Hindu majority to obtain satisfaction of demands for immediate self-government would result in depriving the British of the cooperation of those leaders in inspiring the masses to rally to India's defense. It was recognized that if a popular will to resist were lacking, as it had been lacking in Malaya and Burma, the difficulty of combating invading military forces, and fifth columnists behind the lines, would be greatly enhanced.

While no Japanese attempt at invasion of India has yet been made and accomplishment of the supposed Axis aim of effecting a junction of German and Japanese power by way of India now seems remote, the security of India is threatened so long as Japan remains in control of Burma and the Malay Peninsula. India, moreover, may be of vital importance in development of United Nations strategy for encompassing the defeat of Japan.

Since failure of the Cripps mission last April, relations between the Indian nationalists and the British have steadily deteriorated. In August the Congress party, representing primarily the Hindu majority, initiated a campaign of civil disobedience which led to outbreaks of violence, to repressive measures on the part of the government, and to internment of such nationalist leaders as Gandhi and Nehru. The extent of the breach between the British and the nationalists was emphasized when Prime Minister Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons on September 10, denounced the Congress party as a “revolutionary movement” and declared that its activities had “the intention, or at any rate the effect, of hampering the defense of India against the Japanese invader.” By stating that the Cripps proposals of last spring stood as the sole basis of any further negotiations with the Indian nationalists, Churchill indicated that the British government would make no effort to explore fresh means of reaching a settlement.

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