Political Situation.

Oral Answers to Questions — India. – in the House of Commons on 30th July 1942.

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Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

asked the Secretary of State for India what are the present intentions of His Majesty's Government as regard the political situation in India?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The Congress Party Working Committee has adopted, subject to ratification by the All-India Committee, a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of British rule from India and threatening a mass movement if the demand is not conceded. The purpose of His Majesty's Government with regard to the constitutional future of India was made clear in the draft Declaration which my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal was authorised to offer on behalf of His Majesty's Government. It proved impossible to secure the support of the principal elements of India's national life for the specific proposals in that Declaration, and the draft was accordingly withdrawn. Nevertheless, His Majesty's Government stand firmly by the broad intention of their offer.

The present demand of Congress completely ignores this far-reaching offer and would, if conceded, bring about a complete and abrupt dislocation of the vast and complicated machinery of government in India. This at a time when in Russia, China, Libya and other theatres of war the situation calls for the undivided energy, co-operation and concentration of the resources of all the Allied powers. No greater disservice to the cause for which the United Nations are fighting can be imagined, and men of good-will everywhere must refuse to envisage such a catastrophic development in one of the most vital theatres of war.

His Majesty's Government, while reiterating their resolve to give the fullest opportunity for the attainment by India of complete self-government, cannot but solemnly warn all those who stand behind the policy adumbrated by the Working Committee of Congress that the Government of India will not flinch from their duty to take every possible step to meet the situation. The United Nations have bent themselves to the task of fighting the menace which overhangs freedom and civilisation. In this crisis and in the future after the war, India has a great part to play, and it is the earnest hope of His Majesty's Government that the Indian people will lend no countenance to a movement fraught with such disastrous consequences but will, on the contrary, throw their all into the struggle against the common enemies of mankind.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

While recognising the difficult position the right hon. Gentleman is in, would it not be better if, instead of conveying a half threat, and in spite of perhaps a little loss of face, the Government were to make some deliberate and open attempt to come to further discussions with India?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In view of the fact that the Government's proposals were capable of modification and discussable, may I ask whether, in the present critical situation, it would not be better for the Government to seek a further approach in order that negotiations should be resumed, and does not the right hon. Gentleman also appreciate that we have got quite sufficient on our plate without entering into a violent conflict with the people of India?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal has already informed the House of the not inconsiderable amount of discussion which has taken place.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Does not the Secretary of State think that the Working Committee would be exceedingly disappointed if the British Army were withdrawn, because there would be no one left to protect them against the real fighting peoples of India?

Photo of Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson , Birmingham Handsworth

Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that under no circumstances will Mr. Gandhi be arrested and given that additional opportunity of self-advertisement?

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

With a view to ending the deadlock in India, would it not be possible to invite the United Nations to arbitrate?

Miss Rathbone:

Does the reply mean that however badly the Congress Party may behave during the war and impede the war effort, all the Cripps' proposals will still be open to them with the dominant positions which they give to India?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The broad intentions of the Government remain the same, irrespective of the immediate conduct of the Congress Party.