§ LORD FARINGDON rose to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the situation in India; and to move for Papers The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel that no apology is required for the Motion which stands in my name to-day. The matter is one of the most urgent confronting us at this particularly critical time, and one, I venture to think, which has the most unsatisfactory history behind it. It is not my intention to-day either to detain your Lordships very long, or to go in great detail into the things which are past. I do not wish to drag up the various recriminations on all sides that have, unfortunately, arisen from this extremely thorny subject. I cannot, however, refrain from saying one word about an attitude of which we hear far too much, or of which we see far too much nowadays, in this country and elsewhere, and which, alas! applies also to this Indian problem. It is an attitude of complacency. There is no room whatever for complacency where India is concerned. The position is critical, and becomes still more critical, and it would seem that nothing is done to meet it.
§ I think we English people are inclined perhaps to take too favourable a view of the history of our relationship to this great sub-continent. We acquired it as your Lordships are aware with no expressed idea of building up a great Empire in Asia, but, as it were, in the course of business. In order to trade more comfortably, we found ourselves slowly but surely building up a great Empire, and from that time on India has been run, I venture to suggest, as a business proposition, and that is the basis of a great many complaints that Indians make. We are inclined, I think, to lay unction to our souls for the peace which we have brought to India, the unity which we have imposed, and the various public works of development which have taken place in India under our rule. I am afraid it is only too rare that a truly unselfish and humanitarian act is undertaken by any one country towards another; in fact, historically, I can think of one only, one 583 which I am glad to say is a British one, and that is the freeing of the slaves in the West Indies. But developments in India do not come into that class. Handsome dividends have been paid by the railways which have been built; handsome dividends have been paid by the various industries which have been founded; and, in passing, I would say, as your Lordships are aware, that it is one of the complaints of Indians that the industrialization of India has been largely handicapped by the jealousy of English industrialists, rightly or wrongly. It is a point I shall not labour.
§ What I want to put into your Lordships' minds in a few words is a feeling of the imperfection, a questioning, as I might put it, of our own position—I do not say that we give them that feeling, which I have found only too common in the past, far less common, if I may say so nowadays—and recently that feeling of self-righteousness where India is concerned. Even our famine relief, it might be argued, was really the preservation of our customer. That is a point which I think it is important that English people should remember—that India has paid handsome dividends, and is paying handsome dividends, for anything which we may have done for her. It has incidentally been computed that in addition to the interest on something like £1,000,000,000 invested in India, in the form of pensions and in other ways India pays annually something in the neighbourhood of £138,000,000 to this country. That is a substantial sum, and a sum which puts us under a very considerable obligation to India; and it is an obligation which, I fear, we have not altogether fulfilled.
§ The first thing that arises before the eye of the uninstructed mind when the word India is mentioned is, I think, vast wealth, jewels, Princes upon elephants, and so forth. That, my Lords, is a very untrue picture of India. India is in fact the poorest country in the world. Appalling poverty is, I believe, the really outstanding feature of Indian life, and it is I feel a charge which it is hard for British people to answer, that during a hundred years of English rule the standard of living in India has not risen. I agree that it is debatable whether it has or has not risen, but at least it can be said that the average income in India is only about £63s. a year. In order to make a comparison, 584 and I venture to think a striking comparison, the average income in Japan—a country whose competition before the war was so often attacked on the ground that her workers were so abominably paid and lived so cheaply—is over £20 a year. I do not feel that this is a record of which we who have been responsible for Indians' progress can be particularly proud. None the less we have been responsible for Indian progress, such as it has been. We have been responsible, too, for her education and her instruction in the arts of government.
§ Though it is a compliment which His Majesty's Government do not appear to appreciate at the present moment, it is none the less a compliment that Indians should wish to form their political institutions upon the model of our institutions. It is in fact from that desire that most of our troubles in India arise at this moment. I am not going into a long account of the rise of the Indian political Parties, nor of the difficult, thorny negotiations which have taken place between the Viceroy and the various Indian leaders since the outbreak of war. Those negotiations have no doubt been carried on by the Viceroy in the spirit of most willing co-operation, but unfortunately he was clearly bound by the orders that he received from the India Office and these orders would seem, from continuous pronouncements on the part of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy himself, always to have given him a negotiating point when its utility was already passed. That is highly unfortunate.
§ This unfortunate position may be said to have arisen literally on the outbreak of war. Congress, the principal Indian Party, has repeatedly taken up a strongly anti-war position. There have been declarations by Congress, almost annually since 1927, condemning war, and especially war that should involve India. There was, however, one important addition to this type of resolution in 1939, and one which should, I think, have given His Majesty's Government common ground on which they could meet the Indian leaders. It was a very emphatic declaration against Fascism and against aggression. Unfortunately, no doubt, from the British Government's point of view, that was combined with strictures on the British Government for their policy of appeasement and for the treaties 585 which they had made with Italy, with Germany and with rebel Spain. No doubt those strictures were not particularly palatable to His Majesty's Government. However, once His Majesty's Government were involved in war against Fascist Powers, it docs seem to me that this addition to the previous resolutions about war did give some grounds on which negotiations could have been, and I believe should have been, open to the Congress leaders. In view, too, of the repeated resolutions of Congress, it seems highly unfortunate that His Majesty's Government should have thought fit to declare war on behalf of India without consulting the leaders of Indian public opinion. This I believe to have been the most disastrous of the steps taken in regard to India since the outbreak of war. There have been a series of concessions offered by the Viceroy, and he has finally increased the size of his Council so as to give a majority to its Indian members. This offer is still deemed insufficient by the Congress Party, and, if I may say so, for a very good reason and a reason which I think your Lordships will understand .
§ The Congress Party has, from the beginning of the war, made as its first demand a request for a declaration of war aims, and in particular of war aims in relation to India. It has said, in effect, that Indians cannot be expected to fight for other people's freedom when it is denied to themselves. Nothing, it seems to me, could be more reasonable than that proposition, and to some extent His Majesty's Government seem to have recognized that for they have said quite clearly that they do intend to advance the process by which India shall proceed to self-government. They have, unfortunately, made the date of the attainment of that self-government a rather vague one; in the far distance, and therefore their statement is obviously less attractive to Indians who have alas! a long series of statements on which they can look back and which they can quote, dating back, I think, as far as seventy or eighty years. Some of the more recent statements were made in a. situation not unlike the present, during the last war. Indians therefore say that these statements do not necessarily mean a very rapid attainment of the goal of self-government which they demand. It seems to me very unfortunate that His Majesty's Government 586 have not been able to make that promise of self-government more concrete.
§ That, as I say, is the first demand of Congress, that our war aims should be made more clear in regard to India. It might have been hoped that the Atlantic Charter would have gone some way, if not the whole way, to satisfy Indian requirements in this respect. Unhappily any usefulness which the Atlantic Charter might have had in India was completely ruined by the statement of the Prime Minister that it did not apply to India. This seems to me, after the declaration of war on behalf of a people who had not been consulted, perhaps the most disastrous of all the many disastrous mistakes that have been made in regard to the Indian problem since the beginning of the war. It would seem quite fantastic that the representatives of India should sign the Washington Pact guaranteeing rights for other countries and expressing their willingness to fight for those rights, which, however, are to be denied to themselves. That is the contradictory position which must, it seems to me, be apparent to everyone.
§ I do not wish to indulge only in criticism. I would suggest, if I may, some steps which seem to me, and to my noble friends who sit on this side of your Lordships' House, to be practicable steps which His Majesty's Government might take and which would have a reasonable chance of receiving acceptance in India and ending the present deadlock—a deadlock the danger of which has become so very much more apparent and so much more pressing in the last few months, a danger which I think is underlined by the situation in Malaya. One hears—if my information is correct—that the natives in Malaya take no interest whatever in the war and are perfectly indifferent as to whether their rulers are Japanese or British. That, coming from one of our most prosperous Colonies which we are inclined to regard as something of a model, seems to throw an appalling reflection upon our unsuccess in obtaining the sympathy and good will of—I use the word, I am afraid, advisedly—a subject people. That warning, as it seems to me, has been given again even closer to India. I was one of those who had the interesting experience of meeting the Prime Minister of Burma, Mr. U Saw, when he was in England. He impressed 587 me and others with whom he had interviews, as most frank, and I should like to say how deeply I deplore the ill-directed journalism which has tried to describe him as a Fifth Columnist.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend not to mis-describe U Saw as "Mr"? U is not a name but a title of great distinction such as "Eminence." It is just as absurd to refer to Mr. U Saw as it would be to speak of my noble friend as Faringdon, Esq.
My Lords, the noble Duke is evidently an authority on etiquette and protocols, shall I say. I naturally accept his ruling, and I regret that having only a slight acquaintance with Burma—with a deep affection for the people but no acquaintance with the language—I was unaware of these titular details. Anyway U, I am sure, is a very suitable title for the Prime Minister who, when he was here, impressed very considerably those of us who came in contact with him. I think it unjust and unwise to describe this Prime Minister as a Fifth Columnist. He struck me, and I know he struck others, as a Burmese patriot. What he was asking, or what he told us he was asking from the Government, seems to me, at any rate, to be highly reasonable and very easy of granting. He also explained at that time the extremely difficult position that he would have to face if he went back to his country without some concessions. He was the leader, as I understand it, of a comparatively moderate Party in Burma. Evidently, if he was unable to take home some sort of concessions to satisfy fairly moderate demands, his position would have been difficult. He is now accused of having plotted with the Japanese. We need not go into details concerning this matter, but surely if the Japanese were seeking to come to some sort of a settlement with the people of that country, an obvious method of doing so would be to approach a disgruntled politician, particularly if that disgruntled politician held the position of Prime Minister. Whether, in fact, U Saw did deal, or was in the process of doing a deal, with the Japanese, I cannot tell, but to call him a Fifth 588 Columnist seems to me extremely unwise from our own point of view.
It is missing the fundamental issue which, I say, is that we have failed to gain the affection and support of these Oriental peoples. The Prime Minister of Burma, granting the worst, assuming that he did make a deal with the Japanese, must have done it because he was not able to make one with the British Government and one that would be better for his people. My noble friend Lord Hailey laughs, but U Saw said to us while he was here that after seeing what the Japanese have done in Mongolia, the majority of the Burmese might therefore prefer the Japanese devil they did not know to the British devil they did know. However that may be, it was not of great significance, except in so far as it is a warning, a warning which it seems to me His Majesty's Government might do well to heed—a warning which I know has caused a great deal of disquiet and anxiety throughout the country.
I venture to make certain suggestions which I know have the support of my noble friends on these Benches and which, I believe, might serve to end the present deadlock. I think that first of all His Majesty's Government should state unequivocally that it is their intention to give India self-government and that not at any future date; that they recognize her right to have it now, and will take the necessary steps to implement that right. To that end, I would suggest that His Majesty's Government should send out to India some person—and I would say definitely a person rather than a Commission—who can negotiate with the Indian leaders. Evidently such a person must necessarily be someone with whom the Indian leaders will negotiate. It would be useless and worse than useless if someone were sent out who would have the same unfortunate experience which befell the noble and learned Viscount who now sits on the Woolsack when he headed that distinguished Commission which went out to India before the Government of India Act was drawn up and passed. That, as I say, would be worse than useless. I suggest that a single person should be selected to negotiate with the leaders, with an assurance in advance that they will negotiate.
Let him and let His Majesty's Government be prepared to accept complete 589 Indianization of the Viceroy's Council, including foreign affairs and defence. Let him be prepared to grant this and let him be prepared to treat such a Council as a Provisional Government. And let it be part of the duty of the newly-organized and erected Indian Council to take the necessary steps—perhaps it would be possible for this to be arranged in advance with the Indian leaders—for the calling of a Constituent Assembly, that is to say a Constitution-making Conference. One might suggest many ways in which such an assembly could be chosen or elected. It is, I believe, a demand of Congress that this assembly should be elected by manhood suffrage, but I would consider than an unpractical idea. However that may be, I do believe this is a point which must necessarily be worked out by the Indians themselves. Finally, I would suggest—and this is another important point—that His Majesty's Government should say that when this assembly has reached a conclusion, whether it be a majority conclusion, or a two-thirds majority or a majority containing, say, a certain proportion of both the major communities, that can, I think, and should be settled on the spot—His Majesty's Government should state clearly that it is their intention to introduce as a Government measure into Parliament the results of the Indian constitution-making conference and to pass it through Parliament within, I would suggest, at the most, three years of the termination of the war.
To date His Majesty's Government have tried to throw the whole blame for the deadlock upon the Indians. It is said that if the Indians will agree we will welcome and ratify their agreement. If the two principal Parties will come to a settlement we will ratify that settlement. Surely that is a somewhat unfair attitude. The Moslem League which claims to speak for the Moslems has put on paper demands which, quite clearly, could never be accepted by the rest of India—by the Congress Party—and when I say the rest of India I do so advisedly. Although there are minor parties, Congress, I believe, does represent the vast majority of Indians—and I suggest that it also represents even the majority of Moslems. I know the Moslem League claims to speak for the Moslems, but I think that this is not in fact the case. It is very important that we in this country should realize that and 590 should not on that account prevent an Indian settlement by playing into the hands of Moslem extremists.
In support of this view—because of course the Moslem League not being a democratic party gives no figures of its membership, though it has produced various rather wide estimates—what we can estimate is the number of Moslems who are in no Moslem League. And it seems to me that the Congress Party itself has more Moslems than the Moslem League. Fortunately, Congress being a democratic body, its numbers are not withheld, and from the 1930–31 imprisonments it appeared that 20 per cent. of the Congress prisoners at that time were Moslems. That figure has been maintained on several occasions. It does seem likely therefore that this main fact represents the percentage of Moslems to Hindus in the Congress. In addition to this there are several other Moslem organizations, one of which, the Mommin League, claims to represent, and may well represent, very nearly half the Moslems in India. In addition there is the whole of the Shiah community which is anti-Moslem League, and which certainly speaks for 20 per cent. of the Moslems in India.
In these circumstances it is perfectly clear that the Moslem League cannot possibly represent a majority even of Moslems in India, and for that reason I do implore His Majesty's Government not to allow too much weight to be given to their views. They do not, I believe, speak for the Moslems of India, and therefore they should not be allowed to shipwreck all plans for Indian advance—because shipwreck it would be. Their present plan is the partition of India—not the partition of India in a federation, but a partition called Pakistan which should be completely separate and sovereign. That would seem to me not only to be impracticable but to be definitely a retrograde step, and one which I hope His Majesty's Government will hot consider.
I have spoken longer than I intended. I have tried to put some helpful suggestions: I hope His Majesty's Government will consider them such. At any rate it is clear that throughout the country there is a very strong feeling—I would go further, and say throughout the world there is a very strong feeling that our treatment of the India problem is a touchstone really of our sincerity in this war, 591 a touchstone of our sincerity in the declarations as to the things for which we are fighting. It is the fashion in another place when attacking His Majesty's Government to pay homage to the Prime Minister and to attack the Under-Secretaries. I am afraid that in this case the Prime Minister's record in relation to India is one of the greatest difficulties in the way of settlement; but it is important to remember that at the time of the passing of the Government of India Act the Prime Minister led a no doubt gallant, but extremely small minority even in the Conservative Party at that time, and I have good reason to suppose that at present the feeling in this respect, instead of hardening in the direction of a reactionary attitude to India, has in fact throughout the country advanced.
I would therefore address myself to the other members of His Majesty's Government, and above all to the members of His Majesty's Government who come from my own Party. It is not the policy of our Party to force Socialism on a country which has not declared for it by vote. But this is no question of forcing on the country a policy which it has not declared for by vote. It is a policy which repeated declarations by Government speakers, as I have said, for decades have in fact promised to India, and it is the fulfilment of those promises which we believe should now be made in order that India may play her part in the struggle which is at present going on. Finally, I would venture to read to your Lordships a statement made by the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, at Benares on the 23rd of last month. I do so because it has not been published—or at least I have not seen it—in the English Press, and it seems to me to offer considerable hopes that anything like a reasonable offer would be accepted. It seems to me, in fact, to reopen the door for further negotiations. Pandit Nehru said:Now is the time when the continuation of passive resistance is harmful. At present, when we know that danger may be imminent, as in the case of Assam, which may be bombed, it would be preposterous and cruel to advise people to offer Satyagraha against war, they do not need that advice, but the assurance of courage and sympathy and instruction backed by action as to how best to meet the situation.He added:Congress would resist attempts at invasion with all means at its command, and would 592 have no tacit or express co-operation with any aggressor.This seems to me to be a declaration of absolutely primary importance, and one which I believe His Majesty's Government should meet half-way. I beg to move.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the noble Lord was well within his rights and has done a good service in bringing up this matter of the situation in India. I need not say that I do not propose to attempt to follow the arguments with which he has presented his case, and certainly not to touch upon the historical past with which he opened his remarks. I merely desire to make one or two quite general observations on the question. I say frankly that in the whole of my experience of public life I can hardly recall an occasion when it was more difficult for the Government of the day to arrive at a definite decision on any subject. On the one hand, you have the undoubted fact, which nobody will desire to dispute, that this country, irrespective of the Government of the day, has promised to India the attainment of a self-governing system so soon as that can be safely and by agreement attained. On the other hand, we are confronted by difficulties, suggested in India itself, mainly, no doubt, those which the noble Lord desired to minimize—the religious distinctions which create a deep gulf between different Parties and classes in India.
As the noble Lord stated, it has been the policy of His Majesty's Government, as expressed by the Viceroy, that some sort of preliminary understanding between those Parties is a necessary prelude to action by the Government here. Whether that has been stated too strongly and categorically I do not attempt to judge, but it seems to be not an extravagant demand for the Government here to make that a system of government by the majority in a country like India should not be granted without at any rate some substantial hope that that system would not at once produce civil war. The noble Lord treats the Congress party as being the real representatives of India, but I cannot help feeling that he somewhat overstated that thesis and that the difficulty is not only between Hindu and Moslem. It is hardly possible to regard those who speak for Congress, and who undoubtedly represent the more extreme 593 section of Congress opinion, as representing the whole of India. If we recall the attainment of self-government by the great Dominions we see how infinitely more difficult the progress of India towards self-government is. It was my lot to be responsible Minister at the time of the creation of the: South African Union. In that case there were some difficulties, not identical, but more or less analogous, with those that exist in India. There was the racial contest between Dutch and British elements and, besides that, there were the recent memories of the war. It was undoubtedly due to the existence of statesmen like General Louis Botha and General Smuts that these obstacles were removed and that we were able, although there were many doubts and much shaking of heads among responsible and serious people in this country, to proceed to what I think everyone will agree turned out to be the right course. If we had such men as these representing public opinion in India it would undoubtedly greatly facilitate the task for His Majesty's Government.
I cannot believe that even the noble Lord would say that the most vocal representatives of the Congress Party in India have attempted to show anything like that kind of balance of mind and foresight which distinguished these South African statesmen. Unfortunately, the demands of Congress have been stated very definitely and in an extreme form. When the noble Lord speaks of negotiations and the possibility of starting negotiations, it surely has been the main obstacle so far that the spokesmen of Congress have not been prepared to engage in any form of conversations which could be described as negotiations. I do not think it is possible to blame the Viceroy for not having succeeded in starting a series of conversations between all the different representatives—by no means only the Moslem League, because I quite agree with the noble Lord that the extreme views of the Moslem League ought not to be taken as representing the whole of the Mahomedan opinion in India. But they on their side represent the extreme Right, if that is the way to put it, in the same manner as the principal spokesmen of Congress represent the extreme Left. There is also, undoubtedly, the more rational and more sober medium opinion which, as we 594 know, has been freely expressed in Bombay.
The real question is, what can His Majesty's Government do? On that Lord Faringdon made some positive suggestions. It must be remembered, however, that the powers of any Government in making statements and promises are distinctly limited. They are limited to their own life as a Government and to the duration of the Parliament in which such statements are made. No Ministry can pledge a future Government or future Parliament by saying that such-and-such a constitutional change will take place at a particular time—three years, five years, ten years. That is altogether contrary to our democratic Constitution. All, therefore, that His Majesty's Government can do is to say what they are prepared to do as long as they exist in the life of this Parliament. I gather that Lord Faringdon believes it would be possible for them at once to make the move of constituting a purely Indian Government—that is to say, that the Council of the Viceroy would be purely an Indian composition: all the Ministers and heads of Departments—and that this would be followed by the creation of a Constituent Assembly whose decisions Parliament should be obliged to accept without change or amendment. There, I think, we run up against the difficulty which I have just stated, that it could only be the present Parliament for which such an engagement could be made.
May I interrupt for a moment? What I actually suggested was that the Government should introduce the agreed conclusions of the Constituent Assembly as a Government measure. Parliament would be perfectly free to criticize and amend it.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
And might even refuse to pass it. It would be, in my opinion, altogether unwise and improper for the present Government or the present Parliament to attempt to pledge future Governments or future Parliaments to take any action of the kind. Assume for a moment that the Constituent Assembly demands the immediate grant of self-government with all the implications of the Statute of Westminster, that, as we know, would involve the disappearance of the Secretary of State and the India Office, and it would also have the effect of precluding Parliament here from taking any 595 interest whatever in the internal affairs of India. As we all know, neither in this House nor in another place would it be thought proper to support a discussion on any controversial matter affecting one of the existing Dominions, and that no doubt would have to be also applied to India. On the question whether it would be possible for any Government to make a promise of the kind which the noble Lord suggests, all I think it is possible for His Majesty's Government to do is to say that before their period of office ends—and, as we understand, it seems to be generally agreed that the life of the present Government and Parliament ought not to depend entirely on the conclusion of peace, but upon the preliminaries of what is to take place after the peace—His Majesty's Government should say that before they leave office they will take steps which will make the arrival of self-government in India a certainty—that is to say, they will begin the process by which the representative responsible Government of India would have the last word in Indian affairs.
There are other questions, it seems to me, which cannot be entirely settled in India itself. One is the question of the demand for what is called Dominion status. That would unquestionably mean the complete disappearance from India of British troops on the analogy of what has occurred elsewhere, and, as we know in one particular instance, that of Ireland, it is a matter to which particular attention has been called. The position of India in respect of defence entirely differs from that of any of the other Dominions. It has been for many years, long before we attained our present relations with the United States, the pride of Canada and of the United States that the long, undefended and unarmed frontier between those countries has never been invaded; therefore, there is no question of that kind in Canada. Australia and New Zealand, as we know, are islands, and the question of their defence is on an entirely different footing. As it so happens, South Africa has had no military neighbours. India, on the other hand, is contiguous to Afghanistan, to Nepal and Tibet and, as we know, contiguous to Thailand from Burma eastwards. That is altogether apart from the present position. That is one of the questions which the noble Lord's Motion touched on, the question of defence, and 596 so long as the whole question of defence remains in the hands of His Majesty's Government here so far would India fall short of parity with the other Dominions of the Crown.
There is also the difficult and complicated question of the neighbouring principalities, including very large numbers both of Hindu and Moslem subjects. That is a question which obviously could not be settled only by the desires and beliefs of British India. Therefore I venture to repeat that all that His Majesty's Government can be expected to do is to promise to make a start, a real and definite start which cannot be reversed, in consulting all India opinion, and actually making a start to settle these difficult side issues while simultaneously handing over the conduct of actual Indian affairs to Indians themselves. All therefore that I should urge upon His Majesty's Government would be to engage to go as far as they possibly can in that direction, to make it clear to Indian opinion—which as we know is suspicious, surely somewhat unduly suspicious, of the good faith of public men in this country—and reassure the minds of all Indians who are not definitely prejudiced against the British Government, that we do mean at the earliest possible time, and to the fullest possible extent, to carry out the engagement to create a really responsible Government in India.
I will not attempt to repeat what I have already often said, that in my view the most hopeful line of advance is by extension of powers to the Indian Provinces and by limitation of the duties and functions of the Central Government, as far as possible. Such matters as Customs and coinage, apart from the complications of Indian defence, would be in my judgment sufficient for the Central Government. I think the noble Lord said that universal suffrage should be the rule in India, and I think it is the desire of Congress that suffrage should be universal. With such a vast electorate it seems to me that a Central Government representing such a colossal country would be very likely to become a powerful oligarchy, not representative in any real or strict sense. But I will not attempt to enlarge upon the particular favour which I feel for the almost practical independence of the Provinces as against the Central Government. I would merely say 597 once more that I hope His Majesty's Government will go as far as they possibly can in satisfying the real opinion of India, not simply by making promises but by action as soon as action can be taken.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
My Lords, yesterday the Japanese crossed the Salween. The situation is arresting, provocative of thought. I think we should ascertain the greatest common multiple of our views. We all, I think, want three things so far as India is concerned. First, we want to avoid the disgrace of having the Japanese overrun India; secondly, we want to get total Indian help now; and thirdly—I hope we all agree on this—we want to see Indians friendly and free. I insist on free and friendly. Next, what are we all afraid of? I expect most of your Lordships fear the same as I do. I am afraid of India developing into a second Ireland, hating us, anxious to injure us, teaching hatred. Twenty-five years ago the feeling was very different from to-day. The attitude of the Indian towards what I may call the benevolent Englishman has changed. That causes this big fear that, if there is not, as Gandhi demands, a change of heart on both sides, we may in future have an India which will go through exactly the same stages of hostility as has Ireland.
We may get a Constitution agreed to, and set up for the whole of India. I beg your Lordships to consider the manifold advantages of granting Constitutions Province by Province, and not to a united India; but I will not go into that to-day. What I fear is the establishment of a Government in India which in due course will repudiate debts, as the Irish Government did, which in due course will put an embargo on money sent from companies to shareholders in this country, and which may ultimately end in siding with our enemies. That is the danger I see; and much the easiest doctrine to preach is this doctrine of hatred of the alien. It is such an advantage to be able to put the blame on the other fellow for everything that goes wrong. It is also an advantage if you fear the solidarity of your national Party, one section going to the Right or to the Left as the case may be. It is such an advantage for example, if afraid of Bolshevism; profitable to switch minds over to hatred of the alien conqueror.
598 That I think explains a great deal in India and certainly a great deal in Ireland. Common hatred is a most useful solvent of internal difficulties. I do not think that Indians have so much cause to hate us as the Irish have. We have not injured them, we have in fact done a great deal for them by teaching them the English language and our methods of thought, starting them on Home Rule and giving them self-government in the Provinces. Where we have failed, and where we have aroused their indignation and finally their hatred, is in treating them as inferiors. People will forgive a great deal in the way of injustice if they are treated as equals; but we have not treated the Indians as our equals, and we are still not treating them as such. When Gandhi demanded his change of heart it was just that which he meant. So that if we are to avoid the danger which I believe everybody here expects, the first thing is to sec whether we can get their voluntary co-operation as comrades in a great fight rather than perpetuate the class distinctions. There are enough of such distinctions in India amongst the Indians themselves in any case, but it is ten times worse when you have them between the governing class—the white race—and the Indian people. What should we do, therefore, to avoid the disgrace of the Japanese overrunning India, to get total Indian help and to see Indians friendly and free?
Now, I believe that out of this war, and only out of this war, can something be done to bring about this complete change of relationship between the English and the Indian people; that here is a possibility of comradeship in arms which may wipe out the education in hatred that has been going on, and substitute a feeling of unity and of trust otherwise now impossible. It is given a few to know the love of those who have gone together through the long valley of the Shadow of Death and learnt to trust each other to the end. That is what I want to see resulting from this war, and that is what might be brought about in India, if only I could convince His Majesty's Government to make it so. I would have them recruit for the Indian Army—or for the Indian Army and the workshops if you like—up to 5,000,000 people. I would approach them, not by making promises to the politicians—promises which the politicians 599 suspect and do not want—but in the Churchillian manner. I would offer them nothing save blood and toil and tears and sweat, and ask for their co-operation. I would give assistance for workshops to be built where the Indians can make all the things which they will have to make now that their communications with America and ourselves are cut. I would double the pay of every man in the Regular Army, pay him half of it and keep the other half until the end of the war, and then give it to him in the form of land, so that in the future these people might have something of their own To light for.
I believe that in that way you could effect great social good in India as well as establish a class of friendly peasants who have got something out of the British Government, something to show for their services. I would see that there are Indian officers in the messes, that the barrier to the Indian officers goes down, and that they are welcomed; indeed, that there should be no distinction whatever between British and Indian soldiers or officers. And then, the vital thing to my mind, is the establishing of Home Guards so that they may defend their own country as we here are defending ours and with the same determination. I know that they have no rifles; but let them drill, let them organize, let them equip themselves with Molotov cocktails. Let them start, as we started, with no uniforms, wearing just a mere badge. Inspire them with the idea that we no longer regard them as we regarded the Chinese and the Malays in Hong Kong and Malaya, as people to be left behind, of no consequence to be saved. Let them see that their case and ours is one. You can only do that if you ask people to defend themselves, without pay, to make sacrifices. I cannot imagine a better way of achieving morale than by starting these Home Guards on a provincial basis. Leave it to each Province to do what it thinks best, and the immediate result would be that in a very short time every Talukh would have its own platoon. They would acquire a sense of responsibility for the war which they have not got at the present time. It may be that Congress would find its natural opportunity, its normal function, in helping to organize this force. Then you could rely on these people to attempt to defend their homes, 600 attempt to prepare against the attack from the sea.
How do we know what will happen? We are talking of India to-day. Have noble Lords thought that any morning we may wake up and see that the Andaman Islands, the Laccadive Islands have gone, as Hong Kong has gone, and that Ceylon might go likewise? If you used the prisoners in the Andamans and set them free to defend the island, if you called upon the Buddhists in Ceylon and the men of the old Candian kingdom, do you think they would not shout at the opportunity of being trained in arms? Even if they had one rifle among them it would be something. I am thinking of it largely as evidence on our part that the old feeling is dead, that the distrust of Indians is dead, and that in future we should stand together, that in future these people, with arms in their hands, need no longer be petitioners to an alien government for justice.
I want to emphasize also the question of granting land to the people who have served. Let them have land to go back to. We want that for stability as much as anything else. Think of a peasant population owning their own land. We read in Goethe that Faust came at last to peasants living on their own land, on land which they had made, free men; and when he finds that community he decides that it was worth preserving even at the cost of his soul and exclaims: "Verweile doch, du bist so schön." And he goes down to hell. If you want stability—and surely your Lordships want stability in the world as a whole, and particularly for India—if you want stability, look back at our own history. What was it that perpetuated the Reformation in this country? Preaching? No; it had something to do with it. It was the land, got out of the hands of the abbeys into the hands of certain people. Thenceforth we could not go back to Rome! Such was Henry VIII's wise policy. Or take the French Revolution. What was it that saved the French Revolution from reaction? The church lands again, the sale of the assignats. All the people bought little bits of land, going cheap. The peasantry of France became free with their own land. After that France could not go back to the feudal system. The same applies to India. There, too, if we could get the land into the hands of the peasants, the peasantry 601 would not be so desperately poor as they are to-day.
And we might try the merits, for a change, of helping cur friends and hurting our enemies. The Czechs did it. I should like to point out that Czechoslovakia gave land to the people who fought, and it was the most stabilizing tiling in CzechoSlovakia. Of all the postwar countries none did better than Czechoslovakia, simply because they put their soldiers on to the land. I do not mind if you have collective farms. The collective farms that I and the noble Lord have seen in Palestine are the most ideal system for planting free people with a view to the world which we are facing. I do not mind if they are coloniœ, after the old fashion of the Roman Empire. But what I do think is that by methods such as these you can change the relation between Britain and India. Give Indians something to fight for, prove to them that we are trustworthy, and the handing over of the land to these fighting peasants will be an outward and visible sign that our word is not merely to be trusted, but is to be trusted better than that of some other folk.
I believe most of your Lordships would agree with all that I have said. The difficulty is that you have got in India obstinate obstruction. The garrison cannot realize that this is a new world which we are facing, and that they must change their hearts and not their garments. I will give your Lordships an illustration of what apparently is the military mind in India. There is a man out there named Mr. Hiramchand, a multi-millionaire, who has been trying for the last five years to get a factory started to make internal combustion engines. In the whole of that vast continent which is India there is not a single internal combustion engine being made to-day. It has been blocked. I am told it is too late to start now. Well, it is never too late to mend, and when we think that it may be soon too late to get any internal combustion engines into India from anywhere, perhaps the Government will begin to regret having blocked it. But as time has gone on the Government have changed their policy and have ceased to block it; and now the military object!
The matter was to have been raised in the Defence Council. An Indian member of the Defence Council asked permission 602 to bring it up. He was told that the military objected on the ground that they disliked duplication of patterns. I wonder whether the Japanese objected to the duplication of patterns of those thousand motor cars they picked up on the Malay front. Can you imagine a man in the Army, at a time when we are wanting everything, saying that we do not want engines and motor cars made in India because they would not be of the same pattern as those made in Detroit. And why they should not be, I do not know; they might be. That is not getting all help from India now. That is selfishly looking to the future. There may be no future for these people at all if they do not take care.
I use that as an illustration of the real difficulties we are up against in getting intelligent treatment of this extremely dangerous situation in India. We may have to fight very hard in India. We may have the Japanese coming round these islands into the Bay of Bengal. Have they considered defending the islands? There are junior officers in our Army who are every bit as capable as the Japanese officers or the German officers. Give a chance to the Bromheads and the Chards who are in the Army today to repeat the deeds of the junior officers of the past. I would have them out in all the islands I have mentioned—in the Seychelles and the others. I would have every island manned with an officer and a wireless, so that he may put up some sort of fight against these Japanese raiders, so that he may at least do his duty by his country by giving information.
Is it all hopeless? Can this House of Lords not do something to break down this colour bar which is destroying the finest and best Empire the world has ever known? I would appeal to the spiritual Peers. This is a moral question. We are not asking anybody to kill Germans. We want to kill the colour bar, anti-Semitism, race hatred, false pride. Is there no hope? "Lord, take not Thy mercy from us. But take away our pride."
§ VISCOUNT SANKEY
My Lords, the first part of my speech—the most pleasant one to me, and certainly the one with which I shall get unanimity—is to welcome Lord Wedgwood to this House, and to congratulate him on the speech which he has just delivered to us. His fame has 603 preceded him here. He has established it in this House this afternoon; and, may I add this to encourage him, that a little leaven may possibly leaven the whole lump?
The entry of the Japanese into the war and their rapid successes have caused us to review our policy and our preparations in the Far East. He would be a bold man who professed himself satisfied with the present position and was confident that we had made no mistakes. Are we sure that we have made no mistakes in our Indian policy in the last three or four years? Is it wise at any time, especially at a crisis like the present, to let things drift, and to incur the dangers of delay? Has the time come to take a real step forward towards the goal which we have so often set before ourselves and our Indian fellow subjects? They are continuously pressing for a date to be fixed for the fulfilment of our promises and are begging us not to keep India always in a state of tutelage.
We should, in my view, be grateful to the noble Lord who has introduced this Motion for the concise statement of facts which he has placed before us, but I do not propose to follow him into the events to which he has referred. No doubt progress has been made, but has that progress been commensurate with the numerous Inquiries and Commissions that we have sent out, with the Round-Table Conferences, and with the hopes which we have excited? What is the Indian case? Many Indians believed that some definite and not far distant step would be taken towards granting to India a larger measure of managing her own affairs either in the form of Dominion status or by some other method. It cannot, however, be justly charged against us that under the guise of prudent delay we have purposely postponed the fulfilment of our pledges, although Indians have come to the conclusion that some larger measure of self-control seems to be eluding them as it draws nearer. They think that our voyage towards Dominion status has been too much anchor and too little sail. They fear that the realization of their hope depends now upon such an impossible condition as an agreement between Hindu and Moslem regarding any proposed scheme, and they ask, perhaps not unnaturally, what progress would ever have been made 604 in England if an overriding power had decreed that there should be no political reform until Conservatives and Labour were of one mind upon it.
It is a mistake to believe that on all topics Hindus and Moslems are at variance. The Round-Table Conference showed much more unanimity than was anticipated, but there are those who think that since the passing of the 1935 Act the situation has deteriorated. The Provincial part of that Act was workable, but the Federal part may need reconstruction. Yet how are we to advance along the road of Dominion status and some greater measure of Indian self-control, unless a Federation of some sort or kind comes into being? It is because, as it seems to me, the present crisis offers a second chance that I am venturing to address your Lordships, although you have the advantage of the noble Viscount on the Woolsack who presided over the greatest Commission which ever went to India, and produced the greatest document ever produced on Indian affairs, and also the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who was Secretary of State for India during the earliest sittings of the Round-Table Conference.
Although a greater degree of unanimity was achieved at that Conference than was anticipated, it cannot be denied that there were, and still are, extremists on both sides. They are men who will not be easily persuaded out of their own opinions, opinions which they have registered publicly on so many occasions that they find it embarrassing to change them. I do not criticize them, but they have so committed themselves that they find it difficult to weigh the judgment of others in the balance against their own. When in any argument you have obtained agreement on the premisses and the conclusion seems to be as simple as two and two make four, it is discouraging to be met with the remark "Not in India." Any one who has presided over a Round-table Conference will sympathize with the difficulties of all Parties and, I would also add, will know the difficulties which both the Viceroy and the Government have before them to-day. There was a stream, however, of moderate and informed opinion in the speeches and suggestions of men like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Jayakar and Mr. Sastri, which commended itself to a large number of people both here and in India. 605 Great Britain, at any rate, registered her approval of these men by appointing them members of our Privy Council.
At times, my Lords, a book or a treatise has moulded national opinion and policy. A recent example is Mein Kampf. At the Round-table Conference the treatise which was so repeatedly quoted by Indian members was Burke's speech on Conciliation with America. It is said that we have educated Indians in the literature of revolt, but the principles and policy enunciated by Burke in his speech on conciliation are still worth consideration. May I venture to point out here and elsewhere that overriding interest often compels co-operation, and co-operation often continues after the necessity has passed; that the machine trues up when it has worked for a time? Our interests are India's interests; our cause is India's cause. We have heard the remark that England's difficulty is India's opportunity. But what about India's difficulty? Let nobody forget that. Is India's difficulty Japan's opportunity? Let me remind your Lordships that Penang is a good deal nearer to Calcutta than Tokyo is to Pearl Harbour. No one can withhold praise from the magnificent help which India has rendered to our Fighting Forces. The Indian Army has been very largely Indianized. Are we so very dissatisfied with the result? Would it not be wise to try some further Indian- ization of the civil authority to get the Provinces to work again under the 1935 Act with a Central body having adequate Indian representation with adequate opportunities of advice and consultation and some measure of control? This, in effect, is the proposal of the distinguished moderate statesmen headed by Sir Tej Sapru and Mr. Jayakar. They recommend the restoration of popular government in the Provinces. Might we not say that they should recommend the resumption of popular government in the Provinces with the expansion of the Central Executive into, as it were, a National Government, with similar rights as to consultation and advice as are enjoyed by the Governments of the Dominions and some measure of control without having always to be submitting questions to Whitehall?
As was pointed out in a leading article in The Times on the 9th January, these leaders do not belong to Congress or any other extreme political Party. They 606 have never supported civil disobedience, and they have publicly associated themselves with India's full participation in our war effort. Although in our democratic system criticism of the Government is at all times an essential service, we can put politics into cold storage during the war. This is not the time or the place to elaborate details; but if these leaders of moderate opinion will put up a reasonable plan, acceptable to themselves and the major Indian Parties, they will have rendered a public service and will find such a plan not only readily accepted but acceptable to this country. It is no use fiddling when the Japanese have overrun Malaya, when they have raided Rangoon and have a fleet of aeroplanes at Penang. Is not such a plan worth trying by all Parties in the present crisis? Two points I should like to make. The first is that on such a Central Executive the Moderates and also the leaders of other Parties must consent to serve; and secondly, it is to be hoped that such a Central Executive would not sit for the duration of the war only, but for two or three years afterwards. Problems of peace will be difficult and as dangerous as the problems of war, and a long co-operation between all of them may lead to an easier solution of the problem of creating a united India.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I should like in the first instance to repeat what the noble Lord has said as to the interest, and I may say. admiration, if not agreement, with which the House will have welcomed the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood. I think I can find some agreement in it. It is that any further development in India should be on provincial and not on central lines. Moreover I remember when sitting on the Select Committee that I was struck by his evidence in favour of local government being based not on any Western model but on the basis of the ancient parish assemblies of the Panchayat. We have had very many views expressed, and no one speech has been in agreement with any others so far. But I do not want to talk about generalities. I do want to express the sincere hope that nothing will be done which will add to the present burdens of the Viceroy and the Indian Executive—nothing done and nothing said.
607 The Viceroy has had a task of immense difficulty. He had to bring into force a most difficult and complicated Act, some part of which has already proved to be abortive. Now, on the top of his other troubles and difficulties, he has been through two years of the stress and burden of war, and how can you ask him even to think of carrying out such a programme as the mover of this Motion proposes? He cannot act without some Indian concurrence and he is faced with two proposals, neither of which at the present moment, I think, anyone can regard as possible. One of them would mean giving a blank cheque to Congress and the other, the Moslem proposal, would mean what I would call the vivisection of India. He cannot pursue either. To attempt to go on either line—each of which, of course, is completely incompatible with the other—would bring on open enmity from the other side in the present circumstances. That certainly would do nothing to help India against possible danger from further East. But it is said that he should make a gesture. He has made gestures already. He has called Indian members to his Council, he has freed the political prisoners. It has availed him nothing whatever, any more than the gestures of allowing the Government of Southern Ireland to have their just debts remitted or giving up the use of their ports has been of the slightest service to Imperial unity.
What I fear is this. I fear that there is a danger that some ambiguous formula or declaration may be made by the Government which will be interpreted differently, as such formulas often are, and which will lead in the future to a charge of breach of faith. Whatever goal we aim at, call it by whatever name you like, whether Dominion status or full responsible self-government, there are fundamental questions which must first be solved whatever may be the final issue. You have to provide for the position of the Crown, for the position of the Viceroy, for the rights of the independent States, for the control of the Army, for the protection of minorities and also, I submit, for some ultimate emergency provision in case of grave disturbance. That will involve not months but years of work, as the present Act involved years of work, as nobody knows better than the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey. But 608 when all these things are borne in mind, we must remember something yet more fundamental and that is the responsibility of Government and Parliament, not to any Congress or League, but to the multiform masses of the Indian peoples. To yield to a passing demand of organized political bodies may be the worst thing you can do to satisfy your ultimate responsibility.
Reference has been made to promises made in this House. I should like to be allowed to read—it will not take more than a moment—the Preamble to the Government of India Act, 1919. It says:Whereas it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian administration, and for the gradual development, of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in British India as an integral part of the Empire:And whereas progress in giving effect to this policy can only be achieved by successive stages, and it is expedient that substantial steps in this direction should now be taken:And whereas the time and manner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples:I ask noble Lords to note the plural:And whereas the action of Parliament in such matters must be guided by the co-operation received from those on whom new opportunities of service will be conferred, and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility:And whereas concurrently with the gradual development of self-governing institutions in the Provinces of India it is expedient to give those Provinces in provincial matters the largest measure of independence of the Government of India, which is compatible with the due discharge by the latter of its own responsibilities:Be it therefore enacted"—and so on. That is the Preamble to the Act of 1919, and a section of the Act of 1935 provides that nothing in that Act shall be deemed to impair anything in the Preamble to the Act of 1919.
That is our policy. It has been faithfully followed up. The Act of 1935, though I disliked and criticized and opposed it with my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury, who unhappily is not able to be here to-day through indisposition, was a very genuine attempt to follow up the Preamble of 1919. Surely, in the midst of war it is much too ambitious to design a new Constitution after so 609 short an interval. The promise remains, the work remains, and I trust no opportunist weakness in the moment of a passing crisis will make us forget the fundamental principles which we owe to the whole of the Indian peoples.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I should like to preface my observations by saying how very warmly I agree with what was said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey, and the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, about the speech of my noble friend and relative Lord Wedgwood. It was certainly a very refreshing speech, and its directness of statement and its warmth of feeling recall, perhaps, the late Viscount Buckmaster but no other member of your Lordships' House that I can remember at this moment.
I have to apologize to your Lordships for addressing you on the subject of India, because I do not pretend to any special knowledge and there are many of your Lordships who have special qualifications for speaking on it. I would not do so except for the fact pressed upon us very often in the speeches that have preceded my own, of the very grave position that exists in that part of the world—let us hope it is not quite so grave as has been suggested, but still it is undoubtedly grave—and of the fact which I think is admitted that, though we have had most valuable assistance from the Indian people, for which we are all profoundly grateful, yet there is a vast reservoir of strength in India that has been very imperfectly called on so far to help in our great struggle. That is a very serious matter which affects not only people with special interest in India but every citizen of the British Empire. It is on that ground that I wish to offer a few observations.
What is the difficulty that we are in? I do not desire to go into details, but the broad proposition seems to be that there is a section, and an important section, of feeling in India which, as I think my noble friend Lord Faringdon said, thinks that though Dominion status has been promised—I do not think there is any doubt about that—that promise has been over and over again evaded. Therefore a mere general promise in general words does not really fulfil the demand. They say that the British Government will always find some reason why nothing 610 substantial can be done in the direction which is desired. They may perhaps draw some support for that argument from some of the speeches that have been made this afternoon in your Lordships' House. There has been certainly a very acute sense of the difficulties of advance; there have been suggestions that perhaps after all anything like a central system is a mistake, and that we ought to be satisfied with greater provincial autonomy, and things of that kind. I do not criticize noble Lords who have said that to-day and who know far more about the subject than I do as far as details of the matter are concerned, but I do ask them and everybody to consider what has been the result of that kind of way of dealing with this subject. There is unquestionably profound suspicion—perhaps that is too strong, but profound anxiety—as to the fulfilment of these promises to which they attach so much importance.
On the other hand, the case for the Government appears to me to be extremely strong. They ask whether it is really suggested that there should be a great revolutionary change in Indian government during the war, a revolution which, as my noble friend Lord Rankeillour has just pointed out, is certainly of doubtful advantage to a considerable section of the Indian population. I agree with him most fully, it is not a questing of counting heads. So far as the British Government are concerned they are responsible to all parts of the Indian Empire and to all parts of the Indian population. They owe their duty to them equally, they have to protect all, and if they are really asked to make a great change which a large section of them—the actual numbers do not seem to me to be so very important—regards as highly dangerous to them, their duty is not to say, "Oh, we cannot do that unless you are agreed as to exactly what you want, or, failing that, we have time and opportunity to consider the matter carefully which we cannot have during the course of a great war." That is the deadlock as it is called, as I understand it broadly.
And it is a serious matter. The deadlock now is very serious. The question I have been trying to put to myself is: Can nothing be done to reassure Indians—I mean Congress Party Indians—that we really do mean to carry out our promise, and that they may rely upon it that they will get Dominion status? I 611 wonder whether something might not be done not by making alterations in India, but by making alterations in this country. Is it really certain that the great apparatus of Government which we have erected which we know as the India Office is a desirable thing? I confess that I have very grave doubts about it. I wonder whether it would not be better to transfer all that is necessary of that apparatus to the Dominions Office. That at any rate would be something positive and definite in fulfilment of our policy and promise of Dominion status. And this is not a suggestion which would risk the lives or liberty of the peoples in India, because this is not a proposal to modify the position so far as India is concerned—that must be worked out, in my judgment, very largely in India, but certainly with considerable care and deliberation unless you can somehow or other secure agreement.
It may seem to your Lordships that this is an extreme and revolutionary proposal. I do not think it is. Is it really a satisfactory thing to have an elaborate system of administering all this gigantic continent of India with its enormous population here in Downing Street as it is called, or at any rate in Whitehall? Is it not true, or is not that part of the Indian case true which maintains that sometimes it has happened that in the past decisions have been made about Indian affairs, not in the interests of the peoples of India, but in the interests of the people of this country or, it may be, in the interest of people of other parts of the Empire? I remember that in the course of my own, from the national point of view, very short political career, there were two cases of what seemed to me very serious interference; cases in which interference was carried out in matters which were primarily, at any rate, Indian affairs. The old question of the Cotton Duties was one of those matters. Certainly that was decided not on the ground of the interests of India, but on the ground of the interests of other sections of the Empire. That has been settled, but the same controversy may arise again at any moment.
Now take a very different case raised from a very different quarter of influence in this country—the riots at Amritsar. Personally I think that it is a matter of, 612 at any rate, grave doubt whether a question like the riots at Amritsar are really usefully and fruitfully discussed in the House of Commons sitting thousands of miles away and reporting ultimately to a Cabinet equally distant from the scene of action. It must be done no doubt in cases, but I cannot think that that is in itself a very satisfactory form of administration. I cannot help feeling that one of the possibilities that ought to be very carefully considered is whether the India Office and the great elaborate organization—if you look in any text book you will see how enormous it is—really ought to be continued at the present time, and whether it is for the good government of this country that every big question or every little question, if occurring within the administration of India, should be the subject of discussion and possibly of political agitation in this country before it can be settled.
I do not want to weary your Lordships with historical arguments, but I think I may say in one sentence that perhaps one of the greatest origins of our troubles and difficulties in India was just the greatest instance of interference in this country with matters which were really primarily Indian affairs—I mean the impeachment of Warren Hastings. It would, however, be going a long way from the point to go into details of that. I cannot help thinking that if I were an Indian I should feel a great deal of irritation at the idea that those affairs which affected me, and it might be affected me purely in a personal and local sense, were going to be discussed and determined by people the great majority of whom have no special knowledge of India, and who sat and debated thousands of miles away. I cannot think that that is a good system. I cannot forget that it was just that kind of local separation which brought about so much of our troubles in our Empire, which indeed was the cause of the loss of the American Colonies. If you look into it, it was not really that decisions come to here were so very unjust. What enraged the people out there, whether in America or elsewhere, was that these were decisions come to by people who really had no opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the circumstances of the case, and who could not be appealed to and approached in the way that you can appeal to and approach people who are living in your midst.
613 I am quite aware that any change such as I am suggesting for the consideration of the Government only deals with part of the case raised by the Congress Party. If their real case, as my noble friend Lord Wedgwood thinks it is, is the feeling that they are not treated as equals, this would only deal with that part of their case to a very small degree. But while I cannot help feeling that the great case of equality can be dealt with in many ways such as were indicated by my noble friend Lord Wedgwood, this case of administrative interference with the lives of British citizens in India by the present machinery is a practical difficulty and danger which, if you could remove it, might lead to other dangers—what I may call the sentimental dangers—becoming far less embittered, far more amenable to treatment, and therefore far more easy of settlement, and might perhaps enable the Indian peoples, with their riches and their energies, to be devoted more fully to the cause in which they all believe, the cause of international freedom.
§ LORD HAILEY
My Lords, I suppose there can be very few cases in history where there has been so very general an agreement as to the objective of our policy and so much difficulty and so much disagreement about the method of approach to it. I see here noble Lords who were opposed, and strongly opposed, to the Act of 1935. I am sure we shall never hear anything from them that would suggest that they do not, equally with the rest of Great Britain, accept the objective; of Dominion status or full responsible government for India. That has now passed almost into the background of our political thoughts, and I think we might accept that in an atmosphere which is free from any of those recriminations about the past conduct of the British in India to which Lord Faringdon referred I know he will permit me to say that I would wish equally it should be discussed in an atmosphere free from recriminations about the present conduct of political Parties in India. Many of us have felt, and marry of your Lordships have given expression to the feeling, that the history of some of these Parties during the war has been a sorry one. I have spent my life among the classes who are mainly recruited for the Indian Army, and I cannot speak without emotion when I realize what part 614 those men—men whose families I have known in the past—have borne in this war. And yet what must be their feelings when they are told that India's political leaders refuse to co-operate in the war and, by implication, show not merely that the Indian soldier is wasting his life on behalf of the Empire, but actually that he is guilty of a deed of treachery towards India? Let us be clear of recriminations on both sides.
It nevertheless remains the fact that although the objective is clear, one hears everywhere the impression that not only the Indian political leaders but our own Government are engaged in manœuvring for position. One attends numerous meetings, one speaks with many people, and that is a very general impression throughout the public in Great Britain. There is a very general impression that something like a more statesmanlike attitude, some exercise of imagination on the part of the Government, would put an end to this period of manœuvring and enable us to proceed together to united action. The public is well aware of the declarations of Congress leaders on the subject of Nazism and Fascism, and they can have as little love for the Japanese form as for any other form of Nazism. The public cannot understand, if their feelings are such, why it is that the Government cannot hold out some hand to them that would bring them in together in co-operation in the war.
Then again, there is the attitude of the Indian Liberal Party, the Party represented by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and his friends. We have gone some way to meet them by appointing a majority of Indians on the Viceroy's Executive Council. The Indian Liberal Party themselves ask now that we should go somewhat further and agree that where the Viceroy and his Executive Council are in accord they should not be overruled from Whitehall. I will not go into the merits of that proposal, but clearly if we could gain the whole-hearted agreement of the Liberal Party, who may not be numerous but who represent much of the intelligence of India, it would be an advantage to have that element on our side. Now if these inferences are correct I think we must all agree that it is not a time for manœuvring or for standing on punctilio of any kind. We can be bold enough and quick enough elsewhere, as in the case of Syria, in 615 making our declarations, and it is not possible with complete logic to insist that we cannot carry out constitutional changes in a period of war. The most momentous declaration in Indian history, the declaration of 1917, was made in the middle of war, going further, I may say, than most Indian political Parties at the time would have ventured to go in declaring responsible government to be the bourne of India's future. And the Montagu-Chelmsford Report was signed in April, 1918, perhaps at the most critical period of the last war. It is not, therefore, entirely a logical argument to say that we can do nothing in the way of constitutional commitments during the war.
But if I have taken part in this debate it is because I hoped, not only on my own behalf but I know on behalf of many others interested in India, that we might obtain from the noble Duke some information, difficult for us to obtain ourselves, which would enable us to assess the value of those impressions. We know something of what is happening in the balance of political forces in India. We have heard that the numbers of Congress followers have fallen. I attach no great importance to that because numbers in such a loosely-formed organization do not count for much, and it may only amount to a certain remissness in collecting the very small subscriptions necessary to become a member. Again we know of differences between Mr. Gandhi and Congress, and there again that may not amount to much. It may only amount to this, that Mr. Gandhi will not co-operate with us because he is a pacifist, and Congress will not co-operate with us because we do not yield to their demand. It may amount to little more than that. The result seems very much the same. But what we would ask is this, is there actually any proof that Congress would welcome any approaches from our side from any quarter? Is there any sign that they are prepared to abate any of the demand that they, and they alone, as the predominant Party in India, should be left to decide what shall be the form of India's Constitution in future?
Then again—I ask for information—is there any sign of growing accommodation between the Hindus and the Moslems? Let us be perfectly clear. We do not wish to be unduly swayed by the feelings 616 of extremists on either side, either extremists on the Congress side or extremists on the Moslem side, and there are many; but the fact does remain that though the Moslem League may not represent, numerically, all the Moslems in India, and though it is difficult to say what proportion of Moslems it does represent, there is not a single Moslem in India who would not resent any form of Constitution which put the Hindus into not only a permanent majority, but a permanent position of power.
Let me be clear on another point. It is not altogether fair that we should take the attitude that these two great divergent interests should agree before we do anything ourselves. There is a long history of Moslem League and Congress differences. It is true that they came to an accommodation in 1916, but that, of course, was an accommodation merely about representation. There was not then responsible government in view, and the arrival, even in the near distance, of responsible government makes all the difference to these two Parties. It is not fair that we should say to them, "You must settle this quarrel for yourselves. You must compromise, and until you have compromised we can do nothing to assist you in constitutional advance." If they are, as a matter of fact, at a stage when a declaration on our part—a satisfactory declaration such as some of your Lordships have suggested—either giving a date at which they can attain to self-government, or prescribe the method by which they themselves should decide on its form—if they have arrived at a stage when a declaration of that nature would help them to come together, then undoubtedly it would be a strong argument to make it.
Finally, there is one all-important matter in present circumstances about which we would wish information. Does the difference between Government and the principal political Parties actually impair our war effort? We know the effect on America of the existence of these differences. We deplore them. We would make considerable sacrifices in order to adjust the position, but in India itself we hear of recruiting stations crowded with men. We hear of a million men under arms or training—as many as in the last war. Those of us who receive information—such information as is given to us 617 about the progress made in the provision of equipment, in manufacturing war material, not only for India, but for the Middle East—realize that it is something far in excess of what was achieved in the last war. We have often been told that but for these differences India would have been far better prepared. I am afraid that the relative unpreparedness of India—at all events its lack of equipment—is only par: of our general unpreparedness, our general lack of prevision.
I do not myself, with long experience of the Indian Assembly, think that whatever had been the relations between our Government and the Indian people, you would have found Indian political Parties ready to incur the very heavy expenditure required in mechanizing a modern Army. Indeed, I remember no period—and there are many who will bear me out—when every effort was not being made in political quarters, not to increase but seriously to diminish our military equipment. It is true that in the last war—and it must not be forgotten—the Indian Assembly voted a sum of £100,000,000 for assistance to Great Britain in the war, but that was in a period when we had an official majority. It is little use to speculate what might have been. We want to know to-day how far our war effort is actually being impaired by political differences in India. Estrangement of this kind is unwelcome to all of us. On every ground we should seek to put an end to it. Have we this additional ground, this compelling necessity, to put an end to it, that our war effort is being seriously prejudiced by it? I suppose there are none of us here—and certainly none of us who have to deal with the East—who are not fully conscious of the supreme value of gestures of good will in some circumstances. If I may say so, when the balance is wavering in the scale, then gestures will serve to bring it down. Even a moderate gesture of good will will serve to bring it down firmly on our side. But if the balance is still heavily weighted against us, then gestures of that kind are not merely wasted, but may even be harmful to us, for they encourage intransigent demands and serve to alarm and alienate our friends.
I do not wish to discuss in detail the kind of gestures that have been suggested this afternoon. The National Convention which it is proposed should be 618 assembled or should be promised after the war is really a much more difficult proposition than it appears to be on its face. I suppose no National Convention in the world, no Constituent Assembly in the world, has ever really been successful when it has started out to discuss the principles on which a Constitution should be made. They have met with their success when you have already agreed on Federation or some form of Constitution, but to throw the whole Constitution point-blank before a Constituent Assembly would, I believe, be to invite endless discussion and perhaps even greater differences of opinion than existed before.
As for the dispatch of a single envoy to India, I wonder who the noble Lord has in mind, who there is in Great Britain that the Hindu Congress will trust, that the Moslem League will trust, that His Majesty's Government can make a plenipotentiary. In regard to the point of Lord Rankeillour with respect to confidence in the Viceroy, I myself and many of my friends are prepared to place confidence in the Viceroy. I am reminded here of a saying of Lord Reading when it was once proposed that he should invite Mr. Gandhi to come and see him. He said: "After all, you know, Mr. Gandhi knows my address. It is well known in India." I believe, that the Viceroy would know more of the case, and indeed has enough of the trust of the people of India, to make him our best negotiator in this matter.
I refrain from further discussing proposals for promising troops land after the war. I would only remark that it always has been our practice, where we had Crown land available, to reward our troops with peasant holdings after a war, and I myself have had the pleasure of handing out some millions of acres to them. In a great measure the Province of Punjab is a province of peasant proprietors. Very large areas of the Bombay Presidency and elsewhere are also, in effect, in the possession of peasant proprietors; but if we are to find land elsewhere as a reward for war service it can, of course, only be the result of a process of taking it out of the hands of people who are already in proprietorship of it. That is just one of our difficulties. We practically have no more Crown land available for them.
But do not let me dwell on that. Let me come to one other consideration. A very great deal of attention has been concentrated 619 on finding a solution of what is now described as a deadlock. Have we ourselves any conception of the final stage at which we now wish to arrive? If we have not, it is no use our making suggestions and gestures of good will, it is no use our committing ourselves to agree to any solution at which a National Convention or the like may arrive. It would be exceedingly dangerous, it would be almost a betrayal, if we ourselves were to go into an operation of that nature without at least some idea in our minds as to what we are aiming at as a proper Constitution for India. We are told that the Constitution of 1935 is dead. Indeed, I see with some interest that many who fought most strongly for it seem now most anxious to heap the soil upon its grave. But that Constitution has been the fruit, I think, of more careful and more prolonged consideration perhaps than the British people have ever given to any Dominion or Empire question, a consideration which I may say aroused the admiration and even the astonishment of the rest of the world.
That Constitution was one of federation. Has that gone? What place now are we to assign to the Indian States, because it is on the Indian States particularly that the relations of India with Great Britain and the Empire so much depend? It was in the second place a federation of united India. Are we now to agree—I hope not—at the instance of Moslems to any solution which would divide India up? Are we clear on a point like that? Can we make ourselves clear to India on a point like that? Again the Constitution envisaged a Parliamentary form of Government of the normal character such as we know. That again is one of our difficulties, because it is the existence of the Hindu majority that has made it so exceedingly difficult for the Moslems to envisage coming into a Parliamentary form of Government in which they are bound to be in a perpetual minority. Do we intend to repeat that, or are we looking to find some form of Constitution in which there will be a fixed executive representative of the various interests, though it will not have responsibility in our sense to Parliament? No doubt that would be desirable. It would give India something of a more stable Government than she seems likely under the present system to attain; but perhaps 620 it is the most difficult, the most delicate constitutional task in the world to find an executive that is sufficiently amenable to a Legislature, and is sufficiently accepted by it, but yet is not fully responsible to it.
Again, one outstanding feature of our 1935 Constitution was provincial autonomy. It is through that also that one of our difficulties has arisen, because you had in the Central Legislature a body that was not concerned with all those vital interests of the population with which the Provinces deal. It was elected on a different basis from that of the Provincial Legislatures themselves, and perhaps in consequence of that it came under the control of outside bodies like the Congress or the League, with the result that the Central Legislature occupied a predominant political situation dealing with a relatively small number of functions, while the Provinces, dealing with all that was most vital to the population, were in a subordinate position. Does our ideal look forward to a repetition of that? The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, has already emphasized the importance of the Provinces. Nobody wishes to see India split up into a large number of Provinces, but is it not possible that we can readjust the position not by giving the Provinces more functions, but by making the Provinces themselves the constituent units in the construction of the Central Legislature?
It is largely on the conceptions we have on these points, that not only the future welfare of India, but the future of India in relation to Great Britain, will depend. To my mind these questions are of greater importance, and in particular any question which determines the relationship of Great Britain to the Empire is of vastly greater importance, than any problem arising from the necessity or the wisdom of immediate political reconciliation with Indian Parties. If in truth it is on the answer to these questions that the relations of India to the Empire will depend, then it is on these that at the moment we ought to concentrate our thoughts. I believe that we have here in the future relations of India to the Empire a question of vital importance not only to India and ourselves, but to the world at large, because it is highly probable that if we ever have another war, which God forbid, it may very well arise over the ambiguous position that India may occupy.
§ LORD CATTO
My Lords, I am sure I am echoing your thoughts when I say that we always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, on the subject of India not only with pleasure but with great instruction. I am very glad that in his speech to-day he has been a little more optimistic than in the speech he made in your Lordships' House last August, but if I may say so I think he has emphasized too much the difficulties of this great problem instead of lending us the help of his great mind as to how to solve them. I would like to refer to one other thing and that is that in the course of this debate there has been a great deal of talk about hate and about Indians hating us. That is entirely inaccurate. I have lived in India, and the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, was there for forty years. These people do not hate us. I know these political leaders, the names of whom you know so well, and I am perfectly friendly with them. They do not hate me. They disagree with me, and I disagree with them, but they do not hate me. Lord Hailey lived for forty years in India and was one of the best-loved men. Can any one say that he was hated? I resent such an expression. I have never found that to be the case.
The approach of the war to the East and indeed to India's own shores, makes a settlement of the Indian constitutional problem a matter not only of importance but, in my view, of vital urgency. India is blessed with vast resources in manpower, in raw materials and in potential manufacturing capacity. Sections of her people are great fighters, others have splendid skill with their hands. She has coal in abundance and vast iron ore deposits of the highest quality. Yet, so far, her war effort has not been developed on a scale consistent with these great resources. If they had been then her geographical position would have made her, as she should be, the great arsenal of supply for all the Allied Armies from the Mediterranean to the China Seas. It is true vast Government plants would have had to be constructed, but there would have been no great difficulty in that, just as similar plants have been erected in this country, in Canada and in the United States. Yet two and a half years of valuable time has been lost. I do not say that nothing has been done. On the contrary something has been done, but not enough in comparison with the resources 622 of India and the vital needs of the war effort. This apathy is mainly, although perhaps not entirely, due to the existing political situation. Many of India's leaders still feel it is not their war; that they are not real partners in the struggle. And without these men to rouse their fellow-countrymen and country-women, it is indeed difficult to bring home to the peoples of India the dangers of the war situation and the need for maximum effort.
Fundamentally Indians are as much against aggression as we are. They will loyally support all measures the Government of India may propose. Even the extremists are too loyal to their own country to try to take advantage of the situation to organize political unrest. But the apathy will continue so long as the conditions are there which create it. Unless by some stroke of political wisdom and imagination we can solve the constitutional problem, unless the promise of Dominion status can be fulfilled, then we cannot expect that enthusiasm which alone can come from a sense of equality and partnership in the great struggle for freedom. We have tried to make a Constitution that would provide for every conceivable possibility. In that we have succeeded. But we have not succeeded in creating a Constitution that satisfies India or one that meets the special conditions of that remarkable country. It is not for want of trying. But perhaps in our pre-occupation with the immense details we have missed some obvious solution, something perhaps less perfect, but just something that would work. A very great man once remarked that in the fashioning of a Constitution it should be short and obscure! There is much wisdom in that, for it leaves open the way for compromise and the creation of precedents. Our own constitutional arrangements work well because they are largely based on precedent. And when there is no precedent we create one.
There are probably only two things that really matter. The first is that whatever the solution, it must in fact be Dominion status, and the second is that the Central Executive must be so constituted that it cannot be in the sole control of any one community. The latter difficulty arises from the fact that there are not yet clearly defined political Parties in India—they are still largely religious and 623 communal. It has been held that this creates an insuperable barrier to a democratic form of Government. But is this really so? It does not debar a Coalition or National Government. And we have had that form in this country for many years. A solution might lie in fixing, possibly even by Statute, the proportions of the different communities in the Central Executive. That is no new principle. Every Viceroy has endeavoured to allocate the Portfolios in some fair proportion between the different communities. The present Viceroy must have had this very much in mind, as is evident from the proportions of Hindus and Moslems in the recently expanded Executive Council. And, moreover, such a principle would in no way retard the development of the political Party system in India. It does not affect a man's politics or his political views; but it gives to minority communities assurance of representation.
But a Coalition or National Government must be so composed as to have the confidence and support of the people. The present Executive Council is very nearly a National Government; to make it entirely so, great Indian personalities would have to be invited to join, such as Mr. Nehru, Mr. Jinnah, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and others, and at least one, if not two, non-official members of the British community. For that community, though small, is important and it has a traditional place in Indian public affairs. The men who compose it, as their predecessors did of old, are as anxious as Indians are to serve the land they live in, be that in war or in the Council Chamber. By the lamented death of Sir Akbar Hydari there is already one vacancy on the Council. Four more could be created by the withdrawal of Government officials, including the Commander-in-Chief. The latter's membership has been an anachronism since before the Viceroyalty of the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston.
But even if a Coalition or National Government were possible in India, how would that ensure Dominion status, which in effect means that the Council derives its authority from the Legislature? I ask this question: Would it be possible so to amend existing legislation as to enable the Viceroy to submit such a Council for confirmation by a Joint Session of the 624 Central Legislature? There would be no doubt about that confirmation. With some broad solution of these two essentials, everything else could be left to be thrashed out in the future in the entirely different and happier atmosphere of a National Government. We could then look forward—and I hope that Lord Hailey will make a note of this—to the time when, with suitable amendments, the great federal ideal of the Government of India Act of 1935 might become a reality.
I am deeply conscious that anything that would quickly and effectively deal with the Indian constitutional problem would require political courage and vision of the highest order. Well, we have a Prime Minister who has those great qualities and we have a Secretary of State of remarkable ability and experience. I may add in passing that we have also an Under-Secretary of equal ability and interest in the affairs of India. Then we have another great advantage at the present time of having one of the greatest Viceroys of modern times; a man with special understanding of these constitutional questions, of ripe Indian experience and of proved wisdom. Given a free hand on some broad lines of political vision, I am sure that in the emergency of these times he could cut the Gordian knot and lead India to a happier constitutional future and to her maximum war effort at this time of danger with the enemy at her very gates.
Some of you may well ask, what of the risks? What of the safeguards? Well, what of them? This is a time to take risks, if risks there be. Can there be any serious objection in inviting men into the Government who have been active in the heat of political controversy and agitation? That would indeed be a curious doctrine for a Commonwealth fighting for freedom and democracy. Let me tell you something of these men. I do not know Mr. Nehru personally. But I know all about him. I had the privilege of knowing his father, a famous lawyer, a man of rare personality and a great Indian gentleman. We know the son to be a man of personal charm. We know he has great ability and we know that he is a sincere Indian patriot, however much we may disagree with him. Above all, we know, too, that his faults are largely of our creation. He has been starved of 625 political responsibility. Give him that, and it may be that India will have found an Indian leader who has youth, imagination and moral courage of a very high order. Then I have mentioned Mr. Jinnah and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, and there are others whose names are not so well known to you. I know most of them. Mr. Jinnah and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru are both remarkable men. They would be honoured in the councils of any nation. They are men of ripe experience, wisdom and influence in India. Their country needs them. They will not fail her. But it is our duty to create the conditions wherein these men can serve India.
Now I come to safeguards. They can be dealt with later on; there is no hurry about safeguards. It is a very curious thing that those with little or no stake in India seem to have most faith in them. Those of us with a great stake in the country have less faith. We know that if we cannot work with our Indian friends on our own merits then safeguards will give little protection. I cannot imagine any safeguard that a good Bengali lawyer could not drive a horse through. Yes, and the cart, too! What has damaged British business and prestige in India in the past twenty years is the uncertainty of the political situation. Timid British investors have largely withdrawn their capital, which has been bought by Indians, who have grown up in stature commercially, just as they wish to do politically. Great and very efficient Indian business houses have grown up. That is a process of fair competition which has affected, and will continue to affect, British businesses in India. But it is not a thing against which safeguards can give protection, nor, if they could, would I accept such a privilege.
Let me close on this note. Unless we deal now with at any rate the essentials of this constitutional problem, can you imagine that at the end of a mighty struggle, in which India will have played a vital part, she will again be a suppliant for that constitutional liberty so long promised and so long delayed? Let us beware, lest the gift may lose its sweetness and India take her constitutional future into her own hands.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I can scarcely begin my reply to the very interesting and I think very important debate which we have had this 626 afternoon better than by reading some of the concluding sentences of a statement issued by the Governor-General of India on August 8, 1940. That was a summing up, a recapitulation and a reaffirmation of the very many declarations about India's constitutional future which have been made in the past, and it covers the situation to-day:His Majesty's Government authorize me to declare that they will most readily assent to the setting up after the conclusion of the war with the least possible delay of a body representative of the principal elements in India's national life in order to devise the framework of the new Constitution, and they will lend every aid in their power to hasten decisions on all relevant matters to the utmost degree. Meanwhile they will welcome and promote in any way possible every sincere and practical step that may be taken by representative Indians themselves to reach a basis of friendly agreement, first upon the form which the post-war representative body should take and the methods by which it should arrive at its conclusions, and, secondly, upon the principles and outlines of the Constitution itself.That declaration goes a very long way indeed. I venture to think that if it had been read and its meaning appreciated, some of the speeches, at all events parts of some of the speeches, which have been made this afternoon could scarcely have been made at all. That is a definite promise that the Government are prepared to hand over to Indians the government of their country—are anxious to do so, and will do at the very earliest possible moment. A great deal of the debate this afternoon turned upon the question—and the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, put it very clearly and in a very definite form—whether India's war effort had been materially impeded by the political difficulties which exist in India, and it has been suggested that the meeting by His Majesty's Government here of India's legitimate political aspirations, might have added substantially to India's war contribution to and participation in the war effort. It is suggested that if India had not been suffering from a sense of grievance and frustration, owing to her legitimate political aspirations not having been met, she might have made a greater contribution in men and in materials than in fact she has made. I should like to examine that theory in rather greater detail.
I am very glad indeed to see the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, in his place at this moment. I welcome the opportunity of adding on behalf of the Front Bench 627 my modest meed of welcome and of congratulation to him on his very important maiden contribution to the debates in this Assembly. For many years I have had the privilege of being a colleague of the noble Lord in another place, and I knew him many years before that. I first met him many years ago indeed, when I was a very young soldier, and the noble Lord had just returned from doing very distinguished service with his armoured cars at Antwerp. It is therefore a peculiar pleasure to welcome him here and to add my word of commendation on the very distinguished contribution that he has already made to our debates.
To resume this question of India's war effort, India has under arms to-day very little short of a million soldiers. Every one of those soldiers is a volunteer, and their numbers are being augmented by about 50,000 each month. The technical equipment of the Indian Army is very much in excess of anything that was dreamt of before the outbreak of this war, and the Indian Army is supplying a vastly larger proportion of the technical personnel required to keep a modern Army in the field than was the case in the past. In the last war only 2 per cent. of the technical personnel required was supplied from India. To-day more than 20 per cent. of the total Army of India is technical personnel, and I would remind your Lordships that it requires rather more than four times as much training and equipment to keep a modem soldier in the field as it did in the last war. So that India's contribution of a million men is already a very substantial one. There is no lack of recruits, and the monthly intake might have been very substantially greater but for difficulties of equipment and of technical services, and for the time needed to train the necessary officers, of whom the shortage is acute.
My noble friend whose maiden speech I welcomed just now dealt with the colour bar. He, like my noble relative opposite, seemed to be dealing with an era which has to a large extent disappeared. The intake of officers in the Indian Army is to a very large extent indeed Indian now. This so-called colour bar has in fact to a very large extent ceased to exist. I remember it being said of my noble relative Lord Cecil, some years ago, that he had one foot in the Middle Ages and one 628 in the League of Nations. The latter foot is withdrawn, and the other has advanced from the Middle Ages to about the middle of the eighteenth century. That is really the fact with regard to the India which he was talking about this afternoon. He referred to the vast extent of the India Office and the control exercised by that Office over India, but he was speaking of a state of things which no longer exists.
The India Office is, it is true, a very large edifice. It has ceased to be, as it used to be, Indian territory, and is now the property of His Majesty's Government, and its size externally remains undiminished, but aggressive persons from the Foreign Office, whether or not inspired by influences which they gained during the noble Lord's period of office there, have to an increasing extent invaded the India Office in search of Lebensraum, and anyone who looked at the exterior of that office and thought how large must be its impact on India would be mistaken. In fact that Office is occupied now to a very considerable extent by persons from the Foreign Office, and its impact on the life of India is astonishingly small. It is occupied to a very large extent with questions of promotion, pension, seniority and so forth, among the diminishing and now not very large European personnel of the Civil Service. It has a certain number of Parliamentary Questions to deal with and Ministers to coach, and it does receive a very considerable number of petitions from Indians, who seem to set some store upon its interference with the affairs of India, rare and exceptional though that interference is. But it really is a mistake to suppose that India is governed to-day from the India Office, or that it is the desire of the Government that it should be so governed.
To go back to the question of the expansion of the Indian Army and of the effect of this alleged disappointment on India's war effort, I would remind your Lordships that India's war effort has already been vastly greater than was contemplated in the period before the war. One of the main recommendations of the Chatfield Committee on Indian defence, which went out to India not very long before the war and left only in the early-months of 1939, a few months before war broke out, was that India should maintain, as a contribution to Imperial defence 629 outside of India, one Division of external defence troops. Many Indian politicians thought that that was altogether excessive, but in fact the Division was formed and was dispatched overseas before war broke out. Since then the strength of the Indian Army has been expanded from less than 250,000 at the outbreak of war to just on 1,000,000 now. The monthly intake of recruits, as I have said, is now running to at least 50,000, and the recruitment of technical categories of all kinds, practically non-existent before the war, has reached a level of over 9,000 a month.
I am not at liberty to say exactly how many of these soldiers are serving overseas or outside India, but I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the very gallant and very distinguished services of the Indian troops in many theatres of war. They fought with gallantry and distinction in France, Libya, Syria, Abyssinia, British and what was Italian Somaliland, Iraq, Persia, Malaya, Burma, and Hong Kong. In some of these theatres they are fighting with great gallantry to-day. I do not deny that the number of recruits could have been larger, but, having regard to necessities in other fields, I doubt whether more could have been done in the way of equipment and the supply of skilled officers and so forth than actually has been done. No noble Lord would for a moment suggest that Indian soldiers should be sent to fight a fully-trained and fully-equipped enemy short either of experienced officers or of modern equipment.
I should like to consider for a moment how this very substantial contribution to the Empire's war effort—and a very valuable contribution it has been—could have been increased by acceding to the political demands of the Congress Party. A good half of India's soldiers are Moslems, and to the great majority of the Moslem community of very nearly 100,000,000 these demands are anathema. You might just as well talk of encouraging recruiting in Northern Ireland or of rewarding the valour of the Royal Ulster Rifles by suggesting the abolition of Partition, as talk of increasing the war contribution of the Moslem population in India or increasing recruitment among Moslem soldiers by promising India immediate self-government on Congress 630 lines. Then there are the Gurkhas whose battalions have been greatly increased in numbers. They are orthodox and devoted Hindus, it is true, but they do not live in, and are not residents of, India. They are not subjects of India, and they are not profoundly interested in Indian politics; nor are the very considerable numbers of Sikhs, Rajputs, and Mahrattas who are serving in the Indian Army for the most part followers of Congress or in the least likely to be encouraged by the prospect of the Congress Party becoming the rulers of India. For that, my Lords, is the real issue involved.
The political issue in India to-day is not whether power shall, or shall not, be transferred from British to Indian hands. That issue was settled years ago by commitment after commitment, by pledge after pledge, given by Government after Government, culminating in the Viceroy's definition of the objective I have just stated—full Dominion status in accordance with the Statute of Westminster—and the promise, to which I have referred, of full and equal partnership contained in the declaration of August, 1940. The issue is, what Indian Government or Governments are to take over? The claim of the Congress Party is an absolute one. The Congress Party claims that it, and it alone, represents all India and that it, and it alone, shall be the heir and successor of the British Government in India. Congress leaders say they are willing to give some safeguards, some protections, for minorities—Moslems and others—but they claim quite definitely that they, and they alone, speak for all India, that Moslem rights are safe in their hands, and that Moslems should not be consulted except through the Congress Party.
The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred to the proportion of Moslems in the Congress Party. There was at one time some sort of facade suggesting that the Congress Party contained Moslems. I do not know how many they were at their maximum. It was very little more than a facade. In so far as it is an index, during the Satyagraha campaign of 1930–31, to which he referred, the total number of Moslems involved was about 4 per cent. of those taking part in the campaign. It is a fact that the Moslem League does, quite definitely, seem to be growing in power and influence just as, 631 at the moment—and I agree with the noble Lord who made that point—the Congress Party is diminishing. The claim of the Congress Party to which I referred is contested, and will always be contested, by the overwhelming majority of the great Moslem community, who may desire, just as earnestly as anyone else, the transfer of power from British to Indian hands—and I would remind your Lordships that very many Moslems are just as good nationalists as any Hindus—but who remain, unalterably and I think I can truthfully say increasingly, opposed to being governed by the Congress Party. The Congress claim is also opposed, not less vigorously than by the Moslem community, by that very substantial proportion of India which is not administered by the Government of India, but lives according to the old ways under the rule of the Indian Princes. Sooner than accept Congress rule, the Moslems have now formulated a demand for the partition of India under the name of Pakistan. In the face of these facts—and very hard and stubborn facts they are—to whom are we to hand over the government of India?
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
Well, to whom in the Provinces? My noble friend says, to the Provinces, but you can only hand over the government of a Province to a body of men. But we really are sincerely anxious to hand over the reins of government; I can assure your Lordships of that. It is not our practice as a country to go back upon our pledged word and quite apart from that overruling consideration, it is for very many reasons our earnest desire to see India take her place at the earliest possible moment, not only as a full member but as a contented and united and prosperous member of the Commonwealth. I wonder how many of your Lordships other than those who have some actual experience in India know how slight is our control over that great country now. I think that those who have no immediate knowledge of India would perhaps be surprised to know that the number of Europeans now serving in the Indian Civil Service is 573—an astonishingly small number when you think of the numbers of the Indian population. It really is grotesque to describe us as governing India now. Indians have to a 632 very large extent the government of India in their own hands. Our policy for years has been devoted to handing over the government in accordance with the promises we made to Indians, and in fact we must do so.
The machinery no longer exists for us to govern India on the old lines from this country. I have given the number of 573. That number is diminishing year by year, and it is our most sincere anxiety to find Indian hands to whom we can commit the responsibility of government, and to find them at the earliest possible moment. But anxiety does not alter facts, nor does it solve problems, and we face problems of the most formidable magnitude. The basic problem in India arises from the stubborn fact that there are in that country, besides innumerable other and minor communities, two great communities which are fundamentally different—different in outlook on life, in way of thought and in almost every way. I think that opinion in this country has sometimes been misled by reference to those two great communities as majority and minority. We in England are essentially a homogeneous community; fundamentally we all want very much the same things; and there is as a rule but little hardship involved in asking the minority to accept the views of a majority on any particular question.
It is a commonplace of English politics that to-day's minority is to-morrow's majority. But in India it is very far otherwise. The Moslem and. Hindu communities do not want the same things, and to think of these communities as majority and minority is to run the risk of very serious error, for that line of thought suggests that it is the duty of the minority to bow to the wishes of the majority. Where the difference is as profound as it is in this case, this is not so, and the minority has no more duty to bow to the wishes of the majority merely because it is a majority than the smaller peoples of Europe, such as the Greeks, had to bow to the wishes of the Germans merely because they were a majority.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
It is not ridiculous. If the noble Lord will think a little instead of whispering "ridiculous" he will realize it is no unjust analogy.
I did not want the noble Duke to hear my aside. It was the analogy of Greece and India that was ridiculous. My aside was not meant for the noble Duke's ears. I would not hurt his feelings in that way.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I hope my noble friend will well consider the analogy of one majority with another before he whispers "ridiculous" another time. It is because these two great communities cannot strictly be compared to a majority and minority within one country that the declaration of 1940 contained not only the promise I have referred to but the declaration—which was very warmly welcomed by the Moslems, the other minority elements, and the Princes of India at the time, and is now looked upon by them as a solemn pledge and a secure guarantee of their future welfare—the insistence that the main elements in India's Commonwealth should come to an agreement as to the future form of India's self-government. The Congress demands, and that is the whole foundation of Congress policy, that to them and to them alone shall the reins of power be transferred; and there are very important elements in India's composition which demand, equally insistently, that that shall not be so.
It is quite certain that to transfer the control of the Government of India without having secured some measure of agreement would plunge the country into chaos. Such a step is certainly not to be thought of when the whole Empire is fighting for its very existence. We have, therefore, invited Indian leaders of all shades of opinion to get together and to formulate some scheme by which an Indian Government or Governments may be formed to which we can transfer the power, and we have given our assurance that this transfer shall take place at the earliest possible moment after the war. The noble Lord who moved the Resolution suggested, and it has been suggested on very many occasions, that Indian aspirations would have been satisfied if we had named some definite date. The noble Lord mentioned three years after the war as the date on which the transfer of power should take place, and we have been blamed for not so fixing a date. In India, as elsewhere, nothing is more fatal than to promise to do something and then to find yourself unable to do it, and unless 634 we can secure the necessary measure of agreement among India's leaders we cannot hand over responsibility, and to do so would be wrong. It would give the Indian leaders the opportunity they have now. They could still maintain that the next move was with us. They would still have full power, whatever that move might be, to say it was wholly inappropriate, and it would, or might, put us in the position of having broken our pledged word.
So far India's political leaders have not found it possible to reach anything approaching the necessary measure of agreement. I feel justified in saying that they do not seem to have made any very serious attempt to do so. They have preferred to maintain the fiction, and fiction it is, that the next move is for us, and not for them to make. That is not so, and cannot be so. We cannot compel the Governments which have resigned to resume office. I would remind your Lordships of that fact, because it is very often forgotten. There were Congress Governments functioning before the war, and we cannot compel them to resume the reins of government. We cannot compel the leaders of the great communities of India to reach agreement; and it is a fact that the ball is not at our feet but at theirs. It has been urged upon us that, as the Indian political leaders have been unable to reach agreement, it is for us to formulate some plan upon which they could agree. It is within the realms of possibility that such a course of action might produce useful results. On the other hand, I think it reasonable to suppose that at the present juncture it would not, but I would not rule out the possibility.
But I believe we are pursuing a more promising and helpful line in associating, as we have been doing, responsible and respected Indians with the Government of India and with the conduct of the war. In pursuit of that policy the Viceroy's Executive Council has been expanded by the addition of Indian public men of standing and experience, and the Indian members are now in a majority of eight to four on the Executive Council, while the National Defence Council of twenty-nine members consists of twenty-seven Indians, one European and one Anglo-Indian. The National Defence Council was set up in order to serve as a link between the war effort at the Centre and 635 the cities and Provinces of India. It has done and is doing valuable work and it is not unreasonable to hope that out of this close co-operation between responsible Indians, representative of all sections and classes in India, may come further useful results.
So far I have dealt mainly with the purely military side of India's war effort as affected by the political situation, but criticism has also been directed to the fact that India, with its hundreds of millions of people, could have served, to a far larger extent than it has, as an arsenal and source of war supplies. My Lords, India's contribution is expanding rapidly and has already been very considerable indeed, but I do not deny that it could have been larger. I say "could" and not "should" advisedly, for in every case where India's production has been less than it might have been then it has not been due to any backwardness on the part of India or the Government of India. I should like to pay a tribute to the Government of India's unfailing helpfulness and willingness to meet every demand. Nor has it been due to any political difficulties in India, but to the fact that the urgent necessities of the situation here has made it impossible to release the jigs, the machine tools, the skilled technical staff and so forth without which further expansion in India is impossible.
Again and again it has been the case that Supply Departments have been compelled to refuse equipment which could in time have had a very substantial effect upon India's production of war material because immediate pressing needs here were so urgent. I hope your Lordships will not understand me as criticizing the Supply Departments or accusing them of short-sightedness. Nothing could be further from my intention. They realize fully the great potentialities of India, and that in time India's contribution might be very largely extended; but constantly it has been the case that they have been unable, owing to our immediate and dire needs to sacrifice, let us call it x production here and now for the sake of twice or three times x production in India a year hence. That has governed the situation to a large extent.
My right honourable friend asked me to pay special attention when I joined the 636 India Office a year ago to this matter, and over and over again I have called attention to the possibilities of India, with its millions of people and its relative immunity at that time from bombing; but to send men—you must send some technical men—and tools would certainly take many months, and again and again the needs of the Services have been such—we have lost equipment in more than one theatre of war—that though I never met anything but the fullest agreement from every Department, they were unable to sacrifice immediate production which they required for a future greater production which they might have secured had the needs of the Services been less urgent. I hope it will be realized that such falling below maximum standards of production in India has not been due to India's fault but to the fact that we have not been able to afford her help to make that production at once. Nevertheless, India has produced very large supplies of war material and each month is producing more.
I welcome this opportunity of paying a tribute to the valuable work of Sir Alexander Roger and his Economic Mission and to the great contribution they have made in building up and organizing India's productive capacity. I will not weary your Lordships with masses of figures, but perhaps I may say that India's steel production has been expanded from 750,000 tons in 1929 to 1,250,000 tons last year. Here again the expansion might have been larger, but that again would have meant a sacrifice of time, of plant and possibly of other assistance which the exigencies of the war situation here made it quite impossible for us to do without. Also we are large importers of pig iron from India. It would have meant absorbing in India pig iron which was urgently required for our industry here. In the case of steel, it is not the case that India is falling short of any demands made upon her.
Before the war garments for the use of the Army were being produced at the rate of 75,000 a month. The corresponding figures for last September, the last month for which I have any figures, was 7,000,000 per month, and I am assured the figures are even larger now. The output for last year exceeded the total output during the whole of the last war, by 50 per cent. The output of leather goods has risen from £3,000,000 worth in 1940 to £14,500,000 worth last 637 year. The annual value of Government-purchased textiles amounted to about £2,000,000 before the war. Purchases since the outbreak of war, up to June last year, amounted to £43,500,000. Before the war only 25 per cent. of the medical supplies of the Army were purchased in India, now it is 60 per cent., and this for a greatly expanded Army with greatly increased medical necessities owing to the various theatres in which they are operating. I cannot for obvious reasons go into figures of munitions production, but here again there has been a very great expansion. The war is drawing very close to the borders of India. Burma is invaded, and I know your Lordships would wish to pay a tribute to the people of Rangoon who have been subject to heavy bombing, but who with the help of our Chinese Allies, and of the American volunteer airmen, have carried on and have kept the Burma road, China's lifeline, open.
I do not pretend that there are no political difficulties in India, but I do maintain that they have not materially or substantially affected the war effort. The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, asked that specific question and I feel justified in giving that specific answer. Where India's war productions falls behind the maximum which it might have been it is for reasons which I have endeavoured to explain to your Lordships. All sections of Indian opinion are united in their detestation of German and Japanese aggression, and in their determination to oppose it, and I can assure your Lord ships that India is a united country in this respect, resolved to meet whatever demands may be made upon her fortitude.
My Lords, it is naturally not my intention to detain your Lordships at this hour. I did not detain your Lordships very long in introducing the Motion. I hope that your Lordships have understood that it was on that account that some of the points which I would have wished to make were not, perhaps, so amply explained as I could have explained them had I taken longer. I thank the noble Duke for the very full and informative answer which he has given, but were I to express satisfaction with that answer I should, if I may say so, be grossly insincere. And I am afraid that his answer cannot have satisfied very many of your Lordships who 638 have spoken in the debate. The number of speakers in the debate is, I think, some indication of the interest and anxiety which is felt throughout the country in relation to this subject.
I notice that the noble Duke rather stressed his reply in the same way that replies in another place on the subject of India were stressed the other day. The emphasis was put on India's war effort and the political position was glozed over, if I may say so. The general attitude of the Government was one of "passing the buck" back to the Indians. This is no moment for passing the buck. The noble Duke seemed to think that it is now the Indians' move. I would suggest that His Majesty's Government would be well advised not to stand on formalities of that kind as to whose move it is. Let anybody move, and what I persist in calling the deadlock can be relieved. Whatever the noble Duke may say about co-operation in war production or co-operation of any other kind, without the whole-hearted co-operation of the Indian peoples themselves, you cannot possibly get the best results. I do not wish to detain the House, and with your Lordships' permission I will withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.