INDIA'S POSITION IN THE WAR
AN ADDRESS BY CHAUDHURI SIR MUHAMMAD ZAFRULLA KHAN
A Joint Meeting of The Empire Club and The Canadian Club.
Chairman: The President of The Empire Club
John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, December 17, 1942.
MR. JOHN C. M. MAcBETH: Your Honour, Gentlemen of The Empire Club: India has been very much in our thoughts in the last few months and we have had some concern for the pains that our sister Dominion has been experiencing. Our concern was for a member of the family and not that she would not be able to endure. Although few had any well informed thought on the problems involved, many here and elsewhere undertook to diagnose the case and prescribe a remedy and that, naturally, caused complications.
We are fortunate, therefore, today, in having as guest, one who, by birth, education, training, way of life, and general experience in places of vantage and authority, is qualified to give us a true estimate of our sister's troubles.
Chaudhuri Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was born at Sialkot, Punjab: was educated at the Government College, Lahore, and thereafter at King's College, London, where he graduated with the degree of LL.B. And when I mention the Government College at Lahore, I should like to say that Professor Brett of the University of Toronto was at the Government College at Lahore at the time Sir Muhammad was a student there.
He returned to India and commenced the practice of law and from that time forth his life has been a triumphal procession: Editor of the Law Reports, Member of the Punjab Legislative Council, delegate to the Indian Round Table Conference, Delegate to the joint Select Committee of Parliament on Indian Reforms, Member of the Governor-General's Executive Council, Judge of the Federal Court of India, and India's first Agent-General to China, this last appointment having been made just last year. In addition to all this he was, in 1931, President of the All-India Moslem League.
And so, and so, and so, Chaudhuri Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan has continued, step by step, to widen the sphere of his useful activity and enlightening influence.
He flew from India to Canada to attend the International Pacific Relations Conference at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, which concluded its deliberations on Monday of this week.
Before asking Sir Muhammad to address us, I should like to suggest to Sir Muhammad that he tell us the story that he has been telling me with reference to the time he cross-examined Mr. Winston Churchill.
Gentlemen: Chaudhuri Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. Will you, Sir Muhammad, be pleased to address us. (Applause.)
CHAUDHURI SIR MUHAMMAD ZAFRULLA KHAN
Your Honour, Mr. Chairman, and Gentlemen: Within the time at my disposal I shall proceed to give you some of the features in the Indian situation today. You will realize that India, like your great country, is a subcontinent, rather than a country, and has a population of close upon 400 millions. Any problem, therefore, relating to India must have many aspects and it would be difficult to deal in detail with any of them, let alone with several with which you may be concerned, this afternoon.
Let me introduce the subject to you by pointing out that in connection with the matter I will attempt to explain to you today we must keep certain distinctions in mind. The first is that the sub-continent of India is divided into what is known as the Indian States, that is to say, areas which are governed by Indian Rulers who acknowledge the authority of Britain and are in alliance with Britain, and what is known as British India.
The division between the two from the point of view of area being, roughly, a little above one-third Indian States, and a little below two-thirds British India. In the matter of population, however, British India has a certain advantage, the Indian States having about 100 million, and British India 300 millions.
I wish to concentrate your attention mostly upon British India this afternoon. British India is divided into eleven Provinces, and we have to keep in mind that the two main communities in India, the Hindus and the Muslims are again divided in the proportion of three to one. That is to say, the Muslims are roughly one-quarter of the total population and the non-Muslims about three-quarters. But it so happens that this proportion in the population does not maintain uniformity throughout the Provinces. That is to say, though in the total population of India, the Muslims are about 25 percent, they are not 25 percent in each Province. They are unequally divided, so that in four Provinces they are in a majority and in the remaining seven a minority. To this aspect of the matter I shall refer later. With these preliminary remarks I shall go on to explain India's position in the war.
First, let us glance at India's geographical position, which also determines its strategical position with regard to the war. India, as you are aware, is situated midway between what has come to be known as the Middle East and the Far East. The Allies armies operating in the Middle East today and those stationed in Iraq and Iran have to depend to a large extent upon supplies from India. China also depends to a very large extent upon India for what it is possible to send from India to China just now, and with regard to Burma, Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, and other areas in South East Asia occupied by Japan, India is bound to form the base of operations when those operations are undertaken.
Therefore, you will realize, that India occupies a very vital position with regard to defence and operations that might develop during the war. Its attitude during the war, therefore, becomes a matter of very great moment indeed. Constitutionally, the position is that as soon as His Majesty's Government declared war against Germany in the beginning of September, 1939, India was automatically at war with Germany, but that raised a very difficult problem for us in India. Leaders of political parties and groups in India were aware of the constitutional position. They knew that so far as the constitutional position was concerned, India was legally at war as soon at His Majesty declared war on Germany. But they took up the position that the time had arrived when India should have been consulted before it was plunged into the war.
At that time the position in British India was what in the eleven Provinces, to which I have referred, there were responsible Ministries administrating the Provinces. Under the present Constitution which was introduced on the 1st of April, 1937, our Provincial Governments are autonomous and responsible in the Provincial sphere. This would require a word of explanation, though to Canadians it would be a familiar sort of arrangement. When I say, our Provinces are autonomous, I mean that as with you, the spheres of executive, administrative and legislative activity have been parcelled out between the Provinces and the centre-certain subjects, like education, police, administration of justice, land irrigation, medical relief, public health, forests, roads, and so on are Provincial. Certain other subjects, like defence, customs, railways, postal and telegraph services, currency, exchange, and so on, are Central. In respect of Provincial subjects the Provinces have almost complete authority. When I say that they have responsible governments I mean that the government in each Province is carried on by the Governor on the advice of a Council of Ministers who are responsible to their legislature and who continue in office only so long as they continue to possess the confidence of their legislatures. That is the ordinary parliamentary responsible form of government and the Provincial Legislatures are elected legislatures. They have two Chambers in some Provinces and in others only one.
You are familiar with the name of the Congress Party which obtained majorities and was therefore in office in seven Provinces, and it was these seven Congress Ministries who raised the question of India's position in the war, on the ground that they had not been consulted, and therefore had not been treated as responsible governments. The Provincial Governments as such were not entitled to come into the picture, as defence is a Central subject, but that is not the point I am on. It was contended that we had gone so far in constitutional progress, and were then pushed into the war without consent being obtained through the Provincial Ministries, and that brought with it the crisis in the political field which has continued unresolved during the last three years.
The latest position, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, is that which has come to be known as the Cripps Proposals. As most of you are aware, Sir Stafford Cripps travelled to India last spring with certain proposals made by His Majesty's Government. Briefly stated, those proposals amounted to this: As soon as may be after the end of the war, His Majesty's Government undertook to put into operation any constitution in India on the basis of India becoming a free and equal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, which the various political parties in India might agree upon. If that offer was accepted, then it was understood that immediately upon the acceptance of that offer, a Government would be formed at the Center which would be composed entirely of Indians, though of course it would be presided over by the Viceroy, and would continue to be responsible to the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India. It was hoped in actual practice it might be able to function as a responsible government.
When after the war a Constitution was framed by agreement, if any of the British Indian Provinces did not like to come into the Union on the basis of that Constitution, they could vote themselves out of the Union, and frame a Constitution of their own.
These, in brief, were the Cripps Proposals. These were turned down and the crisis continues. It became acute in July of this year, when the Working Committee of the Congress Party passed a resolution that they would not be satisfied with anything short of complete independence, here and now, coupled with the immediate withdrawal of the British from India, subject to any arrangement that might be made with regard to the British and American troops in India for purposes of defence. It was declared on behalf of the Congress that if this were not complied with within a certain time, a movement would be put in operation which Mr. Gandhi himself described might amount to open rebellion, and which would be swift and sure, though it is fair to explain that Mr. Gandhi could not have meant any movement of a violent kind, as the whole philosophy of his life is opposed to any violence of any kind whatsoever.
That is the political deadlock in India. But there is inside India a communal deadlock, without resolving which the political deadlock cannot be resolved. As I have already pointed out, the two main communities in India are the Hindus and the Muslims. The Muslims are, according to the latest census figures, 94 millions, or thereabouts, in a total population of 385 millions, or so. That is almost exactly one-quarter, and the position they have taken up, more particularly since their experience of Congress administrations in seven of the eleven Provinces is that under any form of Federal Government the Hindu community is bound to obtain and retain a permanent majority at the Centre. They allege that their experience of Congress administrations in what are described as "the minority Provinces" is such that they will not agree to any form of Constitution which sets up a Central Government for the whole of India. They propose that the three Provinces in the Northwest, in which there is a majority of Muslims-N.W.F.P., the Punjab and Sind--and one Province in the Northeast, in which there is a majority of Muslims, that is to say, Bengal, should be permitted to form independent states by themselves-one independent state in the Northwest and one independent state in the Northeast.
On the other hand, it is asserted by the Congress that even if there are any Muslim fears with regard to Hindu dominance at the Centre, the solution is not a splitting up of India into separate states, and in any case, neither the Congress Party, as such, nor the Hindu Community will consent to a division of India into different states.
That again, as you will see, leads to a deadlock. The Muslims will not come into a union, and the Hindus will not agree to a splitting up of India into separate states.
There is a considerable body of moderate political opinion in India which realizes that an acceptance of the extreme Congress demand during the course of the war, that is to say India's independence being recognized by the withdrawal of the British from India, would mean only one thing, that is to say, the entry of Japan as soon as the British withdraw. Therefore, it is the opinion of that body that whatever may be the motives behind the position taken up by Britain, this demand cannot be accepted during the war. In actual fact, if the British withdrew, it would result in Japan coming in, and therefore, it would not be fair to blame Britain for not complying with that extreme request at once.
There is, however, a good deal of room for advance within the four corners of the present Constitution, and one line of advance is that India's Constitutional progress can be and should be continued even while this deadlock lasts, and until a solution is found, which can only be found after victory is achieved. India should be prepared for the status of independence which it is agreed she now deserves to attain, so that when the time comes for her to frame an independent Constitution, whether she decides to remain within the British Commonwealth thereafter, or whether she goes out, she will in the meantime have made herself ready for independence. I do not claim that would satisfy the extreme parties in India, but that is a necessary stage that must be gone through in India along with the settling of the communal differences whether the British withdraw tomorrow or give India independence five years hence, or ten years hence.
The position is rendered difficult by the attitude adopted by the Congress towards Muslim demands. Whatever the ultimate settlement may be, and whatever the degree of fear that the Muslims entertain, the Congress Party and other Hindu organizations should at least be prepared to come to a settlement on the communal issue before they insist on a settlement of the Constitutional issue. The Muslims say they must know what their position will be before they are invited to consent to a new Constitution. The Congress reply has so far been that independence must first be achieved, and the communal problem will then settle itself automatically. The Muslim interpretation of an automatic solution is that no remedy need be applied whatsoever. Therefore, that puts them in this position, that if the final transfer of political power from British into Indian hands should take place without a previous settlement of the communal issue, you put the Muslims completely in the power of the majority.
The contribution which the Congress and the Hindu community can make at this stage towards the solution of the communal deadlock is that they can say to the Muslims: "We realize that you are afraid of Hindu domination at the Center. We admit the existence of your fears, though we do not admit their validity. We think your fears of Hindu domination and discrimination against you are exaggerated but we realize that you are afraid. Nevertheless it should be possible for both sides to sit down together and see whether we cannot devise something which, while maintaining the political unity of the whole of India from which undoubtedly certain advantages flow to you as well as to us, might reassure you with regard to your fears. If we succeed in framing something which serves to reassure you then surely you will not insist upon separation. If our joint efforts at finding a solution on the basis of the unity of India results in failure it will then be time enough for you to begin to consider schemes of separation."
If those who represent the Hindu community were to adopt that attitude, I am sure, many sections among the Muslims would be quite prepared to at least consider what solution or solutions could be devised to meet the situation. So long however the attitude of the Hindu community that Muslim fears are baseless and that nothing need be done to set them at rest or at any rate the remedy must be deferred till after the achievement of independence, no solution of the communal deadlock is possible.
These are the elements of the political and communal situation in India. By this time you may have started wondering whether in the circumstances of the Indian situation, both political and communal, the participation of India in the war on the side of the United Nations is of any value at all? I am happy to say, however, that in this respect I have a much more agreeable story to tell you than the one I have told you so far with regard to the constitutional and communal problems. In one word the Government and people of India have been wholeheartedly on the side of the Allies in this war from the very beginning. (Applause.) There has been no question or doubt whatsoever at any time on this point. India is determined to go through with the whole business whatever sacrifices that may involve.
So whenever you contemplate the Indian situation in an attempt to discover a solution of the political problem, and we all hope that a reasonable solution might be discovered as quickly as possible, do not be disturbed by the fear that the situation in India is at any time likely to cause any anxiety with regard to the active prosecution of the war.
With regard to that aspect of the matter, I think that instead of giving you arguments, I had better draw your attention to the facts, from which you will be able to judge for yourselves how much India has contributed to the Allied cause in the war.
Take first, manpower, of which we have indeed plenty. India's own army, that is to say, the Indian part of the army in India, stood at something between 150,000 and 200,000 men when the war broke out, but today India has a force of nearly a million and a half. The numbers would be considerably higher were it not for limitations with regard to facilities for training and with regard to modern equipment. We continue to recruit at the rate of 50,000 a month, through our various departments. We are being offered from 70,000 to 80,000 recruits a month but we cannot train or equip more than 50,000 and so we cannot accept a larger number. This is under a purely voluntary system. There is no measure whatsoever of any kind of conscription or compulsion with regard to Indians. The whole thing is purely voluntary.
Then take the matter of the manufacture of arms and ammunitions and ordinary industrial manufactures. Of that I have a little more intimate knowledge. From the moment of the outbreak of the war until September of last year, that is to say, for over two years, I was Member of the Governor-General's Executive Council in charge of War Supplies, and there too, India's effort has been considerable. I am aware that proportionately this great country of yours has done very much more than India has, but India has also, having regard to its resources and to the handicaps under which it works with regard to plant, machinery, machine tools and so on, done something which we, ourselves, in the beginning did not regard as possible or feasible.
We have, in addition to equipping of our own forces with what we have produced, supplied huge quantities for use in the Middle East and other parts of the world. We have supplied millions of rounds of ammunition, and hundreds of thousands of shells to the Allied Forces. We have started making certain things which we had never made before, not only small items but fairly important articles. For instance, we had never manufactured armoured vehicles in India before but we are now manufacturing these. Our main effort however has been in the multiplication of the items we were already producing. today, out of 60,000 items required for the equipment of a modern army, India with its own plants and equipment produces as many as 45,000.
We have been the main base of supply for the Allied Forces in the Near and Middle East, and in South East Asia. Realizing our basic position with regard to supplies we called a conference together in November, 1940, of all countries on the Allied side, South and East of Suez, known as the Eastern Group Supply Conference, over which Conference I had the honour to preside, and as one of the results of that Conference we set up the Eastern Group Supply Council in India which deals with all demands made by the countries southeast of Suez and by the forces in the Middle East.
There are one or two items perhaps which I might mention to give an idea of what we are producing. In clothing we are producing at the rate of 10,000,000 garments a month. We are at present producing at the rate of 4,000,000 pairs of boots a year, and our production of rifles, machine guns, and so on, has gone up many times.
Take another illustration. As a result of our huge supplies for the Allied Forces, apart from our own, for which payment had to be made to us, we have been able to retire the greater part of sterling indebtedness, and it is expected that by April of next year our sterling indebtedness will have been retired and replaced by internal loans and that figure amounts, I think, to not less than five hundred million sterling.
India has equally generously contributed to war loans, charity movements for the relief of distress, the relief of bombed areas and so on. That again is not the picture of a country that has been pushed helplessly into the war and that is feeling bitter and sullen, as I have read in the advertisements in the United States, and that is struggling to get away from its present position. We realize, that for good or for ill, at the moment, our fortunes are bound up with the fortunes of the United Nations, and if the United Nations do not win through, India will slide back to a position of slavery, and will have to begin from zero over again. Indians realize today that they have a clear promise of freedom and liberty and it is only a question of a very short time indeed after victory is achieved that India will attain to its due position among other nations of the world as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as many of us hope, or possibly outside of it, as some of the extremists desire. In any case it will rise to a position of equal partnership with other nations, so as to be able to make its full contribution toward post-war reconstruction, to which each one of us will have to contribute freely if we are together to lay the foundation of a peaceful world. (Applause.)
Mr. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Your Honour, Sir Muhammad and Gentlemen: I very much regret that I did not announce that this was a joint meeting of The Canadian Club and The Empire Club. It is our custom, from time immemorial, to have such joint meetings, and at one meeting to have the President of The Empire Club preside and the President of The Canadian Club move the vote of thanks, and, at the next meeting to have the President of The Canadian Club preside and the President of The Empire Club move the vote of thanks. Today is one of our joint meetings, and I have very much pleasure in asking Mr. A. B. Ward, of The Canadian Club to voice our thanks and appreciation.
Mr. A. B. WARD: Your Honour, Mr. Chairman: We have long known that India has had especially complicated and serious problems, but it is all too seldom that we have an opportunity of hearing a lucid presentation of those problems. I am sure it is a matter of interest and satisfaction to us to realize that notwithstanding such problems, India has held her place in the Empire by making a determined and substantial contribution toward the winning of the war.
On behalf of The Empire Club and The Canadian Club, I am very glad to express the grateful thanks of this meeting to Sir Muhammad, and also to wish him, on your behalf, a safe journey on his long passage home.
The meeting is now adjourned. (Applause.)