527 Chifley to Attlee

Cablegram 129 CANBERRA, 27 May 1947

TOP SECRET IMMEDIATE

Your D.469 and D.470.

1. The developments in India in relation to possible declaration of Dominion Status covering separable portions of India are, as pointed out in paragraph 6 of your D.469 [1], of great significance to Australia. Development has an important bearing on your Ceylon proposal mentioned in your D.441 and D.428. [2]

2. On several occasions it has been stated on behalf of the Australian Government by Dr. Evatt that Australia is anxious that India should remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Through our High Commissioner in India we have put this view as strongly as possible before Indian Leaders of varying political opinions. We adhere to this attitude on grounds of past association and future need for friendship and security, pointing out that the Dominion's interest in the retention of India in the Commonwealth is entrenched by the declaration contained in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster which requires the consent of all the Dominions to any change in Royal titles.

3. If Dominions Status is feasible in relation to portions of India, it is more feasible in the cases of Ceylon and Burma and perhaps other areas in South-East Asia. We feel strongly that the future interests and security of Australia are intimately bound up with the solution of all these regional problems.

4. In a message sent to you through the High Commissioner at London we shall reiterate our desire to have British Commonwealth consultations in Australia as soon as practicable relating to the settlement with Japan and in these consultations it would, of course, be necessary for India to be suitably represented. It should be possible to broaden these proposed discussions here so as to cover common interests in South-East Asia as well as the Pacific.

1 Dispatched 23 May. It reported an unexpected proposal by Congress Party leaders for announcement of intention to grant dominion status in 1947 (rather than in 1948), with the consequent possibility that the whole of the sub-continent, even if divided into two or more independent states, might remain within the British Commonwealth. Congress leaders had previously seemed determined to proclaim India an independent republic.

2 Dispatched 1 and 8 May respectively. They reported political pressure from Ceylon for full independence in 1947, instead of the gradual development towards dominion status proposed earlier. In view of Ceylon's strategic importance, UK military advisers recommended that an announcement of intention to grant independence should not be made without prior agreement to safeguard defence requirements.

[AA : A5954/1, 2270/1]