60 Note by Mackay of interview with Nehru

NEW DELHI, 24 May 1948

NOTE ON INTERVIEW BY THE HIGH COMMISSIONER WITH MR. NEHRU, PRIME MINISTER OF THE INDIAN UNION ON MAY 22ND, 1948

Mr. Nehru said that he wished to speak to me about the attitude of India towards Great Britain and the other nations in the Commonwealth, and the question of India remaining within the Commonwealth.

He recalled that about 18 months ago, when the Constituent Assembly first met, the very first resolution was to the effect that India in future should become an independent republic. Later, this was changed to a democratic republic. In the past there had been a very considerable amount of feeling on this question and for a long time Indians had had uppermost in their minds the time when the change as indicated in this resolution might be brought about. He wanted, however, to tell me what he and a number of others thought desirable, but it would require a good deal of working up to bring about these views. He thought that it would not be possible ever to change the republican idea because the introduction of such a proposal would arouse passions as in the past. It might be possible, however, for India to become a republic and yet maintain her position within the British Commonwealth of Nations. For many reasons it was very desirable that she should not sever her ties with the Commonwealth entirely as Burma had done but, if for nothing more than selfish reasons, it would suit India to continue the ties which had been forged, especially with the United Kingdom. He thought that it might be possible to have some kind of dual nationality in which each one of the members of the Commonwealth would retain its own nationality and for other purposes have a kind of Commonwealth nationality. This idea would have to be worked up by the lawyers, but he thought it should be possible to accomplish something in this direction.

In answer to my question, he said that there was no foundation whatsoever in the rumour that Mr. K. Menon, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom had just come to Delhi to be present when the decision was taken about India remaining in the Commonwealth. He thought, however, that the question would probably be settled within 4 or 5 months and in fairness to the United Kingdom and the other Dominions, as well as the Indian people, it should be settled as early as possible and certainly before the first general election would be held in India. In answer to the High Commissioner, Mr. Nehru said that any decision reached by Pakistan on the question of remaining within the Commonwealth or not would not influence the Indian Union, which would make its own decision regardless of anything Pakistan might do.

Mr. Nehru requested the High Commissioner to present his best respects to the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Chifley, and to the Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt.

Later, in conversation with Sir Girja Bajpai, Secretary-General of the Department of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations, Sir Girja remarked that Mr. Nehru's idea of a kind of dual nationality was somewhat the same as the idea Mr. Churchill [1] had in mind in 1940 when he made an offer to France that that country should join in with Great Britain in a common nationality.

[AA: A5009/2, A7/9, i]