March 22- April 12, 1942: The Cripps Mission

  • Headed by Labour Party Cabinet member, Sir Stafford Cripps, a British attempt (through the War Department) to gain Indian support for the war effort by discussing the possibility of an India Union within the Empire after war and increasing the representation of Indian leaders within the current structure
  • Though Cripps arrived in New Delhi on March 22, the public was not aware of the mission for an additional week, and Ambassador Halifax formally informed the US on March 28 (Hess, 43)

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • viceroy Linlithigow disapproved of the Mission, and offered to resign. Churchill, however, responded, “it would be impossible, owing to…the general American outlook to stand on a purely negative attitude and Cripps’ Mission is indispensable to prove our honest of purpose.” (12, qtd. from Mansergh, The Transfer of Power, vol. 1, pg. 394-95)
  • after suggesting that the British establish an Article of Confederation-like gov’t in India, FDR ended his letter to Churchill with the appeal: “for the love of heaven, don’t bring me into this, though I want to be of help.  It is, strictly speaking, none of my business, except insofar as it is a part and parcel of the successful fight that you and I are waging” (13, qtd. from FRUS, vol. 1, 615-16)
  • Churchill thought that going to the effort of making independence proposals to the Indians would generate positive press towards the British in America: the Cripps’ Mission was “most beneficial in the U.S. and in large circles here,” but Roosevelt himself criticized the proposals as not being far enough reaching (14)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006).

  • Gould claims the British government sent the Cripps Mission to India largely to address American concerns of India’s political instability (26)

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000)

  • After Roosevelt offered what he viewed as constructive criticism regarding the Mission, Churchill threatened to FDR’s aide Hopkins, that he would rather resign than increase political unrest in India during the possibility of Japanese invasion. Aldrich describes Roosevelt as then “turning his attention elsewhere” because of the critical nature of the war period (136)
  • Identifies the OSS and OWI as well as key Americans including Wendell Wilkie as the leaders behind a new American policy at this time which focused on “political encouragement and commercial advantage” and ensuring that “Indian nationalists did not confuse the British and American positions” (137)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • Presents the Cripps Mission as a response to multiple pressures: Japanese presence in Rangoon starting on March 8, from the U.S. and China, as well as within the British government– Hess presents Churchill as a reluctant outlier to a change in policy towards Indian independence (38)
  • “The Cripps mission was followed more extensively in the American press than any previous event in Indian history” (42)
  • The proposal drafted by the Cripps mission met with “almost unanimously favorable response in America” (44)
  • “the president’s naive comparison of the Indian situation to the American colonies further undermined his proposal….As was frequently the case, Roosevelt relied on personal diplomacy, which often amounted to acting on whim” (52-Hess seems to base this assessment on Churchill’s reflections in his memoir)
  • “Americans remained primarily interested in winning Indian support for the war and were unwilling to accept suggestions that the situation was beyond resolution” (53)
  • the failure of the Cripps mission created an almost untenable situation between Indian leaders and the British (55)

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