October 14, 2011: Project organization

In 1941, the India League of America held 22 meetings for its 26 members (7 of which were on the Executive Board). By July 1944, the League’s National Advisory Board alone consisted of 28 prominent Indians and Americans including Representative Emanuel Celler, Albert Einstein, Henry R. Luce, Mrs. Gifford Pinchot and Walter White.  On August 9, 1944, the India League generated an appeal to urge the British Government of India to release Jawaharlal Nehru from prison that displayed 127 distinguished American signatures.

At the end of 1943, Dr. Anup Singh, the editor of the League’s publication India Today, left New York to help found the National Commission for India’s Independence in Washington, DC. The two lobbying organizations both attempted to raise American support for Indian independence, though they differed in tactics–the National Commission limited its board to Indian-American members.  Over the course of the first three years of U.S. involvement in World War II, the network of advocates for Indian independence in the United States had evolved to a point where its differing tactics expressed a larger issue immigrant communities and their lobbies faced: assimilation or separatism. The complexity of the Indian lobbying network is illustrated in the confusion surrounding the sensational leak of William Phillips‘ report to President Roosevelt. On July 25, 1944Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson published excerpts from the Phillips Report which were critical of British policy towards the India situation. Multiple members of the India Lobby claimed to be the source of the leak, obscuring the path of the Report from the desk of a junior official in the State Department into the hands of one the nation’s most prominent political journalists.

Though it would be fantastic to be able to accurately document the path the Report took, the multi-step process alone demonstrates the developed nature of the India Lobby by 1944. Supporters of Indian independence not only attempted to raise American awareness for their issue as one small but monolithic entity, but they argued amongst themselves about who and how to present their message. Lobby members understood that they needed connections to different levels of the American public: the press, State Department, as well as the members of the multiple lobbying organizations.  This episode creates a snapshot of the India Lobby as a multi-faceted, dynamic body of public opinion that transformed alongside the changing political and social environment in the United States.  In my December 1st presentation, I hope to relay a narrative of how the India Lobby, by utilizing an opportunity presented by a leaked official document of the U.S. government, had developed into a innovative foreign lobby that while promoting its cause also had to confront larger issues of wartime policies, assimilation, and race.

I’m hoping to use the paper that I present on Dec. 1 as the introduction to the rest of my project, using the narrative of the leak to grab the reader’s attention before going into a more historiographic outline of the India Lobby within the development of foreign lobbies in the United States. After the introduction, I plan on proceeding chronologically, using the articles and editorial columns from India Today to help demonstrate the shift the Lobby underwent from 1941 to 1945. I will begin with the Atlantic Charter, the British application of the Charter, and the U.S. entrance into the war, which also coincides with the period when J.J. Singh becomes president of the India League. Some of the other flash-point events I plan on addressing are: Louis Johnson’s 1942 mission to India, the Cripps mission and the subsequent Quit India movement, William Phillip’s mission to India. At this point I will revisit the Pearson leak and its consequences, which will also give me the opportunity to explore the conflicting secondary source analysis of the event.

Finally, I would like to conclude my in-depth analysis by examining Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s visit and lobbying efforts across the United States. I hope to present Pandit’s visit as the culmination of the Lobby’s development: she was a well educated, internationally-recognized figure who commanded attention outside of the India Lobby’s network.  Her presence at the U.N. Conference in San Francisco demonstrates how far the India Lobby had come, as Pandit made a memorable presence on a world stage. I’m then planning to use Pandit to segue into a conclusion which expands back to a broader context of the meaning and effects of the India Lobby within the larger scale of foreign lobbies in the United States. I may also integrate a second wider context at this point. Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP and India League board member, was also a delegate present at the San Francisco conference.  White was acquainted with both Pandit and J.J. Singh, and could represent the link between the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the movement for Indian independence as a statements against the oppression of racism and imperialism. Once I have access to the White-Singh correspondance, I will have a better idea on how to incorporate the connection between these two movements and the issue of race into my project.

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