220 High Commission in New Delhi [1] to Burton

Letter (extract) NEW DELHI, 5 May 1949

SECRET

With reference to two questions from you at Calcutta, [2] conveyed through Taysom and Johnstone [3], the following are the answers.

(a) Burma. The Indian Government have no alternative but to show interest in the Burmese imbroglio. The reasons for their interest are several.

(i) Chaos in Burma leaves that country particularly susceptible to Communism; this danger has become more real following Nationalist reverses in China.

(ii) A Communist Burma or a Burma influenced by Communism would be a potential threat to India's eastern flank.

(iii) India has had a good deal of trouble with her own Communists, whose strongholds are in Calcutta and in the south.

Organised centres of Communism across the Bay of Bengal would add to the Indian Government's problem.

(iv) There is a large Indian minority in Burma.

(v) India is interested in a stabilised Burma as a food producer.

(vi) If the Indian Government stands by and does nothing, they face the possibility that Pakistan will capitalise things by herself manifesting sympathetic interest in favour of the Burmese Government.

(vii) Finally, the trend here is to show positive interest in all area problems.

As regards the question why the Indian Government are supporting the Burmese Government as distinct from other elements, the answer is that no other group can safely be backed. The White Band P.V.0's [4] are regarded as Communists and terrorists; the Communists themselves are, of course, out of the question. It is feared that both groups will fall under Chinese influence, if they are not subject to it already. The Karens are a minority, and it would be impossible for India actively to support them as a Government of Burma, even if she wanted to. There is some sympathy for the Karens in official quarters here, but it does not go beyond a feeling that they should be granted an autonomous state within the Burmese Union.

1 Presumably the writer was Charles Kevin, Official Secretary.

2 See Document 219.

3 N.W.W. Johnstone, Immigration Officer, New Delhi.

4 People's Volunteer Organisation

[AA: A5009/2, A7/3/6, ii]