67 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram 4469 LONDON, 17 December 1948, 10.40 p.m.


On 15th December, I participated in a discussion of the position of India with the Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, Noel-Baker, Fraser and Pearson.

We had before us a revision of Nehru's earlier memo of 28th October re the relation of India with the Commonwealth. The revision has now been reduced to eight points as follows:-


The declaration as to the status of India will be left as at present in the draft constitution.

2. In a nationality act to be passed by the Indian Legislature contemporaneously with the coming into effect of the new constitution there will be incorporated the substance of the relevant provisions of the British nationality act 1948 which will have the effect of making Indian Nationals Commonwealth Citizens and the Nationals of any Commonwealth Country, Commonwealth citizens when they are in India. This arrangement will be on a reciprocal basis. 'Commonwealth' in this connection does not mean a super-state but stands for an association of free and independent states which accept this concept of Commonwealth citizenship.

3. As soon as the constitutional changes are settled or at such other time as may be agreed upon, the Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will make declarations announcing the changes and their nature and results.

4. In any new legislation or new treaties entered into with other countries the Commonwealth countries will not be treated as foreign states and their citizens will not be treated as foreigners.

In particular in any new commercial treaties it will be made clear that for the purpose of the 'most favoured nation' clause the Commonwealth countries are in a special position and are not regarded as foreign states.

5. In foreign states where the Indian Government has no representation it will be at liberty to make use of any other Commonwealth Country's Ambassador or Minister and the Indian Government will be willing to provide reciprocal facilities for any Commonwealth Government that so desires.

6. For purposes of fulfilling the obligations of the Crown towards Commonwealth citizens other than Indian Nationals the President of the Indian Republic may at the request of the Crown, act on behalf of the King within the territories of India. A similar arrangement on the reciprocal basis will apply to Indian Nationals in the rest of the Commonwealth.

7. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the position is that generally speaking the King will do all functions of sovereignty in relation to India in favour of the people of India in pursuance of the Act of 1947. Under that act there would be no further legislation on India by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and after India's new constitution comes into force there can be no such legislation. The Indian people and their representatives, including the president of the Republic, will thus exercise all functions of sovereignty.

8. These proposals represent a sincere desire to continue the Commonwealth association and what is practical and adequate at present. No doubt as the relationship is not a static arrangement, further development by way of association may take place.


2. After a long discussion it was decided to send a message to Nehru. It was sent on the 16th December from the Prime Minister in the following terms:-


I have had an opportunity tonight to discuss with Mr. Fraser, Dr.

Evatt and Mr. Pearson your message of 11th December.

Your proposals in their present form do not seem to us to be satisfactory as a basis for continuing the full degree of association within the Commonwealth through the Nexus of the Crown. We hope that you may be able to give this matter further consideration. If, however, you are unable after such reconsideration to alter your position in this matter, we nevertheless sincerely trust that a close Commonwealth association can still be maintained, and we welcome and share the view which you express in this regard in paragraph 8 of your message. We must, however, have time in which to work out some of the main implications of this form of Commonwealth association.

Commonwealth citizenship must, in any event, be a main feature of any such association, and we hope that you will proceed with the action contemplated in your paragraph 2 This message represents the views of Mr. Fraser, Dr. Evatt, and Mr Pearson, as well as my own. You will realise, of course, that my Commonwealth Colleagues have not had an opportunity of consulting their Governments.


3. You will notice that India desires continuation of the association with the Commonwealth, whereas Eire wants to discontinue the association. At the same time India's proposed link with the Commonwealth under the eight point plan would be tenuous. What is developing is an idea I have long entertained and you have frequently expressed, namely, that there is a group of British Commonwealth nations with intimate association such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, and that equally there are other Nations with associations which are not so close or so intimate. This may lead naturally to two classes of membership of the Commonwealth-full membership and what might be called 'Associate Membership'. If that idea developed, it would result probably in the restoration to formal association in the Commonwealth, of Ireland and Burma. In the latter groups the link would not be the Crown but citizenship and other important rights.

This would not affect the full and intimate links with the King, mentioned by Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as by the United Kingdom itself 4. All this is at present very fluid and I took the line that it was vital not to lose India. I also noticed that Nehru today has made a statement along the same general lines.

[AA: A1838/283, 851/4/1/3]