Skip to main content

Historical documents

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

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

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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top