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71 Evatt to Beasley

Cablegram E6 NEW YORK, 23 April 1949

This morning Saturday I have received telegram despatched from
London Friday night. [1] I would suggest the following comments.

1. Mr. Chifley's statement in paragraph 4 of telegram fairly
expressed general objectives of Australia's policy in relation to

2. The real difficulty starts in paragraph 2 of the cable which
suggests that termination of relationships of one member of
British Commonwealth with King need not prevent continuance of an
association of Commonwealth of Nations.

3. In paragraphs 7 and 8 the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and
Ceylon are opposed to views of India and emphasise many practical
difficulties which will arise from termination of legal
association with the King by any member of the Commonwealth.

4. The point really comes down to this. If India terminates direct
link with the King what is the future basis of the association of
nations assuming that India is to be included as a member thereof
In paragraph 3 there is revealed correct answer to this question
and I now deal with that paragraph.

5. It is our [2] that rights of citizenship can fairly be regarded
as establishing a relationship which does not ordinarily exist
between two countries which are foreign to each other. However
mere exchange of citizenship rights will not retain any link to
the King because India clearly contemplates that the duty of
allegiance to the King will completely disappear in the case of
citizens of India. In other countries the duty of allegiance will
remain but that duty will cease to be common throughout the

6. Paragraph 3 goes on to suggest that there might be a
declaration by India of continued association with members of the
Commonwealth and the acceptance by India of the King as the symbol
of the association. First of all the mere declaration does not
throw any light on the basis of the association. Therefore the
idea of treating the King as the symbol of the association does
not carry the matter further until there is an answer to the
question-what functions, powers or prerogatives will the King be
capable of exercising in relation to India.

7. The answer is-none. The King will cease to have any authority
either in respect of internal [3] or external affairs of India.

This position will be in striking contrast with that of Australia
where the King is the supreme executive in respect of both
internal [4] and external affairs though he acts on the advice of
different ministers in respect of Commonwealth and State matters.

8. Assuming that India is unwilling to continue in respect of
India any authority in the King and that India still remains a
member of the Commonwealth the [5] of the proposal will be to
convert the British Commonwealth into an associate of nations of a
new character.

9. In the case of Australia this means that while Australia's own
relationships with the King would remain unimpaired the nature of
the British Commonwealth of Nations would be fundamentally
changed. It will become an associat[ion] of friendly nations which
would be ready and willing to exchange certain rights of
citizenship so long as such rights do not carry with them any duty
of allegiance to the King. For the rest the King would admittedly
become only a symbol, in other words he would occupy the same
position as an emblem or a flag.

10. This might be satisfactory to India but the cable shows that
the result would not be satisfactory to Pakistan, Ceylon,
Australia and New Zealand.

11. At Paris when the matter was discussed last year [6] I
strongly urged upon the Indian representative that the King should
in respect of India continue to exercise prerogative functions in
relation to India's external affairs e.g. the appointments of
representatives of India abroad should continue to be made legally
by the King always acting of course on the advice of Indian
responsible Ministers. If this were done Royal functions would
continue to be exercisable in respect of India and the King would
be something more than a symbol of an association of friendly

12. The recent print of the draft India Constitution indicates by
way of footnote that the relationship of India to the British
Commonwealth of nations is still to be provided for. I firmly
believe that both Cripps and Mountbatten have over (sic)
encouraged India in taking the step now proposed. On the other
hand if the matter is fully studied and reconsidered in a
practical way the reasonableness and necessity for the suggestions
I made at Paris would become apparent.

13. The continuance of the British Commonwealth of Nations is
vitally important to Australia and, by the British Commonwealth,
one does not mean merely a group of friendly powers having nothing
in common except conditional exchange of right of citizenship with
the King reduced to the position of a mere symbol or emblem of
association. India should realise that personal loyalty is
regarded as very important in Australia and indeed both Mr.

Chifley and I have repeatedly emphasised publicly this aspect of
the British Commonwealth relationship and have equally emphasised
the importance of the name Britain.

14. For the above reasons I think that India should be pressed
most strongly to agree to the retention in respect of India at
least of Royal powers and functions mentioned in paragraph 11. In
that case the King would in truth remain the King in relation to
India as well as other nations and the British Commonwealth of
Nations including India would continue to be in substance what it
is today.

15. Please pass message to Mr. Chifley and to Dr. Burton.

1 Document 70 was repeated to New York for Evatt.

2 A sign here indicates 'word emitted'.

3 The word the text reads 'international'.

4 The word in the text reads "international".

5 A sign here indicates word 'missing'.

6 See Document 65.

[AA: 1838/283, TS899/6/1, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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