Proposed Round Table Conference(2)

Statement at a press conference on return from India in June 1947

From the tour of India by Dr. Naicker and myself which lasted over two months, we can say without hesitation that the Government and the people of India are keen to render the South African Indian community whatever assistance they can in their struggle for democratic rights and the upholding of their national honour. Despite the fact that India is at the moment engaged with the colossal problem of the transfer of power, there is hardly a single village in India which has not taken some interest in our Passive Resistance struggle.

The Government of India is preparing its report on the Indian question which she will present to the September session of the United Nations, but before making her report she is willing to go to the furthest extent in helping the South African Government to implement the United Nations resolution.

Negotiations opened

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the head of the Interim Government has already taken the initiative in this respect and has written to General Smuts for the initiation of negotiations. But General Smuts has tried to sidetrack the issue by asking for the return of the Indian High Commissioner. In fact, General Smuts stated yesterday in the Senate that "it is quite impossible in a matter of this sort to conduct negotiations by correspondence. The only channel for negotiation is the Indian High Commissioner."

Correspondence not enough

But it must be clear to all that besides the return of the High Commissioner, correspondence is not the only alternative form of negotiations. We have no doubt that Pandit Nehru did not have the channel of correspondence in mind when he rejected the offer to send back the High Commissioner.

Could we suggest to General Smuts that he could send a highly placed Government delegation to India, or alternatively ask the Indian Government to send one to South Africa? We can assure General Smuts that neither of these suggestions will be turned down by Pandit Nehru; in fact, we consider it to be the only right and proper method of communication.

Position of High Commissioner

We cannot understand the stubborn attitude taken up by the Prime Minister on the question of the return of the High Commissioner. The recall of the High Commissioner is a point in dispute resulting from the enactment of the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, and his return will be largely dependent on the outcome of any negotiations which may take place between the two Governments on the basis of the United Nations resolution. General Smuts must now clearly state that his Government is ready for negotiations on the resolution of the United Nations.

Creation of goodwill

We hope that General Smuts will reconsider his stand and that he will help in the creation of goodwill between South Africa and India and between the white man and Coloured races in order to build a future of peace and happiness for all.

He should realise that resurgent India and resurgent Asia will not tolerate the existing racial oppression of the Coloured people.

Let Smuts be warned

We would like to warn General Smuts that it would be fatal for South Africa if he were to encourage the formation of a new body among the Indian people which has neither the support nor the backing of the community. We challenge the sponsors of the new body to prove that it has any standing with the Indian community.

2 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, June 6, 1947


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