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On the San Francisco Treaty: How India Prioritized Peace in Asia

India shared the treaty's goal of ending the state of war but had reservations about its limits on Japan's sovereignty and potential impact on Asia's future.



Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Hiroshima on October 9, 1957.

Finally, things were coming to a culmination on the San Francisco peace treaty. On August 27, 1951, the Parliament of India was apprised of the latest developments regarding the proposed peace treaty with Japan. And crucially, of the Government of India's decision thereon. 

Last of five parts

First part: San Francisco: Why India Made Its Own Peace with Japan
Second part: What Made India Uncomfortable in the San Francisco Treaty?
Third part: San Francisco Treaty: How India Sought Burma and Indonesia's Cooperation in the Hope of Establishing Peace
Fourth part: India's Diplomatic Build-Up on the San Francisco Treaty in 1951


Ending the State of War

Archives have recorded this under India and the Japanese Peace Treaty. It is from a statement made in the Parliament on August 27, 1951, cited as Parliamentary Debates (Official Report) [vol 14, Part II, columns 1357–1362] August 06–29, 1951. Select significant excerpts of the statement have been cited below:

The war against Japan ended six years ago. This was followed by a military occupation of Japan which has continued till now. India, in common with other powers, was interested in putting an end to this unsatisfactory state of affairs and terminating it by a treaty of peace. 

Owing to differences in the approach to this question between different powers, little progress could be made. The Governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom thereupon took the lead in drafting a peace treaty with Japan. There were originally two separate drafts which differed materially from each other. 

Finally, some minor changes were incorporated in the United States draft and the Government of the United Kingdom accepted it. The United States and the United Kingdom then became joint sponsors of the revised draft treaty and this was communicated to us on July 20, 1951.

British Commonwealth Conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty, 1947. (©Archives New Zealand via Wikimedia Commons)

India's Suggestions

On the issue of considering the draft treaty and the revised draft treaty, the Government of India further stated in its Parliament:

The Government gave careful consideration to this revised draft and communicated its views on July 28 to the US Government in regard to it. In this reply it was stated that the Government of India were in full sympathy with the underlying object of terminating war with Japan as soon as possible and admitting her to the community of free sovereign nations. 

It was pointed out that the other objective of the peace treaty with Japan should be to lessen the existing tension in the Far East and help towards a peaceful settlement of the problems affecting that area. In order to satisfy these objectives, attention was drawn to some provisions in the draft treaty and certain proposals were made on behalf of the Government of India.


US Response

The US Government's reply to the Government of India, received on August 12, 1951, was additionally explained to the Parliament of India:

Some minor variations were made in the original draft, but none of the major suggestions put forward by the Government of India was accepted. The Government thereupon, after careful consideration, came to the conclusion that India should not sign the peace treaty or participate in the San Francisco Conference. 

It was further decided that immediately after Japan attained independent status, the Government of India would make a declaration terminating the state of war between India and Japan and, later, a simple bilateral treaty with Japan should be negotiated.

Restoring Japan's Sovereignty

More significantly, on the question of the Ryukyu and the Bonin Islands, the Government of India added:

It is only natural to expect that Japan should desire the restoration, in full, of her sovereignty, over territory of which the inhabitants have a historical affinity with her own people and which she has not acquired by aggression from any other country. The Ryukyu and the Bonin Islands fully satisfy this description. 

Nevertheless, the treaty proposes that until the US Government seek and obtain trusteeship over these Islands, they should continue to be subject to the legislative and administrative control of the US. 

It is apparent to the Government of India that such an arrangement cannot but be a source of dissatisfaction to large sections of the Japanese people and must carry the seed of future dispute and, possibly, conflict in the Far East. 

The Government of India recognized that, as a sovereign nation, Japan should have the right to make arrangements for her defense as provided in Article 5 of the treaty. If, in exercise of this right, Japan should decide to enter into defensive agreements with a friendly power, no one could reasonably object to this. But the right should be exercised by the Government of Japan when Japan has become truly sovereign. 

A provision in the treaty which suggests that the present occupation forces may stay on in Japan as part of such a defensive agreement is bound to give rise to the impression that the agreement does not represent a decision taken by Japan in the full enjoyment of her freedom as a sovereign nation. The effect of this, not only on the people of Japan but upon large sections of people in Asia, is bound to be most unfortunate.

Seeking Peace in the Far East

By this time, it had already been announced that the Conference convened in San Francisco to consider the draft peace treaty with Japan would not be open to negotiation. Attending Governments were only free to state their views on the treaty.

Chichijima in 2022. It is the largest of the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands. (©Kyodo)

It was in the backdrop of all these preceding reasons and arguments, derived from archived primary source documents, that the Government of India ultimately decided not to become party to the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. 

It was India's hope, however, that lasting peace would prevail in the Far East, consistently, based on the principles on which its foreign policy was based. As a first step, India intended, as soon as this may be practicable, to put an end to the state of war between them, and establish full diplomatic relations with Japan.

On June 9, 1952, the Treaty of Peace between Japan and India (日本国とインドとの間の平和条約) was signed.

Independent India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who served as the PM from August 1947 – May 1964 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).


Author: Dr Monika Chansoria

Dr Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo and the author of five books on Asian security. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organization with which the author is affiliated. Follow her column, "All Politics is Global" on JAPAN Forward, and on Twitter @MonikaChansoria.

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