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What Made India Uncomfortable in the San Francisco Treaty?

"The terms of the treaty should concede to Japan a position of honor, equality, and contentment among the community of free nations" — India to the US, 1951.



Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida of Japan shakes hands with John Foster Dulles, chief architect of the treaty, after signing the treaty in 1951. (GGNRA Park Archives)

India sent a reply to the United States Government on the draft of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on July 28, 1951. In its reply, India conveyed harmony with the underlying object of terminating the state of war with Japan and admitting it to the community of free sovereign nations. 

The Government of India also expressed pleasure that the proposed treaty with Japan was not punitive. This was unlike similar treaties in the past. Besides, it shared with Washington that the Government and people of India had friendly sentiments towards the people of Japan. India was also willing to welcome closer relations with an independent Japan. 

Second of five parts

First part: San Francisco: Why India Made Its Own Peace with Japan

According to India, the terms of the treaty should not give just cause for offense to other interested powers in the Far East. This was because it could imperil the prospects of a stable and enduring peace. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru conveyed this through a note titled "On the Draft Treaty of Peace with Japan." The note was sent from New Delhi to the United States Government on July 28, 1951.

President Harry S Truman and Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru leave Washington National Airport on 11 October 1949. With them is Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, PM Nehru's sister. (National Archives and Records Administration)

India's Objections

India, thereby, reiterated a reconsideration of the provisions in the draft, with a view to removing certain objections. One was Article 6 (a) of the revised draft. While providing for the withdrawal of occupation forces, it envisaged the possibility of foreign armed forces being stationed or retained in Japanese territory under bilateral or multilateral agreements with Japan. India stated that it did not see the need for such a provision. Article 5 (c) already provided that Japan may voluntarily enter into collective security arrangements, which should be made later with an independent Japan, rather than as a condition of independence.

India Decides on Non-Participation

By mid-August 1951, India received the United States' reply to its inputs and comments. That reply did not take things far. The US did not accept any of the suggestions put forward by India. In fact, it left things much as they were. 

By this time, it had become amply clear to India that it could not possibly accept the terms of the Japanese peace treaty. India, therefore, could not sign the same. In an August 13, 1951 letter to India's then Ambassador in Burma, MA Rauf, PM Nehru conveyed the decision of India's non-participation and inability to go to San Francisco.

Japan's Reaction

Significantly, in his letter to Rauf, PM Nehru shared an interesting piece of information that he had received from Tokyo. India's attitude, though not publicly stated, had become well-known by then in Japan. It stirred many sections of Japan's society and its people — who thus far had been acquiescent. 

Moreover, the editor of one of the biggest newspapers in Tokyo expressed his appreciation privately. The editor said that he wished he had started a campaign on these lines previously. Based on this input among others, it was becoming far more certain that India's decision of not signing the treaty would be approved by most of the Japanese people.

Aerial view of downtown Tokyo's Ginza district circa 1950. (US Army)

Derogation of Japanese Sovereignty

When the draft of the San Francisco treaty was shared with India, the latter stressed that this treaty should aim at lessening the existing tensions in the Far East. It should also help towards peaceful future settlement and not make matters worse. From an Indian standpoint, it was assessed that the draft would likely lead to a considerable worsening of the situation. In addition to many other things, the draft permitted American troops and bases inside Japan. This was seen as a derogation of Japanese sovereignty.

The Government of India, notably, was critical of the seven-point memorandum the US circulated to members of the Far Eastern Commission in October 1950. India desired that the Bonin and Ryukyu Islands should be left under the sovereignty of Japan. This is because India was against any treaty provision to retain Allied troops on Japanese territory. India did not object to Japan's entering into security arrangements with the US or any other power after the treaty came into force, and was willing to waive reparations. Additionally, India wanted the treaty to be drafted by a conference of all States belonging to the Far Eastern Commission.

Present-day Chichijima, one of the Bonin or Ogasawara Islands. The US government returned the islands to Japanese control in 1968.

Burma in Line with India

Around the same time, PM Nehru replied to a telegram on the Japanese peace treaty sent by the High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, VK Krishna Menon. The reply was sent by cable on August 16, 1951. In the cable, he conveyed India's provisional decision. The decision was to dispatch its criticisms of the draft treaty to the US. If no major change was made in the draft, then India would not attend the San Francisco Conference. 

The United States by that time had sent an elaborate reply to India's proposals. However, it agreed to no substantial change. Nehru once again confirmed here that Burma's attitude is, more or less, in line with India's, except for the reparation claims.

Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru visits the United Nations Headquarters in New York. VK Krishna Menon is seen next to him on the left. (©UN Photo)

India's Message to the US

On August 23, 1951, the following communication was sent to the US Government through the Indian Embassy in Washington:

The Government of India have the honor to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of the reply of the Government of the United States of America to the representations which they had made on the Japanese peace treaty in their communication dated July 30, 1951. They fully appreciate the consideration given to their views by the US Government and wish to assure them that the present reply is conceived in a spirit of frank and sincere friendship for the Government and people of the US. Throughout the negotiations that have taken place between the two Governments on the subject of the treaty, the Government of India have laid emphasis upon two fundamental objectives:
  1. The terms of the treaty should concede to Japan a position of honor, equality, and contentment among the community of free nations; and
  2. they should be so framed as to enable all countries specially interested in the maintenance of a stable peace in the Far East to subscribe to the treaty, sooner or later.

The next section in the series discusses India's official correspondence with Burma and Indonesia on the San Francisco Peace Treaty. It also explores the implications of this correspondence on the build-up of India's position on the subject.


Author: Dr Monika Chansoria

Dr Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo. She is also 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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